Global Climate Negotiations
Salmon Management in Pacific Northwest
Municipal Solid Waste Siting Project
Golf Resort Water Project

Ecology Management & Conflict Resolution

OVERVIEW: You have probably heard the debate about the disadvantages of both nuclear energy and fossil fuel energy. And, you may have been led to believe that hydroelectric power does not have any negative environmental effects associated with it. In this case we will examine the controversy surrounding hydroelectric power by looking at a hypothetical example that relates to a real-life controversy currently being played out in the Pacific Northwest.

PROJECT OBJECTIVES: You have to develop a system-wide river basin management program with the primary objective of maintaining the current salmon population while improving its long-term viability. However, each group of students represents a different stakeholder involved in this issue as follows:

  • Regional Planning Council
  • Native American Treaty Tribe
  • Organization of Commercial Salmon Fishermen
  • Dam Manager
  • Utility Company
  • Save the Salmon Environmentalist Group
  • Economic Development Council
  • State Fish and Wildlife Service

PROJECT SCENARIO: The hypothetical river is a large multiple use water resource in the Pacific Northwest. The river serves the purposes of recreation, irrigation, hydroelectric power generation, commercial fishing, and so on.

Recent debate over the preservation of salmon in the river centers around a decline in population over the last century from 10 to 16 million fish to approximately 2 million fish, and a loss of over a third of the salmon's habitat. Of the remaining fish, only a few hundred thousand are naturally spawning while the remainder come from hatchery production. The viability of the salmon population is currently affected by a combination of fishing, dam obstruction of migratory patterns, pollution, disease, extreme climate events, predators, and so on.

In response to the decline in salmon population, Congress has empowered the Regional Planning Council to develop a system-wide river basin management program with the objective of maintaining the current salmon population while improving long-term viability. A public hearing will be held where different interest groups (stakeholders) will have a chance to present their suggestions as to the form this program should take. The Council will use these presentations as well as other information to make a decision. The Council will then present its draft program to the stakeholders and hold discussions. The council is in full control of the meeting. This entire case study is based on the Columbia River Basin.

ASSIGNMENT: Each group will develop a river basin management system for the region that includes specific policy considerations for the Council. Each recommendation from a stakeholder group must include the combination of proposed strategies, the overall costs and benefits of the program (qualitatively), and a justification of why this is the best plan. On the scheduled date, each group will have 5 minutes each to present its plan to the Regional Planning Council. The Regional Planning Council will have a total of 10 minutes to ask the groups questions. The Council may allow some questions from the rest of the audience. The Council will then incorporate these comments into their pre-prepared plan and announce the final decision. Each of the groups must also turn in a 3-page written position piece outlining its rationale - this means the plan and justification for why it should be adopted. The written deliverable must include a concept map highlighting the issues and a decision matrix to decide between alternatives (these can be in addition to the 3 pages).

You are free to research this as much as you want. Your grade will depend on the extent of substantiated points. Cite all references used. Be careful to both use reliable sources and to adopt the role of the stakeholder you represent. Besides the internet (especially newspaper articles), the following books have substantial relevant information: Compass and Gyroscope by Kai Lee, Island Press, 1993; and Upstream, National Research Council, 1996. The website also has an extensive collection of information on the subject.

HOW TO PREPARE: As you are researching ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the problem that must be solved? Why is it complicated? What are the issues?

  • Characterize the case with tools we are using (e.g. concept map, the decision matrix)

  • Who are the main stakeholder groups? What are their objectives? Are they conflicting?

  • What are the alternative solutions to the problem?

  • What criteria can be used to evaluate the options?


Concept map of factors that influence your recommended plan 15
Decision matrix 15
Justification of recommendation (written) 30
Format including citations/references 10
Presentation 30
Total 100
  ©Copyright 2003 Carnegie Mellon University
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 9653194. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.