Columbia River Chronology
6 million-16 million B.P.: The greatest outpouring of lava in the history of North America, 90,000 cubic miles, oozes to the surface of the ancient Northwest in repeated flows, forming the Columbia Plateau of present-day central Washington and Oregon and, over time, redirecting the course of the ancient Columbia River.
5 million B.P.: Salmon known today are believed to have evolved in the Columbia River Basin at about this time. Salmonid fish generally are believed to have been present in the Columbia River Basin for about 50 million years.
15,000-12,800 B.P.: More than 40 tremendous floods of almost inconceivable force and dimension swept across large parts of the Columbia River drainage, beginning in present-day northwestern Montana and coursing to the sea, laying down the modern channel of the Columbia through Washington and the Cascade mountains to the ocean. These were the greatest scientifically documented floods known to have occurred in North America.
458: In this year, a Chinese monk named Hwui Shan, accompanied by four other monks, sailed north to Japan, then Kamchatka, then the Aleutians, then Alaska and then down the eastern Pacific coast, a region called Fu-Sang in Hwui Shan’s narrative of the voyage. It is the first recorded voyage along the eastern Pacific, and thus the first to pass the mouth of the Columbia River.
900: Roughly the beginning of a period of warm and dry climate in the Northwest that persisted for 500 years. It was followed by a period of cooler and wetter weather that lasted about 400 years, into the early 1900s.
1295: Marco Polo returns to Italy from his overland journey to China and reports that was told there is a water passage between Asia and Europe.
1493: On May 4, Pope Alexander VI issues a papal bull, the Inter catera, which divides the New World evenly between Spain and Portugal. This was the religious basis of Spain’s later claim to all lands touching the eastern Pacific Ocean, including the Northwest and the Columbia River. In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas provided a legal framework to back up Spain’s claims.
1513: On September 29, Vasco Nunez de Balboa views the western sea at the Bay of San Miguel after crossing the Isthmus of Panama. He names the sea Pacific after its calm appearance.
1522: Spain conquers Guatemala a year after overthrowing the Aztec nation at Tenochtitlan (Mexico City). Hernando Cortez, this year named by King Charles I of Spain as governor and captain-general of the entire area, known as New Spain, led the assault on the Aztecs. He had founded the city of Veracruz in 1519, and another, also on the Caribbean coast, in 1522. These would become important staging posts for a trade route across New Spain to the Pacific coast, where three settlements had been established that would be the launching points for expeditions to the Pacific Northwest.
1532: Cortez sends Diego Hurtado de Mendoza north from San Blas to search for the Strait of Anian. He got as far as present-day San Diego, where his ships were wrecked and he died. Mendoza was followed in 1533 by Diego Becerra and Hernando de Grijalva. They also failed, reaching no father north than the Gulf of California near present-day San Diego, California. In 1539, Cortez sent his cousin, Francisco de Ulloa, north with three ships. But the crew suffered from scurvy, two of the ships were lost, and Ulloa reached no farther north than 28 degrees, about half way up present-day Baja California.
1550: In this year, Spaniards establish the city of Acapulco in present-day Mexico, an important port in the Spanish trade between the East Indies and Spain. Goods received at Acapulco were transported by land to the Caribbean, and from there to Europe. Acapulco also was one of the home ports for expeditions, and later regular supply ships, to the Northwest.
1617: Geographic ignorance continues as European cartographers declare all of the present-day American Southwest an island. Virtually nothing is known of the Pacific Northwest.
1648: A Russian explorer, Semen Dezhnev, makes the first known trading voyage from the Arctic to the Pacific oceans, gathering furs along the northwestern Pacific coast and trading them in China. His journey influenced the later voyages of Vitus Bering to Alaska and the robust fur trade that developed between the northern Pacific, China, Europe and, still later, the United States.
1670: The Hudson’s Bay Company is founded through a charter signed by Charles II of Great Britain. The founding of the Company can be seen as the formal beginning of the Northwest fur trade, which would be the basis for many future explorations of the region by land and sea.
1680: Pueblo Indians revolt against the Spanish in New Mexico, freeing Spanish horses. Over time, these horses multiplied and spread north on both sides of the Rockies. Flathead Indians have horses by about 1710; Cayuses and Nez Perce sometime after 1730. There is a legend that the first Nez Perce horse was a pregnant white mare bought from the Shoshone tribe, and that she lived in a Nez Perce village at the mouth of Asotin Creek. From this horse and foal, the Nez Perce developed their remarkable breeding and horsemanship skills.
1709: A French map of North America drawn by explorer Baron Lahontan shows a “River of the West” flowing from about the center of the continent to the Pacific Ocean. The map was based on Indian accounts.
1711: Russia invades the Kurile Islands, where the natives wore clothing fashioned of sea otter skins. Learning about the northern origin of the skins, Russians envision a trade between there and China, where the furs were prized. It was the genesis of Russia’s fur trade, which eventually included forts and trading stations along the coast of what is now southeast Alaska.
1722: Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix, a Jesuit priest and explorer in the area west of Quebec and the Great Lakes, writes to his benefactor, the Duke of Orleans about a rumored great western river: “I have good reason to think that . . . after sailing up the Missouri as far as it is navigable you come to a great river which runs westward and discharges into the sea.”
1731: This year or in 1732, a Russian ship under the command of either Michael Gvosdeff or Ivan Federoff, crosses the north Pacific and sails along the present-day Alaska coast for two days. Spain already had settlements in present-day California and Mexico, but had not explored so far north.
1763: The Treaty of Paris ends the French and Indian War, leaving all of North America west and north of the Great Lakes open to exploration: and exploitation: by fur traders. British traders were the first to explore the region following the treaty.
1768: The governor of Quebec, Sir Guy Carleton, writes to the senior statesman in London in charge of trade policy, Lord Shelburne, that British traders should cross Canada from the St. Lawrence River to the Pacific Ocean where they would “find out a good post, take its latitude, longitude, and describe it so accurately as to enable our ships from the East Indies to find it out with ease, and then return the year following.” This apparently was the first proposal for a government-sponsored expedition to the Pacific to establish a cross-continental trade. In 1793, Alexander Mackenzie would become the first European to blaze such a trail, but entirely on his on initiative.
1771: Count Mauritius Benyowsky and a number of others who had been exiled to Kamchatka by Russian police seize the St Peter and St. Paul, the ships from Vitus Bering’s second voyage now docked at Bolsheretsk on inner Kamchatka, sail them to Bering Island where they pick up more exiles, and then to the islands off Alaska where they trade for furs. The crew later sold these furs in Macao. It was the first commercial venture to acquire Northwest furs, carry them across the Pacific and sell them in China. With these furs, delivered to China by Russian pirates, the lucrative fur trade between the Northwest and China began.
1774: Juan Perez sails past the mouth of the Columbia on about July 10, according to accounts of his voyage. It is possible he missed the river because it was obscured by fog, which is common at that time of the year. Perez noted in his journal that many coastal bays were obscured by fog. More likely, though, he did not stop at the Columbia because he was not looking for it. The Viceroy of New Spain had ordered Perez to proceed directly to 60 degrees north to search for suitable harbor for settlement.
1775: The first smallpox epidemic hits Northwest coastal Indians at about this time. The disease apparently was carried by fur traders in ships. Another smallpox epidemic struck in 1782, this time east of the Cascades. This epidemic apparently started in the Great Plains.
1784: American interest in maritime exploration and trade, particularly with China, is increasing as reports of the Russian settlements in Alaska and the journeys of Captain Cook circulate in New York and Boston. This year, the Empress of China, commanded by Daniel Parker of New York, sailed around Cape Horn to Canton, the first American trading ship to call in the Orient.
1788: On Dec. 23, Antonio Flores, viceroy of New Spain at the outpost of San Blas, just north of Puerto Vallarta, speculates in a letter to Spain’s minister of maritime affairs that the American colonies, now a republic, soon would be looking for a port on the Pacific coast and attempt to “sustain it by crossing the immense country of the continent above our possessions.” He suggests Spain should “employ tactics to forestall its results.”
1789: The year of the so-called Nootka Incident: Spanish seizure of British ships at Nootka Sound. The seizure initiated a five-year feud over territorial rights, which ended with Spain paying retribution and Britain and agreeing to shared possession of the outpost at Nootka Sound.
1792: On May 11 at about 4:30 a.m. Robert Gray discovers the Columbia River when he sails across the bar in his ship, the Columbia Rediviva, and then anchors near the north shore of the estuary. Gray traded with Indians, explored the estuary for nine days and named the river after his ship. In October, British Captain George Vancouver arrived and dispatched his lieutenant, William Broughton, to explore the river. Broughton traveled to a point just east of present-day Portland and there claimed the river and country to Great Britain, initiating a dispute between Great Britain and America over discovery of the river that would not be settled until 1846 in the Treaty of Oregon.
1800: By now, horses have been in the Northwest for about 60 years. The Spokane Indians were known to have large herds. Other Columbia Plateau tribes likely did, as well. The Spokanes acquired their horses through trades with the Nez Perce Tribe. With this greater mobility, upper Columbia Plateau tribes like the Spokanes were able to travel east of the Rocky Mountains to hunt buffalo.
1801: Smallpox ravages Columbia River Indian tribes, the third epidemic to sweep through the Columbia River Basin since 1782.
1803: This year the United States buys more than 827,000 square miles of land, the Louisiana Purchase, from France for $15 million. The vast area stretches from New Orleans to the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains.
1804-06: The Lewis and Clark expedition explores the Missouri and Columbia rivers, acquiring vast geographic, ethnographic and taxonomic information about the West.
1805: Indians who lived near the mouth of the Columbia River use salmon as a form of exchange with fur traders.
1805: On August 12, Meriweather Lewis, scouting ahead of the main body of the western expedition he led with William Clark, crosses the Continental Divide in the Bitterroot Mountains and enters the drainage of the Columbia River. The next day he tastes his first Pacific salmon, prepared and given to him by a Lemhi Shoshone Indian. The salmon convinces him the expedition had reached a river that would lead them to the Pacific.
1806: Jacques (“Jaco”) Raphael Finlay blazes a horse trail west from the South Saskatchewan River across the Rocky Mountains and down to the Columbia River and builds a canoe for use by David Thompson the following year. This was one year after Lewis and Clark reached the Columbia.
1807: David Thompson crosses the Continental Divide west of present-day Calgary, Alberta, and arrives at the north-flowing Columbia River. He doesn’t know it is the Columbia, and he names it the Kootenae. He establishes a fur-trading post, Kootenae House, near the outlet of Windermere Lake, one of the Columbia’s two headwater lakes.
1807: Smallpox spreads among Interior Salish Indians in the Columbia Basin, probably the result of contact between European fur traders and coastal Indians.
1808: David Thompson explores the Kootenay River from his post near the Columbia River headwaters south into present-day Montana. He names the river McGillivray’s River.
1809: Thompson establishes two trading posts on the Clark Fork River. One, on the lower river near its outlet at Pend Oreille Lake, he names Kullyspel House. The other, 40 miles upstream near present-day Thompson Falls, Montana, he names Saleesh House.
1810: Fur-traders are arriving frequently at the mouth of the Columbia River. In this year, for example, the Albatross crossed the bar on May 26. Small groups of Indians visited the ship daily, bringing furs and salmon to trade. The captain of the Albatross was a man named Jonathan Winship of Boston. He decided a permanent settlement was possible on the river. About 60 miles upriver, near present-day Rainier, Oregon, on the river’s south shore, Winship and his crew attempted to establish the first American settlement on the Columbia. They planted a garden, but it was washed away by floods. This failure, and encounters with hostile Indians, convinced Winship to abandon his brief experiment and continue his trading mission to China.
1810: The North West Company establishes a fur-trading post among the Spokane Indians on the Spokane River about a half mile upstream from its confluence with the Little Spokane River.
1811: With the arrival of John Jacob Astor’s supply ship Tonquin at the mouth of the Columbia in March, and the arrival of a land expedition 11 months later, the New York financier establishes fur-trading routes to the Northwest by land and sea. His employees build a fort and call it Astoria.
1812: Robert Stuart, who had arrived at Astoria on the Tonquin, returns by land to the East with news that the party had reached the mouth of the Columbia. On this journey he discovers South Pass, which would be used later by thousands of immigrants crossing the Rockies on the Oregon Trail. In his journal, he praises the salmon of the lower Columbia River and the Salmon Falls River of present-day south central Idaho.
1813: Faced with dwindling supplies and concerned that the British might seize their fort and its assets as a result of the War of 1812, Pacific Fur Company employees of John Astor sell their outpost to the North West Company, a rival Canadian firm, on October 23 for $58,291. A month later, a British warship arrived, officially claimed the area for Great Britain and renamed the outpost Fort George in honor of the King, George III.
1823: By this year the Hudson’s Bay Company, which had merged with its rival North West Company, is packing salmon at Fort George, the former Pacific Fur Company trading post at Astoria. The North West Company bought the fort from Astor’s employees ten years earlier.
1825: The Hudson’s Bay Company dedicates Fort Vancouver as the headquarters of its Columbia River Department. Also this year, the Florentine silk top hat is introduced in Paris, and soon many gentlemen would prefer hats covered in silk to those covered in beaver, depressing the market for beaver skins.
1827: The Hudson’s Bay Company begins commercial logging at Fort Vancouver. It is the beginning of the Northwest logging industry.
1835: Missionaries Marcus Whitman and Samuel Parker arrive at the confluence of the Walla Walla and Columbia rivers in search of sites for missions they intend to build among the Nez Perce, Walla Walla and Cayuse Indians.
1836: The Beaver, the first steam-powered vessel on the Columbia River, arrives at Fort Vancouver. The ship, built in London, is owned and operated by the Hudson’s Bay Company.
1838: Methodist missionaries Jason and Daniel Lee, who established a small settlement in the Willamette Valley south of Portland in 1834, establish the Wascopam Methodist Mission at The Dalles in 1838. It was the first permanent non-Indian settlement in the Columbia River Gorge.
1844: On June 27, the provisional government of the Oregon Territory established the Vancouver District, which later would become Clark County, Washington, the oldest county in the state. Washington would not become a state for 45 years.
1846: The Treaty Of Oregon establishes the 49th parallel as the border between British Canada and the United States.
1847: 4,500 people come west on the Oregon Trail. A measles epidemic spreads among Indians of the Columbia Plateau. Missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, and others at their mission, are killed by Cayuse Indians in November.
1848: In August, Congress creates the Oregon Territory. Commercial exporting of logs begins, from a mill at Oregon City.
1849: British Columbia becomes a Crown Colony of Canada.
1850: The federal Donation Land Act, passed by Congress this year, boosts non-Indian settlement of the Northwest by making available large tracts of land to people willing to settle on it. The law expired in 1855, by which time more than 7,000 settlers had filed on more than 2.8 million acres in Oregon. This was before any treaties with Indians had been ratified.
1850: Two steamships, the Columbia and the Lot Whitcomb begin regular service on the Columbia River. The Columbia, a 90-foot side-wheeler, was the first built on the river. It was put into service between Portland and Astoria. The Lot Whitcomb, which was larger, was built soon after. The following year, the Jason P. Flint was brought in sections from the East, assembled at the Cascades and operated between those rapids and Portland.
1850: There are now 37 sawmills in the Northwest, most of them near the mouths of the Columbia and Willamette rivers.
1851: Hardin Chenoweth builds the first railroad along the Columbia River, a portage tramway around The Cascades falls on the northern shore of the river. With a mule and one cart, Chenoweth moved freight and passengers around the rapids for 75 cents per 100 pounds.
1852: Washington settlers petition Congress to create a separate Columbia Territory. The following year, Congress responded by creating a vast Washington Territory encompassing all of present-day Washington, Idaho roughly north of the Clearwater River and that portion of northwestern Montana west of the Rockies. Oregon Territory was to the south. Congress gave Oregon and Washington concurrent jurisdiction over the Columbia River.
1853: Congress approves funding for the Topographical Corps to explore the best route for a railroad to the Pacific Ocean. Isaac Stevens, the new governor of Washington Territory, is appointed to lead the northern survey.
1853: The steamboat Eagle is assembled at the upper end of the Cascades rapids and put into service between the Cascades and The Dalles. Other steamships were built in this era, as well. These included the Mary and the Wasco in 1854 and 1855, respectively, which also were built above the Cascades for service between the Cascades and The Dalles.
1855: Isaac Stevens, governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Washington Territory, and Joel Palmer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon, negotiate treaties with some of the Columbia River Basin Indian tribes. At Walla Walla, treaties are concluded with the following groups of tribes: Yakama, June 9; Walla Walla, Cayuse and Umatilla, June 9; Nez Perce, June 11; and the Middle Tribes of Oregon, June 25. A similar treaty was concluded on July 16 at Hellgate, in present-day Montana, with the Flathead, Kootenai and Upper Pend Oreille tribes. The treaties established reservations and obligated the tribes to move onto them. The treaties with the Yakama, Walla Walla, Cayuse, Umatilla, Nez Perce, Flathead, Kootenai and Upper Pend Oreille tribes were ratified and proclaimed by Congress in 1859. The treaty with the Tribes of Middle Oregon was ratified and proclaimed in 1867.
1855: About this time, gold is discovered near Fort Colville, located at the confluence of the Colville and Columbia rivers in present-day northeastern Washington. Soon, prospectors moved into the area. In 1862, some $7 million in gold was shipped through Fort Walla Walla from the Colville-area.
1856: A lighthouse begins operating at Cape Disappointment on the Washington side of the mouth of the Columbia River, in October.
1856: In March, the Cascades of the Columbia was the site of a deadly skirmish between settlers and Indians tribes. The Indians opposed the treaties of 1855 and were angry over intrusions by settlers onto Indian lands. They hoped to seize the fort and block movements of troops, settlers and freight up and down the river. The siege lasted three days; several settlers and several Indians were killed. The Indians retreated when soldiers arrived from The Dalles.
1858: This is the year of the Battle of Spokane Plains, which broke out after a small group of Palouse Indians stole some U.S. Army cattle. Spokane and Coeur d’Alene Indians fought U.S. Army troops near present-day Rosalia. The Indians surrendered after soldiers killed hundreds of Indian horses near Spokane and destroyed stores of food. The battle prompted Congress to finally ratify Indian treaties in 1859, four years after they were negotiated.
1859: The first large-scale irrigation project in the Columbia River Basin is built this year in the Walla Walla River valley. Irrigation projects soon followed in the Umatilla, John Day and Hood River valleys of Oregon.
1859: On September 17, members of the Palliser expedition note many dead salmon from the mouth of Braeberry Creek to Windermere and Columbia lakes. An explorer named Hector saw two Kutenai Indian families drying salmon caught from Columbia Lake.
1859: The Colonel Wright is the first steamship launched above The Dalles. The boat was built at the mouth of the Deschutes River and was used to carry freight between Celilo and old Fort Walla Walla. The same year, the Colonel Wright probed 50 miles up the Snake, and during the gold rush of 1861 the ship went up the Clearwater to within 12 miles of its north and south forks. Two other boats joined the upper river trade in 1860, the Tenino and the Okanogan.
1859: The state of Oregon is created with its current boundaries. This added southern Idaho and a portion of western Wyoming to Washington Territory. In 1863, Idaho Territory was created, encompassing all of present-day Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. This left Washington Territory with the boundaries of the current state. Washington would become a state in 1889, as would Montana. Idaho would become a state in 1890.
1860: Gold is discovered on the Clearwater River in Idaho by Elias Pierce. A gold rush begins the following year and lasts through 1870. Gold also was discovered at about this time in the Cariboo region of south central British Columbia, and many miners passed through the Columbia Plateau region on their way north.
1861: Commercial fishing is now an industry on the lower Columbia. Two entrepreneurs, Rice and Reed, are packing salted salmon at a site 60 miles below Portland.
1861: The non-Indian population in Washington Territory east of the Cascade Mountains now surpasses that on the west side of the mountains.
1862: Railroad portages are now operating on both shores of the Columbia at the Cascades, making passage much easier for settlers arriving from the East. In this year, the Oregon Steam Navigation Company gains control of portage roads and equipment on the Oregon side, securing its monopoly on river transportation.
1862: Congress enacts three laws intended to open the West: 1) The Homestead Act, which provided 160 acres of western land free to any citizen or alien intending to become a citizen providing the owner makes certain improvements and lives on the land for five years; The Morrill (land grant) Act, which establishes public colleges and universities throughout the country, and The Pacific Railroad Act, through which the United States makes grants and loans to aid construction of the first transcontinental railroad. Between 1862 and 1871 the railroads receive 174 million acres of public land.
