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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

April 15, 2014 at 8:06 AM

Fisheries officials race to save salmon heading to damaged Wanapum Dam

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(The width of the Columbia River under the I-90 bridge at Vantage is much narrower since the drawdown of the Wanapum Dam reservoir. Photo by Alan Berner, Seattle Times staff photographer.)

When it comes to saving fish, the job just might be left up to trucks to save the day.

That is what state Fish and Wildlife intends to do as workers speedily to try to make the Wanapum Dam fish ladders functional again.

This news comes on the heels after a 65-foot-long fracture was discovered in a spillway pier on Feb. 27. The help alleviate the pressure dam operators dropped the water level behind the 185-foot dam by a record 26 feet, and left the fish ladders inoperable.

Trucks will be waiting if “Plan B” is necessary to shuttle migrating adult spring chinook up the Columbia River, some of which an estimated 20,000 are expected to arrive anytime now near Vantage.

Almost 4,000 of those springers are wild fish, and the entire run is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Grant County Public Utility District hopes to have the fish ladders working by April 15.

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State Fish and Wildlife plans to catch the spring chinook at Priest Rapids Dam and truck most of them around Wanapum Dam about 19 miles upriver. Working in rotation, drivers in eight tanker trucks, each capable of moving up to 1,500 fish a day coulf very well be the savior if the fish ladder isn’t fixed in time.

Also a small group of hatchery fish will be fitted with coded wire and radio tags, and released from the Priest Rapids facility to negotiate the newly configured fish ladders at Wanapum Dam.

This will help fisheries officials determine is the fish are actually making up the reconfigured fish ladder.

Chelan PUD is also doing similar work at the fish ladders at Rock Island Dam, 38 miles upriver, to accommodate the drawdown in the Wanapum Pool, and was expected to be completed by April 15.

The more daunting task lies ahead as beginning in June a run of up to 80,000 summer chinook, plus 400,000 sockeye salmon and 300,000 fall chinook salmon will be arriving.

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