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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

July 21, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Salmon upstream in White Salmon for first time in 99 years

The Yakama Indian Nation and USGS confirmed this week that salmon are back in the upstream reaches of the White Salmon River for the first time in nearly a century.

Steelhead@BZ Falls_White Salmon Basin.jpg

An adult steelhead jumps at BZ Falls on the White Salmon River, nine miles upstream of the former Condit Dam.

Photo by Jeanette Burkhardt, Yakama Nation Fisheries

Condit is The Other Dam Removal. Were it not for the monster Elwha project, this dam removal on the White Salmon would have received much more attention, as well it should. Taking out the Condit Dam on the White Salmon is the third largest dam removal project anywhere — after Elwha and Glines Canyon Dam.

Contractors for PacifiCorp blew up Condit with a load of dynamite last October.

Penned up since the 125-foot tall dam was completed in 1913, the White Salmon quickly found its natural channel. Detonating the dam was possible because of the vastly smaller amount of sediment behind Condit — about 2.4 million cubic yards, or 1/10 the volume stuck behind Glines and Elwha dams.

Built with fish ladders, Condit’s fish passage equipment was rudimentary and blew out in floods leaving the dam without any fish passage since 1918.

This week, the first salmon and steelhead were witnessed returning to the White Salmon above where the dam used to be. “We see these salmon as leaders that are creating a path for the other salmon to come back,” said Virgil Lewis, chairman of the Yakama’s fish and wildlife committee.

The fish were seen at Husum Falls and BZ Falls. Both locatiosn are upstream from the former Condit Dam at river mile 3.3.

For more on the Condit Dam removal, see my stories in the Seattle Times

For some very cool documentation of the ongoing restoration project on the White Salmon see this link.

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