The Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. is home to the greatest hydroelectric system in the world. Its dams provide 75 percent of the power needs of nearly 10 million people. But the dams also create numerous obstacles to the survival of what was once the world’s greatest salmon fishery. The region spends over $500 million annually to try to restore the fishery and ensure its future survival. However, the changes in river operations implemented to meet fish needs make it much more difficult to meet other environmental goals, such as the development of renewable electric power resources. Renewable resources would help to alleviate the risks associated with global warming. This paper demonstrates an unfortunate irony: that the renewable resources advocated by environmental interests are incompatible with a hydro system that is operated for fish. Such resources could add billions of dollars to the costs of electric power, while providing minimal environmental benefits. Saving the fish and reducing greenhouse gases are two environmental goals that do not appear to be compatible.
Keywords: Columbia River, salmon, carbon, greenhouse gases, renewable resources
Buchanan, S.C. Power, Fish, and the Greenhouse on the Columbia River. In: Microbehavior and Macroresults: Proceedings of the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade, July 10-14, 2000, Corvallis, Oregon, USA. Compiled by Richard S. Johnston and Ann L. Shriver. International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade (IIFET), Corvallis, 2001.