Environmental groups have said for decades that hydroelectric dams are a hazard for fish. Now, a new study calls that long-held claim into question. The study, published last week, tracked salmon and steelhead migrating to the ocean through eight dams along the Snake and Columbia rivers. It also tracked fish traveling out to sea via Canada’s Fraser River, which does not have any dams. Scientists found the survival rate of fish migrating through the Columbia and Snake rivers to be higher than that of the fish on the Fraser.
Scientists and conservation groups are still debating how the new study’s results should be interpreted. David Welch, the study’s lead author, says the data suggests that ocean conditions could be more to blame than dams for the decrease in salmon populations. His colleague and fellow study author, Oregon State University professor Carl Schreck, says the evidence points to the strong possibility of unforeseen problems with the Fraser River.
What’s your take on this surprising new study? What do you want to ask the scientists who worked on it? And does this most recent wrinkle in the Northwest’s salmon saga change your relationship with rivers, fish, and hydroelectric power?
- David Welch: President of Kintama Research and lead author of the new study on fish and dams published last week in PLoS Biology
- Carl Schreck: Fisheries professor at Oregon State University and an author of the study published in PLoS Biology
- Bob Heinith: Hydro program coordinator for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
- Ed Backus: Vice president for Fisheries at Ecotrust