Corps' Spill Program to Help
by John Trumbo
The Army Corps of Engineers' annual program to spill water over dams to help the spring migration of juvenile salmon and steelhead begins this weekend.
The spring fish operations plan starts on the Snake River dams Sunday and continues down to the lower Columbia River on April 10.
"We'll be spilling 24 hours a day, seven days a week at all eight main-stem dams during the out-migration season. The federal agencies have made a continued commitment to use science-based spill to promote safe fish passage," said Rock Peters, the Corps' fish program manager.
Hydroelectric dam turbines can be deadly to fish and spilling water gives the fish another way to pass through without facing the turbines.
"Spills help us get (young fish) past the projects safely so we can achieve the total of 93 percent to 96 percent survival," Peters said.
Peters said the spill program is effective at dams, but the added flows do little to ease other risks to migrating fish, such as fish-eating birds and bigger predatory fish.
The 2011 spring plan, which closely resembles last year's plan, continues operations for fish passage at the Corps' Columbia and Lower Snake River dams.
It includes spill and flow to provide timely and safe passage, adjustments to river operations and transporting juvenile fish beginning in late April or early May.
In 2010, the Corps hauled about 35 percent of the spring migrating fish to below Bonneville Dam.
This year, testing is planned at John Day Dam, The Dalles and Bonneville dams.
"We anticipate continued high survival throughout the system," Peters said.
The latest water supply forecast for the Columbia River Basin is 105 percent of normal as measured at The Dalles Dam, and 104 percent of normal for the Snake River Basin as measured at Lower Granite Dam.
The annual fish operations plans for spring and summer fish migration seasons are prepared by the Corps and are coordinated with states, tribes and other federal agencies in the region.
"Collaboration and a science-based approach have been instrumental in determining the best operations for juvenile passage survival," Peters said.
For more information on the federal salmon and steelhead recovery efforts in the region, go to www.salmonrecovery.gov.
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