Rising river temps threaten Columbia River salmon

September 10, 2011

As summer temperatures peak into and above the 90s, the Columbia River often warms up to a pleasant 70 degrees or so; an ideal temperature for people looking to cool off or play in the water on a hot day.

As refreshing as it might feel to people, however, to Columbia River salmon the rising river temperature is a major threat.

Salmon are happiest in 41 to 55 degrees, notes Hood River-based Columbia Riverkeeper, which regularly collects water quality data from 64 sites throughout the Columbia basin. Now in its fifth year, the monitoring program uses trained volunteers to test for characteristics like temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and fecal bacteria.

Riverkeeper noted that recent testing results show extensive breaching of Washington's water quality standards, particularly with regards to water temperature during the hottest period of the summer. Results show the river often hovers between 70 and 75 degrees through the heat of the summer, putting salmon and steelhead under significant stress, reducing growth rates and putting them at risk to disease and predation.

In response to its findings, Riverkeeper recently submitted data to the Washington Department of Ecology, which Riverkeeper said is required by law to use to conduct a statewide assessment of whether water bodies are meeting safety limits for swimming, fishing and threatened salmon species.

"The new data shows that many sites on the Columbia River frequently reach 70 degrees; a temperature that is simply too warm for salmon survival," said Lorri Epstein, water quality director for Riverkeeper. "We have the data; the time is now for action."

Epstein said that, upon receiving Riverkeeper's data, Washington is now required by the Clean Water Act to take action to improve water quality to meet the safe limits.

"Ongoing monitoring is critical to understanding the health of the river and to ensure a rapid response when problems arise," she continued.

Riverkeeper noted that temperature is the most pervasive issue facing the Columbia River today, and it is arguably one of the biggest threats to the survival of salmon and steelhead. The high temperatures are a result of reduced flows, dams, loss of shade trees and thermal pollution from municipal and industrial outfall, power plants and stormwater.

Salmon can survive only if they have access to cold water, the agency stated. With the help of volunteers, it is working to identify, protect and restore cool water refuges that have become critical to the survival of salmon in the Columbia Basin.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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