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Thread: Interesting column on the Watana-Susitna Dam project

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    Default Interesting column on the Watana-Susitna Dam project

    http://www.adn.com/article/20141227/...a-salmon-river

    I thought the guy who wrote it had some interesting points. Although I did notice that he works for an out of state university so I am assuming he is a nonresident.

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    He is a non-resident. But he is also a very highly regarded salmonid ecologist. And while we as a people might convince ourselves that our situation is different, and our dam will not result in what every other similar dam has resulted in, we are almost definitely wrong on that.
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    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    I agree almost 100% with Jack's op/ed. He has it exactly correct, except the part about the barging/trucking of Columbia River salmon. In the past, he is correct that most of the juvenile salmon were hauled around the dams because the trip downstream was too lethal. But since the development of the spill program, most of the juveniles are kept in the river. Their downstream migration is further enhanced with higher flows to move them quickly thru the system. So, for the past 10 years or so, the percent of juveniles barged is waaaaay down. It's less than 25% in most years. And their survival to adult is much higher too.

    However, his article is spot-on regarding the impacts of the proposed Susitna Dam. It's really encouraging to see the new Gov has pulled the funding for this massive salmon killing project.

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    You guys realize that the salmon don't spawn above the canyon, right?
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyD View Post
    You guys realize that the salmon don't spawn above the canyon, right?
    Well, you are missing the point. Read the article again. Just because salmon don't pass through devil's canyon doesn't mean that the dam is not going to have an effect on the salmon. Do you know how salmon navigate to their home natal streams? They use the smell of their home natal streams based on the unique chemistry of the compounds produced by sediments and vegetation to find their way home. I find it naive to think that a dam of this magnitude is not going to have an impact on the water chemistry of the Big Su DOWNSTREAM of the dam. Yes, the dam may actually improve the water clarity and it might temporarily improve habitat for rainbow trout, but as well all know, rainbow trout follow salmon. So if salmon lose their habitat, then everybody loses in the end. Don't get me wrong, I am all for development and growth of jobs. But I'm not in favor of putting an important renewable resource (salmon) at risk for a nonrenewable resource (yes, hydroelectric is a nonrenewable resource). It might provide some jobs and cheap electricity for a few generations, but salmon if taken care of, can potentially provide for an infinite number of generations.

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    Skinny - Yes, most folks are well aware that the proposed dam site is above the limits of anadromous fish migration. However, the affects of the dam will be substantial throughout the mainstem Susitna River, as the article clearly states. The water quantity and quality will be significantly changed. The riparian habitat will also be severely affected.

    Salmon have inhabited the Susitna River for thousands of years. They depend on the timing and quality of the water to be what it has been since long before we got here. Any significant change, such as will happen with a big dam, will put their survival at significant risk. Just like every other big dam on any river where salmon have inhabited.

    That's why the new Gov's actions on this project are encouraging.

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    I feel the Govenor's actions have more to do with budget than environmental concern but I am glad to hear of it anyhoo. Even with mass amounts of research and best management practices there is no way that a project of that size won't have a measureable impact on fish immediately and also pose a future risk of larger issues.

    I am also all about renewables and I am ok with the smaller projects in Southeast that have targeted smaller, high gradient, non anadromous streams (that run directly into the ocean.....not a large producing system). I don't see the Watana project panning out.

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    Just one more thought on this. When a dam is constructed the lake behind it will be available for stocking of salmon. This has been proposed already. So not only will there be downstream impacts but wild vs hatchery issues will come up. No one is talking about that right now because it opens up another can of worms.

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    I didn't say it wouldn't affect things downstream, Jack. I just think it's intellectually dishonest to talk about trucking smolt around a dam when there's nothing above it.

    And the Susitna kings have died off nicely without a dam, don't you think?

    Fortunately we have plenty voices from elsewhere - places where electricity costs 1/5 what it does in Fairbanks. No doubt they are happy to shut down opportunity for others.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyD View Post
    I didn't say it wouldn't affect things downstream, Jack. I just think it's intellectually dishonest to talk about trucking smolt around a dam when there's nothing above it.

    And the Susitna kings have died off nicely without a dam, don't you think?

    Fortunately we have plenty voices from elsewhere - places where electricity costs 1/5 what it does in Fairbanks. No doubt they are happy to shut down opportunity for others.
    Skinny D - for some reason you have lots of misinformation. First Sustina chinook are coming back at 100,000 to 150,000 fish which is in historical levels. Next, sockeye are down because of pike.

    The point about the Columbia is that people made a choice for dams and cheap electricity but in so doing destroyed their wild salmon stocks. In the case of Grand Coulee they did not even try to pass fish - yes there are few salmon above the dam site - there are some and they will be gone. How to measure the genetic diversity impacts resulting from a loss of the genetic component this group of fish provides is difficult to measure. What is not as difficult to estimate is the downstream impacts and these have a high probability of being significant. What is at issue is the statement by someone who obviously does not know what he is talking about is that the dam is good for salmon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyD View Post
    You guys realize that the salmon don't spawn above the canyon, right?
    You do realize that your statement is false? Kings do spawn in Kosina and Oshetna.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FishGod View Post
    You do realize that your statement is false? Kings do spawn in Kosina and Oshetna.
    I found a figure of <1% spawning above the canyon. So technically, you are right and I was wrong. How many times do you hear that in the fishery forum?
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyD View Post
    I found a figure of <1% spawning above the canyon. So technically, you are right and I was wrong. How many times do you hear that in the fishery forum?
    Sorry, just trying to keep the misinformation to a minimal.
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