Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dam Removal Getting Underway on White Salmon

photo from The Columbian

Change is underway on the White Salmon River. Salmon are spawning above Condit Dam for the first time in 100 years and engineers are busy demolishing the dam in prep for October 26th, when the final 15 feet of Condit dam will be blasted away finally removing the antiquated dam. The Chinook are spawning above the dam thanks to an effort by US Fish and Wildlife Service biologists who rounded up a dozen pairs of fall chinook staging in the Lower White Salmon.

For salmon in the White Salmon passage the fish above the dam is a win win, providing natural colonization opportunities above the dam and ensuring that their offspring are not subject to the harsh conditions in the lower White Salmon as stored sediment quickly works its way out of the system.

Biologists hope to capture at least 500 of the estimated 2000 fall chinook which return to the Lower White salmon and pass the fish above the dam. Check out this article in the Columbian for more information detailing the capture effort and why biologists opted to allow salmon and steelhead to colonize the river naturally. Biologically, the situation on the White Salmon is very similar to that on the Elwha; small populations of wild salmon persist below the dam, fish which given access to the upper watershed will colonize and thrive. Unfortunately the management of the two systems couldn't be more different and currently the plan on the Elwha is to release nearly 4 million hatchery fish throughout the period following dam removal.

Also check out the White Salmon Time Lapse blog. It provides alot of coverage of the dam removal including frequent updates, lots of photos, videos and historical perspective.