SEATTLE -- Washington state’s White River is listed among the most endangered rivers in the country.
The conservation group American Rivers ranks the White River at number eight, citing the impacts of two Army Corps dams on salmon and steelhead runs and river health.
"It is time for the Army Corps to fix the problems on the White River's Buckley Dam, which are killing thousands of salmon and steelhead every year," said Michael Garrity of American Rivers.
The aging Buckley Diversion Dam is supposed to serves as a fish passage for the larger Mud Mountain Dam five miles upstream; the fish are then released to their native river and streams.
But the outdated dam and its fish collection facilities are overwhelmed, resulting in thousands, and sometimes hundreds of thousands, of salmon and steelhead to die each year, say river protection groups and Indian tribes, which rely heavily on the salmon runs.
Salmon that do make it through the overcrowded fish traps are often exhausted or fatally injured by the holding facilities, which reduces their chances of survival.
During last year’s pink salmon run, officials estimated 100,000 to 200,000 fish died.
“We know we can help 20 percent of the fish here from dying, and we can’t get that done?” said Don Jerry, Muckleshoot Tribal Fish Commissioner.
The Buckley Dam was built in 1910 and the fish trapping system in 1939. Many groups have been calling for a replacement for many years. American Rivers, with the release of their report, is calling on the Army Corps to replace the dam and the fish trapping sytem by 2017 to avoid another massive fish kills during the 2017 salmon run.
The Army Corps of Engineers says there is money in the budget to replace the dam but not the fish trapping system. Even if they can replace the dam, it will likely not happen on the timeline groups are calling for.
American Rivers’ Top Endangered Rivers in the U.S.
#1 San Joaquin River (California)
Threat: Water diversions, dams, and levees
#2 Upper Colorado River (Colorado)
Threat: Water diversions
#3 Middle Mississippi River (Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky)
Threat: Outdated Flood Management
#4 Gila River (New Mexico)
Threat: New water diversions
#5 San Francisquito Creek (California)
#6 South Fork Edisto River (South Carolina)
Threat: Excessive water withdrawals
#7 White River (Colorado)
Threat: Oil and gas drilling
#8 White River (Washington)
Threat: Outdated dam and fish passage facilities
#9 Haw River (North Carolina)
Threat: Polluted runoff
#10 Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers (Idaho)
Threat: Industrialization of a Wild and Scenic River corridor