Columbia, Snake Rivers Fish Population Thrives

By Tom Bacon

Three federal agencies which juggle competing interests in the Columbia and Snake Rivers have put together a new fish story. Unlike some such stories, however, this one's true.
There are more fish in the Columbia River system this year - and they seem to be in better shape - than at any time since wild salmon and steelhead were first listed under the Endangered Species Act.
According to a new Comprehensive Evaluation put together by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration, most fish populations that spawn in the Columbia River system have increased in number.
And the report says wild salmon and steelhead are quickly returning to their spawning grounds which have grown by more than 2,000 miles over the past five years.
The agencies said that more than 177,000 acre feet of water have been reserved to increase flow to important salmon habitat - enough water to serve a city the size of Seatlle. An acre-foot of water is enough to cover one acre a foot deep.
A new spill wall constructed at the Dalles Dam significantly boosted survival rates in the tailrace by guiding fish into the main river channel, away from predators. Sea lions had learned to hover just below the dam to pick up quick meals of hapless fish surging out of the dam gates.
And survival rates at all Snake and Columbia river dams have increased with installation of new surface passage systems.
Researchers concluded that all river system projects should meet 96 percent survival rates for spring migrating fish and 93 percent for summer migrants.
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