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dams

In the 1940s, construction of the Grand Coulee Dam ended a generations-long tradition among the region’s Native American tribes who had gathered at a nearby waterfall every year. But last year, five tribes revived that tradition.

A bill sponsored by several U.S. House members from the Northwest aims to overturn two recent court decisions on Columbia and Snake river dams.

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon rejected the federal plan for managing dams to protect salmon in the Columbia River Basin.

Federal workers say they are trying their best to keep the water flowing and the power going at Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River Gorge despite the wildfires.

A new bill in Congress would make sure Washington's four lower Snake River dams stay standing. It’s push back against a recent court order to find “a new approach” to protect threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

That approach could include removing or altering the dams.

That's not something Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, thinks would be good for the Northwest. Newhouse introduced the legislation, along with four other Northwest representatives.

A judge has ordered federal agencies to spill more water over Columbia and Snake river dams to help threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, though not until next year after testing.

The state of the salmon population in Idaho’s Snake River was the topic of a passionate discussion during a conference hosted by members of Idaho’s Nez Perce Indian tribe over the weekend.

Northwest residents are surrounded by thousands of dams, some in disrepair. And now the emergency at California’s Oroville Dam has sharpened interest in dam safety.

For more than half a century, dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers have been taken for granted as a permanent part of the landscape. The four dams on the lower Snake River provide hydropower and navigation to the West Coast’s most inland port -- in Lewiston, Idaho. They’ve also proven detrimental to threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

Now, a longstanding debate — removing or altering the four lower Snake River dams — is back at the forefront of a discussion on how to protect fish while still doing what’s best for all interests along the Columbia and Snake rivers.

When the dams were constructed along the Columbia River in the 1930s, tribal villages were permanently flooded.

Northwest senators are now taking the first steps to replace them.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley and Washington Sen. Patty Murray have placed a clause into a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bill that would pay for planning a new tribal village at The Dalles Dam.

Three years ago, the corps recognized it hadn’t followed through on promises to replace inundated villages.

It’s not every day that the governors of both Oregon and California, the U.S. Interior secretary and the head of a major power company -- as well as representatives of multiple tribes all gather at the mouth of a river. But then, Wednesday was an historic day for the Klamath River.

Two agreements signed near the river's mouth in Northern California mean four privately-owned dams are now on track to be removed from the Klamath. It’s described as the largest river restoration project in the country.

Let's break it down.

What's The Deal With Dam Removals?

Aug 27, 2015

In the past decade, several high-profile dam removals have happened in the Northwest. The Marmot Dam on the Sandy River in Oregon was demolished in 2007. Three dams along the main stem of Oregon’s Rogue River came down between 2008 and 2010.

A sign along Highway 29 between Fort St. John and Hudson's Hope, British Columbia, protests the proposed Site C dam.
Flickr photo/Emma Gilchrist, DeSmogCanada (CC BY 2.0)

Marcie Sillman talks to Vaughn Palmer, columnist for the Vancouver Sun, about the British Columbia government's proposal to build another hydroelectric dam on the Peace River. 

Tracking salmon as they move past Columbia River dams just got a little easier. Scientists are using a new tag so small that researchers can inject it with a syringe into the fishes' bellies.

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Army Corps of Engineers have been working with tags since 2001. This newest version is the smallest yet, about the size of two grains of rice. The older tags are three times heavier.

A long-negotiated series of agreements to manage water in the Klamath Basin in Southern Oregon and Northern California received Senate committee passage Thursday.

“This legislation is the result of a historic collaboration of efforts,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden during the committee meeting.

A little-known fact about Columbia River dams is that a valuable chunk of the power generated on the U.S. side goes to Canada under an international treaty.

More dams are being removed from rivers as they get older and no longer produce hydropower. Researchers have found after these dams come down, rivers return to their natural state surprisingly fast.

Over the years lots of sediment backs up behind dams. Ecologists have worried the release of that sediment would harm habitat and cause flooding.

KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

The waters of the Elwha River are clear right now, for a change.

For nearly three years, this glacier-fed river on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula has been sluicing millions of tons of sediment that were held back for a century by a pair of dams.