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Colville Tribes Use ‘Whooshh’ System To Collect, Transport Salmon For Hatchery Needs
Posted on Friday, October 13, 2017 (PST)

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation put a new fish transport system to work in collecting summer chinook salmon for hatchery purposes, with better-than-satisfying results.

 

“It works great,” said Senior Research Scientist Casey Baldwin, referring to the Whooshh system that was used on the Columbia River at its confluence with the Okanogan River, and at a fish weir about 17 miles up the Okanogan.

 

The Whooshh system uses volitional pressure differences to quickly and gently move fish through patented, flexible tubes. A representative of Whooshh Innovations, a Bellevue, Wash.-based company, has described the technology’s application as moving fish in “wet air” with a head-first return to water as an alternative to slower, often-difficult manual operations.

 

It used to take about 90 seconds for workers to haul individual 10 to 25-pound fish in a rubber “boot” sling from the Dream Catcher tribal fishing vessel’s live wells to a tanker truck destined for the Chief Joseph Hatchery.

 

The Whooshh system moved fish the same distance in about seven seconds.

 

“It’s way easier for staff, instead of having to boot the fish,” Baldwin said. “It’s really neat, the way the fish shoot through there. There doesn’t seem to be any mortality or effects on the eggs. It keeps the fish in the water longer.”

 

In the first part of August, the crew collected 573 wild and 543 hatchery chinook for the hatchery program from the boat, the weir and an associated fish ladder. Surplus hatchery fish were distributed among tribal members.

 

“We removed surplus summer chinook out of the fish ladder for distribution and we also removed a small handful of sockeye,” said Taylor Scott, assistant manager at the Chief Joseph Hatchery. The total catch provided about 25 percent of the hatchery’s brood stock needs for the year.

 

The Whoosh system has been tested on several species in other locations with no known negative side effects, as long as entry into the tube and exit into the hatchery truck go smoothly.

 

“We intend to expand its use for more offloading of brood from the boat onto the truck,” Baldwin said. “It definitely was an improvement over the labor-intensive method we were using.”

 

Fisheries staff was also busy with spawning, marking and tagging salmon for release. Staff marked 2016 spring and summer chinook yearlings. Roughly two million juvenile salmon were fin-clipped and tagged, while 266 spring chinook pairs were spawned to provide just over a million eggs.

 

There is interest in the potential for using the Whooshh system for fish transport to long-blocked habitat above Chief Joseph Dam and central Washington’s Grand Coulee dam. The two “high-head” dams provide about 50 percent of power generated on the Columbia River power system, but they also are huge barriers for fish to reach about 40 percent of the Columbia’s historic habitat.

 

Tribal entities, along with federal and Canadian officials, advanced an 11-point exploratory plan related to the blocked habitat with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in 2015. One of the major items at the time was to “investigate utility and cost of the Whooshh technology for interim and permanent passage” at the dams.

 

That came on the heels of Bellevue, Wash.-based Whooshh Innovations winning a “Best of What’s New Award” from Popular Science for its proprietary technology. There were 100 winners of the magazine’s top honor out of thousands of applicants.

 

It was in 2014 that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife used the system to transport nearly 100 tons of live migratory hatchery-bound salmon 120 linear feet from the Washougal River.

 

Around the same time, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory funded a study testing a 40-foot and 250-foot systems for “trap and haul” operations.

 

A major salmon processer used a 500-foot system to move 25 tons of whole salmon daily.

 

Earlier this year, Nez Perce tribal fisheries staffers were looking at sites in Idaho and Oregon where the Whooshh system could be used to provide better fish passage. The Idaho locations included the Little Salmon River at New Meadows, on the South Fork of the Clearwater River, Dworshak Dam in Orofino — the highest straight-face dam in the U.S. — and Wallowa Lake in Oregon.

 

Cooperating partners, with some cost-sharing, of the Whooshh system’s use on the Okanogan were the Bonneville Power Administration, the Colville Tribes, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Grant, Chelan and Douglas county public utility districts.

 

For more information, see:

 

-- Whoosh Innovations, with photos, at http://whooshh.com/

 

-- CBB, May 6, 2016, “Wallowa Lake: Taking A Look At Viability Of ‘Salmon Cannon’ For Sockeye Fish Passage” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436663.aspx

 

-- 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

 

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