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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Energy Woes Threaten Salmon
21 February 2001 7:00 pm
A dry winter combined with a power shortage could be bad news for endangered salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Last week, California's energy crisis forced the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the region's energy supplier, to exceed federal guidelines for the release of water through its turbines. With reservoirs already low, the utility might not have enough water available this spring and summer to help juvenile salmon on their run to the sea.
In normal years, BPA buys power from California suppliers during the cold winter months, when demand peaks in the Northwest, and sells it back to California in the summer, when demand peaks there. This year, however, California hasn't had a megawatt to spare. What's more, because of low rainfall and smaller than normal mountain snowpacks, BPA's system of 29 federal dams has been able to generate only about 80% as much power as usual. The agency has been forced to buy the other 20% at market rates, at up to 10 times the usual price, putting a big dent in reserves earmarked for repaying its federal mortgage. Says BPA spokesperson Dulcy Mahar: "The stability of BPA is at risk."
Given the precarious financial situation, the agency has no choice but to release extra water, says Mahar. BPA is required to supply power to its customers. In this case, releasing extra water was the cheapest way to do it. "We are seeking to appropriately balance the needs of fish and electricity consumers during a serious drought," says acting BPA administrator Steve Wright.
Environmentalists disagree. "What we see time and time again is that when the going gets tough, fish take it on the chin," says Rob Masonis, who heads northwest conservation efforts at American Rivers in Seattle. "That's untenable and irresponsible," he says. "We need a real commitment to salmon recovery in the region, not just a few museum fish in the river."