River Flow for Riparian Health
Authors: Robert S. Cole
For more than eighty years the Skokomish Nation on Hood Canal in Washington State has been in dispute about the diversion of the North Fork of the Skokomish River for a hydroelectric project. The diversion of the North Fork’s flow left no water downstream, which negatively impacted the salmon population that the Skokomish had traditionally fished. The attempts to relicense the two dams on the North Fork resulted in a protracted legal struggle that is still ongoing. However, Tacoma Power (owner of the dams) agreed in March of 2008 to release a fraction of the water that they had been diverting, and agreed to release this water in a constant flow. The manner in which water is released from a dam on a river has a huge impact on the downstream health of the riparian system. This case will examine constant flow and variable flow options for release of water from dam on the North Fork of the Skokomish River. It is a case about making Tribal judgments based on scientific approaches.