Condit Dam Breach: Celebrating Science and the Reconnection of a River
Today's breach of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River is truly a milestone event. The Pacific Region Fishery Resources Program is proud to be a member of the local communities along or near the White Salmon River that are celebrating this historic occasion. We are also honored to be a part of the White Salmon Working Group, a consortium of Yakama Nation, federal, state, and PacifiCorps biologists who have made scientific excellence and collaboration the cornerstones of our collective efforts to study, protect, and restore fall Tule Chinook salmon and other species before and after dam removal.
Built in 1913 to provide electricity, Condit Dam is four hundred feet across and over 12 stories high. It is one of the tallest dams ever decommissioned and removed in U.S. history. Condit's removal will open an additional 5 miles of spawning grounds for fall chinook and up to 33 miles for steelhead, both of which are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Service and Working Group scientists estimate the White Salmon River has enough spawning grounds to accommodate more than 600 steelhead spawners and 1,200 fall chinook. Bull trout, coho, lamprey and spring chinook will also benefit from a reconnected river.
The Service's conservation efforts in White Salmon River basin have spanned more than 100 years. Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery, just over a mile west of the White Salmon River has been rearing fall Tule Chinook salmon and educating communities on the tribal, commercial, sport fish, and iconic significance of Tule Chinook since 1901. The 15 million fish Spring Creek annually raises are genetic descendents of wild White Salmon River fall Chinook.
Service biologists at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office have been engaged since the 1990s with PacifiCorps and other stakeholders on hydropower relicensing negotiations and consultations on priority species, such as Bull trout. The Service was a part of the 1999 settlement agreement signed by PacifiCorps and 23 federal and state agencies, tribes, and non governmental organizations to decommission the Condit Hydroelectric Project starting October 1, 2006.
Meanwhile, fisheries biologists at the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office have used their expertise and collaborative approaches to initiate baseline surveys of aquatic species in the White Salmon, help relocate fall Tule Chinook above the Dam prior to its removal to spawn, work with geneticists at the Service's Abernathy Fish Technology Center to verify genetic lineages of wild stocks in the river, and initiate plans to monitor how those populations are faring after dam removal. We will continue to monitor the distribution and abundance of species such as fall Chinook, Bull trout, and Pacific Lamprey even after the Dam is removed.
Today's breach and the eventual removal of Condit Dam in May 2011 marks the end of an era, but our work, and our commitment to support the restoration of the White Salmon River and the communities that depend on the River and its aquatic species continues. Learn more at some of the links below about our and partner efforts to ensure many happy returns to the White Salmon River, now and for generations to come.
October 26, 2011