Saturday, January 30, 2010

EIS Complete For Cle Elum Dam Fish Passage

The Bureau of Reclamation and Washington Department of Ecology have completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the construction of fish passage facilities at Cle Elum Dam in the Upper Yakima River Basin. This past summer cooperative efforts between the Yakama Nation and local agencies passed sockeye salmon into the Cle Elum River above the dam for the first time in more than 100 years. Fish passage facilities will likely include a juvenile fish intake strucutre with the dam and a trap and haul operation for upstream migrating adults and would open upwards of 500 river miles draining 230 square miles as spawning and rearing habitat. The project is expected to benefit Spring Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Summer Steelhead and Bull Trout.

Sockeye are completely absent from the Upper Yakima Basin and recovery efforts will require supplementation to recolonize the newly available habitat. Plans to reintroduce Coho through hatchery supplementation are also in place. This is an exciting project that will open miles of high quality, historically accessible habitat and it is important that wild fish are allowed to colonize Cle Elum River habitats naturally and any supplementation project have clearly defined goals for population establishment with a predefined time-line for discontinuing supplementation. Chinook and Steelhead should both be allowed to recolonize naturally, ensuring the establishment of locally adapted stocks of both species through natural, colonization mechanisms such as straying.

Resident Rainbow trout provide a large genetic reservoir for steelhead reestablishment. On the Elwha River, predam removal monitoring has discovered that rainbow populations above the dam routinely produce smolts despite the fact that the population has been isolated from anadromy for over 100 years. With fish passage facilities in place, the population should gradually shift to a more anadromous dominated lifehistory.

Spring Chinook Salmon already spawn in the Upper Yakima Basin and undoubtedly fish will stay into the Cle Elum Basin. With fish passage facilities should allow these stray Upper Yakima Chinook into the Upper Cle Elum River.

See the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Full EIS on the Bureau of Recs website:

Public Comments on the EIS and fish Reintroduction Efforts can be made until March 22nd. Comments should be addressed to:

Ms. Candace McKinley
Environmental Protection Specialist
Columbia-Cascades Area Office
1917 Marsh Road
Yakima, Washington 98901-1749

Talking points:

-Cle Elum Fish passage is an excellent project and should be implemented as quickly as possible

-Hatchery supplementation in the Cle Elum Basin should be limited to species with no immediately available downstream source population.

-Hatchery supplementation should not be implemented for Steelhead/Rainbow Trout or Spring Chinook, both of which should be allowed to recolonize through natural processes.

-Any hatchery supplementation should be managed as a conservation hatchery, not for fisheries enhancement and should have clear goals for the establishment of wild, locally adapted populations of wild salmonids. Hatchery supplementation should also have clear, pre-established timelines for discontinuation.

-Steelhead which voluntarily enter the trap and haul facility should be passed into the Upper Cle Elum. Populations of resident rainbow trout routinely produce smolts which may return as wild steelhead. If these fish are excluded from the passage facility the anadromous lifehistory will never recover.

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