Friday, August 27, 2010

Changes on the White Salmon River

(Photo: Courtesy of Wikepedia)

Two decades ago the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission instructed Southwest Washington that they had to stop planting hatchery steelhead into one of their rivers and they decided on the Wind River. A river rich in history and sought after for its early spring run summer steelhead. This off course disgusted and outraged many of the locals. Now with this about to occur again on the White Salmon River, a public meeting is going to be held on August 31st in preparation of the public reaction.

The White Salmon River flows south off the Mount Adam's glacier. This river feeds into the Columbia River at Underwood, Washington. Condit Dam located 3.3 river miles up from the mouth forms Northwestern Lake and is not only blocking natural stream flow, but also salmon and steelhead migration to the vast majority of the watershed. With the current plans for removal, there is an estimated 33 miles of habitat for steelhead and 14 miles of habitat for chinook, chum and coho salmon.

With the approximate removal of 2011 for this 97 year old dam, plans are being made to remove hatchery winter and summer steelhead from this scenario as an added benefit for native fish. Though the removal of this obsolete dam is an obvious sign of the times, the removal of its hatchery fish will effect the locals that enjoy this river for its angling opportunities. In my eyes this is a small price to pay, but then again this river is not in my backyard. The amount of stray native and hatchery fish in this fishery in the summer is large regardless due to the thermal refuge the river provides to migratory fish that swim up from the Columbia in the hot summer months while on there journey to tributaries in Eastern Washington, Oregon and Idaho. These fish should provide ample angling opportunities for locals, not to mention the neighboring Klickitat and Little White Salmon River. Though the dam will be removed and water temperatures will be higher with stream flow not coming off the bottom of a reservoir, stream temperatures will still allow a thermal refuge like that in neighboring rivers.

Will the removal of this dam help the few native steelhead and salmon return to this watershed, especially with native only being able to spawn in the 3.3 miles below the dam for almost a century (failed fish ladders were destroyed from floods.)? Only time will tell, but one thing in certain, we are going to try and make it happen. With scientific data indicating hatchery fish are detrimental to native species, removing hatchery fish is needed to help our native species return. We owe it to the resource to see how remarkable Mother Nature really is. Read more courtesy of The Columbian and Free the White Salmon River.

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