Without efforts to protect the waters that support wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest, this keystone species may be headed toward total extinction. The Columbia River, which rises in the mountains of British Columbia and flows south into the U.S. through Washington state and Oregon, was once one of the world’s most productive salmon systems. Once central to the region’s culture and economies, the absence of salmon now shapes the region. Many Columbia River Basin salmon populations are already extinct; of those remaining, thirteen are endangered and over 80% are mass-produced in hatcheries instead of spawning naturally in the wild. The Columbia is also the most hydroelectrically engineered river system on Earth with more than 400 dams on the Columbia and its tributaries. In recent years, rising operation and maintenance costs combined with the proliferation of less expensive renewable energy, have lowered demand for electricity from the dams and rendering them obsolete.
What can be done?
Updating our outdated 19th Century operating framework to align with today’s understanding of two energy systems on the Columbia River – one electrical and one biological – can lead to the largest river restoration project in U.S. history, and creating a robust and distributed power grid, while fundamentally reshaping our relationship to the natural world in this region.
How Columbia Rediviva is meeting the challenge:
Columbia Rediviva is communications platform about the Columbia River Basin – its literal and figurative power structures, its salmon, its water, and its regional economy. Columbia Rediviva’s goal is to help area stakeholders make the best decisions – for their communities and for salmon – as dams are dismantled.