1863: The United States negotiates a treaty with the Nez Perce Tribe that supplements and amends the Treaty of 1855 to reserve certain springs near, but not contiguous to, the reservation established in the 1855 treaty for the exclusive use of the tribe. The 1863 treaty was ratified and proclaimed in Congress in 1867. The treaty was amended in 1868, and ratified the following year, to extend military protection to Nez Perces who lived outside the reservation boundaries and allow them to graze animals on unoccupied land.
1863: This spring, work is completed on a portage railroad around The Dalles and Celilo Falls. Called the Dalles and Celilo Railroad, its first locomotive was named after John C. Ainsworth of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, which owned the railroad.
1864: The first telegraph link between Portland and the East Coast is completed.
1864 : Congress charters the Northern Pacific Railroad this year. Because of the high cost of the Civil War, a cash subsidy for each mile of track laid is not possible. Instead, Congress provides the largest land grant in American history: 60 million acres from Lake Superior to the Pacific, a vast checkerboard of alternating one-mile squares of government and railroad land.
1865: The Forty Nine, a steamship loaded with hopeful miners and their equipment, shoves off from Fort Colville at the confluence of the Colville and Columbia Rivers, headed for the Big Bend of the Columbia in British Columbia where gold had been discovered. It was the first steamship to cross the 49th parallel on the river.
1866: Disappointed by the steadily decreasing salmon runs in California's Sacramento River, where they established the first salmon cannery in North America on a river barge in 1864, brothers George W. and William Hume, and Andrew S. Hapgood this year move their business to a place they called Eagle Cliff on the Washington side of the Columbia 50 miles from the mouth of the river. This was the first salmon cannery on the Columbia River. The site was in present-day Wahkiakum County. That year they packed 4,000 cases of salmon, 48 one-pound cans to the case, by hand.
1866: This is the year of the first U.S. Army Engineers civil works project in the Pacific Northwest, clearing Willamette River snags near Portland.
1866: The first load of wheat from the Palouse is transported by boat down the Snake and Columbia rivers to Portland.
1870: The census this year shows the population at The Dalles is down to 942 as the Clearwater River gold rush of the early 1860s subsided. The city had 1,340 residents in 1860, just before the gold rush began.
1871: British Columbia becomes a province of Canada.
1871: Present-day Spokane founded.
1871: The Appropriation Act of March 3, 1871, effectively terminates treaty making with Indian tribes. The statute, 25 USCA 71, provides that no tribe should be recognized as an independent nation for treaty making purposes (existing treaties were not affected). Reservations created after 1871 were established either by specific statute or by executive order (Congress ended that practice in 1919).
1872: R.D. Hume introduces Chinese labor to American canneries. The Chinese were efficient and hard-working and would accept low pay. Most of the fishing for the canneries was done by local Indians. The Chinese were not allowed to fish. By this year, Hume is operating several canneries on the lower Columbia River, and others are being built.
1872: The Oregon Legislature finances a wagon road through the Columbia River Gorge.
1875: Two boats with a combined capacity of 250 tons are handling the rapidly growing wheat shipments from Wallula, at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers. It’s a struggle to keep up with the demand for transportation.
1876: Work begins on the Cascades lock and canal.
1877: In this year, cannery operators, worried about the decline of the prized spring chinook runs, organize the Oregon & Washington Fish Propagation Company, raise $21,000 in donations, and build a hatchery on the Clackamas River, the first in the Columbia River Basin.
1877: This year, and in 1880, 1883 and 1885, gill net fishermen organized strikes and acts of violence against cannery operators over the prices paid for salmon. This led to the establishment of the Columbia River Fishermen's Protective Union in 1886. The CRFPU successfully bargained for higher prices, which more than doubled between 1886 and 1888, from 55 cents per fish to $1.25 per fish.
1877: Congress approves a navigation channel from the Portland/Vancouver area to the mouth of the Columbia.
1877:Washington’s territorial legislature attempts to regulate the Columbia River salmon fishery by closing it on that side of the river for all or parts of March, April, August and September. In 1878, Oregon did the same, but left April open except on weekends. In 1881, Washington reopened the fishery in September. Throughout, enforcement was lax.
1877: Plans are completed for the 7,200-foot Cascades Canal that would bypass the Cascades rapids 45 miles east of Portland. Plagued by lack of funding, labor problems and difficulties of engineering and construction, the canal was not completed until November 1896.
1878: Rainfall at the Cascades, where the bypass canal is being constructed, totals 57.28 inches between February and June. A New York firm, Ball and Platt, is doing the initial excavation. Living conditions are primitive. The chief engineer reports that he used a sewing needle and silk thread to close a deep gash on a worker’s face.
1878:The Oregon Fish Commission is established. Also this year, Oregon imposes its first fishing gear regulation (Washington’s was in 1866).
1878: The Bannock War in southern Idaho ends, last of the Northwest Indian wars.
1879: Fish wheels begin operating on the Columbia. By 1889, there would be 57 operating between Bonneville and Celilo. Fishing with fish wheels continued in the Columbia for 55 years. 1879 also was the first year fish traps were utilized on the Columbia. By 1886 there would be 156.
1880: Commercial fishing pressure is so intense in the lower Columbia River that just 20 miles inland from the ocean there are so few salmon that cannery fishers are forced to move to the river’s mouth to ensure they catch enough to satisfy the demand at canneries.
1880-81: A severe winter kills livestock on the Columbia Plateau.
1882: A rail line is completed between Celilo and Wallula, at the confluence of the Walla Walla and Columbia rivers. With this link, a continuous line now exists between Portland and Walla Walla, allowing eastern Washington grain to be delivered to ocean-going ships in Portland.
1883: On September 8, Henry Villard, president of the Northern Pacific Railroad, drives a golden spike at Independence Creek, 60 miles west of Helena, Montana, marking the completion of the first transcontinental railroad through the Northwest. Other transcontinental lines soon followed. In 1884, the Oregon Short Line linked to the Union Pacific, and the Great Northern Railway was completed in 1893. Portland now was linked by rail to Spokane, St. Paul, Omaha, and points east. In Canada, the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in November 1885 at Craigellatchie, a few miles west of Revelstoke, British Columbia.
1885: On September 2, George A. Fitch installed a small “Brush-arc dynamo” from an old steamship in the basement of a Spokane flour mill and generated the city's first electricity, using water power from the Spokane River, to illuminate 11 arc lights in the downtown business district.
1886: By this year, Pendleton, Oregon, and Dayton and Pomeroy, Washington, all have railroad connections.
1886: On May 8, Captain Frank Armstrong launched the first steamboat on the upper Columbia River, at Golden, British Columbia. The boat was called the Dutchess.
1887: Seufert’s No. 5, the most famous fish wheel on the Columbia, is constructed this year on a point of rock jutting into the Columbia on the Oregon side of the river at the head of Fivemile Rapids, about five miles upstream of The Dalles. It operated until 1926, when Oregon voters banned fish wheels, and averaged 146,000 pounds of salmon per year.
1889: Some 400,000 acres are under irrigation in the Columbia River Basin. Although some irrigation involves pumping groundwater, the earliest and simplest irrigation involved diverting water from streams.
1889: There are 121 fish traps in Baker Bay, near the mouth of the Columbia. In all, about 400 traps are being operated on the river. Traps were fixed nets attached to poles driven into the riverbed.
1889: With chinook salmon runs declining and public demand for canned salmon high, canneries on the lower Columbia begin processing sockeye salmon and steelhead. A few years later, the canneries would add coho and chum salmon.
1889: The Willamette Falls Electric Company, founded in 1888 in Portland, built the first long-distance electricity transmission line in the Northwest, 13 miles long, from one of four Brush-arc, hydropower dynamos at Willamette Falls to downtown Portland to power street lights.
1890: Largely as a result of the completion of transcontinental railroads, population in Idaho, Washington and Oregon jumped from about 251,000 in 1880 to 705,000 in 1890.
1891: Between 1891 and 1895, Columbia River salmon canneries pack an average of 486,000 cases (48 pounds per case) each year.
1892: The Coulee City News reports on a proposal to irrigate the Big Bend country of central Washington state with water diverted into the Grand Coulee from a large dam on the Columbia River. Probably this is the first published proposal for a dam at Grand Coulee.
1893: A special committee appointed by the Oregon Legislature in 1887 to review fishery problems on the Columbia releases its report this year. The report concludes that claims of overfishing by wheels, traps and seines are based on “prejudice and misinformation” and recommends that fishing gear restrictions be repealed.
1894: “It does not require a study of the statistics to convince one that the salmon industry has suffered a great decline during the past decade, and that it is only a matter of a few years under present conditions when the chinook of the Columbia will be as scarce as the beaver that once was so plentiful in our streams. For a third of a century Oregon has drawn wealth from her streams, but now, by reason of her wastefulness and lack of intelligent provision for the future, the source of that wealth is disappearing and is threatened with annihilation . . . Salmon that ten years ago the canners would not touch now constitute 30 to 40 percent of the pack.” – From the 1894 report of the Oregon Fish and Game Protector.
1894: Upper Columbia Basin salmon runs decline, such as those in the Spokane River and the fish that normally passed Kettle Falls on their way to spawn in northern Washington tributaries and in British Columbia. Fish were abundant at Kettle Falls as late as 1878 but had been steadily decreasing since 1882, according to the United States Fish Commissioner, who cites commercial overfishing in the lower Columbia as the primary cause.
1894: In a report by Charles Gilbert of Stanford University and Barton Evermann of the U.S. Fish Commission, published in the Bulletin of the U.S. Fish Commission this year, the authors write: “Salmon were abundant in the Columbia at Kettle Falls as late as 1878. Since then there has been a great decrease. They have been scarce since about 1832; since 1890 there have been scarcely any at Kettle Falls. The Meyers brothers say they have been almost unable to buy any salmon for their own table from the Indians for three years. Certain Indians with whom we talked at Kettle Falls said salmon were once very abundant there, but that very few are seen now. Other persons testified to the same effect. Essentially the same information was obtained regarding the decrease of salmon in other parts of the upper tributaries, of the Columbia, viz, at Spokane, in both tile Big and Little Spokane rivers, and in the Snake River and its various tributaries.”
1895: Washington builds the Chinook River Hatchery on a lower Columbia tributary using money from fishing license sales. In the five years between 1895 and 1900, 14 hatcheries were built in Washington. Production of salmon tripled. In 1900, 23 million eggs and fry were released. In 1905, 62 million were released. Washington’s hatchery system eventually grew to be the largest on the West Coast.
1896 : Cascade Locks and Canal is completed, allowing continuous navigation through the treacherous Cascades. Previously, steamboats usually only ran the Cascades during low water. Still unfinished when opened, the Canal cost $3,793,496.94 to that point. On November 5, steamboats carried several hundred excursionists through the locks to view the work. The steamer Sarah Dixon fired cannon salutes at appropriate intervals. The canal immediately benefited river commerce. Between 1898 and 1920, the value of freight through the canal exceeded the construction cost in most years. The locks and canal were used until 1938, when they were covered by the water behind Bonneville Dam.
1896: “There can be no doubt in the mind of anyone who has studied the question, that the future propensity of our salmon fisheries depend largely upon artificial propagation . . . I am convinced that not more than 10 percent of the ova spawned in the open streams are hatched, owing principally to spawn-eating fish that prey on them . . .while from artificial propagation 90 percent are successfully hatched. What more need be said in favor of fish culture?”–-From the Oregon State Fish and Game Protector’s annual report, 1896.
1896: Gold is discovered on the northern half of the Colville Reservation in northeastern Washington, and two years later on the southern half.
1898: On July 31, Portland banker Joseph Paquet catches the first largemouth bass in the Columbia, near Portland. Largemouth bass brought from California had been released into the Willamette River about 10 years earlier. The Willamette is a Columbia tributary that flows into the Columbia near Portland.
1898: Lower Bonnington Falls Dam is completed on the Kootenay River, a Columbia tributary in British Columbia, the first dam on the Kootenay and the first on a Columbia tributary in British Columbia. The dam did not block anadromous fish, however, as they never had been able to migrate past the falls.
1899: Congress authorizes a 25-foot-deep navigation channel in the Columbia from the mouth to Portland.
1899: The number of fish wheels on the Columbia River peaks at 76.
1900: Natural resource industries are booming. Between 1900 and 1910, large-scale logging occurred in the Columbia River Gorge. By 1900, nearly 500,000 acres of farmland in the Columbia River Basin is being irrigated.
1901: Oregon Fish Commissioner Henry Van Deusen laments the lost salmon production from 1882-1886 that resulted from the closure of the Clackamas River the fishing industry.
1902: The federal Reclamation Act, passed by Congress this year, authorized the government to aid the development of irrigation for agriculture and allowed settlers to own 160 acres for the purpose of irrigating crops.
1903: The dredge Grant arrives at Portland, followed in 1904 by the dredge Chinook.
1903: According to a report in Pacific Fisherman magazine, the continuing decline of spring chinook salmon becomes apparent to fishers in the lower Columbia River. To compensate, some of the harvest shifts to fall chinook, which the canneries consider inferior fish.
1905: Cascade Locks and canal has its busiest year, used by 1,417 boats.
1906: The most productive fish wheel on the Columbia, the No. 5 wheel of Seufert Brothers Fish Company, has its biggest year. Located in a chute about five miles upstream from The Dalles, Oregon, No. 5 captures 209 tons of salmon. The wheel began operating in 1887 and fished until 1926, when Oregon banned fish wheels. Photo: Fish Wheel No. 5 (Gorgediscovery.com)
1907: Transcontinental railroads now are operating on both sides of the Columbia River. This is the year the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railroad was completed, improving transportation between Portland and the East.
1907: 325 years after Richard Hakluyt first speculated about the Strait of Anian in his book Divers Voyages, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen proves the existence of a Northwest Passage when he sails his ship, Gjoa, from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Arctic Ocean.
1908: President Theodore Roosevelt, in his State of the Union Address to Congress, says the salmon fisheries of the Columbia River “are now but a fraction of what they were 25 years ago, and what they would be now if the United States government had taken complete charge of them by intervening between Oregon and Washington.” He proposes that the federal government take over regulation of the fishery.
1908: The first automobile bridge across the Columbia River is completed, at Wenatchee, Washington. It opens to the public in January of this year. The campaign to construct the bridge was headed by the Wenatchee Commercial Club.
1909: The United States and Canada sign the Boundary Waters Treaty, which establishes the International Joint Commission and gives it jurisdiction over water projects that would change the levels of boundary waters or would result in flooding in the other country. The treaty sets limits on water levels affected by dam operations on transboundary rivers in the Columbia River Basin, including the Kootenai and the Columbia.
1910: 2.3 million acres of farmland in the Columbia River Basin are now irrigated, up from 500,000 acres in 1900.
(June hog photo courtesy Bill Bakke, Portland)
1911: Little Falls Dam is completed on the Spokane River at that location. While there was a fish ladder, there was some dispute about whether it was effective.
1911: This is the peak year for salmon landings (all varieties combined) from the Columbia River, 49.5 million pounds.
1912: The commercial fishery intensifies in the lower Columbia River with the beginning this year of ocean commercial trolling, towing hooks and lines from a boat: for chinook and coho salmon. By 1915 there would be 500 trolling boats, and by 1919 more than 1,000.
1912: The federal River and Harbor Act of this year authorizes a 30-foot-deep navigation channel from Brookfield, Washington, across the river from Knappa, Oregon, in the Columbia River estuary, to Portland.
1913: Several federal agencies, including the Bureau of Chemistry, join national canning industry officials to celebrate the first National Canned Salmon Day, on March 14. A promotional effort, National Canned Salmon Day was timed to coincide with the beginning of Lent.
1915: There are now 2,856 gill net boats on the lower Columbia River, the peak number in the history of the fishery.
1915: The states of Washington and Oregon form the Columbia River Fish Compact to regulate commercial fishing in the river. The compact provides that neither state may change its fishing regulations, which are identical, without the consent of the other. Congress approves the Compact in 1918.
1915: The Columbia River Highway is completed on the Oregon side of the Columbia River between Portland and The Dalles; tourists flock to see the engineering marvel.
1915: The Army Engineers complete a canal and locks around river obstructions above The Dalles, opening river navigation between Astoria, Oregon, and Lewiston, Idaho. The Celilo Canal took nearly 12 years to construct. It was 65 feet wide, eight miles long and eight feet deep and had periodic turnouts to allow boats to pass each other. Today it is under the water behind The Dalles Dam.
1915: Long Lake Dam, with no fish ladder, is completed four miles above Little Falls Dam (completed in 1911) on the Spokane River, effectively ending salmon passage. Spokane River settler D.L. McDonald later wrote: “It was a sad day for the settlers who had grown to depend on the salmon as one of their staple foods. But for the Indians, it was a catastrophe.”
1916: Between 1916 and 1920, Columbia River salmon canneries reach their peak production. The annual pack averages 550,000 cases, at 48 pounds per case.
1917: Washington and Oregon outlaw purse seines in the Columbia River. The same year, Washington begins licensing hook-and-line fishing.
1918: On July 18, the Wenatchee World newspaper, Wenatchee, Washington, publishes a story about the idea for a dam at the Grand Coulee of the Columbia. It was not the first time such a dam had been proposed, but it was the story that energized people about the potential for such a dam. It is the story that is considered the genesis of Grand Coulee Dam.
1918: Entrance channel of the Columbia River is dredged to 40 feet.
1918: Congress ratifies the formation of the Columbia River Compact between Oregon and Washington for the purpose of regulating commercial fisheries in the Columbia River.
1919: A fishway is constructed around Sunbeam Dam on the Salmon River between Stanley and Challis, Idaho. The dam, about 20 miles downstream from the headwaters of the Salmon River at Redfish Lake, was built in 1910 to provide electricity to the Yankee Fork mining district. Fears of dwindling fish runs prompted construction of the fishway. In 1934, Idaho blew a hole in the dam, and private interests later blew it up again, widening the hole. In the 1980s it was blasted a third time to make the hole wide enough for rafters.
1920: Washington Highway 14, the north bank road, is completed through the Columbia River Gorge.
1921:Beginning this year, the harvest of chinook salmon in the lower Columbia River begins an annual decline that would continue until 1958. As the river catch decreased, the ocean catch increased, but the number of salmon landed at Columbia River ports continued to decline overall. Fishery managers in Oregon and Washington recognized that hatcheries failed to reverse the steady salmon decline and ignored scientific evidence of the stock structure of salmon populations. Despite this, hatcheries continued to be the primary tool to mitigate the impact of the dams.
1922: On July 26, the Federal Power Commission grants a preliminary permit to the Washington Water Power Company to build a dam at Kettle Falls. It never was built.
1926: The Oregon Legislature outlaws fish wheels. Meanwhile, 506 fish traps are in operation on the Columbia River, the most ever.
1927: Inland Power and Light Company completes Lewiston Dam on the Clearwater River (at River Mile 4) near Lewiston, Idaho. There is a fish ladder, but it is inadequate. Lewiston Dam virtually eliminated chinook salmon runs into the Clearwater Basin. Steelhead were able to negotiate the ladder, but their numbers declined dramatically, too. Washington Water Power Company of Spokane acquired the dam in 1937 and, two years later built two additional fishways. Improvements were made to all three ladders in the mid-1960s. The dam was removed in 1973 as part of the Lower Granite Dam project so that there would be enough water to allow barge traffic to Lewiston.
1928: The number of haul seines in the Columbia River commercial fishery reaches its peak: 108.
1931: On January 31, U.S. Senator Clarence Dill of Washington – he was from Spokane – met with then recently re-elected New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Governor’s mansion in Albany. Democrat Roosevelt already was being promoted as a presidential candidate in 1932, an election he would win. In their dinner meeting that evening in Albany, Dill wanted to talk about the proposal for Grand Coulee Dam; Roosevelt spent two hours talking about the Depression before Dill finally was able to discuss what he called “a Northwest problem.” The problem was the need for irrigation of the Columbia Plateau and how the dam could provide water for that purpose, and also generate some electricity. Roosevelt was instantly interested, Dill wrote in his 1970 memoir, “Where Water Falls.” They talked for a couple more hours about the dam, the Northwest, the Columbia River, the proposal to build a canal from Northern Idaho to irrigate the Plateau rather than a dam (Roosevelt said he had heard about it) – a plan favored by private power companies – and what the dam might cost, where it would be located, and what then-president Herbert Hoover, a Republican, thought of the idea (Hoover favored the ditch). Dill writes that Roosevelt, hearing that, replied, “Doesn’t he realize that spending the money now will give new employment in the depression and bring additional income taxes?” Dill replied that all he knew was that Hoover was against it and that Democrats want to build it, now. Dill continues: “Then he said, ‘I don’t suppose I’ll ever be president, but if I am, I’ll build that dam…. If I were president, I’d start it and Congress would have to finish it.” Which is precisely what he did as president in 1933. (Dill, pages 150-151)
1932: A federal report on river planning, Columbia River and Minor Tributaries (House Document 103-73/1), proposes construction of eight dams on the Columbia River, including Bonneville and Grand Coulee.
