Dams torn down and after a hundred years salmon and steelhead immediately begin to spawn
Earlier this year two dams on the Elwha River in Washington state that had blocked migration of salmon and steelhead for over a hundred years were finally removed. Within just months salmon and steelhead trout swam past the dam sites and spawned. Such a quick response is what everyone had hoped for, although some believed they needed to build hatcheries to increase the number of smolts. This early spawning would seem to be evidence against the hatchery idea. Even so the prospects for these fertilized eggs and any smolts is not good right now because of the large amount 0f sediment that has built up behind the dams. It will take several years, maybe more, for the sediment to be eroded away and washing out to seas.
Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.
9 Responses to Dams torn down and after a hundred years salmon and steelhead immediately begin to spawn
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Ed Abbey would be proud.
In 1958 Idaho Power promised to get salmon around and over the proposed Hells Canyon complex of 4 dams. After the dams were complete, they made a half-assed attempt to capture adult salmon below the Hells Canyon dam before giving up and letting all of the salmon in the rivers above the complex become extinct.
Idaho Power should be held to their promise of getting salmon past those four dams or they should be required to remove them. I live near the Payette river ten miles south of McCall and I would like to see salmon spawning here again.
Next stop, Grand Coulee! Blocks over a thousand miles of past salmon/steelhead habitat.
It will never happen in our life and probably not even in our grandkids lives…but let’s start with Dworshak. It’s a speck for energy and was some of the finest salmon and steelhead spawning gravels in the inland northwest. Let’s give those fish their river back!
I second that. Talk about beautiful water.
Even if we removed Grand Coulee, the distance and the number of other dams below it would make rough going for smolts. The fish in the Methow aren’t having an easy time for example. I do occasionally permit myself to dream about repopulating the Kootenai.
In a little town near me (Ann Arbor, MI) we failed to get a dam removed recently, and I partly attribute that to people just not being aware of the debates from our western states. We got beaten by people who like to row boats on the impoundment. The city gets to decide these things, without any care for the people and animals who aren’t local voters. Dead zones in lake Erie come as a tragedy of the commons, since each little place acts like they own the water passing through.
I really regret disposing of a Bureau of Reclamation brochure my mother had from the early 1960s promoting the Rampart Dam that would have flooded the Yukon Flats, submerged 7 villages, eliminated a large chunk of the waterfowl nesting habitat supporting the Pacific flyway, stopped 60% of the Yukon chinook run (including stocks that migrate 2,300 miles and spawn not far behind Juneau) and much of the Yukon fall chum run . . . . and changed the climate of interior Alaska. Increased recreational benefits were touted, including a photo of somebody waterskiing. We might also have had an aluminum industry around Anchorage.
This is thrilling news – especially how quickly the fish have returned to their ancestral spawning ground! 🙂
Unfortunately, there has been considerable momentum to forge on with hatchery production before seeing what recolonizes and then taking a hard look at whether and what short-term genetic supplementation may be advisable from a suitable wild brood source. Fortunately, it looks like some of those plans were put on hold last spring, and will hopefully be left on hold given the early recolonization success.