Opinion Columns & Blogs

State, PUD plan to truck salmon around Columbia River dam

The first upstream-bound Columbia River spring chinook salmon and summer steelhead have been seen successfully passing up and over the newly jerry-rigged left bank fish ladder at damaged Wanapum Dam near Beverly in Central Washington.

The dam's owner/operator Grant County PUD, in cooperation with a host of state, federal and tribal agencies, has been scrambling since February to modify Wanapum's fish passage facility after drastically lowering the reservoir level in response to the finding of a structural crack in a main dam spillway.

Additionally, the dam operators are cooperating with state and federal officials and agricultural irrigators to facilitate water withdrawals so neither crops nor juvenile fish will be harmed during the emergency draw-down.

As of Wednesday, April 16 some 31 adult chinook and 102 steelhead have been counted exiting the headworks of the fish ladder into the lowered Wanapum Reservoir heading for Rock Island Dam the next Columbia Rover hurdle 36-miles upstream.

As a back-up to the salmon making volitional passage on their own, state fish and wildlife managers announced Monday, April 14 a two-fold approach to insure this years run gets to their Upper Columbia Basin spawning grounds.

The first is to radio tag vanguard fish to track their progress through the reservoirs and over the dams and the second, if necessary, is setting up a contingent tanker truck shuttle for adult fish that would bypass the two reservoirs between Priest Rapids and Rock Island dams.

Managers are expecting 20,000 spring chinook, both hatchery and federally protect wild fish, followed by summer and fall stock chinook and 400,000 sockeye salmon.

For more details about Wanapum Dam and the Columbia River salmon migration visit: http://grantpud.org/your-pud/media-room/wanapum-dam-spillway-response#faqnoanchor