1932: Presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt promotes Columbia River hydropower development in a speech in Portland on September 21.
1932: Japan begins high seas gill net fishing for salmon. It was discontinued during World War II and resumed in 1952. Japan remains the only Pacific Rim nation with sizeable fishing fleets to fish for salmon in the high seas. However, regarding stocks of United States origin, this would have to occur within the 200-mile zone under provisions of the Fishery Conservation Management Act. Beyond the 200-mile zone, U.S. salmon may not be lawfully harvested.
1932: Construction of Rock Island Dam, the first hydropower dam on the Columbia River, was completed in December. Built by he Washington Electric Company, the construction subsidiary of Puget Sound Power and Light Company of Bellevue, Washington, Rock Island is a low dam with three gently inclining fish ladders to allow migrating adult salmon to pass. Today, the dam is owned and operated by the Chelan County Public Utility District. Location: river mile 453.4.
1933: On September 5 construction of Grand Coulee Dam officially begins, but it was September 9 before engineers set the stakes that marked the center line of the dam. On November 6, site preparation work began at Bonneville Dam.
1934: On March 19, Congress passes the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (amended in 1946 and 1958), which required the federal government to take fish and wildlife into consideration in the planning of federal water development projects. It was the beginning of efforts to mitigate the impact of federal Snake and Columbia river dams on fish and wildlife.
1935: Washington outlaws fixed gear, such as fish wheels and pound nets, for commercial fishing on the Columbia River. Oregon banned fixed gear in 1949.
(Photo courtesy Bill Bakke, Portland)
Steelhead leaping at Kettle Falls, September 18,1935. Oregon State University Libraries photo.
1937: In January, the monthly mean flow of the Columbia drops to its lowest level since 1927, when regular records began to be kept. The monthly mean flow of 39,160 cubic feet per second, measured at The Dalles, Oregon, remains the lowest natural flow on record in the Columbia (the flow at The Dalles was lower, briefly, in the late 1950s when the reservoir behind The Dalles Dam was filling).
1937: On August 20, President Roosevelt signs the Bonneville Project Act, which creates a new federal power bureau: The Bonneville Power Project. The new bureau is assigned to market and transmit power from federal dams and “. . .give preference and priority in the use of electric energy to public bodies and cooperatives.”
1938: On May 11, Congress passes the Mitchell Act (Public Law 75-502). The law is intended to mitigate the impacts to fish from water diversions, dams on the mainstem of the Columbia River, pollution and logging. Initially, the Act paid just for a census and survey of lower Columbia tributaries. Later it was amended to pay for facilities to protect salmon spawning habitat, such as screens on irrigation diversions.
1938: Congress authorizes seven dams in Oregon’s Willamette River Basin as flood control projects. The dams, built between 1946 and 1960, were Detroit, Big Cliff, Lookout Point, Dexter, Cougar, Green Peter, and Foster.
1938: Bonneville Dam begins operation on June 6. The dam has a fish ladder, and for the first time the number of adult salmon and steelhead crossing the dam can be counted. The 1938 total is 469,027 fish, primarily chinook (271,799). Steelhead, sockeye and coho also were counted.
1939: On December 20, the Bonneville Power Administration signs its first industrial power sales contract. The customer, the Aluminum Company of America, built a smelter on the north bank of the Columbia a few miles west of Vancouver, Washington.
1940: The Bonneville Power Project, created by the Bonneville Project Act in 1937, is renamed the Bonneville Power Administration.
1940: In June, the Colville tribes host the “Ceremony of Tears,” a three-day event at Kettle Falls to eulogize the impending inundation of the falls and the loss of the salmon and steelhead fishery from the construction of Grand Coulee Dam about 100 miles downstream. At the time, the reservoir was filling; it would cover the falls in July 1941.
1942: The U.S. Supreme Court rules, in Tulee v. State of Washington, that the state cannot charge license fees to Yakima Indians exercising treaty fishing rights.
1943: The Bonneville Power Administration receives an urgent request for a large block of power to serve a secret load in the desert between Richland and Yakima.
1943: Congress approves the Columbia Basin Project Act, sponsored by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Interior Department. The Act replaced the Anti-Speculation Act of 1937, which President Roosevelt had sought as a means of guaranteeing people who settled in central Washington to take advantage of the irrigation and the power from Grand Coulee Dam would not be subject to inflated prices from land speculation. The Columbia Basin Project Act required the Bureau of Reclamation to sign contracts with three irrigation districts that had been established within the project. Power revenues would subsidize irrigation.
1944: With the approval of Montana’s governor, Congress authorizes construction of Hungry Horse Dam on the South Fork Flathead River as a Bureau of Reclamation project. Hungry Horse was the first of many upstream dams in the U.S. and Canada that control summer and winter flows for maximum power generation at the larger dams downriver.
1944: Brilliant Dam is completed on the Kootenay River, a Columbia tributary in British Columbia. Brilliant was built by Cominco, a company that operates a smelter on the Columbia River at Trail about 15 miles south. The dam, located less than a mile up the Kootenay from its confluence with the Columbia, blocks salmon from reaching the Slocan River and Slocan Lake.
1944: This year the first offspring of fish that once spawned above Grand Coulee Dam return to spawn in tributaries above Rock Island Dam where their parents had been released in experiments that began in 1939 and continued through 1947. It was the first evidence that Columbia River fish runs might be relocated.
1944: The United States and Canada ask the International Joint Commission to investigate the potential of the Columbia for greater use and development. In 1959, the governments would ask the IJC to investigate how to apportion downstream benefits of power generation and flood control, and the resulting report helped the two countries in negotiations that culminated in the Columbia River Treaty in 1961 (ratified by the U.S. Congress in 1964).
1945: The federal River and Harbor Act of 1945 authorizes construction of McNary Dam on the Columbia, 146 miles upriver from Bonneville Dam. The 1945 Act also authorized construction of the Lower Snake River Project of dams in southeastern Washington. Specifically, Public Law 14, passed by Congress on March 2, 1945, authorized the Corps to “construct such dams as are necessary” to provide slackwater along the lower Snake River from its confluence with the Columbia to Lewiston. The decision on how many dams were necessary was left to the Corps. Eventually, the Corps decided on four: Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite.
1946: Congress authorizes construction of Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia at River Mile 545, 51 miles downstream from Grand Coulee. The authorization was in the 1946 River and Harbor Act. Originally called Foster Creek Dam, the initial survey work was not funded until 1948 (the same year Congress renamed it Chief Joseph), and then only for $42,000, but additional funding followed and construction got underway in 1949. The main dam and intake structure was completed in 1955. The first 16 turbine units went into service between 1955 and 1958. The project was completed in 1961. The L-shaped dam is 5,962 feet long in an area where the river is 980 feet wide. The design maximizes hydropower production. The powerhouse, at 2,039 feet one of the world’s longest, originally contained 16 turbine generators capable of producing a total of 1,078 megawatts. Today, the powerhouse has 27 generators and a capacity of 2,069 megawatts.
1947: Construction begins at McNary Dam on the Columbia River near Hermiston, Oregon, on April 15.
1947: “It is, therefore, the conclusion of all concerned that the overall benefits to the Pacific Northwest from a thorough-going development of the Snake and Columbia are such that the present salmon run must be sacrificed. This means that the Department’s efforts should be directed toward ameliorating the impact of this development upon the injured interests and not toward a vain attempt to hold still the hands of the clock.”
– Warner W. Gardner, March 6, 1947, Acting Chairman, Pacific Northwest Coordination Committee.
1947: On March 20, the Georgie Burton makes a run from Portland to The Dalles, the last trip for the 41-year veteran steamboat. It may not have been the last steamboat trip on the Columbia, but the press reported it as such. Certainly, it was one of the last, as highways and railroads steadily eclipsed river transportation.
1948: In November, the Corps of Engineers opens its Walla Walla District office to supervise construction of the four dams of the Lower Snake River Project.
1948: In late May and early June, a Columbia River flood destroys the city of Vanport, Oregon. The Vanport Flood wiped out the nation’s largest wartime housing development, which has been described as a site for social innovation, a lightning rod for racial prejudice, and the scene of one of Oregon’s major disasters.
1948: “The importance of the fact that salmon and steelhead return as adults to their home streams and tributaries is obvious; it is essential that each independent, self-perpetuating population of fish be preserved if depletion is to be avoided. … If conditions in the streams where the adults spawn and the young are reared become unfavorable the populations will be reduced or may be entirely eliminated. From: Survey of the Columbia River and its Tributaries with Special Reference to the Management of its Fishery Resources. U.S. Department of Interior. Special Scientific Report. No. 51.
1949: A census shows that population of the Northwest grew 44 percent since 1940. During the same period, the nation’s population grew 13 percent. Net immigration to the Pacific Northwest was more than 1 million. Oregon led all states with a 59-percent population increase.
1949: The Lower Columbia River Fishery Development Program is established by Congress, based on a 1946 amendment to the Mitchell Act that authorized the federal Interior Department to use the facilities and services of state fish and wildlife agencies to develop and conserve Columbia River Basin salmon. The state agencies had signed the participation agreement in 1948. Federal agencies sought $1 million to pay for improving fisheries in the Columbia basin.
1949: In a survey of Columbia River tributaries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identifies the Cowlitz River, a Columbia River tributary in southwest Washington, as a potentially important salmon-bearing stream that should not be developed for hydropower development. The report is a precursor of a political battle that would rage in future years over hydropower development on the Cowlitz between the city of Tacoma’s municipal utility, Tacoma Power, and salmon advocates including state and federal fish and wildlife agencies and associations of commercial and sport fishermen.
1950: A total of 559,606 salmon and steelhead are counted crossing Bonneville Dam.
1950: The federal River and Harbor and Flood Control Act of 1950 authorizes construction of The Dalles and John Day dams on the Columbia and two upstream water storage projects on Columbia tributaries: Albeni Falls Dam on the Pend Oreille River near the Idaho/Washington border and Libby Dam on the Kootenai River in northwestern Montana. The Act also reconfirms authorization of Chief Joseph Dam.
1950: In this year, drift gill nets are declared the only legal commercial fishing method on the Columbia River for non-Indians. Fixed gear, such as fish wheels and pound nets, was outlawed in Washington in 1935 and in Oregon in 1949.
1951: The 18th and final generator at Grand Coulee Dam begins operation. This completes both powerhouses at the dam.
1952: Congress adopts the International Convention for the High Seas Fisheries of the North Pacific Ocean on May 9. Known as the Trilateral Pacific Salmon Treaty, the agreement between Japan, the United States and Canada embodies the “abstention principle,” which holds that the nation where anadromous fish originate has authority to prohibit high seas fishing on those stocks. Accordingly, Japan was prohibited from fishing on Canadian or United States salmon east of a line drawn roughly along the 175th meridian.
1952: On May 29, the first irrigation water from Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam starts to flow into the canals of the Columbia Basin Project.
1953: President Dwight Eisenhower shifts the nation’s power policy from one of encouraging federal dams to one of encouraging local utilities to build dams on major rivers. Three public utility districts in central Washington, aided by investor-owned utilities, take advantage of this shift and built four huge dams on the Columbia during the 1950s and 1960s: Priest Rapids (originally authorized as a federal dam), Wanapum, Rocky Reach and Wells.
1953: This year President Eisenhower appoints George Boldt, a Tacoma, Washington judge, to the U.S. District Court, Western Washington District. Twenty-one years later, in 1974, Boldt would author one of the most important legal decisions in the history of Northwest salmon recovery efforts, ruling that Northwest Indian tribes that signed treaties with the United States in 1855 are entitled to half of the harvestable surplus of fish that return annually to the tribes’ usual and accustomed fishing sites.
1954: A total of 998 adult sockeye are counted at Redfish Lake, Idaho, in the headwaters of the Salmon River. In 1991,the Redfish Lake sockeye would be declared an endangered species.
1954: McNary Dam on the Columbia River at river mile 292, near Hermiston, Oregon, begins operation. President Eisenhower dedicates the dam on September 23.
1954: On April 24, the steamboat era on the Columbia River comes to an end when the SS Minto, launched 56 years earlier, ties up for the last time at the river town of Nakusp, British Columbia. No longer able to pay its way hauling freight and passengers, the Minto was sold by the Canadian Pacific Railroad to the local Chamber of Commerce for $1.
1955: About this time, or perhaps in the late 1940s, walleye are introduced into the Columbia River system. Walleye, a game fish, are predators of young salmon. Walleye are not native to the Columbia River but got there either by direct planting in Lake Roosevelt, behind Grand Coulee Dam, or by inundation of Devil’s Lake by the adjacent Banks Lake, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Banks Lake is the Columbia Basin Project irrigation reservoir and has a direct connection to Lake Roosevelt. The fish steadily spread downriver. The first walleye was caught below Bonneville Dam in 1966 near Oneonta, Oregon. Populations became established in the Columbia between Bonneville and McNary dams in the 1970s. Later, populations were established below Bonneville and in the Willamette River below Willamette Falls.
1955: This year 2,069-megawatt Chief Joseph Dam begins operation on August 28. Owner: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Location: river mile 545.1. There is no fish passage at this dam about 90 miles upstream from Wenatchee. Thus Chief Joseph is the upper extent of salmon and steelhead migration in the Columbia, blocking access to about 670 miles of the mainstem Columbia and all the associated tributaries where salmon historically spawned.
1957: The Dalles Dam, a federal project operated by the Corps of Engineers, begins operation this year. The Dalles Dam is at the city of The Dalles, Oregon at river mile 191.5. On March 10 the flood gates closed, and the reservoir behind the dam quickly filled, inundating the historic Indian fishery at Celilo Falls. At this time, prior to the construction of John Day Dam, McNary Dam at river mile 292 was the next dam upriver from The Dalles.
1958: Priest Rapids Dam, owned and operated by the Grant County Public Utility District, is dedicated this year and placed in service October 19. The dam is at river mile 397.1. Priest Rapids was built by a consortium of public and private power entities, including Puget Sound Power & Light Company (Bellevue, Washington), Portland General Electric (Portland, Oregon), Pacific Power and Light Company (Portland), and Washington Water Power Company (Spokane) and eight public utilities in Washington and Oregon. These 12 entities shared about 63 percent of the power output, and the Grant County PUD received 36.5 percent.
1959: The Oregon Moist Pellet is developed. It remains the standard food at salmon hatcheries. Along with improvements in disease control and water quality in hatcheries, the improved diet made hatchery programs more cost-effective. As a result, fish production began to accelerate. By the late 1960s, hatchery production of salmon and steelhead, particularly chinook and coho, overtook and then far surpassed natural production. By 1974, hatchery releases from the 40 federal, state and tribal hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin reached 155 million, five times the number of juvenile fish released from hatcheries in 1960. [Wilkinson and Conner, Page 82]
1960: The population of the four Northwest states continues to grow and now stands at 5,964,000, an increase of 884,000 since 1950 and 2,058,000 since 1940. Salmon and steelhead harvests in the Columbia River continue to decline, as does the number of fish counted at Bonneville Dam. In 1960, 492,100 fish were harvested from the river between the dam and the ocean, and 3,900 fish upriver from the dam. Ten years earlier, the harvest was 717,500 fish below the dam and 157,200 fish above it. A total of 433,732 salmon and steelhead eluded capture in the lower river and were counted crossing Bonneville Dam in 1960, compared to 560,683 in 1950. [Sources: United States Census; ODFW/WDFW Status Report, 1938-1998, Pages 126 and 135; Fish Passage Center]
1960: A total of 432,706 salmon and steelhead are counted crossing Bonneville Dam. This year, the commercial salmon harvest above Bonneville Dam was 3,900 fish totaling 45,200 pounds. The next year the harvest jumped about threefold. The commercial catch below Bonneville Dam in 1960 was 401,300 salmon totaling 4,458,900 pounds, and 90,800 steelhead totaling 649,800 pounds. The Indian commercial dip net fishery at Celilo Falls ended in 1957. [Status Report, 1938-1998, Pages 126 and 135]
1961: Between 1961 and 1964, annual production at Columbia River salmon canneries drops to its lowest level since about 1870: 90,000 cases, at 48 pounds per case.
1961: Two major dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers begin operation this year. Ice Harbor Dam is on the Snake River at river mile 9.7. Ice Harbor, which was placed in service on December 18, is a federal dam operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Rocky Reach Dam, located on the Columbia River just north of Wenatchee at river mile 473.7, was placed in service on June 13. It was built by a consortium that included the Chelan County Public Utility District (Wenatchee), Puget Sound Power & Light Company (Bellevue, Washington), Portland General Electric (Portland, Oregon), Pacific Power and Light Company (Portland), Washington Water Power Company (Spokane) and the Alcoa aluminum company, which built a smelter in Wenatchee. Puget Power received the largest share of the electricity, 45.5 percent. The dam is operated by the Chelan PUD.
1963: Mayfield Dam on the Cowlitz River, a lower Columbia tributary, begins operation this year. The 162-megawatt dam (initially three units totaling 121.5 megawatts, with the fourth unit added in 1983) was built by the City of Tacoma, Washington, Department of Public Utilities (Tacoma Power). It is located at River Mile 52.
1963: Wanapum Dam on the Columbia River is placed in service on September 1, 1963. Built by a consortium of four private and five public utilities, the dam is operated by the Grant County Public Utility District. Location: river mile 415.8. Like Grant County PUD’s other dam, Priest Rapids, the utility receives 36.5 percent of the output of the dam, and the other financing partners share the remainder. Of these, the largest shares go to Portland General Electric (Portland, Oregon) and Pacific Power and Light Company (Portland), which each receive 18.7 percent of the output.
1964: In late December, severe floods sweep through Washington, Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge.
1965: This summer, Roald Fryxell, a geologist with Washington State University’s Laboratory of Anthropology, discovers 9,000-11,000 year-old bones in a rock shelter near the confluence of the Palouse and Snake rivers. The property is owned by farmer Roland Marmes, and the site: which yields the oldest human bones found in North America to that time: becomes known as the Marmes Rock Shelter. Before the site could be fully excavated, it was flooded by the rising waters of the reservoir behind Lower Monumental Dam.
1966: In order to protect dwindling runs of summer chinook above Bonneville Dam, the Oregon Fish Commission asks the Oregon State Police to strictly enforce the law forbidding non-Indian commercial fishing upriver from Bonneville.
1966: Some 6.5 million acres of farmland in the Columbia River Basin are now irrigated, up from 3.5 million in 1928.
1967: Wells Dam on the Columbia River begins operation on September 1. Owner: Douglas County Public Utility District. Location: river mile 515.1. The dam has an unusual design as the result of the underlying geologic formation. Because the most solid ground was at the center of the river channel, the dam was constructed with its heaviest components, the turbines and spillways, in the middle. This design, known as a hydrocombine, has the spillways built over the top of the powerhouse. Typically, the spillways and powerhouse are side by side. Later, this design would prove to be very effective at passing juvenile fish over the dam–-more effective, in fact, than at any other mainstem dam on the Columbia or Snake.
1967: Hells Canyon Dam on the Snake River begins operation on October 23. Owner: Idaho Power Company. Location: Snake River mile 247. By the time this dam began operation, the salmon and steelhead runs that spawned in the river and its tributaries upriver from the dam had diminished from an estimated 1 million adults per year to an estimated 38,100 fish. The prime reason for this decline, according to the Idaho Power Company, was the construction of 15 federal dams above Hells Canyon between 1904 and 1947. The company argued the decline was not attributable to its Hells Canyon Complex of three dams: Brownlee, Oxbow and the newly completed Hells Canyon, even though the dams had blocked anadromous fish passage since the late 1950s when the first of the three dams, Brownlee, was completed.
