The Latest: In Oregon, a record number of spawning salmon

  • The Bonneville Dam.

    Bonneville Power Administration (Courtesy)

Some 16 million salmon and steelhead once returned to the Columbia River Basin each fall, but impediments like the Bonneville Dam near Portland, Ore., decimated their numbers. Costly recovery efforts and courtroom battles brought only marginal improvements, and populations were largely supported by hatchery stock. In 2006, court-mandated spillovers -- running less water through turbines and spilling more over dams -- were introduced to help wild runs recover ("Columbia Basin (Political) Science," HCN, 4/13/09).

On Sept. 24, the number of spawning chinook salmon passing the Bonneville Dam reached the 1 million mark for the first time since 1938. Dam proponents point to safer turbines and improved habitat, but many biologists credit the increased spillovers. A new river management plan, however, may allow dam operators to cut back on future spillovers. At the same time, the record-breaking fish numbers have emboldened calls to remove chinook from the endangered species list.

Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Oct 14, 2013 08:38 PM
Be careful,it sounds like some would like to go back to past practices that failed. A good success story,lets keep it going.
Jim Heffernan
Jim Heffernan
Oct 15, 2013 11:22 AM
"Some 16 million salmon and steelhead" is an estimated average - one estimate of the range annual returns is 8 to 35 million, with the annual variations in sockeye run sizes accounting for much of the range.
Richelle Beck
Richelle Beck
Oct 15, 2013 02:45 PM
Correction: Spilling water for salmon occurred well before 2006. The court mandated higher spill levels in 2006. However, many more actions have been taken since that time to improve salmon returns. And it is not just dam proponents saying it is more than just spill that has increased their survival. Many independent scientists agree it has been a combination of all the actions taken. In fact, last year the Independent Science Advisory Board stated there are too many variables to claim it is spill alone that is helping with salmon survival. MOST scientists working on this issue point to ocean conditions as the number one factor in the increasing salmon return trends. The new plan only suggests cutting back spill when there are almost no fish in the river, similar to other recovery plans in this country. Why spill water to help the fish - a costly measure for NW citizens to pay for - when there aren't any fish in the river? Seems like a big "duh" to me!
Deb Dedon
Deb Dedon Subscriber
Oct 15, 2013 03:11 PM
Pardon me while I mix my favorite mop and light my grill....salivating copiously.
John Taylor
John Taylor Subscriber
Oct 15, 2013 05:07 PM
I think this is great news. The columbia river's damming cause such a change in wildlife in the NW. Nice to see some recovery. Question: did they put in a fish ladder at Bonneville to aid the Salmon recovery?
Franklin Carroll
Franklin Carroll
Oct 15, 2013 08:46 PM
What???? Somebody call ICL and IRU. The salmon are pouring up the river, thanks to the dams that offer salmon transportation. PPRC should be glad they helped save the dams and the fish.
Daniel O'leary
Daniel O'leary
Oct 16, 2013 11:26 AM
Could someone please what a "spill over" is and how it is supposed to help the fish?
Krista Langlois
Krista Langlois Subscriber
Oct 16, 2013 12:47 PM
Hi Daniel: A spillover is water that's passed over the top of the dam instead of through the turbines. Some biologists think spillovers boost survival rates for juvenile salmon heading downstream, because the fish get flushed over the top of the dam rather than through turbines.

John: Yes, there are fish ladders at Bonneville; they've been there for a long time.
Howard Johnson
Howard Johnson Subscriber
Oct 28, 2013 09:21 AM
You can see a tour of the Bonneville dam here........[…]/Bonneville.aspx ...scroll down and activate the videos and you can see it all, ladders, etc.