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Lake Roosevelt Forum Launches Discussion on Upper Columbia

Washington Historical Society

Fish experts, scientists and tribal leaders came together in Spokane last week to discuss plans to try to reintroduce salmon and steelhead in the waters of the upper Columbia River. Ever since the creation of upper Columbia River dams, the salmon runs ended in that portion of the river. Now some 70 plus years later, there are plans to see if those runs can be restored.

The loss of the salmon has been a major shift for the Native American in the region. Speaking at the Lake Roosevelt forum, John Sirius of the Upper Columbia United tribes said the five tribes comprising his group have suffered the most cultural loss in that time.

Sirius: “These tribes have been the most affected when they lower and raise the water level behind the dams, and the least mitigated these last 80 years.”

Now the Northwest Power planning council has put UCUT in the driver’s seat of a plan to examine and implement procedures to see if salmon can be reintroduced above Grand Coulee dam.

Fisheries consultant Steve Smith the time has come to make a serious attempt at bringing the salmon back to their original home waters.

Smith: “We have new research tools, new technologies on how we can monitor fish and measure their survival. And there are evolving realities. We all like the industrial purposes we get out of the river. The public is now wanting those ecological resources as well. People are realizing there is a serious historical wrong when salmon were blocked off from native peoples, and folks are realizing it is time to right those wrongs.”

Smith says new technologies include a floating surface collector, and a gizmo called Whoosh may be revolutionary in picking up tiny fish known as smolts and allowing them to get safely past the dams on their way downstream.

Current plans call for a feasibility studies to be undertaken the next couple of years to determine if current technology can be successful in the reintroduction.

Before completion of the upper Columbia dams, some 600 thousand Salmon and steelhead were harvested each year were harvested each year in the upper portion of the river.

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