1968: Several large dams in the Columbia River Basin are completed and begin service this year. In April the Corps of Engineers completes John Day Dam on the Columbia River at River Mile 215.6. In British Columbia, Duncan Dam on the Duncan River, which flows into the northern end of Kootenay Lake, was completed at a site about 26 miles north of Kaslo, B.C. It is one of four dams authorized by the Columbia River Treaty of 1964 between the United States and Canada to increase water storage in the Columbia River system and maximize hydropower generation. Also in 1968, Mossyrock Dam on the Cowlitz River, a lower Columbia tributary, began operation. The 300-megawatt dam was built by the City of Tacoma, Washington, Department of Public Utilities (Tacoma Power). It is located at Cowlitz River mile 65.5.
1969: Hugh Keenleyside Dam, named for the first director of B.C. Hydro, is completed on the lower Columbia River in British Columbia at River Mile 780, a short distance upstream of Castlegar. It is one of four dams, three of them in British Columbia, authorized by the Columbia River Treaty of 1964 between the United States and Canada to increase water storage in the Columbia River Basin and maximize hydropower generation. Keenleyside, which raised the level of the Arrow Lakes behind it, was built without generators, but the Columbia Power Corporation, a subsidiary of the Columbia Basin Trust, added a two-turbine, 185-megawatt power plant, completed in 2002.
1970: Little Goose Dam on the Snake River begins operation on May 19. Owner: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Location: Snake River mile 70.3.
I973: Congress passes the Endangered Species Act. The forerunner of the Act, House Resolution 37, includes this statement of purpose: “From the most narrow possible point of view, it is in the best interests of mankind to minimize the losses of genetic variations. The reason is simple: they are potential resources. They are keys to puzzles that we cannot yet solve, and may provide answers to questions that we have not yet learned to ask.”
1973: Mica Dam is completed on the Columbia River in British Columbia at River Mile 1,018. It is the last in the progression of Columbia River mainstem dams that begins at Bonneville Dam, at River Mile 146, and the closest to the headwaters, which are about 200 miles south at Columbia Lake. Capable of generating 1,840 megawatts of electricity, Mica stores up to 12 million acre-feet of water in Kinbasket Reservoir. Mica is one of four dams authorized by the Columbia River Treaty of 1964 between the United States and Canada to increase water storage in the upper Columbia basin and maximize hydropower generation downstream in the United States.
1974: Dworshak Dam on the North Fork Clearwater River begins operation on September 18. Dworshak, located east of Lewiston, Idaho, inundated 16,970 acres of riverine habitat for wildlife and also blocked fish passage in the North Fork. Anadromous fish passage above Dworshak Dam ended.
1974: U.S. District Judge George Boldt of Tacoma refines an earlier federal court decision regarding Indian fishing and rules that Indians are entitled to 50 percent of the harvestable surplus of salmon and steelhead in Northwest rivers. Thus, Indians whose ancestors signed treaties with the United States in which they reserved the right to fish at their usual and accustomed places “in common with” citizens of the United States are entitled to half of the catch, and non-Indian fishers are entitled to the other half.
1975: The Corps of Engineers awards a contract to build the second powerhouse at Bonneville Dam. It was completed in 1982. The second powerhouse was shut down during the spring fish migration beginning in 1985 because it killed so many smolts. A new fish collection and bypass system, completed in 2003, is intended to improve juvenile fish survival at the facility.
1975: Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River begins operation on April 15, the last of the major dams to be constructed on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Operator: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Location: Snake River mile 107.5. This makes Lewiston, Idaho, 32 miles upstream and 465 miles from the mouth of the Columbia River, a port for deep-water barges.
1976: Three more turbine units are added to Ice Harbor Dam, at Snake River Mile 9.7, raising the generating capacity to 603 megawatts.
1976: On June 24, the Bonneville Power Administration issues a Notice of Insufficiency to its preference customers, which are publicly owned electric utilities in the Northwest. The notice states that seven years in the future, by June 30, 1983, Bonneville no longer would be able to meet their demand for new power supply. Bonneville Administrator Don Hodel blames the anticipated shortage on delays in construction the five nuclear power plants of the Hydrothermal Power Program.
1976: The Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 creates the Pacific Fishery Management Council and seven other regional councils around the nation, to develop, monitor and revise fishery management plans for the area between three miles and 200 miles off the United States coast. The Pacific Council, based in Portland, develops plans for Pacific Ocean fisheries off California, Oregon and Washington. The North Pacific Council includes Alaska and is based in Anchorage.
1976: Congress authorizes the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan in the Water Resources Development Act of 1976 (90 Stat. 2917; Public Law 94-587) to mitigate and compensate for fish and wildlife losses caused by the construction and operation of the four federal dams on the lower Snake River–-Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite–-primarily through the construction and operation of trout, salmon and steelhead hatcheries.
1977: Four Indian tribes with treaty fishing rights on the Columbia River form the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission to coordinate fish management policies and objectives. The participants are the Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation.
1977: This is the driest year on record to date in the Columbia River Basin. The January-July Columbia River runoff, measured at The Dalles Dam, is 53.8 million acre-feet (Maf). The average for the January-July period is 103.2 Maf. Most of the Columbia River runoff occurs between January and July. The average runoff for the year, measured at The Dalles, is 138.7 million acre-feet. The average annual discharge at the mouth of the river, which includes discharges from major lower-basin tributaries including the Willamette and Cowlitz, is about 180 million acre-feet.
1980: In December, Congress approves and President Jimmy Carter signs into law the Northwest Power Act, which authorizes the four Northwest States of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington to form the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (the agency was known until 2003 at the Northwest Power Planning Council) and gives the Council three distinct responsibilities: 1) prepare a program to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife, and related spawning grounds and habitat, of the Columbia River Basin that have been affected by hydropower dams, while 2) assuring the Pacific Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical and reliable power supply, and 3) informing the public about energy and fish and wildlife and involving the public in decision-making. The Council met for the first time in April 1981.
1980: The Bonneville Power Administration is paying $6 million a month on Washington Nuclear Plant 2 debt. The uncompleted plant is now three years behind schedule (it was not completed until 1984, the only Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) nuclear plant that was completed). This year Bonneville announces a wholesale power rate increase of about 90 percent in response to the cost of financing its share of the WPPSS nuclear plants. See: Hydrothermal Power Program.
1982: In an attempt to control indiscriminate fishing in the ocean and conserve depleted stocks of fish, more than 60 nations sign the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention in October. Article 66 deals with anadromous fish and says that the State of origin of anadromous fish stocks “. . .shall ensure their conservation by the establishment of appropriate regulatory measures for fishing in all waters landward of the outer limits of its exclusive economic zone . . .”
1983: About 1,200 pounds of Oregon chinook salmon are shipped to California for a banquet honoring the visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
1983: B.C. Hydro completes Revelstoke Dam on the Columbia River at River Mile 934, about 80 miles upstream from the city of Revelstoke. The dam's generating capacity is 1,800 megawatts.
1986: This is the first year of below-average precipitation in the Columbia Basin that continues into 1994.
1987: The first houseboats are launched on Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam, beginning a popular recreational pursuit.
1987: Congress creates the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which incorporates nearly 90 miles of the Gorge, ridgetop to ridgetop, beginning about 15 miles east of Portland..
1988: The commercial catch of Columbia River salmon and steelhead totals 985,000 fish (14,198,900 pounds), the highest commercial catch, in terms of weight, between 1960 and 1990. More fish were caught in 1986 (1,360,700), but the total weight was less (12,277,900 pounds).
1988: In June, the three mid-Columbia public utility districts in central Washington, Grant County PUD, Chelan County PUD and Douglas County PUD, which own and operate five dams on the Columbia River (Wells, Rocky Reach, Rock Island, Wanapum and Priest Rapids), agree to operate the dams in a manner that protects fall chinook salmon that spawn at Vernita Bar, a gravel bar just downstream from Priest Rapids Dam. Vernita Bar is at the head of the 50-mile Hanford Reach, the last free-flowing section of the river in the United States and an important spawning area for one of the largest and healthiest salmon populations in the Columbia River Basin.
1988: Snake River coho salmon are considered extinct.
1990: On April 9, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, Idaho, petition the National Marine Fisheries Service to list Snake River sockeye salmon as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. On June 7, the National Marine Fisheries Service receives a petition from Oregon Trout, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, American Rivers and the Idaho and Oregon chapters of the American Fisheries Society to protect Snake River spring, summer and fall chinook, and lower Columbia coho salmon under the Endangered Species Act. This year all of the returns of Snake River salmon are low; a single sockeye returns to Redfish Lake.
1990: Some 7.3 million acres of farm land in the Columbia River Basin are now irrigated, down slightly from 7.5 million in 1980.
1991: “He believed in the right to be on the river as long as the salmon are on the river. If they quit taking the salmon, then the salmon were going to quit, too.” Wilfred Jim, Sr., commenting on the life of his close friend, Indian fishing advocate David Sohappy, who died in Hood River, Oregon, May 6.
1991: In April, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposes to list Snake River sockeye as an endangered species. In June, the Service proposes to list Snake River spring/summer and fall chinook as threatened species. The Service declines to list lower Columbia coho on the grounds that the population was so infused with the genetic material of hatchery-bred coho that no truly wild coho remain.
1992: In the spring, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts a test drawdown of the reservoir behind Lower Granite Dam, in response to direction from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, to assess the impacts to shorelines, shoreline structures and river flows. As anticipated, river velocities improved, suggesting that drawdowns could help move juvenile salmon and steelhead through the reservoir more quickly. Minor impacts were observed along the shore, including some bank sloughing, collapsed pavement and damages at a marina as docks settled onto the exposed river bottom.
1994: In April, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases a draft of its System Configuration Study, in which it analyzes options for improving the survival of ESA-listed juvenile Snake River salmon and steelhead, including 10 drawdown scenarios for the four lower Snake River dams. Of these, only the natural river option, or dam breaching, “warrants further analysis,” according to the report, which continues, “This determination is based on the fact that this option was the only four-reservoir drawdown alternative to identify any anadromous fish benefits [for spring chinook and steelhead only].”
1994: In April, responding to predictions that salmon runs are crashing, the Pacific Fishery Management Council shuts down non-Indian salmon fishing off the coasts of northern Oregon and all of Washington, reserving only a small fishery on Klamath River salmon and tribal fishing off the coast of Washington. In addition, the Council banned all coho fishing off the entire West Coast. The Oregon State Police ordered tribal fishers off the Columbia after state fishery managers reduced their estimate of the spring salmon run. In response, the Yakama Nation asserted a treaty right to fish for salmon at Willamette Falls on the Willamette River south of Portland. Oregon disputed the claim but reluctantly allowed a limited fishery at the base of the falls.
1995: On March 2 the National Marine Fisheries Service issues a new Biological Opinion on the effect of operations of the eight federal dams in the lower Snake and Columbia rivers on the survival of Endangered Species Act-listed Snake River spring, summer and fall chinook salmon and sockeye salmon. The 1995 Biological Opinion was significant because, for the first time, the federal government acknowledged that dam operations: essentially, continuing the status quo, would jeopardize the future survival of the salmon.
1995: In May, British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly approves the Columbia Basin Trust Act, which established the Columbia Basin Trust “. . .to help create a prosperous economy with a healthy and renewed natural environment.” The Trust is “. . .an autonomous and independent organization of communities,” according to its literature. Through the Trust, millions of dollars will flow into the Canadian Columbia River Basin from the sale of electricity in the United States: the “downstream benefits”: made possible by the operation of storage reservoirs behind the three Canadian dams of the 1962 Columbia River Treaty.
1996: On January 9, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration, the three federal agencies that operate (Corps and Bureau) and sell the power generated at (Bonneville) the federal dams of the Columbia and Snake rivers, issue their final environmental impact study of dam operations. Five years in the making, the System Operation Review was intended to develop a system operating strategy for the dams, but it was too late, usurped by the 1995 Biological Opinion on hydropower operations issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service the year before. Not surprisingly, the preferred operations strategy in the System Operation Review is similar to the preferred alternative for dam operations in the Biological Opinion.
1996: On August 10, late in the afternoon, during a period of high temperatures and high demand for electricity, a major transmission line failure in Oregon started a series of cascading blackouts and brownouts that affected 4 million people in eight West Coast states. In many areas, power was out for more than eight hours.
1997: In October, a self-appointed committee of Northwest fish and wildlife and utility experts issued a report optimistically titled Fish and wildlife recovery in the Pacific Northwest: Breaking the Deadlock, which culminated a six-month effort to resolve the policy deadlock over how to move forward with salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin. The committee recommended, in the words of the report, a “streamlined, deadline-driven and intensely facilitated effort by state, tribal and federal entities together to devise a fish and wildlife plan that vests coordination responsibilities for recovery in a single entity; improved coordination among the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bonneville Power Administration, and the Bureau of Reclamation; and creation of a new mechanism for ensuring that [Bonneville] can meet its financial obligations to all Northwest stakeholders at the lowest feasible cost.” But the group could not reach agreement how to do that and so also recommended that “policy leaders at the highest level” commit to the concepts in the report and designate a single entity to “oversee and coordinate implementation of the plan” by March 1998. The committee suggested that the so-called “Three Sovereigns” process, an attempt to find common ground among state, federal, and tribal governments, could facilitate the process of identifying the single entity and drafting the coordinated plan, but the Three Sovereigns process also failed, and the effort was dropped.
1999: Congress authorizes deepening the Columbia River channel to Portland to 43 feet to handle larger ships.
2000: A total of 1,033,946 salmon and steelhead are counted crossing Bonneville Dam, an increase of more than 400,000 fish from 1999 and more than twice the number counted in 1938, the first year fish were counted. In 2001, the count double again, to 2,100,038 fish.
2000: In December, NOAA Fisheries, the agency formerly known as the National Marine Fisheries Service, releases its latest revision of the Biological Opinion on Operations of the Federal Columbia River Hydropower System. The opinion, like its several predecessors dating to 1993, prescribes river and dam operations for federal agencies to follow to avoid further jeopardizing Endangered Species Act-listed salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin. The 2000 opinion relies heavily on habitat improvements, as opposed to major changes in dam operations. A coalition of environmental groups successfully sued NOAA Fisheries, claiming the opinion relied too heavily on habitat improvements that would be carried out by non-federal entities. A U.S. District Court judge remanded the opinion to NOAA Fisheries and asked for a revised opinion by June 2004. Later the court extended the deadline to November
2001-2004: Salmon and steelhead returns to the Columbia River are far above recent 10-year averages. Some, such as the returns in 2003, are the highest since record-keeping began at Bonneville Dam in 1938. In 2003, more than 920,000 chinook salmon were counted crossing Bonneville Dam, where the 10-year average count was 399,000. A number of factors appeared to be contributing to the increased run sizes, including improved fish passage at dams, improved spawning and rearing habitat, and improved feeding conditions in the ocean. In 2004, as strong runs continued, scientists at NOAA Fisheries who monitor the runs said it appeared the runs would stay high at least through 2006.
2004: Speakers at the annual Idaho Energy Conference predict the state’s energy supply will diversify with more renewable power and energy efficiency improvements, thanks to utility integrated resource plans and potential tax incentives. (CU 1115)
2004: After Judge James Redden ordered a new biological opinion on hydropower operations in 2003, NOAA rushed to meet the Judge’s June 2004 deadline for a new BiOp. NOAA said it would complete the rewrite in March. A sticking point was a revised hatchery policy, and NOAA was also trying to figure out how to revise offsite mitigation actions – those that take place away from the dams, as in habitat. Redden cited inadequate offsite mitigation actions as one reason for tossing the BiOp, saying they did not meet the “reasonably certain to occur” standard. Meanwhille, salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia and Snake were better than they had been since the 1960s. (CU 1116)
2004: The Council’s Independent Economic Advisory Board issues a report that says extended-length screens that guide young salmon away from turbines at some lower Snake River dams are 50 times more cost effective than spilling water for fish passage. The panel also questioned the value of building expensive spillway weirs at some dams to aid fish passage. The report adds to the debate over the efficacy of spill versus barging of juvenile salmon and steelhead. (CU 1117)
2004: Wind power development in the Pacific Northwest will be aided by two new services offered by the Bonneville Power Administration to simplify wind-power integration within its control area. In both services, Bonneville takes wind energy from new projects into its system, delivers it when it's available, and provides hydroelectric backup when it's not. The network load-following service aimed at public utilities fills wind-generation gaps with hydropower, while the storage-and-shaping service redelivers flat power blocks a week after taking in the wind power. (CU 1117)
2004: In its annual “white book” forecast of future power supply, the Bonneville Power Administration predicts minor deficits in the Federal Columbia River Power System in the coming years, but a big deficit – 450 average megawatts – beginning in 2013 as the result of increased demand for power, potential below-average water conditions for hydropower, load growth among Bonneville’s public-agency customers, and the expiration of some power export and transfer agreements. (CU 1125)
2004: In April, following two months of number crunching and pouring over critical comments from regional fish interests, federal action agencies (Bonneville, the Corps, and BOR) have opted to study hydropower operations that call for reducing spill in July and ending it altogether in August, which would leave more water in the river to generate power during summer months, but make inriver conditions more dire for summer-migrating salmon and steelhead. To offset potential heat-related damage, the feds propose a number of actions, including reducing pikeminnow predation on salmon and steelhead juveniles and reducing daily river fluctuations in the Hanford Reach, which they say would reduce the anticipated mortality from no actions by half. (CU1128)
2004: University of Washington scientist Phil Mote told the Power Council that irrigators, hydropower operations and fish are all likely to suffer from reduced summer flows in Northwest rivers over the next 50 years, if computer models are right about increased warming throughout the Northwest and most of the planet. But he said the models can't agree whether more or less precipitation will fall in the future. (CU1128)
2004: Pacific Northwest wind power has dramatically advanced in the past six years, with installation of about 600 megawatts of wind capacity serving the region. The future of Northwest wind holds substantial promise, but also faces significant challenges, according to presenters at an online conference of energy experts.
2004: Underscoring the almost impossible tradeoffs inevitable in the effort to protect fish while also protecting other uses of the river, NOAA Fisheries issues an analysis in May that proposes to drain 20 feet of cool water off the top of the reservoir behind Dworshak Dam on the North Fork Clearwater River in the late summer to offset the damage to juvenile fish that would be caused by halting summer spill at the lower Snake and Columbia River dams, if that action becomes law. But the analysis shows that only 1 percent of all juvenile fish migrating out of the Snake River Basin are in the river at that time of the year. Idahoans were not happy about the prospect. Idaho Attorney General Michael Bogert writes, in a letter to Bonneville, that the state has “serious reservations” about the strategy, and recreational business owners in the Orofino area object to a proposal in the analysis to extend boat docks to reach the lowered reservoir. (CU 1134)
2004: The Northwest Power and Conservation Council announces it has identified 2,800 average megawatts of energy efficiency potential at an average cost of 2.4 cents/kilowatt-hour for the Fifth Northwest Power Plan which is scheduled for completion in May 2005. The biggest source of new efficiency in is in residences, (1,235 aMW), and most of that is in lighting (530 aMW). Other components of the total include commercial efficiency (1,145 aMW), industrial (350 aMW), and irrigated agriculture (80 aMW). (CU1137)
2004: In July, the Technical Review Team for the lower Columbia and Willamette rivers published a status report for salmonids, finding that all spring Chinook and winter steelhead populations were either at ’high’ or ‘very high’ risk of extinction and that there were no viable wild populations.
2004: If you thought fish actions at the Snake and Columbia River dams were only about biology and never politics, think again. Former Bonneville Power Administration administrator Randy Hardy, now an energy consultant in Seattle, testifies at a public hearing on a federal-agency proposal to reduce summer spill at the dams, which is considered important to protect the gene pool of summer-migrating salmon and steelhead, that the original summer spill operation in the 1995 Biological Opinion on hydropower operations was a political gift to lower Columbia tribes. “That was put in for reasons that had very little, if anything, to do with listed fish,” he said. “It was put in as a measure to assist, principally, the tribal harvest for the non-listed fish down river.” The lower Columbia tribes harvest primarily Hanford Reach fall Chinook in the exclusive tribal fishery between Bonneville and McNary dams. “It was a means … to politically balance, you know, a difficult question since the tribes weren't going to support the [Biological Opinion] anyway. And that's a fact. We had a little data at the time that said this might work,” he added. In August, Judge James Redden of the U.S. District Court for Oregon, rejected the plan for reduced summer spill, ruling that water the federal agencies planned to add to the river from behind Brownlee Dam on the Snake River in July to make up for reduced spill later in the summer really was not new, and that federal modeling on the fish impacts of their plan overestimated fish survival. The agencies appealed. (CU1139, 1145).
