Columbia River dams | KNKX

Columbia River dams

In this May 15, 2019 photo, the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River is seen from the air near Colfax, Washington. The dams are blamed for reducing salmon numbers on the Snake and Columbia river systems.
Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Salmon need cold water to survive. Dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers are making the water too hot, in some places by as much as 5 degrees.

Now, after a drawn-out lawsuit and direction from the state of Washington, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has released plan to change that.  

Two barges are moored at the earthen embankment at the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River near Wawawai, Wash., on April 22, 1999. The embankment will be removed if the dam is breached.
JACKIE JOHNSTON / The Associated Press

When salmon and steelhead don't get the cold water they need, it costs them more energy to survive.  Their reproductive success can be diminished and they become more vulnerable to disease.

Water moves through a spillway of the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River near Almota, Washington. It is one of the four dams on the lower Snake River, which advocates have argued should be removed to provide better habitat for Chinook salmon.
Nicholas K. Geranios / The Associated Press

The Army Corps of Engineers has trimmed a year off the timeline for its court-ordered environmental review of the 14 dams and reservoirs in the Columbia River system. The agency is now aiming to sign off on a decision for how to manage the system and its impacts on endangered salmon by the end of September 2020.

The White House is blocking money to build new tribal housing along the Columbia River. That’s according to five members of the Washington and Oregon congressional delegations.

Northwest residents are surrounded by thousands of dams, some in disrepair. And now the emergency at California’s Oroville Dam has sharpened interest in dam safety.

Jessica Robinson

A little-known fact about Columbia River dams is that a valuable chunk of the power generated on the U.S. side goes to Canada under an international treaty. Northwest utilities say your power rates would be lower if that electricity could be sold to California instead of being delivered to Canada for free.

This week in Spokane, the biggest players in the trans-national river basin are debating whether to extend that 50-year-old treaty.

DAR56 / Wikimedia commons

Your power bill could be cheaper if the U.S. didn't send so much electricity north of the border every year. Canada lays claim to around $300 million worth of hydropower annually under the terms of a 50-year-old treaty.

In return, the Canadians manage the upper Columbia River to prevent downstream flooding and to optimize power production. The Columbia River Treaty can be renegotiated soon and there are voices on both sides of the border clamoring for a better deal.