There’s nothing small-scale about the salmon life cycles field trip undertaken by Touchet School third-graders in late May.
Teri Lesmeister’s class ventured beyond school walls to tie together various lessons on salmon the kids learned beginning last fall.
They covered salmon life cycles; clear water/air environments for healthy salmon; salmon, silt and sediment; and giving back — salmon and our communities with Debbie Seney, Snake River Salmon Recovery outreach coordinator.
Stuart Durfee, water master with the Gardena-Lowden Irrigation Diversion and Fish Screen on Beet Road, gave the kids a tour on their first stop of the day. “He explained how irrigation water is diverted out of the Walla Walla River into this ditch for agricultural uses during certain times of the year,” Debbie said. He also explained how seven fine screens keep the small fish from getting trapped and how it safely diverts them back into the Walla Walla River.
When water is shut off in the irrigation ditch, a large group of people from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation collect any fish stranded in the ditch from the diversion point to the screens and return them to the Walla Walla River.
At their next stop, Larry Hooker with the Walla Walla County Conservation District, talked about the Bergevin-Williams-Old Lowden Diversion and Fish Screen facility off Detour Road, which also saves fish from the canals.
“The children viewed the fish ladder and diversion dam at this location on the Walla Walla River (and) were thrilled at all the large fish observed from the gangway overlooking the fish screen,” Debbie said.
Finally, Dave Karl, watershed steward, and Brian Burns, project manager with the Tri-State Steelheaders, met them off McDonald Road on the Walla Walla River at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife site. As the class enjoyed brown-bag lunches, Dave told them how trees help rivers, and the benefits of woody structures in the rivers and streams for fish and wildlife habitats. Brian chose a low, muddy site upriver for the class to do its community habitat restoration by planting willow whips, which in a few years will add shade for fish and animals in that area.