2004: In September, NOAA Fisheries releases a draft of a new biological opinion on Columbia River Basin hydropower operations, ordered by a federal judge after he found the predecessor 2000 BiOp insufficient. New analysis in the draft shows improvements in fish runs and leads NOAA to conclude no listed salmon stocks are in danger of going extinct if the new BiOp is implemented. The draft focuses heavily on dam operations, calling for the installation of removable spillway weirs at all eight dams of the lower Snake and Columbia rivers to increase juvenile salmon passage survival. NOAA says data gathered on fish survival over the 10 previous years allowed the agency to distinguish between the effects on fish from dam operations with few constraints to hydropower generation and dam operations with changed operations to improve fish survival. Thus, the existence of the dams becomes the environmental baseline against which survival improvements are measured, part of the natural river environment. Environmental groups, which brought the litigation that led the judge to reject the old BiOp and order the revision, immediately rejected it, saying, among other criticisms, that dams simply cannot be considered a natural part of the environment. Earthjustice attorney Todd True said the draft marked an extreme change of direction that would hurt salmon. (CU1151)
2004: In October, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council releases its draft Fifth Northwest Power Plan for public comment, calling for 700 new average megawatts of energy efficiency from 2005 through 2009, the lowest-cost, most environmentally benign resource for the future. (CU1157)
2004: In November, Calpine Corp. announces it leased land near Warrenton, Oregon, west of Astoria, for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal. The company says it is exploring the feasibility of building a $500 million LNG terminal on land owned by the Port of Astoria. The project would have 272,000 cubic meters of storage capacity and a pipeline connecting to an interstate gas line near Longview, Washington. (CU1160)
2004: In December, the Council approves the final version of its Fifth Northwest Power Plan, which calls for achieving 700 average megawatts of energy efficiency through 2009. The plan also calls for up to 5000 megawatts of new wind power capacity by 2024. Other generating resources in the plan include coal gasification and natural gas, but not until late in the 20-year planning horizon. Council Power Planning Director Dick Watson said the plan concluded that “pursuing conservation on an aggressive and sustained basis is a smart thing to do” because “there's a bunch of conservation that's cheap compared to any [other] alternative we have available to us.” The conservation, he said, averages less than 3 cents per kilowatt-hour and lessens electric price volatility. (CU1167)
2005: In February, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) receives an enormous volume of data detailing wholesale power transactions conducted between 1997 and 2003 by Enron. The data, according to FERC staff, provides irrefutable proof that by-then bankrupt Enron manipulated West Coast energy markets, contributing to the West Coast energy crisis of 2000/2001. Parties submitting the data want Enron to pay back $1.7 billion in illicit profits. (CU1171)
2005: The Council adopts more than 50 subbasin plans in the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. The plans will give direction to projects that implement the program by identifying areas of greatest need. (C1177)
2005: In May, U.S. District Judge James Redden throws out the 2004 Biological Opinion on Operations of the Federal Columbia River Hydropower System, which had attempted to separate fish mortality caused by the dams’ existence from mortality caused by their operations, thus essentially making the dams part of the natural environment, the environmental baseline. Redden agreed with plaintiffs that was wrong, adding that federal agencies had abandoned their previous approach to calculating survival benefits. “"It is apparent that the listed species are in serious decline and not evidencing signs of recovery,” Redden wrote in his opinion. In the BiOp, federal agencies concluded that, based on their new way at looking at survival benefits, their proposed operation of the hydropower system would not jeopardize ESA-listed salmon and steelhead species in the Columbia Basin. “This has the effect of substantially lowering the threshold required for the mitigation elements of the proposed action,” Redden wrote, adding, “only a comprehensive approach to jeopardy analysis will meet the statutory mandate.” (CU1187)
2005: In June, U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) adds language to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill calling on the Bonneville Power Administraton to stop paying for the Fish Passage Center, a Portland non-profit that gathers, analyzes, and publishes information about fish passage through the Columbia/Snake river hydropower system. Critics of the Center said its reports constitute advocacy for higher spills, which would take water away from hydropower generation; supporters defended the agency as neutral, objective and scientifically credible. Senator Craig, a critic of the Center, said the matter is one of budget, not policy, and that Bonneville simply needs to cut its costs. (CU1191)
2005: In July, Enron agrees to settle a lawsuit over price-gouging and market manipulation during the 2000-2001 energy crisis. The lawsuits, brought by three Western states, had alleged that Enron used a variety of market-manipulation with code names including “Death Star,” “Get Shorty,” and “Ricochet” – to manipulate electricity prices during the crisis. The settlement totals about $1.5 billion, but the states may never collect that much because Enron is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. (CU1194)
2005: With the addition of a 75-megawatt (capacity) wind farm in September and the announcement of a new 200-megawatt (capacity) wind farm, the Northwest now has 737 megawatts of operating wind capacity, and another 778 megawatts under construction, according to an analysis by the Council. (CU1210)
2005: In October, U.S. District Court Judge James Redden, Portland, issues his final remand order regarding the 2004 Biological Opinion on Columbia River hydropower operations, which he had rejected. The remand order warns that breeching the four federal dams on the Lower Snake River would have to be considered if the federal government does not rewrite the BiOp in a way that meets his requirements. Redden said the remand “requires NOAA [Fishereis] and the Action Agencies to be aware of the possibility of breaching the four dams on the lower Snake River, if all else fails.” He listed five errors in the 2004 BiOp that need to be fixed: 1) improperly segregating the elements of the proposed action NOAA deems to be non-discretionary; 2) improperly comparing, rather than aggregating, the effects of the proposed action on listed salmon and steelhead; 3) flawed determinations about whether actions prescribed in the BiOp would destroy or adversely modify critical habitat; 4) failing to consider the effects of the proposed actions on whether they would jeopardize the continued existence of listed salmon and steelhead; and 5) improperly relying on mitigation measures that are not reasonably certain to occur or have not undergone ESA Section 7 consultation. (CU 1206)
2006: In January, Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. filed an application with the Canadian National Energy Board to build a 300-megawatt transmission line from near Calgary to Great Falls, Mont. The company says it's already sold half of the line’s capacity to wind developers in Montana and has expressions of interest from several more. The $100 million project could help wind power development in the state, as well as reduce NorthWestern Energy's dependence on PPL Montana for power. (CU 1219)
2006: NOAA Fisheries announces in January that coastal coho stocks in Oregon do not need federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, agreeing with the state assessment that the stocks in question could survive poor ocean conditions and still maintain viable populations. (CU 1220)
2006: In March, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reports to the Council that sea lions killing more spring Chinook salmon than sports and commercial fishermen between the ocean and Bonneville Dam. NMFS and the U.S. Armey Corps of Engineers are concerned for the impact on ESA-listed species, as the agencies are required to help protect the fish under federal law. NMFS says it has run out of money to study predation by sea lions. (CU 1228)
2006: In March, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals orders the Bonneville Power Administration to continue funding the Fish Passage Center in Portland, at least through April, and possibly longer. Bonneville had proposed to stop funding the program after report language in a Congressional spending bill ordered the agency to stop funding the center. Advocates for the center objected to Bonneville’s basing its decision on report language, which is not law. The Center had come under criticism for appearing to advocate on behalf of fish interests instead of providing objective data, as its charter stipulates. Some environmental and fish groups that calls for judicial review of Bonneville’s decision. (CU 1229)
2006: In May, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council adopts its first regional resource adequacy standard, five years after the energy crisis of 2000-2001, as a gauge of regional power system adequacy. Council Chair Tom Karier calls adoption of the standard “historic” and says that if a means of determining adequacy had existed in the late 1990s, it would have been clear that power shortages loomed. Under the new standard, the power system is considered adequate if there is less than a 5-percent chance of a shortfall. That’s not the same as a blackout or brownout. A shortfall, in the Council’s thinking, means that the lights stay on but utilities have to take extraordinary measures, such as buying very high-priced power in the wholesale market, to meet demand. (CU 1236)
2006: In June the Council’s Independent Scientific Review Panel recommends no further funding for raising endangered Snake River sockeye in hatcheries – after the Council voted at the same meeting to boost spending for the work by $2.7 million. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, and NOAA Fisheries submitted a suite for four projects totaling $14.2 million over the next three years for ISRP review, which is required before the Council can decide whether to proceed with a project in the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. Noting the dismal recent annual returns of adult fish to Redfish Lake, 11 fish in 2003, for example, the ISRP wrote, “Clearly the Snake River sockeye ESU has been preserved in captivity and has not been extirpated. However, at this time it appears the ESU is extinct in the wild and reintroduction efforts have not proceeded easily or successfully. There is no reported successful full-cycle reproduction in the wild and then production of subsequent adults.” The Council decided to keep funding the suite of projects and not give up on the sockeye. (CU 1241)
2006: In July, LifeLine Development Group LLC announces its plan to build a 750-megawatt (capacity) wind farm near Arlington, Ore. The Shepherds Flat Wind Farm would be the biggest in the region and the most expensive, carrying a price tag of over $1 billion. The California company, which had been developing the project or three years, says its size was based on the available transmission interconnection. When completed in2012, project was bigger – 845 megawatts.n (CU 1244)
2006: In August, the Pacific Salmon Commission (Vancouver, BC) reports that, based on DNA analysis and as long suspected, Canadian commercial fishers, which take summers off to protect salmon stocks from British Columbia, are disproportionately hammering stocks from the Columbia River and Puget Sound in their spring and fall fishing seasons. According to the report, 28 percent of the salmon caught off the west coast of Vancouver Island are fall Chinook from the Columbia River Basin, including ESA-listed Snake River fall Chinook. (CU 1250)
2006: In November, a coalition of environmental groups including Save Our Wild Salmon, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Republicans for Environmental Protection, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, the Institute for Fisheries Research, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, and American Rivers release a report called “Revenue Stream” that argues for removal of the four federal dams on the lower Snake River, the latest in a number of reports that have either supported or opposed the continued operation of the dams. The report estimates the Northwest could save between $1.6 billion and $4.6 billion over the next 20 years if the dams were removed. The report was based on several previous studies of the dams’ costs, the estimated value of an enhanced recreational fishery, the estimated economic boost from more tourism and new jobs related to a free-flowing lower Snake river, and an estimate of future fish restoration costs. Federal officials said the economic analyses in the report were flawed, dam removal would only help a few of the 13 listed salmon and steelhead stocks in the basin, and that historically Chinook salmon did not spawn in the river reach where the federal dams are located, but father upriver. In 2007, the Council’s Independent Economic Advisory Board reported, after reviewing the report, that it underestimates the cost of replacement power for the breached dams that its conclusion is not valid. (CU 1264, 1277)
2006: In December, the Washington and Oregon apply for federal permits to kill a limited number of the most aggressive sea lions that prey on spring Chinook salmon in the Columbia River between the ocean and Bonneville Dam. (CU1265)
2007: Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. of Virginia announces plans in February to build a 1,600-megawatt nuclear power plant near the Snake River in southeastern Idaho. Say what? The company announced it had signed a $20 million lease for 4,000 acres in southeastern Idaho near Bruneau for the plant. In a press release, the company said the power plant had been requested by the “Rural River Co-Op” in Idaho to provide power to irrigation projects. There is no such utility. Power not sold to the fictional co-op would be sold on the wholesale market, according to the news release. In an interview with WallStreet.net the previous month, in January 2007, the company’s CEO said its most interesting project was turning lightning into electricity and putting it on the grid. One year later, the company was reportedly on shaky financial ground and had moved the location of its proposed plant to another southern Idaho county, an audit showed its cash reserves were low for a company with such ambitious plans, and prospects dimmed. (CU 1274, 1353)
2007: In April, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed U.S. District Judge James Redden’s ruling in May 2005 that the 2004 Biological Opinion on Operations of the Federal Columbia River Hydropower System was faulty. The three-judge panel ruled that the 2004 BiOp erred in adding Snake and Columbia river dams to the baseline analysis of how future dam operations would affect fish survival. With dams in the baseline calculation, and therefore a certain amount of fish killed in their operations as a given, only minor improvements in habitat were needed to ensure survival of the listed species, the BiOp concluded. Previous versions of the BiOp did not include the existence of dams in the survival calculations. The district court disagreed, and the 9th Circuit affirmed that decision, writing that the BiOp’s survival calculations were “analytical sleight-of hand” and that the federal agencies that wrote the BiOp were guilty of “manipulating the variables to achieve a 'no jeopardy' finding.” Further, the 9th Circuit panel wrote, “statistically speaking, using the 2004 BiOp's analytical framework, the dead fish were really alive.” (CU 1283)
2007: In July, the Snohomish County Public Utility District announced that their its five-year battle with Enron was ending. The PUD agreed to pay Enron creditors $18 million to end litigation, just as binding arbitration in the New York bankruptcy court was set to begin Monday. An adverse ruling in arbitration could have cost the utility $180 million, with no chance of appeal. (CU1296)
2007: In August, a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives listened to fish managers, tribal representatives, and animal lovers as they weighed the pros and cons of a bill to allow the lethal removal of sea lions that prey on Spring Chinook salmon below Bonneville Dam. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said a new task force should propose some way to handle the marine mammals, which are protected be federal law. Critics say that's no guarantee the sea lions will be removed for good, which animal lovers say there are plenty of fish in the river and sea lions don’t need to be removed. (CU1300)
2007: In September, NOAA Fisheries delivers its latest biological opinion on Columbia River Basin hydropower operations to the federal judge that dismissed their last try, the 2004 BiOp. The new draft says federal agencies will spend $500 million over 10 years to improve salmon survival at federal dams, plus another $400 million to improve fish habitat. Environmental groups, who sued to overturn the 2004 BiOp, say the new one consists of only minor tweaks to the hydropower system. (CU1304)
2007: In December, six whale researchers recommend removing the four federal dams on the lower Snake dams to boost ESA-listed salmon stocks they say are necessary for the survival of ESA-listed killer whales in Puget Sound. Though the scientists say there is no evidence yet that the resident Puget Sound orcas eat any Snake River salmon, the orcas do occasionally visit the ocean off the Columbia, and NOAA Fisheries is considering adding the coast of Washington to their critical habitat for ESA purposes.
2008: In March, NOAA Fisheries approves a request from Washington and Oregon to remove 80 or more sea lions from the Columbia River just below Bonneville Dam, where they prey on Spring Chinook Salmon. (CU1331)
2008: In April, the Bonneville Power Administration announces the completion of the Columbia Fish Accords among Bonneville, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the State of Idaho, and the State of Montana. The Nez Perce Tribe declined to be a party to the Accords but approved participation by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. The Accords promise more than $900 million over 10 years for fish and wildlife projects in exchange for the signers’ support of the upcoming biological opinion on hydropower operations. Bonneville administrator Steve Wright says the Accords will provide substantial fish benefits and help federal agencies meet their statutory obligations, and also acknowledge the federal agencies’ trust and treaty responsibilities to tribes and the tribes’ role in managing fish and fisheries. (CU1335)
2008: Columbia River tribal salmon gross sales reach $4 million. In comparison, the 2005 gross sales totaled $700,000.
2008: In May, The United States and Canada announced a new, 10-year deal that will reduce the Canadian catch of U.S. Chinook salmon off the west coast of Vancouver Island by 30 percent for $30 million. Alaska will also get $7 million for cutting their catch by 15 percent. The new arrangements should improve returns of ESA-listed Chinook stocks to Puget Sound, the Willamette River, the lower Columbia and the Snake River. The deal, if approved by the governments of both countries, also calls for sharing $15 million to improve research and data collection.
2008: In June, environmental and fishing groups filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Portland to ensure judicial review of the latest Columbia River hydropower biological opinion, which was released by NOAA Fisheries in May. The groups called the BiOp’s core judgments about fish jeopardy “remarkably thin,” and at odds with the best available science. They also said it neglected growing impacts to fish from a warming climate and shortchanged the chances for recovery Puget Sound orcas.
2008: In September, a Seattle-based firm, Principle Power, proposes an ocean-based wind-energy project off the northern Oregon coast with long-term potential for up to 150-MW of capacity. The company says it would start with a 10-megawatt demonstration project, and that a feasibility study will take several years to develop. The proposal envisions floating, 5-megawatt turbines atop towers 300 feet tall. But there are concerns about environmental and view impacts. (CU1362)
2008: In December, Bonneville announces one of “the most significant milestones in many, many years” as all 135 public agency customers sign new, long-term power-purchase contracts. The contracts take effect Oct. 1, 2011, and will extend through 2028. The new contracts, for the first time, shift from the traditional buy-and-meld method of power sales to implementing tiered rates and, for each utility, a “high-water mark,” or maximum amount of federal power. Each customer utility will be responsible for meeting demand beyond its high-water mark, if any. That could be in the form of power purchased in the wholesale market or load reduction through energy efficiency improvements. (CU1368)
2009: The Klickitat County Public Utility District and a private developer, Golden Green Energy Storage LLC, a subsidiary of Golden Northwest Aluminum Holding Company of the Dalles, Oregon, file competing permit applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build a pumped storage hydropower project at the site of the retired Goldendale Aluminum Smelter, on the Washington side of the Columbia River next to John Day Dam. Golden Green Energy Storage, which owns the site, filed its application in September 2008, proposing a 1,050-megawatt (capacity) closed-loop hydropower system with upper and lower reservoirs connected by an 8,000-foot penstock with four pump turbines. Called the “Cliffs Energy Pumped Storage Project,” the facility would generate electricity when water flows downhill from the upper reservoir to the lower one. When not generating power, water would be pumped to the upper reservoir to be used again. The PUD’s proposal, announced in February and called the “JD Pool Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project,” would also be a closed-loop system with upper and lower reservoirs connected by an 8,000-foot-long penstock. It would generate 1,129 megawatts (capacity) with ten pump turbines. (CU1375)
2009: In February, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council approves the latest revision of its Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. The new program incorporates the 2008, 10-year Columbia Fish Accords signed by Bonneville and several states and tribes. The Accords promise $1 billion over 10 years for 200 new fish and wildlife projects proposed by the agencies and tribes. Oregon voted against the mainstem dam operating rules in the program, citing its litigation against the federal government over the Columbia River Basin hydropower biological opinion. The new program:
- Emphasizes implementation of fish and wildlife projects based on needs identified in subbasin plans and also on actions described in federal biological opinions on hydropower operations, hatcheries, and harvest and the 2008 Fish Accords signed by federal agencies, Indian tribes, and two states.
- Continues the Council’s commitment to independent scientific review of all projects proposed for funding through the program, including those actions described in the biological opinions and Fish Accords.
- Focuses on protecting and restoring habitat in order to rebuild healthy, naturally producing fish and wildlife populations. The program also calls for further review of specific issues such as the impacts of global climate change, toxic substances, and invasive species on fish, wildlife, and habitat. (CU1377)
2009: The Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG), a coalition of fish production experts, releases its Report to Congress on Columbia River Basin Hatchery Reform, in February. The HSRG, created by Congress to review hatchery practices in Puget Sound and the Columbia River Basin, offers in its report a foundation for hatchery reform to help salmon and steelhead hatcheries meet conservation and sustainable harvest goals. In order to address these goals, the HSRG determined that both harvest and hatchery reforms are needed. The HSRG recommends principles for hatchery management based on 1) setting clear goals; 2) scientific defensibility; and 3) monitoring, evaluation and adaptive management. By applying these principles, the HSRG has demonstrated that the Columbia River Basin hatchery system can be managed consistent with conservation goals, while still providing sustainable economic benefits from salmon harvest. To be successful, managers will need to support both hatchery and harvest reforms, and funding entities will need to provide the investments needed for implementation, the HSRG says.
