Feds reject removal of 4 Lower Snake River dams in key report

Feds reject removal of 4 Lower Snake River dams in key report

SOURCE: Seattle Times DATE: February 27, 2020 SNIP: Years and millions of dollars in the making, a draft federal report on hydroelectric dam operations in the Columbia Basin will not settle the decades long fight over saving imperiled salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Federal agencies found that taking out the dams would “provide a long-term benefit to species that spawn or rear in the mainstem Snake River habitats,” but also would have adverse impacts, including increased power costs, a rise in greenhouse gases and reduced reliability of the electric grid. The report rejects the idea of removing the dams to save endangered or threatened salmon. The removal of the dams has been a rallying cry for advocates of salmon and the endangered southern resident orcas, which rely on Columbia and Snake chinook to survive. But supporters of the dams praised the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) as an important affirmation of their value in a region increasingly placing a premium on renewable electricity. Once the report becomes final, it could face scrutiny in U.S. District Court from salmon advocates who say that the removal of the four Lower Snake dams is a key step in reviving salmon populations and boosting the survival prospects for the endangered southern resident orcas that feed on chinook. A warming climate has made both ocean conditions and the freshwater river environment tougher for the 13 species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The four Lower Snake River dams have long been obstacles to salmon that return to spawn in streams and rivers — and to their offspring, which seek to make...
Poorly planned Amazon dam project ‘poses serious threat to life’

Poorly planned Amazon dam project ‘poses serious threat to life’

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 8, 2019 SNIP: The biggest hydroelectric project in the Amazon rainforest has a design flaw that poses a “very serious” threat to human life and globally important ecosystems, according to documents and expert testimony received by the Guardian. After decades of resistance and 40bn reais (£8bn) of investment, the world’s fourth biggest hydropower plant is due to have the last of its 18 turbines installed this month, but lower-than-forecast water levels in the dam’s reservoirs have created an unforeseen structural problem in addition to longstanding environmental, social and economic concerns. The Guardian and El País have seen a recent report by Norte Energia which warned that the fall in water levels in recent weeks has exposed a vulnerable section of the Pimental dam wall, which is separate from the barrier housing most of the turbines, to waves that sometimes form during tropical storms or strong winds blowing across the reservoir. The 11 October document – Urgent action to control the level of the Belo Monte HPP Xingu Reservoir – is signed by Norte Energia’s CEO and addressed to the head of the national water agency. It says that water levels fell the previous day to a critical 95.2 metres, which posed a risk that waves “will reach areas of the dam not protected by rock” reinforcements. It asks permission for more water from the intermediate reservoir, a move which would put more pressure on an already strained hydrology. This is forcing the operators to choose between a structural weakening of the 14km-wide compacted-earth barrier and a reallocation of water in the reservoir or on...
Two new dams near the Grand Canyon? Conservation groups call the plan ‘unconscionable’

Two new dams near the Grand Canyon? Conservation groups call the plan ‘unconscionable’

SOURCE: AZCentral DATE: September 27, 2019 SNIP: A Phoenix company wants to build two hydroelectric dams less than five miles from the eastern border of Grand Canyon National Park, submerging several miles of the Little Colorado River and the endangered fish habitat it protects. If they’re built, the dams could produce more than just electricity. Environmentalists say the project could further imperil the fish, the native humpback chub, interfere with the Canyon’s already-degraded hydrology and irreparably damage sites held sacred by at least one Arizona tribe. Pumped Hydro Storage LLC recently applied for a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin the process of developing a hydroelectric dam project on the Little Colorado River. The dams would rise on Navajo Nation land, close to the eastern border of the Grand Canyon. A 240-feet-tall upper dam would be sited about 3,000 feet higher in elevation than the 140-feet-tall lower dam. Both dams would enclose reservoirs, one of which would stretch 2 miles up the Little Colorado River Gorge. Turbines would pump water through underground tunnels between the two bodies of water. A paved road would be constructed between State Route 89A and the Salt Trail Canyon where it emerges into the Little Colorado, and a new 20-mile-long transmission line would be built to the existing Moenkopi substation. “(The dam) will industrialize what is now a very remote area,” said Taylor McKinnon, senior public lands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity. The project would further impede the recovery of the endangered humpback chub, the last remaining chub species within the Grand Canyon, he said. “It would flood...
The dirty business of clean power in B.C.

The dirty business of clean power in B.C.

SOURCE: Vancouver Sun DATE: May 14, 2019 SNIP: Journalist Sarah Cox takes on the dirty business of clean power in Breaching the Peace: The Site C Dam and a Valley’s Stand against Big Hydro. NP: Clean energy = Bad? Please explain. SC: Large hydro dams are a hugely expensive and destructive way to generate renewable energy. They are neither “green” nor environmentally friendly. Some of Canada’s leading scholars studied the Site C dam project and found that it will have more significant adverse environmental effects than any project ever examined in the history of the federal Environmental Assessment Act. Among other impacts, the Site C dam will destroy habitat for more than 100 species already vulnerable to extinction, including bird, plant, butterfly, bee and mammal species. The Site C dam and its reservoir will also eliminate some of Canada’s richest farmland, ancient wetlands called tufa seeps, old-growth boreal forests and a living laboratory for scientists to study how species adapt to climate change. The Peace River Valley, which would be inundated by the dam, is a flyway for migratory birds and is part of the boreal bird nursery. It hosts three-quarters of all B.C.’s bird species. As many as 30,000 songbirds and woodpeckers nest in the dam’s future flood zone, which stretches the equivalent distance of driving from Toronto to Niagara Falls when you include Peace River tributaries that would also be flooded. Just how “clean” big hydro dams really are is called into question by many scientists. One study by U.S. scientists shows that reservoirs produce considerably more carbon emissions than anticipated. About 80 per cent of these...
Humans have interfered with most of the world’s greatest rivers

Humans have interfered with most of the world’s greatest rivers

SOURCE: New Scientist and Nature DATE: May 8, 2019 SNIP: Nearly two thirds of the world’s longest rivers have had their flow tampered by humans in the form of dams, reservoirs and other forms of water engineering. A boom in hydropower is partly to blame, suggesting we may have been chasing renewable energy at a cost to biodiversity. The most detailed global assessment yet of long free-flowing rivers finds they have become increasingly rare, confined to remote regions in the Arctic, Amazon and the Congo basin. An international team spent a decade analysing over 300,000 rivers in global datasets of waterways, including manually checking the location of 25,000 dams against satellite images. Of the 246 rivers that are 1000 kilometres or longer, just 90 are still free-flowing. Eight of the longest free-flowing rivers are in the Amazon basin. The big driver has been tapping long rivers for electricity generation, a strategy China and other Asian countries have pursued. Hydropower booms are expected in both the Amazon and Balkans. “Dam construction is the major reason why river connectivity has been declining worldwide, with often negative consequences on river health,” says Günther Grill of McGill University, who led the work. Humans have interrupted and diverted the flow of rivers by constructing an estimated 2.8 million dams, as well as building irrigation and water-diversion schemes. We should care about free-flowing rivers because of the services they provide to humans and wildlife, by allowing the exchange of nutrients, sediment and species, says...