Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ocean Acidification Already Impacting Salish Sea

10 million scallops are dead at a shellfish farm on the east side of Vancouver Island, falling victim to rising levels of acidity in the Georgia Strait. Ocean acidification, which is caused by rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and the uptake of this CO2 into the oceans, is expected to have dramatic detrimental effects on our oceans in the 21st century. This is because many marine organisms, including shellfish, corals, and some zooplankton rely on calcium bicarbonate as a structural component to their shells or exoskeletons. As ocean acidity rises, it eventually reaches a level where these organisms can no longer build and maintain their skeletons.

This year, the pH  in the Georgia Strait, which is normally around 8.2 have been measured as high as 7.3 (lower values indicate higher acidity), resulting in catastrophic impacts on the regions aquaculture industry and potentially on a vast array of other marine organisms. While ocean acidification has not received the same level of media attention as human induced climate warming, its effects are just as insidious and it threatens to fundamentally undermine the ability of the oceans to sustain life. This is among the long list of reasons why a dramatic shift away from emissions intensive fossil fuel energy is absolutely vital or the future of our planet and the ecosystems which sustain human life.

More information:


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha is Almost Gone

Dam removal on the Elwha River is almost complete after a controlled blast at Glines Canyon dam last month lowered the remaining dam to its last 35 feet above the river bed. Work began in September 2011 to remove the two dams on the Elwha, and Elwha dam the lower of the two was removed by March 2012. Now Glines Canyon is almost gone, with only 35 feet of cement left in the place of the once 210 foot tall dam. The rest of the dam is expected out by next fall, opening the entirety of the Elwha basin to migratory salmonids. With the river still transporting high loads of sediment that had been trapped behind the dams, the mainstem below the two dam sites is a relatively inhospitable place. However, already wild salmon and steelhead are finding and using spawning habitat in the tributaries and side channels above Elwha dam, and biologists have been trapping and releasing fish from the lower river into the upper basin above Glines Canyon dam in hopes of jumpstarting the recolonization.

More information from the Peninsula Daily News:

and footage of the blast from the Elwha Film website:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

New BiOp, More of the Same on the Columbia and Snake

Earlier this month the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released the latest version of the Biological Opinion (BiOp) on the recovery of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers. The BiOp is the latest version of the federal governments plan to recover wild fish in the Columbia system and once again it falls well short of the legal requirements to ensure recovery and limit the risks posed to listed wild stocks. Since the Clinton administration's first BiOp was rejected by the courts we've had 4 BiOps each of which has failed to meet the legal mandate of the ESA. Still the federal government seems more than happy to recycle, repackage and resubmit the same old garbage buying time for the Snake River dams, and moving wild fish in the Columbia ever closer to extinction.

The new BiOp relies heavily on speculation over the benefits of habitat improvements which were previously ruled to be inadequate by the courts. The latest plan is lacking in two key areas. First, despite the benefits spilling water over dams to aid downstream passage of smolts during the spring and early summer, the latest BiOp does not even consider expanding spill. Second, experts have long agreed that removing the four lower Snake River dams gives salmon and steelhead in the Snake the greatest chances of survival. Despite the cost of maintaining the dams, and their limited economic benefit, the BiOp doesn't ever consider dam removal or create an adaptive management framework for starting a discussion about dam removal if salmon populations continue to dwindle.

So we are headed back to court again, with salmon recovery advocates arguing the latest plan fails to protect wild salmon and steelhead under the requirements of the ESA.

More information in the Crosscut:


from the Idaho Statesman:


and from Save our Wild Salmon: