The Effect of Hydroelectric Water Dams on Salmon in the Pacific Northwest

Topics: Columbia River, Salmon, British Columbia Pages: 5 (1680 words) Published: December 11, 2007
For thousands of years, salmon have played an integral role of the ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. In the 1700s, the settling of human's in the region had a tremendous impact on the native fisheries. Since that time, salmon have been affected by a growing population and economy in the Pacific Northwest. At that time, Europeans had begun to occupy land along the Columbia River, imposing their culture on the natives of that land. By the 1800's, disease brought by the European's had cleared nearly all of the population, however, the Columbia River's resources were being exploited to a great degree by the new settlers. Towards the turn into the 20th century, dams began to affect a process known as salmon runs, where salmon swim back up into the rivers in which they were born and spawn themselves. Furthermore, hydroelectric and flood-control projects reduced the available salmon in the region to half. In addition to these factors, grazing, irrigation, logging, mining, predators, urbanization, and over fishing all play critical roles in the reduction of salmon to the Pacific Northwest. As the population continues to grow out west, the future for salmon in the region is unpredictable. The status of salmon has become a major concern for environmentalists, nevertheless, the recent efforts for the recovery of wild salmon has merely been an effort to undo the damages that have been caused in recent generations of developers.

Within the Columbia Basin in the Pacific Northwest, the salmon population has dwindled to a mere five percent, of what once was estimated to be at 16 million salmon. Obviously, the ability for salmon to survive is dependant on several factors, most of which have played a negative role on the population in recent decades. Salmon rely on so many factors of the ecosystem during their life cycle, therefore, there ability to survive and reproduce is relative to the status of these factors. For starters, the habitat provided by the Columbia Basin is crucial. The land and water management in the last generation has reduced the complexity of the Columbia channel. As a result, access to spawning areas has diminished as well as a decrease in water quality in river systems. Moreover, fishery harvest and hatcheries have resulted in declining runs of Pacific salmon as well as negative impacts on the health and genetics of the fish.

One of the major factors in the reduced population of salmon is the set up of hydroelectric power in regard to the flow of water and passage of salmon. Hydropower facilities and operations have reduced survival in the migration of salmon. In addition, barriers such as culverts and road crossings have altered stream flow patters, and eliminated or blocked the fish from tributary habitats within the Columbia River system. Atmospheric conditions can influence long term weather factors such as rainfall and marine productivity in the Pacific Northwest, as well as influence salmon reproduction. Factors of the climate cycle also impact the reproduction and survival of salmon. A change in climate affects stream flows, stream temperatures, ocean temperatures, ocean food production as well as fish predators.

The need for hydroelectric power generated from dams along the Columbia River has blocked the passage of salmon looking to head up stream in hopes of spawning. In the Pacific Northwest, a large percentage of salmon are subject to fishing efforts in the Canadian and Alaskan waters. The exploitation of these fisheries has typically outdone and exceeded any in the southern United States. For this, the United States has begun to make a great deal of effort into sustaining and restoring the salmon population in the region. Intercepting endangered Pacific Northwest salmon is critical towards the success of recovery efforts. Furthermore, the United States has started major efforts to preserve and rebuild the salmon population through a series of programs and agencies....
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