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Ecology and salmon related articles

Stranded Salmon

by Staff
Eugene Weekly, June 28, 2001

The Northwest's drought and California's energy crisis were expected to harm Columbia River salmon; now the numbers are out to show just how much.

According to the Fish Passage Center, a governmental organization that works with state, federal and tribal fishery agencies, low flows and reduced spilling to help young salmon migrate past the Columbia and Snake River dams are causing major problems. As of May 23, yearling Chinook and steelhead heading downstream between McNary and Bonneville dams are facing a trip that's twice as long as their predecessors last year. The fastest fish travel times between traps upstream and Lower Granite Dam are 20 percent to 231 percent longer this year than last.

In a May 23 memo, the center's Michele DeHart wrote that "the present hydro-system operations, load following, elimination of spill for fish passage at most projects (dams) and low flows are having a significant detrimental impact on the juvenile spring migration of yearling Chinook salmon and steelhead."

Fluctuations in water levels have led to strandings and substantial losses of the healthiest population of salmon left in the Columbia. The fall Chinook in the Hanford Reach -- the largest free-flowing stretch of the Columbia -- for years have had the best habitat, water quality and survival in the system. According to a June 4 Fish Passage Center update, between 7 and 10 percent of that total population is expected to die this summer. According to the Institute for Fisheries Resources, those fish are the only salmonids in the system doing well enough not to require listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. -- OI

Stranded Salmon
Eugene Weekly, June 28, 2001

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