2009: In September, the Council releases its draft Sixth Northwest Power Plan, which sets future energy resource acquisition policy for the Bonneville Power Administration. Energy efficiency and renewable energy in the plan are envisioned to meet state renewable portfolio standards. Natural gas-fired plants are considered the next-best resource alternative. New, conventional coal-fired power plants are given very low priority, but coal gasification – also known as clean coal – and advanced, small-scale nuclear reactors may be available late in the 20-year planning horizon, according to the draft. The Northwest faces an era of rising electricity costs, owing to higher fuel costs, carbon-emission controls and state mandates to build renewable resources, according to the plan. Large-scale reductions in carbon emissions will increase electricity rates as coal-fired power is cheaper than other types, and to achieve reductions would require curtailing conventional coal-fired generation. Removing the four lower Snake River dams would mean an increase in carbon emissions as fossil fuel plants would run more, and this also would raise power system costs, according to an analysis in the plan. (CU1408, 1409)
2009: In November, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper asks for an investigation of how federal salmon managers could have been so wrong in their prediction of the 2009 sockeye return to the Fraser River, which numbered about 1.4 million when more than 10 million were predicted. He asks for a report by May 2011. Early indications are that there was poor survival in the ocean after juvenile fish left the river in 2007. (CU1416)
2009: In December, researchers say efforts to move Caspian Terns and Double-crested Cormorants away from the mouth of the Columbia River, where they prey on juvenile salmon and steelhead migrating downriver to the ocean, are not performing as expected, and the bird population continues to grow. The researchers say they have detected more than 80,000 PIT tags from bird colonies in the Columbia River Basin – most in the lower estuary near the river mouth – with about 20 percent found on islands in the reservoir behind McNary Dam. Scientists say the 80,000 PIT tags represent a minimum of 3.6 percent of all PIT-tagged juvenile fish released into the basin in 2009, which equates to an average of 7 million to 16 million smolts a year. (CU1420)
2010: In February, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council unanimously adopts the Sixth Northwest Power Plan, which focuses on energy efficiency as the lowest-cost, lowest-risk resource to meet future demand for power. The Sixth Plan features a five-year regional energy-saving target of 1,200 average megawatts and calls for 5,900 average megawatts of savings by 2030, equal to 85 percent of the Council’s anticipated load in the Northwest. Some 1,450 average megawatts of new renewables are envisioned to meet state renewable portfolio standards, with natural gas-fired generation in a supplementary role. The plan avoids recommending regional carbon-reduction goals or policies, but notes that if followed, the energy blueprint would help Northwest states meet their own carbon-reduction targets. (CU1428)
2010: In February, the Bonneville Power Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announce they are beginning to explore the future of the Columbia River Treaty with Canada, signed in 1961 and ratified by the U.S. Congress in 1964. Bonneville and the Corps comprise the U.S. Entity for the treaty. The first opportunity to terminate the treaty, 60 years after its ratification, is September 16, 2024, with the required 10-year advance notice. That means either country’s first opportunity to signal a willingness to change the treaty would be no earlier than Sept. 16, 2014. “We are starting early because we know it's an important issue and want people in the region to feel that they are fully informed,” Bonneville’s Rick Pendergrass, co-chair of the treaty operating committee, tells the Clearing Up newsletter. Under the treaty, Canada received $64.5-million for U.S. flood control benefits provided through 2024, and was entitled to half the benefit of the additional hydropower generated at dams downstream in the United States as the result of controlling water releases from three dams authorized by the treaty and constructed in British Columbia. Canada, which did not need the power in 1964, sold its allocation to a 42-member U.S. consortium of utilities for the first 30 years, for $254 million. That money was used to build the three dams. The downstream power benefit, known as the Canadian Entitlement, expired in 2003 and is now returned to BC Hydro on a daily basis in the form of both energy and capacity. Bonneville is responsible for providing 72.5 percent of this, while the three mid-Columbia public utility districts, which own and operate five dams on the Columbia downstream from Grand Coulee, supply the remaining 27.5 percent. (CU1429)
2010: Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Enforcement receives law enforcement commissions from each of the four member tribes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. To commemorate the occasion, a special intertribal oath emphasizing tribal sovereignty and service to the tribes was administered to all officers.
2010: In August, the Bonneville Power Administration and the Mason County Public Utility District No. 3 announce a plan to directly test the smart grid communications concept by linking residential water heaters to wind generation on Bonneville’s system. The pilot, one of four resulting from a February funding opportunity announcement, involves installing a wireless device on water heaters that will communicate with the electrical grid and control the appliances according to the amount of wind energy available, automatically turning on the units’ heating elements when there is ample wind and powering them down when the wind stops blowing. (CU1454)
2010: In October, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Washington Department of Ecology release a 736-page, $12 million draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on alternatives to replace irrigation water pumped from wells in the steadily declining Odessa aquifer with water from Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam to irrigate crops in the Columbia Basin Project in central Washington. Pumping the additional water from Lake Roosevelt would reduce Columbia River hydropower generation by as much as 72 average megawatts, according to the DEIS. The multibillion-dollar proposal also contemplates a new dam and reservoir. Water from the Odessa aquifer supplies irrigation to about 102,600 acres of the Columbia Basin Project. (CU 1465)
2010: In December, most of the participants in an 18-member National Marine Fisheries Service task force on sea lion predation in the lower Columbia River believe it’s time to start shooting – to kill – sea lions that prey on spring Chinook salmon returning from the ocean to spawn. It’s necessary if the goal of 1 percent predation loss of spring Chinook is to be reached, the task force members said in a report, adding that the states’ hazing using rubber bullets and firecrackers have been useless, they said. (CU1473)
2011: In February, group of western transmission officials began a series of public discussions about creating an Energy Imbalance Market (EIM) in the West to help deal with the anticipated flood of new, variable-output renewable resources, primarily wind and solar power. The EIM's market design would be similar to, but not the same as a Westwide regional transmission organization (RTO), according to a paper prepared by the Western Governors' Association’s Western Interstate Energy Board (WIEB). Many utility officials oppose formation of a Westwide RTO, which would have a board of directors and make decisions over a wide area. In an EIM, generators can sell power when and to whomever they choose, thus exercising greater autonomy. According to the WIEB, by 2020, state renewables portfolio standards will drive an increase of installed renewable capacity within the Western Interconnection to 70,000 megawatts, compared to 13,000 in 2011. The increase in variable generation from wind and solar will require the availability of other resources so the West’s three-dozen balancing authorities (BAs) can do their job. But current balancing practices in the Western Interconnection “are insufficient to meet the challenges of integrating large amounts of variable generation,” according to the WIEB paper. (CU1478)
2011: The disclosure in February of Millennium Bulk Logistics internal documents indicate the coal-exporter plans a much larger storage and ship-loading facility at the Port of Longview, Wash., than described in applications filed with Cowlitz County. A coalition of conservation and clean energy groups that is appealing the project with the state Shorelines Hearings Board say the materials indicate the company ultimately hopes to export as much as 60 million tons of coal per year. The company's application with Cowlitz County describes a 5-million-ton facility. The company then canceled a hearing before the state Shorelines Hearings Board on its permit application, which was being challenged by several groups, and announced it would file a new permit. (CU1480, 1481, 1482).
2011: In March, Washington Congressman Doc Hastings (R) introduces a bill amending the Marine Mammal Protection Act to give Columbia River tribes the authority to kill sea lions that prey on spring Chinook at Bonneville Dam. The bill would circumvent last fall’s 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that quashed lethal removal of sea lions. The tribes support the change. (CU1483)
2011: The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announces in March that it plans to build a $14-million sockeye hatchery near Springfield, Idaho, to supplement sockeye hatchery production now occurring at its Eagle, Idaho, hatchery. The hope is to eventually rebuild a self-sustaining run of the species, listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The hatchery proposal received a favorable review from the Power Council’s Independent Scientific Review Panel. A big question, though, is whether Redfish Lake, where the fish would return to spawn, can support a self-sustaining sockeye population. (CU1483)
2011: Following the nuclear power plant disaster in Fukushima, Japan, nuclear plant operators across the Western United States rushed to reassure citizens and policy makers that their plants were safe. In Japan, a magnitude 9 earthquake on March 11 triggered a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after it lost power as the result of an earthquake and tsunami. Workers there have struggled to contain damage at four of the plant’s six reactors and to prevent overheating of spent fuel rods at units 3 and 4. Many of the plants in the West have designs similar to the Fukushima plant and have filed applications with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend their operating licenses, including Energy Northwest (Columbia Generating Station) and Pacific Gas & Electric (Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant). Southern California Edison (San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station) had not filed a relicensing application. (CU1484)
2011: In June, scientists researching bird predation on juvenile salmon and steelhead in the lower Columbia River estuary reported that bald eagles attacked the Caspian Tern colony on East Sand Island, which is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a dump site for sand dredged from the Columbia River shipping channel. The flat and treeless island provides ideal habitat for Caspian Terns, whose East Sand colony grew to 14,000 birds in 2010. But this year, eagles picked off adult birds and chicks, terns abandoned the eggs they had laid on the open sand, gulls swooped in and ate the eggs, and by June 1, no adult terns, chicks, or eggs were left on the island, the scientists reported. Last year, the terns were estimated to have consumed more than 11 million salmonid smolts. The birds are trying to re-nest, but are having no luck. Researchers said they expect the terns to return next year for another try. (CU1497)
2011: In August, U.S. District Court Judge James Redden, District of Oregon, ruled that the 2008 federal salmon recovery hydropower biological opinion for the Columbia River Basin can stay in force until January 2014, but he remanded the BiOp, as he has done before, this time asking for a list of new, specific, and funded habitat restoration projects to complete over the last four years of the 100-year BiOp, 2014-18, before he reviews it again. After 2014, he said, the 2008 BiOp is too vague to ensure it will help fish survival. Redden did not rule on the controversial jeopardy analysis in the BiOp that plaintiff environmental groups have been arguing for years is faulty and too optimistic. Redden noted that no specific projects are planned to implement the BiOp after 2013. He said that alone was reason enough to declare the BiOp “arbitrary and capricious insofar as it extends beyond 2013.” Redden also acknowledged that he must follow a recent decision to defer to agency expertise [Lands Council v. McNair, 2010]. But he said he was troubled by the lack of scientific support in the BiOp for the federal government’s estimates of specific survival benefits from habitat improvements, and noted that NOAA Fisheries had acknowledged benefits might not accrue for many years, “if ever.” He said the court was not required to defer to uncertain survival predictions that were based on unidentified mitigation plans. (CU1504)
2011: NOAA Fisheries in August approves a final recovery plan for ESA-listed spring Chinook and winter steelhead in the Upper Willamette River Basin with a high price tag and ambitious goals. The cost estimate is about $500 million dollars over the next 20 years, and the plan envisions reintroducing salmon to habitat in Willamette tributaries on the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains that has been blocked for decades by high-head flood-control dams. (CU1507)
2011: Northwest energy savings set an all-time record in 2010, 254 average megawatts, the Power Council reports in October. The Council tallied energy efficiency savings reported by utilities, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and the Energy Trust of Oregon. (CU1514)
2011: A New York-based developer, Development Partners Group, announces plans in October to build two gas-fired power plants near Troutdale, Oregon, a suburb of Portland, and bid them into Portland General Electric’s RFP for capacity and energy resources, expected sometime in the coming months. The Troutdale Energy Center would include a 450-megawatt combined-cycle combustion turbine and a 200-megawatt peaking plant at the former Reynolds Metals aluminum smelter site. The developer thinks the site’s proximity to load, water, natural gas, and transmission would give it an advantage over other bidders. The estimated cost of the project is $750-800 million. (CU1516)
2011: After four years and $4 million dollars, Energy Northwest and its PUD partners in the Radar Ridge Wind Project vote to halt work on the Radar Ridge wind power plant, citing untenable permit conditions and a flagging market for wind power in the Pacific Northwest. The wind farm would have been built in Pacific County on the Washington coast. (CU1519)
2012: In January, researchers from Oregon State University report that when hatchery steelhead from Hood River go wild, it only takes one generation for them to evolve into much less productive fish. They say they were amazed by the results, and expected it would take multiple generations before they saw such declines that averaged 71 percent less productivity. It doesn’t mean all hatchery fish behave that way, they cautioned. Now they will try to determine the traits that are changing, in the hope of developing better ways to raise fish that could help boost wild populations. (CU1527)
2012: In February, Millennium Bulk Logistics launches the permitting process for a $600-million coal export terminal planned at the Port of Longview that would be capable of exporting 44 million metric tons of coal a year. The project could be one of the largest coal export terminals in North America. The filings are the latest twist in Millennium's quest to become a major coal supplier to Asian markets, but environmental groups say they will fight the proposal over its potential to pollute the Columbia River and harm fish. The proposed facility is not new, but its size is. In February 2011, environmental groups obtained internal company emails suggesting that Millennium wanted to build a terminal capable of exporting 60 million tons of coal annually from Longview. At the time, the company had proposed exporting only 5 million tons and said it had no plans to apply for a permit for a larger facility. (CU1532)
2012: In July, Columbia River salmon managers report that the sockeye run is the largest since 1938, when the salmon first were counted at Bonneville Dam. Managers added 80,000 fish to their original estimate as the fish continued to pour in, and the run is expected to top 500,000. Most are wild and headed for Lake Osoyoos in British Columbia, an impoundment of the Okanagan River. Managers say the huge return is the result of a huge outmigtarion of juvenile fish in 2010. (CU1551)
2012: In August, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber delights sport fishers when he tells the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to write rules to move the lower Columbia River commercial gillnet fleet into off-channel fishing areas to reduce impacts to ESA-listed salmon and steelhead. It’s essentially the same plan pushed by the sportfishing lobby that went nowhere in the state Legislature. Gillnetters say it's totally unrealistic, but they are focused on fighting a well-funded anti-gillnet measure that made the fall ballot. If that passes, it would keep them off the river altogether unless they develop more selective ways to catch salmon. (CU1559)
2012: In September, PPL Montana announces it will shut down the 154-megawatt J.E. Corette coal-fired powerplant in Billings in 2015 rather than invest $38 million to upgrade the plant's emissions system to meet federal mercury and toxics emission standards. The company said low wholesale power prices caused by weak demand and an abundance of wind energy in the wholesale market were the driving factors. (CU1562)
2012: A Canadian commission charged with explaining why the 2009 sockeye run in the Fraser River was so much lower than predicted (1 million fish compared to an estimate of 10 million) reports that it has no idea, but that adverse conditions in the Strait of Georgia and around the Queen Charlotte Islands probably played a major role in decimating the outmigration of juvenile fish in 2007. The Canadian federal government paid $25 million for the study, which included a review of more than 500,000 documents and testimony from more than 200 witnesses, according to the authors. Ironically, the sockeye run in 2010, one year later, was an estimated 30 million fish, the largest run since 1913. (CU1568).
2012: In December, Bonneville initiates condemnation proceedings against a dozen Klickitat County, Wash. landowners who have turned down all offers for easements needed for the 500-kV Big Eddy-Knight transmission line. Administrator Steve Wright signed declarations of taking against 163 acres for which the agency will pay a quarter million dollars. (CU1574)
2012: The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission votes in December to ban commercial gillnet fishing on the Oregon side of the lower Columbia River, downstream of Bonneville Dam. That side of the river would be prioritized for recreational fishing. Critics said the big change would have no impact on ESA-listed stocks because the overall impact of the non-Indian harvest in the lower river would stay the same. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber promises to help the gillnetters if planned efforts to focus their efforts in off-channel areas don't pan out. Gillnetters file a petition for review in the U.S. District Court for Oregon. (CU1574, 1577)
2013: In February, researchers from Portland State University report that calcium levels and water temperatures are high enough for invasive zebra and quagga mussels to grow in the waters of the Columbia and Willamette rivers. The invasive mussels have crossed the country from the East and Midwest in recent years on trailered boats and other types of watercraft and submerged equipment, and have now taken hold in the Colorado River, colonizing intake screens and pipes at many water projects. They are so prolific at Hoover Dam that water flows through trash racks have been reduced by 50 percent, and they threaten to clog pipes that carry water to keep turbine bearings cool and well-lubricated. The scientists report that 68 percent of the mussels they tested survived in water taken from the Columbia River, but only 19 percent survived in water from the Willamette. (CU1582)
2013: In June, the newest salmon hatchery in the Columbia River Basin is dedicated just below Chief Joseph Dam at the mouth of the Okanagon River. Designed to boost both harvests and help to reintroduce spring Chinook into the Okanogan, the $50-million facility will be operated by the Confederated Colville Tribes. The Bonneville Power Administration is paying for construction and operation of the hatchery, but the three mid-Columbia public utility districts also are contributing to help fulfill obligations under their long-range habitat plans, required by the federal operating licenses for their five dams on the Columbia.
