Getting fish over dams and natural barriers may get a lot
easier as more and more Northwest fisheries managers test the “salmon cannon.”
This week Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries biologists looked at
sites in Idaho and Oregon where the salmon cannon, made by the Bellevue, Wash.
company Whooshh, could provide solutions for fish passage.
Jay Hesse of Nez Perce Fisheries said there are several
places salmon cannons could be used – in Idaho on the Little Salmon River at
New Meadows, over a velocity barrier on the south fork of the Clearwater River,
Dworshak Dam in Orofino, the highest straight face dam in the U.S., and Wallowa
Lake, Ore., where the nearly 100-year old dam has no fish passage.
Historically, Wallowa Lake was one of only two Oregon lakes (the
other is Suttle Lake) with a population of sockeye salmon, of which both the
tribe and the state have a long-held interest in restoring.
“We are looking at various options at fish passage to bring
back sockeye,” Hesse said.
He said the Associated Ditch Company, the dam’s owner, will
determine what fish passage to build when the dam is reconstructed, but the
salmon cannon could be a way to restore sockeye without a ladder.
“The Whooshh wouldn’t be our preferred alternative, but
could be a short or long-term solution until there is fish passage,” Hesse
The dam was constructed in 1916 and rebuilt in 1929, to
store 44,000 acre-feet of water for irrigation. The structure was listed as a
‘high-hazard’ structure in 1996 by the Oregon Water Resources Department and
currently stores only 30,000 acre-feet of water.
A report released by the Associated Ditch Company, the tribe
and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the three entities seek a
solution to rehabilitate the dam, continue its use for irrigation and provide
The salmon cannon would help other species move between the
lake and the river like bull trout, summer steelhead, kokanee, white fish,
suckers, lamprey and coho salmon.
Both permanent and temporary salmon cannons can be designed
for each particular barrier, Dearden said. If the tribe used a temporary model
it could just be used as infrequently as when adult sockeye would enter the
lake to spawn in late summer.
Steve Dearden, a sales representative for Whooshh, said the
system is volitional and works when a fish swims into the device. Water pushes
fish through the tubes at 25 feet per second.
Dearden said, “They are moving in wet air.”
The technology is new, but tests are being run to judge
whether the salmon cannon is a safer method than trapping and hauling fish
around barriers. So far, Tom Shearer, Whooshh president, said fish are coming
“They enter the water head first,” Shearer said. “As they
enter the water they come out swimming.”
-- CBB, Nov. 14, 2014, “Whooshh System, Known As Salmon
Cannon, Gets Popular Science Award; Used On Washougal River” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432625.aspx
-- CBB, Jan. 16, 2015, “Tribes Lay Out Process For
Investigating Feasibility Of Salmon Reintroduction Above Grand Coulee Dam” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432935.aspx