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Wallowa Lake: Taking A Look At Viability Of ‘Salmon Cannon’ For Sockeye Fish Passage
Posted on Friday, May 06, 2016 (PST)

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 said.


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 fish passage.


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 through unscathed.


“They enter the water head first,” Shearer said. “As they enter the water they come out swimming.”


Also see:


-- CBB, Nov. 14, 2014, “Whooshh System, Known As Salmon Cannon, Gets Popular Science Award; Used On Washougal River”


-- CBB, Jan. 16, 2015, “Tribes Lay Out Process For Investigating Feasibility Of Salmon Reintroduction Above Grand Coulee Dam”


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