Steelhead Returning to Washington Rivers after Dam Removal

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In September 2011, the 108-foot tall Elwha Dam was removed on the Elwha River in Washington. The project was largest dam removal in U.S. history. Just a few months later, fish have already begun to return to their restored habitat.

To jump start the restoration process biologists are releasing tagged fish into the river above the lower dam. According to NOAA scientists, about 60 steelhead and 600 salmon have been released into the river upstream of the former dam site. Some of those fish have already begun to spawn.

More importantly, NOAA scientists have spotted several un-tagged steelhead. One was a robust 35 inches, bigger than any of the fish tagged and released.

Migrating fish have also been spotted in the upper White Salmon River, Washington. Scientists with Yakama Nation Fisheries and the U.S. Geological Survey spotted jumping fish well upstream of Condit Dam, which was partially breached last October. The fish were believed to be adult steelhead.

The observation suggests that fish are making their way from the Columbia River, past the mouth of the White Salmon, through the opening at the bottom of Condit Dam, and into 33 miles of previously unavailable habitat.

PacifiCorp, the owner and operator of the dam, worked with NOAA Fisheries, the Yakama Nation, federal and state partners, and environmental groups to remove the dam and open passage to healthy habitat needed to recover the populations of fall Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and other migrating fish.

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source: NOAA FishNews