Dam Tap Shutoff May Send Steelhead Upriverby Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, September 11, 2003
Dworshak Dam's cold water faucet will shut soon and perhaps send as many a 10,000 steelhead on their way up the Snake and Salmon rivers.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin reducing flows from the dam today from 8,000 cubic feet per second to about 1,500 cfs by Monday or Tuesday.
The summertime cold water releases often entice A-run steelhead to nudge into the Clearwater River or hang out at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers. But the water will be exhausted by this weekend, when the elevation of Dworshak Reservoir reaches 80 feet below full pool.
Tens of thousands of A-run and B-run steelhead continue to make their way up the Snake and Columbia rivers. Most A-run steelhead spend one year in the ocean and return to the Snake and upper Columbia River basins. Most B-run steelhead spend two years in the ocean before returning to the Clearwater and Salmon rivers.
The Snake River run has been slow to arrive this year. Through Tuesday, 10,445 steelhead had been counted at Lower Granite Dam, 35 miles west of Clarkston. The 10-year average for this time of year is 13,818 steelhead and more than double that many fish had returned by this time last year and the year before.
Joe Hymer of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Vancouver said the fish are coming, but have stalled in the Bonneville Dam pool because of warm water temperatures.
"The fish this year have kegged up in Drano Lake in the White Salmon River," he said. "They are taking a little time getting over The Dalles (Dam) and that is probably related to the warm water temperatures."
Hymer said about two-thirds of the A-run fish have passed Bonneville Dam and one-third of the larger B-run fish are on their way. Predictions call for 290,000 A-run steelhead to pass Bonneville Dam and 56,700 B-runs. He said the B-run appears to be smaller than forecast, but the part of the run made up of wild steelhead is larger than predicted.
One B-run steelhead has already entered Dworshak National Fish Hatchery at Ahsahka, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Ralph Roseberg.
Efforts to open a season on fall chinook jacks on the Snake River are proceeding, according to Glen Mendel of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Dayton. Mendel said the proposed season is being discussed by the states of Washington and Oregon and Snake and Columbia River Indian tribes, which meet regularly to set salmon fishing seasons.
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