VANTAGE, Wash. - Washington State Fish and Wildlife workers have trucks ready to go as soon as the first spring Chinook salmon begin arriving below the Wanapum Dam near Vantage.
The discovery of a 65-foot-long fracture in the dam’s spillway forced managers to immediately lower water levels. The drop left the fish ladders used by migrating salmon out of reach. Workers are scrambling to extend the ladders to accommodate the lower river level but the salmon are beginning to arrive now.
WDF&W managers said they had to have a backup plan, so they will capture salmon at the Priest Rapids Dam downstream and truck them around the Wanapum Dam so they can continue their journey to spawning grounds upstream.
WDF&W officials said that will work for the some 20,000 Spring Chinook expected to move up the Columbia this year, but they said if the Wanapum fish ladders are not fixed soon there could be a very big problem - 80,000 summer Chinook, followed by 400,000 sockeye and 300,000 fall chinook are expected to run up that section of river. There would be no way to truck that many fish upstream.