The most often heard claims in support of large scale hydroelectric development are: (1) hydropower generation is 'clean', (2) water flowing freely to the ocean is 'wasted', and (3) local residents (usually aboriginals) will benefit from the development. These three claims are critically examined using case histories from Canada and elsewhere in the world. The critique is based mainly on journal articles and books, material that is readily available to the public, and reveals that the three claims cannot be supported by fact. Nevertheless, large scale hydroelectric development continues on a worldwide basis. The public needs to be well informed about the environmental and social consequences of large scale hydroelectic development in order to narrow the gap between its wishes for environmental protection and what is really occurring.
This article presents and overview of the hydropower industry and summarizes two recent events that have greatly influenced relicensing and environmental issues. First, the US Supreme Court's May 1994 Tacoma decision raised fundamental questions about who has the authority to relicense hydroelectric power plants. Second, under the Endangered Species Act, Federal agencies are required to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize protected species and their habitat. The impact of the Act has been particularly significant recently for the federally owned facilities in the Pacific Northwest that are presently under streamflow restrictions aimed at aiding endangered local fish populations.
Modifications of lower watersheds such as water abstraction, channel modification, land-use changes, nutrient enrichment, and toxic discharge can set off a cascade of events upstream that are often overlooked. This oversight is of particular concern since most rivers are altered by humans in their lower drainages and most published ecological investigations of lotic systems have focused on headwater streams. Factors contributing to ecological processes or biophysical legacies in upper watersheds often go unacknowledged because they occur at disparate geographic locations downstream (e.g., gravel mining, water abstraction, dams) with significant lag times. This paper considers examples of how alterations to streams and rivers in their lower reaches can produce biophysical legacies in upstream reaches on levels from genes to ecosystems. Examples include: 1) genetic- and species-level changes, such as reduced genetic flow and variation in isolated upstream populations; 2) populations-and community-level changes that occur when degraded downstream areas act as population "sinks" for "source" populations of native species upstream or, conversely, as "source" populations of exotic species that migrate upstream; and 3) ecosystem-and landscape-level changes (e.g., nutrient cycling, primary productivity, regional patterns of biodiversity) that can occur in headwater systems as a result of downstream habitat deterioration and hydrologic modifications. Finally, a case study from my own research illustrates the importance of careful consideration of downstream-upstream linkages in formulating research questions, designing experiments, making predictions, and interpreting results. The effects of dams and associated water abstraction in lowland streams of Puerto Rico has forced my colleagues and me to re-evaluate the results of ecological research that we have conducted in highland streams over the past decade and to redirect our research that we have conducted in highland streams over the past decade and to redirect our research to consider downstream-upstream linkages.
Pringle, Catherine, Inst. Of Ecology, Univ. of Georgia, Inst. Of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 30602-0000
This paper examines the effects of dam construction and operation in the Columbia River Basin on salmon populations. While the hydrograph of the Columbia River has been significantly impacted by dams, the seasonality of regulated flow on the Snake River has been less affected. The Snake River storage has been used for agricultural diversion while the Columbia has been for electrical generation. The reservoir system has effects on flow velocities, water chemistry (nitrogen supersaturation), habitat availability and reliability, and stream temperatures. Dams block about one third of the Columbia River watershed to access by anadromous fish.
Effects of Dams on Salmon;
Fish kills occur as a result of several characteristics of dams. Bruising, descailing, and stress caused by by-pass facilities; susceptibility to prey following delivery from by-pass to outfall; estuary damage; effects on the homing ability of fish; limited success in fish use of by-pass facilities. The effect of migration speed on smolt survival is uncertain but assumed to have an impact. More research is necessary.
Mitigation of Dam's Effects on Salmon:
Seven measures for mitigation of dams' effects on salmon are discussed
1. Fish passage facilities 2. Predator control 3. Transportation 4. Spill 5. Flow augmentation 6. Reservoir drawdown 7. Dam removal.