Saturday, February 6, 2010

Walla Walla Irrigation Buyback

An effort is underway to secure funding for a 300 million dollar irrigation project that would restore flows to the lower Walla Walla and provide irrigation water from the Columbia or Snake system. The headwaters of the Walla Walla are in excellent condition, however irrigation withdrawal most years leaves the lower river without very little flow. Some years the channel even goes dry. A similar project on the Umatilla River has been extremely successful.

Efforts to reintroduce Spring Chinook to the Walla Walla began in 2000 when the tribe released 300 adult chinook in the Upper River. Since then number have gradually grown and in 2009, 800 chinook returned, the highest count since the reintroduction project began. Efforts to improve instream flows in the lower Walla Walla should help improve passage into the pristine upper watershed and expedite recovery of the listen salmon. Recovery of wild chinook however may be hindered by plans to construct a hatchery designed to release 500,000 chinook smolts annually. Unless actions are taken to minimize the reproductive interactions between wild chinook and hatchery origin fish, the population may be unable to recover fully. More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

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