Northwest families and businesses, through charges on their electric bills, have spent nearly $16 billion on fish and wildlife protection and mitigation measures over the past three decades.
These investments have been driven primarily by two powerful laws: the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Northwest Power Act (NWP). The ESA requires that any federal action, such as dam operations, cannot further jeopardize the 13 listed salmon species and must allow an opportunity for recovery. The NWP also requires the impacts of the federal dams on fish and wildlife to be mitigated.
Salmon restoration efforts and costs have grown dramatically over time. Northwest electricity customers are now paying for habitat restoration, hatcheries and to provide mitigation for the salmon harvest, in addition to hydropower and dam improvements. Today, for every $100 that a family or business pays toward their monthly electric bill, $15 to $20 goes towards salmon restoration efforts.
The environment for salmon has improved dramatically as a result of this spending:
- Billions of dollars have been spent to install new technologies such as fish-friendly turbines, fish slides and turbine-bypass systems to move young salmon down river faster and more safely to the ocean. (Click on link below to see the US Army Corps of Engineers’ description of fish slides – formally known as Spillway Weirs.)
- Hydro operations have been changed to protect young salmon: huge gates at the dams are lifted to allow up to 40 percent of the Columbia and Snake Rivers to be spilled through the dams during migration to benefit young salmon instead of generating clean energy.
- A billion-dollar habitat restoration program, the largest in the world, is moving forward in major river tributaries, creating safe nurseries for baby salmon and prime spawning areas for returning adults.
- Improvements are being made at hatcheries and in hatchery practices to reduce the impact of competition between hatchery and wild salmon for space and food.
- Substantial efforts are underway to control predators, including sea lions, cormorants and terns that are consuming millions of young and adult salmon.
Corps of Engineers Spillway Weirs Info