Press Statement

September 18, 2019, Vancouver, WA

Return of Deadly Marine Heat Wave Underscores Critical Role of CarbonFree Hydropower Energy

Rising Ocean Temperatures Are Dangerous Indicator for Marine Ecosystem & Adult Salmon Returns

Vancouver, WA, September 18, 2019 – Scientists have identified a new
marine heatwave in the Pacific Ocean that could indicate the return of the Blob
that wreaked havoc on marine life and weather systems from 2014 to 2017.

The phenomenon has refocused the lens on extreme events precipitated by
climate change which are now happening sooner than predicted, according to

Although the newly identified heatwave hasn’t yet reached the same magnitude
as the Blob, it raises red flags for the marine ecosystem and weather in the

The news comes as salmon returns from the Fraser River to the Columbia and
Snake rivers are far lower than forecasted this year. A December 2017 study1
published by the Northwest Fisheries Science Center demonstrated a strongly
negative relationship between ocean temperatures and the health of salmon

Ocean Ecosystem Indicators of Salmon Marine Survival in the Northern California Current

While the region has paid much attention to freshwater habitat, including the
four lower Snake River dams, many biologists fear that improving river systems
will have little benefit if climate change continues to warm ocean and river
temperatures to levels that harm salmon and their prey.

“We are facing a legitimate climate crisis and we have an important opportunity
to do more by understanding the critical capabilities of the hydropower system,”
said Kurt Miller, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners. “The Northwest
is already a leader in clean, renewable energy with almost 50% of the region’s
electricity coming from hydropower and we need to continue to use
hydropower to integrate more renewables in a completely carbon-free way.”

Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honorable
Jonathan Wilkinson said in July, “Part of any realistic plan to protect and
ultimately restore key salmon stocks must include a comprehensive and
aggressive plan to reduce carbon emissions.”

Many power utilities in the Pacific Northwest are already using hydropower
paired with wind and solar to balance the grid and combine renewable energy
sources. For the four dams currently under scrutiny, their ability to support the
addition of intermittent renewables, such as wind and solar power, will be
critical to combatting the devastating effects of climate change on orcas and


About Northwest RiverPartners

Northwest RiverPartners (NWRP) is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization.
We represent not-for-profit, community-owned utilities across Washington,
Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. We also proudly represent farmers,
ports, and businesses across the region.

NWRP is focused on raising awareness about how the Northwest’s hydropower
system betters communities and the natural environment, and we encourage
science-based solutions that help hydropower and salmon coexist and thrive.
For press interviews, contact:
Oonagh Morgan Hurst
Morgan Communications