The U-B recently ran two articles about Columbia River salmon.
The first showed Yakama Tribal biologists releasing sockeye into Cle Elum Reservoir. Water gushed from the transport tank onto the tailgate of the pickup then fell into shallow water in the reservoir.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has transported juvenile salmon in trucks since 1981. Had it ever released fish in this manner, the fishery agencies and tribes would have howled to high heaven.
Fish trucked by the Corps are released through smooth flexible hoses under water, or into specially designed release flumes that discharge the fish off shore to minimize predation. Barged fish, over 90 percent of the total transported each year, are released at night, at a different mid-river site each night to minimize predation by birds and fish.
The 25,000 gallon tanks in the barges slope down to release ports that are 3 feet in diameter. At release, an air cylinder instantly raises a 3-foot diameter rubber stopper and the fish and water flow out under the barge in a matter of seconds.
The second article was about the new draft biological opinion for operation of Corps and Bureau of Reclamation dams. Among comments was the often repeated claim by “conservation groups” that 80 percent of the returning salmon are hatchery fish.
The Columbia River sockeye run set a record in 2011 at over 315,000 returning adults. In 2012, over 515,000 returned. This year, 175,000 will return. In all three years, commercial, sport and Indian fisheries were allowed. Over 99 percent of the juveniles and adult sockeye were wild fish. Juvenile and adult sockeye migrated through up to nine federal and public utility district dams.
Hatchery and wild steelhead are counted separately at the dams. Runs have increased dramatically in the past 15 years. The percentage of wild fish has increased from the 20 percent claimed by the conservationists to more than 50 percent in recent years.
The Bonneville Power Administration funds hundreds of millions of dollars of habitat restoration projects to mitigate the effects of the federal dams. Truthfully, it is mitigating a myriad human impacts to salmon habitat not caused by dams.
Improved dam survival, stricter regulations and habitat restoration are bringing back the wild runs.