reconfigured left bank fish ladder at central Washington’s Wanapum Dam was
watered up Tuesday and, right on call, 10 spring chinook salmon and 46
steelhead climbed the steps and vanished up the Columbia River in search of
spawning areas and/or the hatchery of their birth.
completely vanished, but considerably eased, were anxieties about whether or
not spawning salmon and steelhead would be able to make their way upriver past
Wanapum, where passage as of late February became impossible when water levels
upstream were forced downward.
then the dam’s operators, in collaboration with a host of interested parties
developed an emergency plan for getting fish past the dam until such time as a
cracked Wanapum spillway pier can be repaired and the dam’s reservoir is raised
back to normal levels.
was the first day of what I call the new world,” said Jeff Korth, regional fish
manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
events this week Korth said he was “very optimistic” that spawning runs this
spring-into-fall season can proceed largely unimpeded.
of mid-afternoon Wednesday, which was the second day of operations at Wanapum’s
remodeled left bank fish ladder, a total of 31 spring chinook and 102 steelhead
had successfully climbed up and over into the reservoir above.
results reveal that modifications to Wanapum and Rock Island dam’s fish ladders
are allowing safe passage to upstream migrating adult salmon and steelhead,”
according to a joint press release from the two public utility districts that
own the dams. “Direct observation studies demonstrate salmon successfully
navigating the modified ladder and passing upstream.
fish are the first of an anticipated 15,000 spring chinook expected to make
their way up the Columbia River to spawning habitat. Nearly 4,000 of those
spring chinook are expected to be wild, naturally spawning fish, and the entire
run is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
miles upstream from Wanapum, three steelhead and eight whitefish passed over
Rock Island Dam ladders. The first official fish counts began this week at Rock
of Wanapum’s lowered pool elevation, work has been done to extend Rock Island’s
ladders to assure access for migrating fish. Wanapum, and Priest Rapids
downstream on the mid-Columbia, are owned by Grant County PUD. Rock Island is
owned by Chelan County PUD.
structural flaw, a 65-foot-long crack across one of Wanapum’s spillway piers,
was noticed Feb. 27 and forced a drawdown of the reservoir behind the dam as a
means of reducing stress on the damaged structure.
lower reservoir level is being maintained while investigators search for causes
and potential remedies for the fractured facility, which causes a variety of
problems, not the least of which is incapacitating the hydro project’s fish
ladders, which provide passage for salmon and steelhead, lamprey, bull trout
and other species.
construction workers raced against the clock to make fish ladders at Wanapum
Dam operational at the lowered water level, state fishery managers were
standing ready to implement alternate plans to move spring chinook salmon up
the Columbia River.
request from stakeholders and agencies, Grant PUD and the Washington Department
of Fish and Wildlife began a program Tuesday to trap migrating adult spring
chinook salmon at Priest Rapids Dam and haul them above Wanapum Dam until the
ladder modifications are evaluated under working conditions.
total of three steelhead were trapped and hauled around the dam that first day.
spring chinook are still just starting to get here,” Korth said.
total of 474 adult spring chinook had been counted so far this year – most of
them over the past week -- at McNary Dam, located about 105 river miles
downstream from Priest Rapids.
has been scrambling to modify the fish ladders at Wanapum to make them
operational by April 15.
stakes are very high, especially given the number of wild spring chinook
involved," said Jim Brown, regional WDFW director for north-central Washington.
"Grant County PUD is doing a great job, but all of us have a role to play
in getting those fish upriver to spawn."
the current plan, WDFW will intercept salmon at Priest Rapids Dam and truck
most of them around Wanapum Dam, 19 miles upriver. Working in rotation,
experienced drivers will haul the salmon in eight tanker trucks, each capable
of moving up to 1,500 fish a day.
is believed that changes to the Rock Island fish ladders, essentially “adding
some steps,” will provide access that will be as efficient as before the
drawdown, Brown said.
the same time, about 250 hatchery-reared fish -- identifiable by a clipped
adipose fin -- will be fitted with coded and radio tags and released from the
Priest Rapids facility to negotiate the newly configured fish ladders at
tags will allow us to track those salmon, and determine whether they are able
to get over the dam on the reconfigured fish ladders," Brown said.
"That will tell us when it's safe to suspend the trucking operation, and
allow the fish to move past Wanapum on their own."
plan was unanimously approved by the Priest Rapids Coordinating Committee, a
multi-jurisdictional organization established in 2004 to oversee hydroelectric
projects in the mid-Columbia region.
its part, Grant PUD will continue to refine the dam's fish ladders as needed to
facilitate the movement of salmon past Wanapum Dam. Rock Island Dam is 38 miles
extension at Rock Island’s right bank ladder was up and running by midweek with
a second extension there expected to be completed by today. The right bank
ladder is where an estimated 70 percent or more of the spawners pass upstream. At
Wanapum 80 percent or more typically pass up through the left bank laddere.
or without the extensions the Rock Island ladders are now functional because of
seasonal high flows. The extensions will be more vital to passage later in the
spring-summer season, when flows are lower and the numbers of fish, sockeye and
summer and fall chinook salmon in particular, are expected to be much higher.
PUD has spent an estimated $4.3 million over the past month and a half to have
the ladder extensions installed, according to the utility’s Suzanne Hartman.
Wanapum ladder and related work has cost about $3 million. That total includes
money expected to be spent for the trap and haul operation, and for monitoring
and evaluation of fish survival and migration behavior up and down through the
river system this spring and summer, Grant’s Thomas Stredwick said. Another
$666,000 is being spent by Grant for engineering and other work aim at
evaluating the spill bay pier and formulating potential repair options. Those
costs also include the need to police the bared shoulders of the lowered reservoir,
now off limits to the public.
said fishery managers are counting on the success of those measures to move
fish upstream, because the trucking option will become less and less viable as
larger runs of migrating salmon move into the area.
in June, salmon managers are anticipating a run of up to 80,000 summer chinook,
followed by 400,000 sockeye salmon and 300,000 fall chinook salmon.
can handle the spring chinook run with tanker trucks if that becomes
necessary," Brown said. "But there simply aren't enough trucks,
trained personnel, or hours in the day to move the number of salmon we're
expecting later in the year."
said WDFW will continue to work closely with members of the Priest Rapids
Coordinating Committee to address issues as they arise at Wanapum Dam. That
group includes representatives from NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service, WDFW, Colville Confederated Tribes, Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes
of the Umatilla Reservation and Grant PUD staff.
said he keeps running the details of the joint operation through his mind as
the spring chinook run draws near.
do all of these things -- trapping, tagging and transporting fish -- all the
time as part of our jobs," Korth said. "But this time we'll be doing them
under very different circumstances."
additional information, visit:
“Fish Counts” on Chelan PUDs home page
more information, see:
CBB, April 11, 2014, “Wanapum Dam: Tribes Urge Feds To Be ‘Proactive’ In
Requiring Monitoring, Evaluation Of Fish Passage” http://www.cbbulletin.com/430361.aspx
CBB, April 4, 2014, “Fish Passage Fixes At Wanapum Dam To Be Completed April
15; Trap/Truck First Weeks Of Spring Run” http://www.cbbulletin.com/430262.aspx
CBB, March 14, 2014, “Wanapum Dam Crack: With Spring Chinook On the Way
Upstream Fish Passage High Priority” http://www.cbbulletin.com/430013.aspx
CBB, March 7, 2014, “Crack In Wanapum Dam:Reservoir Drawn Down 26 Feet,
Officials Assess Options, Fish Passage Strategies” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429942.aspx