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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 19, 2009 at 4:17 PM

Puget Sound turbines

Endanger countless species of marine life

The only green aspect of utilities looking to place power-generation turbines in Puget Sound will be the color of money they hope to make at the expense of extinction of Puget Sound salmon, halibut and orca whales [“Tidal-energy project on course after tests,” NW Wednesday, April 15].

Fishermen know that salmon and halibut inhabit the bottom 30 feet of the water column where utilities propose to install underwater turbines. These massive 30-foot-diameter turbines will decimate salmon and halibut, as well as the resident Puget Sound orca whales who feed on the salmon.

The unintended consequences of turbine-based underwater power generation will be on the magnitude of the decimation of the native salmon runs in our Northwest rivers caused by hydroelectric dams. The Bonneville Dam was erected in 1937 and was the first federal dam constructed on the Columbia. In less than 75 years, it and its sister dams have caused the near extinction of countless salmon and other species, leaving us spending hundred of millions of dollars yearly trying to replace them with weakened and genetically inferior hatchery strains. Admiralty Inlet is one of the few places left in Puget Sound that has a healthy underwater environment that is a critical habitat for Pacific halibut breeding.

Rockfish, lingcod, endangered nine-gill sharks and innumerable other species inhabit these waters as well. If these turbines are placed, the waters of Puget Sound will soon run red with the blood of these species.

There are current based-power generation technologies that do not require turbines that will be much less harmful to aquatic life. These include fishtail-like structures that sway in the current, rather than creating a wall of rapidly rotating sharp blades. These slowly swaying mechanisms could actually improve the underwater habitat by providing structure and shelter.

We should ban underwater turbines from the tidal waters of Puget Sound to protect our marine life.

— Benjamin Hu, Coupeville

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