The ecology of dams and dam removal: The Savage Rapids Dam, Rogue River, OR (Part 2)

A map of the Rogue River Basin. Borrowed from rogueriverkeeper.org

A map of the Rogue River Basin and associated Chinook salmon runs. Borrowed from rogueriverkeeper.org

By Nate Hough-Snee

Case one: the Savage Rapids Dam, Rogue River, OR.

The Rogue River begins a 215-mile journey to the sea from Crater Lake, the remnant caldera from the eruption of Mt. Mazama in south central, Oregon. From Crater Lake the river snakes through Oregon’s lushly forested Cascade Range before heading through the Klamath Mountains and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and onward to the Pacific Ocean. Between the two mountain ranges, the river passes US Interstate 5 near Grants Pass, a former timber town and the county seat of Southern Oregon’s Josephine County. It’s near this point where the river seemingly parallels I-5, at which a major salvo was fired in the 21st century’s first Pacific Northwest dam wars.

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The ecology of dams and dam removal: fast times in the American West (Part 1)

A dam on the Chagrin River, Ohio.

A dam on the Chagrin River, Ohio.

By Nate Hough-Snee

When someone asks, “what is the signature of human beings on Earth?” what do you immediately think of? Does your mind wander to vast expanses of land converted to row-crop agriculture? Or do you think of a sea of urban pavement and rooftops? What about the earth’s brightened night sky, as captured from space? What systems have been ubiquitously changed, those large and small, across continents and cultures? Whatever your answer, many people can agree that the landscapes that humans have most heavily altered are those that they perhaps need most – water dependent ecosystems: streams, rivers and lakes. Continue reading

If a fish could write your water bill

Would these fish approve your water bill? Photo of Rio Grande chub (Gila pandora) courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

By Lauren Kuehne

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post Why the mayor wants you to have a green lawn: The dark side of water conservation where I “exposed” the open secret of declining support for water conservation programs. Water districts and utilities end up with a big problem when conservation – to put it bluntly – starts cutting into revenues generated by water consumption, forcing a rise in rates for the same water. This leads to bewildered and betrayed consumers and increasingly strapped public utilities who literally can’t afford conservation. At the end of that article, I promised a follow-up post on water rate structures (aka, what you see on your monthly bill) that utilities can use which promote conservation and meet revenue-for-infrastructure needs. It’s taken me a while to follow up, partly because every time I started researching and writing about water rate structures I found myself inexplicably dozing off. Luckily, once I sat down to it, the breakdown isn’t that complicated, so I am hopeful that it’s possible to stay awake for the exciting conclusion (yes, there is one!). Continue reading

Why the mayor wants you to a have a green lawn: The dark side of water conservation

By Lauren Kuehne

I recently met a new acquaintance (who shall remain nameless) that works in an agency (also nameless) that supplies water to a medium-sized metropolitan area (let’s call it “Somewhere, WA”). Over coffee, where I traded my stories in freshwater research for theirs from the convoluted hallways of freshwater management, I was surprised to learn that per capita use of water has dramatically declined in many urban areas over the last 20 years, largely a result of conservation programs telling us “No, brown lawns are in this year!” Continue reading