Salmon may benefit from spilling excess water
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Wild salmon advocates say spilling water over dams may actually help fish survive, adding a new wrinkle to the wind vs. water debate.
Salmon advocates say they have new information that shows that spilling more water over dams may actually benefit fish. The news has implications for wind power generators as they look toward another spring season of possible shutdowns.
Though it isn’t yet clear whether Northwest power generators face another season of power oversupply — a condition that stems from high water levels in the Federal Columbia River Power System, which peak simultaneously with wind speeds in spring — several factors indicate another rough season could lie ahead.
So far, the Northwest has experienced an above-average water year, with the last water forecast showing levels 110 percent of normal, according to Doug Johnson, spokesman for the Bonneville Power Administration. The region also added 600 megawatts of wind power since last year and approximately 900 megawatts of power from the region’s only nuclear plant, Columbia Generating Station, has also returned to the grid. The plant was offline for refueling during last year’s oversupply.
A dry year and market conditions in California — where a 900-megawatt power plant is offline — is creating some hope that shut downs will be avoided. Should the conditions persist, power generated in the northwest could find a needy market to the south.
Last year, however, similar conditions led to the curtailment of 97,557 megawatt hours of wind power by the BPA, a decision that was met with a series of legal actions by wind power generators and their supporters.
Salmon advocates have been drawn into the fray because BPA limits spill of water over dams, which would make room for power generation from other sources, because doing so can cause harm to salmon. Falling water produces bubbles that dissolve as gas. Dissolved gasses can harm salmon or kill them during migration.
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