2013: In September, NOAA Fisheries releases its latest draft Columbia River hydropower system biological opinion for public comment, to satisfy the concerns of now-retired federal District Judge James Redden, who said it needed more specific actions to improve habitat in the Columbia Basin after 2013. Judging from early comments by environmental and fishing groups, who have kept the litigation going for more than a decade, their concerns haven’t been satisfied. Though the new draft BiOp contains more specific habitat actions, as the judge wanted, and maintains most of the spill regime he had ordered, plaintiff environmental and fishing groups are calling for more spill, citing as evidence an analysis by some state, federal and tribal biologists that claims smolt-to-adult returns could improve to recovery levels—around 4 percent—if spill is raised to levels that boost total dissolved gas levels to 125 percent in dam tailraces. Current state waivers allow tailrace gas levels up to 120 percent, though sometimes high spring flows can raise it above 130 percent or more. (CU 1612)
2013: In October, A report commissioned by the Bonneville Power Administration determines the agency’s compliance with Department of Energy human-resource policies is “contrary” to policies from which Bonneville is explicitly exempt and to its legal status as “a separate and distinct” organization within DOE. Compliance could result in downgrading more than 1,300 BPA positions, lower pay scales, difficulty in recruiting and retaining talent, and turning BPA into a DOE “field office,” according to the report. Also, recent DOE and Office of Personnel Management reviews “failed to confirm” the DOE inspector general’s preliminary finding that BPA engaged in prohibited personnel practices. (CU1615)
2013: This fall and early winter, the governments of Canada and the United States make their positions clear on the future of the Columbia River Treaty. In October, a consultation document made public by the government of British Columbia says most residents of the Columbia Basin in Canada feel the only benefit they get from the Columbia River Treaty is the Canadian Entitlement. They’re prepared to let the treaty continue, but want improvements, such as “maximizing” the value of the entitlement, treatment of ecosystem functions as at least equal to power and flood control, and having climate change considerations explicitly included. The province is taking comments on the draft consultation. British Columbia is looking to continue the Columbia River Treaty, but it wants numerous improvements and thinks the current treaty’s overall impacts to the province exceed overall benefits. A set of draft recommendations/principles from the B.C. government on the treaty’s future, released Oct. 16,. also indicates provincial officials believe the current treaty is flexible enough to incorporate ecosystem values. Meanwhile, “modernizing” the treaty would be in the best interest of the United States, according to the final regional recommendation for the Treaty issued Dec. 13 by the U.S. Entity, consisting of the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Modernization means a post-2024 arrangement that could include Treaty amendments or revisions, diplomatic notes or protocols, “or other means,” the U.S. Entity says. There is “an increasing awareness in the region that an imbalance has developed in the equitable sharing” of downstream benefits, according to the U.S. recommendation. The original treaty provided to Canada half the downstream benefits, as compared to the situation without the Canadian projects paid for by the United State. But today, an equitable sharing should be based “on the more realistic measure of the power value of coordinated operations as compared to non-coordinated operations,” according to the recommendation. In short, the U.S. believes it is paying too much to Canada. The recommendation says it is important to achieve a modernized framework for the Treaty that balances power production, flood risk management, and ecosystem-based function as the primary purposes of the treaty’s benefits, and for “authorized purposes” as set by the U.S. Congress. Consequently the recommendation seeks “to formalize, provide certainty, and build on the many ecosystem actions already undertaken . . . while also providing a net increase in U.S. power benefits” based on the actual value of coordinated operations. (CU1616, 1617, 1625)
2014: In January, NOAA Fisheries releases a final supplemental Biological Opinion on Columbia River hydropower operations to comply with the Endangered Species Act. The new BiOp adds more specific habitat actions to its earlier plan, which came up short in the eyes of federal judge James Redden. With the new plan in place, Action Agencies have been given a roadmap for improving ESA fish populations for the next five years by enhancing more tributary and estuary habitat, reducing avian predation and barging more fish to improve listed steelhead numbers. In short, the 2014 BiOp calls for more habitat actions for some weak fish populations, more action to reduce predation, and more barging to help ESA-listed steelhead. The BiOp does not include higher levels of spill at dams to help juvenile fish migrate. (CU1629)
2014: In February, Columbia Basin tribes from both B.C. and the U.S. send a white paper to various U.S. officials outlining a four-phase proposal to reintroduce salmon populations above dams that currently block fish passage on the upper Columbia River. The tribes and First Nations say integrating fish passage is an essential element of modernizing the Columbia River Treaty, and will require international actions, but Canada does not consider reintroduction is not an issue for the treaty. The proposal outlines a phased approach of planning, research, and pilot studies leading to the eventual construction of passage facilities at Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams, in the U.S., and at Hugh Keenleyside, Brilliant, and Waneta dams in British Columbia. This effort would also include habitat improvement, more hatcheries, and monitoring and evaluation. “Beneficiaries of the five projects and Treaty operations should be financially obligated to fund planning, construction, and operations as mitigation for their respective benefits received,” the proposal states. (CU1635)
2014: In March, The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes announce they will pay $18.2 million to PPL Montana for the 188-megawatt Kerr Hydroelectric Project at the outlet of Flathead Lake in September 2015, making them one of the few Native American tribes to own a major hydroelectric facility and be a major power marketer in the region. (CU1636)
2014: In May, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council releases a draft revision of its Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. The program includes a number of new policy directions and calls for the Bonneville Power Administration to add more spending if it can’t fund any new projects with savings in the current program. The 2014 Program identifies a number of “emerging priorities” including providing funding for long-term maintenance of the assets that have been created by prior program investments, assessing the effectiveness of ongoing projects, developing program objectives, and accounting for the effects of climate change. (CU1645)
2014: In May, the Grant County Public Utility District announces that after an 11-week investigation into the reasons that a crack developed in Wanapum Dam, a math error was to blame. The calculation, in 1960, led the utility to use less concrete in the now-cracked dam monolith than should have been used to support the weight of water behind the dam. In addition, a bad concrete pour over the July 4 weekend in 1960 exacerbated the problem. Fixing the crack, which never threatened failure of the dam, will cost an estimated $60 million. (CU1646)
2014: In May, NOAA Fisheries reports that its ongoing research into the problem of marine mammals preying on spring Chinook salmon in the lower Columbia River may be worse than first thought. Sea lions may be killing one third or more of the prize fish returning from the ocean in May and June, NOAA scientists report. The 2013 results were obtained in a year when more than 700 sea lions were counted in the lower Columbia River. More than twice as many sea lions showed up this spring, drawn by a strong run of smelt, which is followed by the spring Chinook run. (CU1648)
2014: In September, after 10 years of work, NOAA Fisheries releases a final environmental impact statement on the impacts of Mitchell Act hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin. It took six years for NOAA to produce a draft EIS, and now four years later and after more than a thousand comments, the final EIS has finally been released. The document supports a preferred alternative that calls for “stronger performance goals” that will improve productivity of most ESUs in the basin, while boosting the bottom line for commercial and tribal fishermen. Details are expected to be worked out in forums like the long-running U.S. v. Oregon process that governs tribal fishing rights in the basin. The preferred alternative would increase natural spawner abundance of all ESA-listed ESUs by 7 percent. (CU1663)
2014: In October, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council announces that the region added 268 average megawatts of electric energy savings last year, besting a target of 260 set in the Sixth Power Plan (2010). At an average cost of $17 per megawatt-hour, the efficiency is about five times cheaper than power from a new gas-fired plant. Overall, the region invests in energy efficiency and saves power at about twice the rate as the rest of the country, and efficiency ranks only behind hydropower as the largest power resource in the region, the Council reports. Projections for 2014 show the Northwest is on track to beat the Council’s five-year target by more than 20 average megawatts. (CU1668)
2014: In December, citing a lack of information and resources, Washington’s legislative task force on nuclear energy shuts down and declares it will resume work in 2015 to determine whether the Northwest needs another nuclear power plant. The group was leaning toward the small (roughly 100 megawatts, capacity) reactors proposed by the NuScale developer, but acknowledged that more complete cost information is needed to make a decision. (CU1675)
2014: In December, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proposes a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions that would require the state’s largest emitters “to pay for their carbon pollution,” he says. The system would raise about $1 billion annually beginning in 2016. Because the system would increase energy costs, some of the new revenue would help low-income households and “energy-intensive” industries put at a competitive disadvantage, according to the Governor, a Democrat. Republicans are expected to push back. Meanwhile, a study commissioned by Oregon’s Legislature reports that a revenue-neutral carbon tax that returns most of the collected proceeds to industry and individuals could help Oregon significantly cut greenhouse-gas emissions with little harm to the economy. Key to this result would be extending such a tax to “carbon-by-wire” electricity imports associated with the in-state consumption of electricity generated outside the state, according to the report. (CU 1676, 1677)
2015: In February, the Pacific Fishery Management Council reports that Columbia River commercial fishermen took advantage of good prices and large hauls in 2014 to catch nearly $15 million worth of salmon. Of that, the non-tribal commercial catch accounted for $6 million, and the tribal commercial catch in the exclusive tribal fishery between Bonneville and McNary dams totaled nearly $9 million in value. (CU1686)
2015: In March, the Independent Scientific Advisory Board, which advises the Power Council, NOAA, and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission issues a report on the effects of what is called density dependence, the impact of too many juvenile salmon or steelhead in a limited spawning and rearing habitat area. Density dependence likely is compromising the recovery of ESA-listed salmon and steelhead species, according to the report. Despite robust adult fish returns, the productivity of many spawning grounds has decreased, which means the number of recruits per spawner is declining, the ISAB reports. In the report, the scientists also conclude that estimates of the number of salmon and steelhead that returned to the Columbia River Basin every year before human impacts like dams, fishing, and habitat destruction probably are wrong. Those estimates range from 9 million to 16 million, but the ISAB concludes the correct number probably is closer to 6 million, based on what is known about habitat conditions and availability. (CU1687)
2015: In March, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers issues a Record of Decision on a plan to shoot thousands of double-crested cormorants in the Columbia River estuary near Astoria, Oregon, to reduce predation on ESA-listed juvenile salmon and steelhead. The Audubon Society of Portland promises legal action to stop the killing, arguing the Corps should have considered other ways to run the hydropower system to improve fish survival. The estuary cormorant population, attracted by the abundant juvenile fish in the estuary, is 150 times larger than it was in 1989, when only 100 nesting pairs were counted, according to the Corps. A judge ruled that the action would not cause irrevocable harm to the species. (CU1690, 1697)
2015: In June, NOAA Fisheries releases its 431-page Snake River Sockeye recovery plan. The plan says hatchery releases will continue to be the main tool in rebuilding natural-producing adult runs. The plan says it will likely take 50 to 100 years to recover sockeye, and that the species be considered “recovered” when 2,500 natural-origin spawners return on average annually to the lakes of Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley. (CU 1701)
2015: In June and July, hot weather warms the Columbia and lower Snake rivers to temperatures lethal for salmon, above 71 degrees Fahrenheit, and many fish die. Despite the efforts of dam operators and fish managers to add cold water to the rivers from storage reservoirs, the early-August-like weather was disastrous for salmon and sturgeon. About 510,000 sockeye passed Bonneville Dam, but not quite 300,000 passed Priest Rapids heading for upper Columbia River basins. That’s almost 200,000 sockeye unaccounted for; about 40,000 were caught during fisheries. In the Snake, the warm water slowed the migration of sockeye and counts at Lower Granite Dam declined. (CU1709)
2015: In November, Alcoa announces it will idle its aluminum smelters in Ferndale and Wenatchee, Wash. As part of a “decisive action to curtail uncompetitive smelting and refining capacity to ensure continued competitiveness amid prevailing market conditions.” The curtailments will begin before the end of the year, the company said, and will be completed by March 2016. Alcoa will continue to operate the Ferndale casthouse, which produces value-added shaped products, the company also said. Nonetheless, Ferndale stands to lose all but about 100 of the Intalco smelter’s 583 employees, and all 428 employees at the Wenatchee Works will be laid off. It is not clear how the closures will affect the Bonneville Power Administration, which serves the Intalco smelter in Ferndale, and Chelan County PUD, which serves the Wenatchee smelter. (CU1722)
2015: A massive windstorm sweeps through the Pacific Northwest on Nov. 17 and 18, leaving utility crews from the coast to western Montana scrambling to return power to an estimated 900,000 customers. Winds topped 100 mph in some areas and prompted a “shelter in place” warning in the Spokane area. (CU1724)
2015: For the second time in 80 years, salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia River Basin has surpassed 2 million fish crossing Bonneville Dam, the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife departments report in November. The 2015 2.3-million-fish total is surpassed only by 2014, when some 2.6 million salmon and steelhead returned to upriver areas. These figures include both adult and jack returns and compare favorably to Bonneville counts in the 1990s. (CU1726)
2016: In February, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council unanimously approves its Seventh Northwest Power Plan, which relies on energy efficiency and demand response as the main resources for meeting the region’s power needs through 2035. The plan’s selection of energy efficiency as the first resource of choice isn’t new—it’s been the most cost-effective regional resource in every regional plan—but giving demand response second billing is a significant new element. The plan recommends the region acquire 1,400 average megawatts of energy efficiency by 2021, ramping up to 4,300 by 2035; and a minimum of 600 average megawatts of demand response by 2021, with as much as 3,000 by 2035 under certain coal-plant-retirement scenarios. Next in the resource stack comes increased use of existing and new natural gas-fired power. (C1735)
2016: A Washington company, Whooshh Innovations, reports in February that tests over the last five years show that its tube system for moving fish over dams using differential pressures is successful. Whooshh Innovations of Bellevue says its tests show fish like adult salmon and steelhead can be moved “gently, efficiently and cost-effectively.” (CU1737)
2016: In May, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon remands the 2014 Biological Opinion saying it wrongly claimed that operations of the Federal Columbia River Power System were in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. Simon also said federal agencies have resisted taking a “hard look” at all reasonable alternatives to improve survival of ESA-listed salmon and steelhead species, including removal of the four federal dams on the lower Snake River. The judge ordered NOAA Fisheries to write a new BiOp and file it with the court by March 1, 2018. The federal action agencies – Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – also must prepare an environmental impact statement/analysis of Columbia River Basin hydropower operations that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act by the same deadline. Among alternatives to improve fish survival, the EIS must include an analysis of the impacts and benefits of removing the Snake River dams, Simon wrote in his opinion. (CU1747)
2016: A June heat wave sent daytime temperatures soaring above 100 degrees in Southern California, creating a surge in demand as air conditioning load peaked, straining the power supply and triggering outages that left thousands of consumers without electricity. Outage potential is heightened in the region because of a moratorium on natural gas injections at the Aliso Canyon storage facility in Southern California, reducing the supply to gas-fired power plants. To reduce the risk, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began offering incentives for customers to shift electricity usage to off-peak times. (CU1754)
2016: Hot weather again makes river conditions lethal for salmon and steelhead, but so far it is not the disaster that it was in the summer of 2015, when a quarter million adult sockeye and hundreds of sturgeon died in the warm waters of the Columbia and Snake rivers in June and July. This year, operators at Dworshak Dam begin releasing cold water into the North Fork Clearwater River to prevent water temperatures downriver at Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River from exceeding 67 degrees. So far river temperatures are higher than the 10-year average, but lower than they were at the same time in 2015. (CU1755)
2016: It’s been nearly three years since federal agencies submitted their recommendations for the future of the Columbia River Treaty to the U.S. State Department, and so far nothing has happened. The State Department says the so-called “regional recommendation” remains under internal review. That frustrates 22 members of the Northwest congressional delegation, who write in a letter in August – their third on the subject – that “time is running out” on the Obama administration to open negotiations with Canada. Electric utilities that are customers of the Bonneville Power Administration say compliance with the terms of the 1964 treaty raises their rates, and they want to see a new treaty that addresses their concerns soon. “We write to express concern about the U.S. Department of State’s slow progress toward modernizing” the treaty, stated the letter, which was coordinated through the office of U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). (CU1761)
2016: Two climatic conditions affecting the Northwest weather, and potentially the survival of salmon and steelhead in the ocean, have resurfaced. Recent trends indicate that La Niña, which usually brings cooler and wetter weather to the region, has a 70-percent chance – up from 40 percent – of developing in the Northern Hemisphere this fall, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center reports in October. The other phenomenon, a huge area of warm water in the Pacific dubbed “the blob,” was thought to have broken up earlier this year, but has been detected again off the coasts of Washington and Oregon. (CU1771)
2016: For the first time, invasive freshwater mussels have reached Montana waters, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announces in November. Samples from Tiber Reservoir on the Missouri River in northern Montana, which is fewer than 200 miles from the Continental Divide and the Columbia River Basin, tested positive for the larval stage of the aquatic mussel, a destructive non-native species that was probably introduced by a contaminated boat. Allowed to proliferate, the mussels form hard calciferous mats that can clog water intakes, like those at irrigation diversions and hydroelectric dams. In response, Montana begins an aggressive effort to inspect all watercraft entering the state from areas of known infestation, including the Midwest and Southwest. (CU1775)
2016: Data collected for the last year of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Sixth Power Plan indicate the region surpassed the plan’s conservation target of 1,490 average megawatts by acquiring 1,739 average megawatts of energy efficiency from 2010 through 2015. For 2015, savings from utility programs and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance just missed the annual target of 290 average megawatts, achieving 284 average megawatts. But with market accomplishments through sales of energy-efficient products, which are outside utility energy efficiency programs, the region surpassed that goal. Each average megawatt of energy saved by improving efficiency contributes 1.7 megawatts of winter peaking capacity, the Council reports. (CU1778)
2017: A report commissioned by opponents of the 1,190-megawatt Columbia Generating Station (CGS), the only nuclear power plant in the Northwest, says the plant on the Columbia River near Hanford, Washington, could be shut down in 2019 and replaced by wind and solar power, although it would take a lot of effort to make it happen that quickly. The report, by Portland-based McCullough Research and commissioned by Oregon and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, was conducted in response to a resolution adopted by the Seattle City Council and mayor to work toward replacing CGS generation with carbon-free resources. However, neither CGS operator Energy Northwest nor CGS power purchaser Bonneville Power Administration found the report persuasive. (CU1787)
2017: A long simmering and highly controversial proposal by the Bonneville Power Administration to build a new, 80-mile high-voltage (500 KV) transmission line in the Interstate 5 corridor on the west side of the Cascade Mountains has been canceled. Bonneville wanted to build the line in order to relieve congestion in its Southwest Washington/Northwest Oregon service area. In a May 18 letter to interested parties, Bonneville Administrator Elliot Mainzer said building the $1.2-billion line “would not fulfill our commitment to making the right investment at the right time.” A comprehensive review of the project, along with the inherent difficulties associated with building the line, prompted a new approach to managing grid congestion, rendering the new line unnecessary, Bonneville says. Public hearings on the several proposed routes for the line drew hundreds of people and strong opposition. (CU1800)
2017: In June, the entire Washington and Oregon U.S. House and Senate delegation sign letters pushing back against President Donald Trump’s proposal to sell the transmission assets of the Bonneville Power Administration, which owns most of the high-voltage lines in the Northwest. Joining their Washington and Oregon colleagues were all four senators from Idaho and Montana. Trump’s isn’t the first administration to propose selling Bonneville, parts of Bonneville, or selling its power at market rates instead of its cost of generation. The delegation’s letters pointed out that Northwest electricity ratepayers, not U.S./ taxpayers, have been paying for the Bonneville system and its power since it came online in the 1930s. (CU1803)
2017: Northern Pike, a voracious, invasive predator fish, continue to move farther down Lake Roosevelt toward Grand Coulee Dam, even though a program managed by the Spokane and Colville tribes and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has removed thousands of the invasive fish from the lake, according to a July report by the three co-managers. This year alone, over 1,080 Northern Pike have been removed from Lake Roosevelt. That’s almost the same number removed from the reservoir in 2015 and 2016 combined. Northern Pike are a threat to the Columbia Basin’s native fish species because they can prey on any fish that is less than 75 percent of their body size. Only adult sturgeon are safe from Northern Pike, the co-managers say. Salmon managers throughout the basin are worried that the predators could invade the river system below Chief Joseph Dam, where anadromous salmon and steelhead spawn. (CU1809)
2017: Montana Governor Steve Bullock announces in August that the state has secured $4.6 million in federal funding to help provide job training for coal workers in the town of Colstrip and other communities in eastern Montana. Bullock says $2 million will be immediately available for planning efforts in Colstrip and for workforce training of coal workers to “ensure the successful transition of the region to a diversified economy.” The money will go directly toward workforce training for 1,700 workers in 21 eastern and south central Montana counties for new jobs as the huge Colstrip coal mine and adjacent coal-fired power plant slowly reduce operations toward permanent closure. (CU1811)
2017: Sea lions killed 20-25 percent of this year’s winter steelhead run in the Willamette River at the fish ladder at Willamette Falls, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports in September. The agency says the fish kill demonstrates the serious threat to Willamette winter steelhead, an ESA-listed threatened species. About 500 wild winter steelhead crossed the falls in 2017, the lowest run ever recorded, the department reported. The department recently applied for a lethal take permit in an effort stem the losses caused by 40 or so sea lions that frequent the base of the falls about 13 miles south of Portland. Sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. (CU1817)
2017: Construction is scheduled to start in October on a 1,250-foot tunnel to pass juvenile sockeye salmon spawned in Cle Elum Lake past Cle Elum Dam. The $15.2-million tunnel is one of the key elements in the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan, a partnership that includes the Yakama Nation, the State of Washington and the Bureau of Reclamation. Cle Elum Dam, which is on the Cle Elum River, a tributary of the Yakima River, was built in 1933 by the Bureau as part of the Yakima Project. Because the dam does not have passage facilities for adult fish, the Yakama Nation has been trapping adult sockeye below the dam and trucking them to the lake – 4,000 in 2016. Currently, juveniles pass the dam gong downstream when dam operators leave spill gates open, but once the tunnel and associated bypass structure are completed, the juvenile fish will have a safer route from the reservoir to the river. (CU1820)
2017: Electricity demand of the booming legal marijuana industry in the Northwest is expected to grow rapidly in the near future, a Council analysis reported in October shows. So far, utilities in Washington have largely managed to smoothly integrate the industry, which state voters legalized in 2012. Already responsible for about 1 percent of Washington state’s energy use, marijuana-related load in the Pacific Northwest could reach 250 average megawatts by 2035, the Council’s power planning staff reports. (CU1822)
2017: The U.S. Department of State announced in October that Jill Smail will replace Brian Doherty as the department’s chief negotiator for the Columbia River Treaty. Smail, previously a senior water advisor in the department, joined the Office of Canadian Affairs as the CRT negotiator earlier in the month, the State Department reported. In December, after years of prodding from Northwest power and other interests, and the Northwest congressional delegation, the State Department announces the two countries finally will begin negotiations in early 2018, more than three years after both countries issued position papers on the future of the treaty. (CU1823, 1829).
