Frankly My Dear, US Salmon Won't Have a Dam

Earlier this month a proposal to restore habitat for endangered fish got final approval- four dams that straddle the California- Oregon border will be taken down. This will be the largest dam removal in U.S. history. The dam removal will likely help improve the health of the Klamath River and therefore the creatures and vegetation that live in the river. The native tribes are particularly excited about the removal of the dam as they haven’t been able to get access to the salmon due to the dam. It wasn’t just the dam that impacted the salmon- climate change created warmer waters that have also put stress on the salmon habitat. Similar to the situation with the Alaskan crabs, the rise in temperature has caused issues with parasites that have impacted more than just the salmon and has created an environment that is difficult for all of the fish that are used to cooler temperatures and less parasites to live in. Parasites exist in all shapes and sizes and can impact everything from live fish to eggs to the vegetation. Some parasites thrive on roots and stems of aquatic plants while others infect smaller animals and move up the food chain as their hosts are consumed by larger hosts. For a lot of parasites, its easier to breed and infect in warmer vs cooler temperatures, hence the rise in river temperature is likely just as serious as the rise in ocean temperature. The removal of the dam will increase water flow and potentially could solve some of this problem too. It’s a win-win for the native tribes and the environment. It’s also noteworthy to consider that the dams at full capacity provide enough electricity for 70,000 homes and will be surrendered by power utility company PacifiCorp. PacificCorp is contributing $200 million towards the dam removal which will be paid for by a surcharge to its customers in Oregon and California. What fish was all of this for? The coho salmon who use the Klamath River for their upstream spawning grounds. Coho salmon are predominantly located in North America. There are fisheries in the West Coast and Alaska that work with federal, state, tribal, and Canadian officials to manage the commercial, recreational, and tribal harvests of salmon and steelhead in the ocean and inland waters. Salmon are kind of weird fish that are able to migrate from saltwater to freshwater (and vice versa) as part of their mating and life cycle. Coho salmon are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, so in an effort to protect them, it makes sense that the dam would need to be removed.

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