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Salmon in Hot Water

Release Date: 11/4/1997
Contact Information: Mary Lou Soscia

November 4, 1997 - - - - - - - - - - - 97-67


When local fish experts say Columbia River salmon stocks are in “hot water,” it’s more than a metaphor. Officials at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency hope that a November 6-7 workshop at Portland State University (Room 327, Smith Memorial Center, 1825 S.W. Broadway) will focus regional attention on the fact that unnaturally warm water temperatures in the Columbia pose just as deadly a risk to both young and adult salmon as toxic chemicals spewing from an industrial outfall.
According to Chuck Clarke, EPA Regional Administrator, the goal of this workshop is to focus on mainstem water temperature and promote information sharing among restoration partners.

"High water temperatures are proven to be a serious problem for Columbia River salmon,” said Clarke. “EPA is exploring ways to use the Clean Water Act as a critical tool in ecosystem and salmon restoration. This meeting serves as a great opportunity to begin these discussions with our tribal, state and federal partners.”

Abnormally warm water temperatures can result from a number of land use practices such as agriculture, grazing and logging, but they may also be traced to the Columbia River’s transformation from a free flowing river to a series of lakes or reservoirs. During summer months these "lakes" heat up, providing poor conditions for migrating salmon.

The geographic focus of interest is the portion of the Columbia River Basin that supports anadromous fish: the Lower, Mid- and Upper Columbia and the Lower Snake, recognizing connections to the entire Columbia River system. The workshop will focus on the following questions:
  • Has the annual/diurnal Columbia/Lower Snake River water temperature pattern changed over time?
  • If it has changed, how much of the water temperature change in the Columbia/Lower Snake is due to reservoirs/dam operations? If dams were not in place, would water temperatures be lower ?
  • Are there significantly different temperatures in different habitat areas of the Columbia/Lower Snake River, e.g., reservoirs and fish passage facilities?
  • What are the potential effects of temperature changes on fish and aquatic life in the Columbia/Lower Snake River system?
  • Are there potential solutions to improve mainstem water temperature?

The workshop, sponsored by EPA and other federal, state, and tribal agencies, will provide a professional context for discussing water temperature as a key factor in Columbia River watershed health. Chuck Coutant -- a member of the Northwest Power Planning Council’s Independent Scientific Advisory Board will assist the group in developing solutions for temperature problems.
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