2017: In November NOAA Fisheries releases its final recovery plan for three species of Snake River salmon and steelhead. Eight years in the making, the recovery plan is the agencies’ blueprint for recovering stocks of fall Chinook, spring/summer Chinook and Steelhead. Key strategies include reducing predation on juvenile fish, improving spawning and rearing habitat, improving hatchery practices, and addressing the impacts of climate change. (CU1831)
2018: Sea lions are killing far more salmon between the ocean and Bonneville Dam than previously thought, a NOAA Fisheries researcher reports in February. The latest results of an ongoing study by scientist Michelle Wargo Rub suggest that each year since 2010, these carnivorous mammals have eaten between 11 and 42 percent of the spring/summer Chinook run in the 145-mile stretch of river. That translates to between 20,000 and 35,000 Chinook in most of the study years, although losses jumped to more than 100,000 in 2014 and 2015, Rub said. Sea lions also kill lamprey and juvenile sturgeon. (CU1838)
2018: There’s a financial cliff ahead for the Bonneville Power Administration just 10 years in the future when its many of its current power sales contracts expire, and that’s not too far away, Steve Kern, Cowlitz County PUD general manager tells the Power Council in February. Cowlitz, a Bonneville customer, sees real existential problems ahead for Bonneville, including an influx of excess wind and solar power from California, which has the effect of driving down wholesale market prices and making Bonneville’s surplus power less competitive. Also, natural gas prices are low and projected to stay low, and that makes natural gas-fired power more competitive in the spot market and for long term contracts. At the same time, the agency faces increasing spills over dams, which takes water away from hydropower generation, and higher costs for fish and wildlife mitigation and recovery. Based on Bonneville’s own projections, the wholesale rate in 2028 will be $42.68/megawatt-hour, while market rates are forecast between the low $20s and the low $30s per megawatt-hour, Kern said. “This is the cliff that I worry about,” he said. “Because in 2028, who is going to sign up for power with Bonneville 100 percent at the levels that they have today if we see those power prices.” (CU1838)
2018: Grant County PUD declared a non-failure emergency at the utility’s Priest Rapids Dam in March after discovering leaks in the massive structure’s spillway monoliths. The dam, on the Columbia River near Mattawa, Wash. At River Mile 397.1, is not in danger of failing, but out of caution the utility lowered the reservoir behind the dam by three to four feet. Priest Rapids is still generating electricity as it usually would this time of year. Contractors discovered the leaks while drilling inspection holes. The source of the leaks is under investigation. (CU1844)
2018: The Northwest Energy Coalition, Seattle, reports in April that there are clean, reliable and affordable options for replacing the output of the four lower Snake River Dams if they are removed. The Coalition is hoping that conclusion, from a study commissioned by group, will help guide federal agencies when they look at dam removal as part of an upcoming environmental impact study of 14 federal hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin. (CU1845)
2018: In April, U.S. Department of State officials visit Spokane to talk to tribes, local officials, residents and stakeholders about progress on the Columbia River Treaty negotiations. The current treaty’s objectives for flood control and hydropower will continue to be factors in a modernized treaty, along with support for using the treaty to support ecosystem functions in the river, the State Department’s lead negotiator Jill Smail, told people who gathered for a town hall meeting as part of the Lake Roosevelt Forum conference. (CU1848)
2018: Electric vehicles (EVs) can yield big financial benefits for utilities and their customers in Oregon and Washington, according to a study commissioned by a group of Northwest utilities. The study found that electrifying the region’s transportation sector would lower overall spending on energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The anticipated adoption of plug-in electric vehicles across the region by 2036 will produce a cumulative economic benefit of $1.4 billion, or $1,941 per EV on average, according to the study reported in June by the Pacific Northwest Utility Transportation Electrification Collaborative. (CU1856)
2018: The Bonneville Power Administration announces in July that it is considering four-year extensions of the Columbia River Fish Accords, signed in 2008 for periods of 10 years. If so, the agency plans to have a proposal for public review by August. The Accords included the federal action agencies (Corps, Bonneville, Bureau of Reclamation), three of four Northwest states (Montana, Idaho, Washington), and several Columbia River Tribes. The Accords have provided nearly $1 billion to supplement biological opinions and the fish and wildlife program of the Power Council to help salmon and steelhead by providing firm commitments to improving fish passage at hydropower projects, fish and wildlife habitat, and fish hatcheries. The federal agencies proposed the Accords as a means of avoiding biological opinion litigation and using money that might have been spent on litigation on fish and wildlife improvement projects, instead. The State of Oregon and some tribes did not sign the Accords, and litigation has continued. (CU1859)
2018: A genetic scientist says people transporting Northern Pike illegally is likely the source of a population that showed up in the Pend Oreille River that later moved downstream and became established in Lake Roosevelt above Grand Coulee Dam. The fish is a voracious predator of other fish even as large as half its size, and until geneticist Kellie Carim of the University of Montana studied DNA samples of pike caught in the Pend Oreille River and Lake Roosevelt, their origin was unknown. They are not a native species in those waters. Carim’s analysis showed the fish were genetically similar to pike in two Idaho lakes, where they also were introduced illegally. The Kalispell, Spokane, and Colville tribes have been working to remove pike and control the growth of the populations, which are preying on trout and other species, and trying to keep them from spreading downriver below Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams where they could prey on salmon and steelhead.(CU1872)
2019: In June, bill that would require the Bonneville Power Administration to compensate the Spokane Tribe of Indians for land lost with the construction of Grand Coulee Dam passed the U.S. Senate and was sent to the House Committee on Natural Resources for consideration. (CU1911)
2019: Led by NOAA Fisheries, a group of stakeholders released their final report in July outlining a plan for recovery of Columbia River Basin salmon and steelhead, which includes provisional numbers needed to recover 24 stocks of salmon and steelhead to “healthy and harvestable” levels. “A Vision for Salmon and Steelhead: Goals to Restore Thriving Salmon and Steelhead to the Columbia River Basin” is the result of two years of work by a task force representing 28 government agencies, tribes and nonprofit groups to develop a common framework for the basin’s recovery efforts. Although the quantitative goals are considered provisional, the Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force unanimously agreed to a high-end goal of 3.6 million natural-origin salmon and steelhead adults returning to the mouth of the river, among the 24 stocks. Returns now average 400,000. The high-end goals is about nine times as many salmon and steelhead currently returning to the Columbia Basin. When adding in hatchery returns, the goal rises to 11.4 million adults, a fivefold increase from today’s average of 2.3 million adults. (CU 1910)
2019: In August, an economic analysis conducted for Vulcan, a Seattle philanthropic organization, concludes that the economic benefits of removing the four lower Snake River dams would far outweigh the costs. In its report, ECONorthwest predicted a total benefit of $8.65 billion from dam removal, based on calculations of “non-use and recreational use values,” which include benefits from increased recreation and fishing opportunities. These benefits would “more than offset” the costs of dam removal, which would total $3.45 billion, according to the report. Removal costs include dam deconstruction, added power generation and conservation costs, and new irrigation costs. (CU1970)
2019: In August, NOAA Fisheries includes Upper Columbia Summer Chinook in a list of species “subject to overfishing” and “overfished,” according to the agency’s annual report to Congress on the status of U.S. fisheries. In 2018, Upper Columbia Summer Chinook were deemed subject to overfishing based on the 2015 run, the most recent data available. NOAA estimates that actual harvest exceeded the expected harvest rate by 14 percent, or 89 percent harvested compared to the allowable harvest of 75 percent, according to its numbers. The report describes 43 overfished stocks, for which escapement over three years falls below sustainable levels; and 28 stocks subject to overfishing, which occurs when fishing rates exceed sustainable levels, a status that could lead to an “overfished” determination. (CU 1914)
2019: NOAA Fisheries scientists are worried about a new marine heat wave that is developing in the North Pacific Ocean, they report in September. It is the second largest such heat wave in 40 years, and is raising ocean temperatures as much as 5 degrees Fahrenheit from southern California to Alaska. From 2014 through 2016, a similar heat wave caused huge algal blooms, which shut down clamming and crabbing for months, warm-water fish species were found in the north Pacific, and vital parts of the food web crashed. This heat wave could do the same, the scientists warn. (CU1918)
2019: Shoreline development and diking to prevent flooding and promote agriculture have dried out 85 percent of the tidal wetlands from California to Washington over time, a new study shows. It’s the first study of the loss of historic ocean tidal wetlands, and shows tidal wetlands in the Columbia River estuary are only 25 percent the size they once were. The study involved precision laser mapping of 444 estuary habitats and was reported in the online journal PLOS One.
2019: In October, the Lummi and Yakama tribes call for removing The Dalles, John Day, and Bonneville dams to help improve salmon runs in the Columbia River and provide more salmon for orcas to eat in the ocean. Asserting that the Yakama Nation never agreed to damming the lower river, Yakama Chairman JoDe Goudy said the United States should “reject the doctrine of Christian discovery and immediately remove” the three dams. Jay Julius, Lummi Nation chair, said the Lummi Nation stands with the Yakama Nation in calling for the removal of the dams as part of an effort “… to leave to future generations a lifeway promised to our ancestors” in treaties signed with the federal government in the 1850s. (CU 1924)
2019: A study of the combined impact of 14 colonies of fish-eating birds – Caspian terns, Double-crested Cormorants, gulls – on Upper Columbia Steelhead, released in November, shows birds consume from one-third to one-half of the juvenile fish before they reach the ocean. Researcher Allen Evans, a scientist with Real Time Research, Bend, Oregon, said he was shocked by the data in the study he co-authored with three others. “Results indicate that avian predation, although not the original cause of steelhead declines in the basin, is now a factor limiting the survival of Upper Columbia Steelhead,” according to the study. (CU1929)
2020: In February, the federal Columbia River action agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bonneville Power Administration, release a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on future operations of the Columbia/Snake river hydropower system to protect ESA-listed salmon and steelhead. In the DEIS, the agencies write that breaching the four federal dams on the lower Snake River lower Snake River dams (Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, and Ice Harbor) and increasing spill at the four lower Columbia River dams (McNary, John Day, The Dalles, and Bonneville) would provide the largest benefits for salmon and steelhead, particularly juvenile fish as they migrate to the ocean, compared with other dam-operating alternatives. But breaching also would result in unacceptably high adverse impacts to hydropower, navigation, irrigation, and existing recreation, according to the DEIS. Breaching would not meet all of the federal power system objectives, including minimizing greenhouse gas emissions or providing a reliable and economic power supply, the agencies write. And also, breaching the dams would not allow them to be operated for their congressionally authorized purposes: navigation, hydropower, recreation, and water supply for irrigation, according to the DEIS. (CU1942)
2020: In response to COVID-19 pandemic stay-home orders, Washington and Oregon close Columbia River salmon and steelhead fishing in March, and Washington extends the closure to all recreational fishing. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspends PIT-tagging of juvenile fish, and the Bonneville Power Administration notifies its state, tribal, and NGO partners with projects funded through the Council’s fish and wildlife program that they should work remotely, if possible and contact BPA contracting officers to work out changes in contracting and scope of work. Stay-home orders are in effect in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho because of the pandemic, and salmon recovery efforts are impacted, but the extent of the impacts is not yet clear. (CU1946)
2020: In April, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accepts a series of Open Access Transmission Tariff (OATT) modifications from seven NorthernGrid members, officially allowing NorthernGrid to be the region’s transmission planning organization. The filings from Avista, Idaho Power, Montana Alberta Tie Ltd., NorthWestern Energy, PacifiCorp, Portland General Electric, and Puget Sound Energy asked FERC to accept changes to their OATTs to reflect NorthernGrid as the single regional transmission planning organization for the Northwest. NorthernGrid consists of 14 utility-members and five stakeholders. In December 2019, members contracted with the Northwest Power Pool to manage the planning process and perform planning studies. (CU1947)
2020: For the first time in its 53-year history, in April the Public Power Council expels a member utility, Clallam Public Utility District, located in Squim, WA, on the Olympic Peninsula, for sharing confidential information. The PPC notified Clallam in a letter that it had been expelled because the utility organization “had serious concerns that one of your representatives may not share or respect PPC’s expectation of confidentiality and nondisclosure.” At the PPC’s March meeting in Portland groups favoring breaching the four federal dams on the lower Snake River protested outside the Embassy Suites Portland Airport Hotel where the meeting was held. Protesters held signs calling out PPC staff members by name, and referenced Bonneville Power Administrator Elliot Mainzer’s children. In its letter, PPC wrote, “There is evidence to support a concern that a representative from Clallam PUD has been the source of the disclosures that led to the protests; we have been concerned for some time that this individual may have been improperly disclosing PPC’s information, but have taken a measured approach. The evidence we acquired following PPC’s March board meetings, together with a discussion with this individual, unfortunately did not lessen our concerns.” The letter does not name the individual, but a news report identified the person as Jim Waddell, vice president of the Clallam board of commissioners and an advocate of breaching the lower Snake River dams. Waddell was a longtime Corps of Engineers employee and has a deep background of experience with the Snake River dams. After retiring from the Corps he became more vocal on the breaching issue. While admitting that as a PUD commissioner he had clashed with PPC staff over the dams issue, Waddell said he did not share confidential information. (CU1950)
2020: The Washington Department of Ecology announces in May that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pollution discharge permits for oil and grease at eight federal dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers must require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the dams, to address water temperature problems caused by them. The state issued final water quality certifications for the dams to the EPA earlier this month. It’s the first time the state has attempted to exercise authority over water temperature issues at the federal hydroelectric projects. (CU1953)
2020: More COVID-19 pandemic impacts in the Northwest reported in May: Tacoma Power trims its 2021-2022 budget to cover an expected $70 million shortfall due to the pandemic; Richland, Wash., records a 5-percent increase in electricity consumption during April for its municipal utility customers as people stay home; Northwest consumer-owned utilities experience a wide variety of pandemic-related effects; a top analyst at Fitch Ratings says utilities will weather the pandemic with relatively minor pain; NorthWestern Energy announces it will not start its fixed-cost recovery mechanism pilot project until 2021, a year later than originally planned; California’s quarterly cap-and-trade auction brings the state $25 million, compared to the usual $600-700 million as greenhouse gas emissions plummet during stay-at-home orders. (CU1955)
2020: In June, the Corps of Engineers announces that testing shows a new PIT-tag detection system installed in a spillbay at Lower Granite Dam will let scientists track five times as many juvenile salmon and steelhead through dams on the lower Snake River, compared to the information they would have without it. The data will make current estimates more accurate and allow for new studies. (CU 1959)
2020: Deferred maintenance of hatcheries in the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan (LSRCP)totals more than $130 million with $24.5 million in highest-priority projects ready to proceed immediately, but no money to pay for them, LSRCP managers say in July. The Bonneville Power Administration pays for annual ongoing operations and maintenance of the LSRCP facilities under an agreement between the federal Energy and Interior departments. But there is no plan or budget for long-term maintenance, and no agreement on who is responsible. Meanwhile, aging and failing equipment – some of it dates to the mid-1970s when the LSRCP was authorized, threatens the continued production of salmon and steelhead smolts, the largest such program in the Columbia River Basin. State and tribal managers of the LSRCP facilities and the federal agencies that oversee it plan to meet to try to resolve their differences. (CU 1962)
2020: Federal agencies again reject breaching the four lower Snake River dams, this time in a court-ordered, final environmental impact statement for Columbia River System Operations, released July 31. The so-called Action Agencies responsible for the EIS, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bonneville Power Administration acknowledge and support the idea of a regional forum to work on rebuilding salmon and steelhead runs, a forum that could take up the controversial breaching idea, again. The idea has been around since the 1980s. Conservation and fishing groups are disappointed and say the breaching issue will end up back in court, while hydropower advocates are pleased by what they see in the EIS as a balanced approach to maintaining the dams while also protecting fish. (CU1964)
2020: A new NOAA Fisheries permit issued in August allows Washington, Oregon, and Idaho and four Columbia River tribes to capture and remove Steller sea lions in the Columbia River and tributaries where they prey on adult spring Chinook, sturgeon, and lamprey. Previously, only California sea lions could be removed, and from a smaller area of the river. The permit allows for the killing or moving to captivity of as many as 540 California sea lions and 176 Steller sea lions over the next five years, which is expected to save tens of thousands of threatened or endangered salmon and steelhead. The managers will need special equipment top capture Stellers, which average 1,250 pounds. (CU1967)
2020: In August, the Council ends a two-year process of amending its 2014 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program with a 2020 Addendum. Most of the 2014 Program remains in effect. The addendum was approved in two parts, the first in January 2020 and the other this month. The part approved in January focused on implementing projects in the program and identified near-term priorities for implementation and funding, including the impacts of climate change; mitigation for the loss of migratory fish in areas blocked by dams, notably salmon and steelhead; research into the effects of the ocean environment on Columbia River Basin salmon and steelhead; operational changes at Libby and Hungry Horse dams in Montana; the impacts of predators including fish-eating birds and marine mammals; assessing the factors limiting the recruitment and productivity of White Sturgeon; and improved and more direct communication regarding project scope and budgets with the Bonneville Power Administration, which implements the Council’s program. The part approved this month defines goals and objectives for the program and indicators to measure program performance and progress. The Council developed the goals, objectives, and performance indicators through a series of collaborative public workshops last spring with fish and wildlife agencies, tribes, and the public. The purpose is to describe how the Council and others will assess the program’s performance and improve program implementation using an adaptive management approach. The addendum includes a comprehensive set of references that describe the source material for the objectives and indicators.
2020: Delayed four months by social distancing restrictions imposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Spokane and Colville tribal fishing crews redoubled their efforts to remove Northern Pike in the upper Columbia River Basin above Grand Coulee Dam in September. In the last five years, more than 13,000 Northern Pike have been captured and killed through both a fishing reward program and targeted removal operations including gillnets and electrofishing. The tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are working to keep the invasive predator species from migrating downstream below Chief Joseph Dam, where they could decimate juvenile salmon and steelhead populations. (CU1969)
2020: Wildfires sparked by causes ranging from arson to lightning to power lines blown down by fierce easterly winds incinerated literally millions of acres along the West Coast from California to Washington in August and September. The fires were the largest, most numerous, and most destructive in Oregon in state history. Homes and whole communities were lost, including Talent near Medford and Lyons near Salem. Ten people died. By mid-September, Portland had the worst air quality of any city in the world for several days, with particulate counts over 530 ppm, well into the “hazardous” designation. Utilities worked to restore power to shut-off areas, where and when it was safe. Over 1 million acres had burned in Oregon and another 500,000 acres in Washington as of mid-September, and most fires continued to burn, despite welcome rain that helped decrease their intensity. The utility most impacted appeared to be Portland General Electric, which reported 215,000 customers without power at one point, and de-energized lines in eight different high-risk fire areas. (CU1970)
2020: In September, the federal Bureau of Reclamation issues a request for proposals to develop a second pumped-storage hydroelectric power project using water from Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam. An existing pumped-hydro project pumps water from intakes in Lake Roosevelt just upstream of the dam to Banks Lake, which supplies irrigation water to the Columbia Basin Project. The pump turbines can be reversed to generate power with water released from the lake. The RFP process for a second project was triggered by the application of irrigator group Columbia Basin Hydropower, which envisions a $1.4 billion pumped-storage project that would take six years to build and also would pump water up to Banks Lake. The bidding is mandated under the Bureau’s “Lease of Power Privilege” process. The project also would have to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (CU1971)
2020: On the same day the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded more than $2 million in grants to 14 different entities to reduce water pollution in the Columbia River Basin, September 16, Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle claiming the agency has failed to ensure Washington state protects aquatic life from pollution in the Columbia River and elsewhere. NWEA Executive Director Nina Bell said that despite Washington’s reputation as an environmentally friendly state, it has done little to protect its waters from contamination. (CU 1972)
2020: Concluding four years of work, in late September three federal dam and power agencies – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bonneville Power Administration – sign a joint record of decision for the Columbia River System Operations EIS. The EIS analyzed removing the four lower Snake River federal dams and how best to operate 14 hydroelectric projects in the Columbia River system. The Record of Decision selects a preferred operating alternative that increases spill at eight of the dams to help migrating juvenile fish, and retains the Snake River dams to provide continued irrigation, navigation, and annual production of about 8,500 average megawatts of carbon-free electricity for the region. Spill called for in the EIS replaces the 2018 Flexible Spill Agreement signed by Oregon, Washington and the Nez Perce Tribe, which increased spill 16 hours each day to help juvenile fish pass dams and allowed for eight hours of reduced spill during hours when power could be sold at higher prices. The agreement also paused legal activity over court-ordered biological opinions regarding Columbia River Basin hydropower operations, which have been rejected five times by federal court judges. Plaintiffs in those lawsuits called the 2020 Record of Decision unacceptable but stopped short of predicting new litigation. (CU 1973)
2020: Governors from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana issue a statement in October agreeing to collaborate through a public process to discuss key issues related to salmon and steelhead recovery in the Columbia River Basin. The governors’ announcement did not mention the four lower Snake River dams, but it does note differences in how each state views the Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision, which did not endorse breaching the dams. The governors committed to developing a framework with “full opportunity for analysis and discussion of key regional issues relating to salmon and steelhead abundance.” (CU 1974)
2020: A few minutes before noon on Thursday, October 15, the coal-fired Boardman Generating Station near Boardman in eastern Oregon stopped operating and was taken permanently offline by its owner Portland General Electric Company of Portland. The closure of the 40-year-old coal-fired plant is the result of a landmark agreement PGE signed in 2010 with environmental and consumer advocates in Oregon. In that agreement, PGE abandoned its earlier plan to spend about $540 million on pollution control equipment to keep the plant operating past 2020, and instead agreed to invest $41 million on emission controls and close the plant this year. (CU 1975)
2020: In October, The U.S. Department of Energy awards a $1.4 billion cost-share to Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, a consortium of public power utilities in the West, that is in a deal for a 12-reactor, 720-megawatt nuclear power project with NuScale, the Portland-area small modular reactor company. The DOE characterized the award as a “funding vehicle” that is subject to future appropriations by Congress. The DOE earlier backed NuScale with $275 million to research new forms of nuclear power generation. NuScale was founded in 2007 based on research at Oregon State University.
2021: In February, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) unveils a massive $33.5 billion proposal to breach the four lower Snake River dams and compensate those who depend on them in an attempt to save Idaho’s threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead runs. Part of his proposal would take fish and wildlife planning for the impacts of Columbia River Basin dams away from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and give it to an undefined association fish and wildlife agencies and tribes. According to the Clearing Up newsletter, environmental groups, fishing advocates and others — including the Nez Perce Tribe and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown — were quick to support it. Ports, local communities and some federal lawmakers from the region condemned it. And many in the energy industry appeared to be taking a wait-and-see approach, lured by the possibility of litigation-free hydropower operations, another part of the proposal, but loathe to give up so much carbon-free, flexible, reliable and inexpensive power. (CU 1991) See Seattle Times story.