Salmon moved to native waters before Condit Dam is breached

first_imgSee a video of the transfer.WHITE SALMON RIVER — Two dozen spawning fall chinook salmon took a ride home Friday to a place they’d never known.Fish biologists deployed boats, nets, weirs and truck-mounted tanks to move the husky spawners out of the way of the massive sediment plume that will be unleashed in late October, when 98-year-old Condit Dam is breached. These particular salmon were transported in tanks to the town of Husum, where they slid down a chute into the clear blue-green waters above Rattlesnake Rapid and, with a sweep of their muscular tails, swam away. Federal biologists hope to capture at least 500 tule fall chinook by the end of the run and set them free in their native waters above the dam. Two years of trial runs have convinced them that these fish will gravitate to the places where their distant ancestors spawned until the White Salmon River was dammed nearly a century ago. In 2008, the biologists scrapped plans to transport the returning fall chinook to the nearby Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery, where tule fall chinook were reared from 1901 through the 1970s, in favor of setting them loose in the free-flowing river above the dam, a process called “adult outplanting.” “We discussed artificial propagation, but there was a consensus we would do natural colonization instead,” said Rod Engle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fish biologist who is heading the salmon relocation program. “Some amount of natural propagation already was happening. Fall chinook were going up to the face of the dam.” Not every fish returning to the lower river over the next six weeks will get this red-carpet treatment. Bright fall chinook and steelhead just passing through on their way upriver will be on their own when a 15-foot-diameter hole at the base of the 90-foot-thick dam opens, releasing up to 2.7 million cubic yards of sediment that has built up over the lifetime of the dam. Only the tule fall chinook and steelhead native to the White Salmon will be rescued. That’s because both are protected as threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.last_img

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