After 70 Years, Salmon Could Return To Columbia River Above Grand Coulee Dam

Grand Coulee Dam File Photo - CREDIT Bureau of Reclamation
When the Grand Coulee Dam was built between 1933 and 1941, it effectively blocked salmon from traveling to the upper reaches of the Columbia River. CREDIT: U.S. BUREAU OF RECLAMATION

Listen

If all goes according to plan, there could soon be salmon above the Grand Coulee Dam again. That’s according to Cody Desautel, director of Natural Resources for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville.

“We’re going to trap and haul fish out of our hatchery and put them above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams,” he said. “So there will be salmon above Grand Coulee Dam this year for the first time in 70 years.”

When the Grand Coulee Dam was built between 1933 and 1941, it effectively blocked salmon from traveling to the upper reaches of the Columbia River. But Desautel said that could change early this fall.

“There was a lot of legwork that had to happen beforehand, like risk assessments and feasibility studies and habitat assessments to know if we brought those fish back, would there be any negative repercussions,” Desautel said. “Most of that works is done. All of that work has said it will not, so now is the time.”

Desautel said the plan hangs on one last federal permit from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For years, the tribes have been looking for a way to return salmon above the dam. Michael Marchand is the Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville.

“When I was younger, I didn’t think I would see those things,” he said.

Marchand said his grandmother once pointed out the spot where his ancestors used to fish.

“One time, they lowered the water to work on the dam. I was just a young child and she said ‘that spot on that rock on this island is our family spot,’ and I was thinking like ‘Why is she telling me this? This dam is going to be here for a thousand years,” he said.

The dam remains, but if the final permit is approved, Colville fish managers will trap salmon at their hatchery and drive them around the dam by truck, where they’ll be released back into the Columbia River. The tribe will keep track of where those fish go.

It’s the next step in a decades-long process to reintroduce a viable salmon population on the river.

Related Stories:

Colville Tribal member Crystal Conant releases the final salmon into the upper Columbia River on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. Conant said salmon’s reintroduction to the upper Columbia will help heal the tribe and the ecosystem. CREDIT: COURTNEY FLATT/NWPB

Tribes Release 1st Salmon Into Upper Columbia Since Dam Construction

Salmon are now swimming in the upper Columbia River for the first time in decades. For regional Native tribes, Friday’s ceremonial fish release is a big step toward catching fish in traditional waters. Cheers erupted from the crowd as the first salmon was released since 1955 into the Columbia River above Chief Joseph Dam. Continue Reading Tribes Release 1st Salmon Into Upper Columbia Since Dam Construction

Read More »
Cormorants returned to the Astoria Bridge to roost at nightfall on June 3, 2019.

In Astoria, Cormorant Birds Take Over Iconic Bridge, And Salmon Below Are On The Menu

Cormorants by the thousands have taken up residence under the landmark Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River. Their poop can corrode the bridge and that is unacceptable to the Oregon and Washington transportation departments. But what actions to take against the protected birds and whose responsibility that is are up in the air. Continue Reading In Astoria, Cormorant Birds Take Over Iconic Bridge, And Salmon Below Are On The Menu

Read More »