KALAMA, Wash. – The mouth of the Kalama River is so shallow at low tide that boats have to be dragged across the river bottom, and anglers and fish and wildlife officials are concerned about salmon trying to get upstream to wild spawning grounds and hatcheries.
Nobody is more vocal about his concern than Fred Palmer, who lives along the river, and has been around it for most of his 80-plus years. Palmer said cutting a channel from the Columbia River is the answer, and he has experts who agree.
“I’ve had about six hydraulic engineers in the boat right where you’re sitting and they’ve all said the same thing. Every one of them has said the same thing,” said Palmer. But so far, no agency or fish management group has come up with the money to make this solution a reality.
“50 years it keeps getting worse every year, and every year they say well, maybe next year,” said Palmer.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife runs two hatcheries upstream on the Kalama River. The agency said it is concerned about the passageway for fish and is working with others, including the Lower Columbia Fish Restoration Board, and Palmer, to move forward with a solution.
“I don’t think there’s any one silver bullet. I think we need to investigate a whole suite of options, whether it be more wood structures, whether it in fact be what Fred is advocating: notching a channel,” said Steve West, WDFW Area Habitat Biologist.
Palmer hopes that forums this fall will lead to the implementation of a plan to make the water deeper for fish and anglers.
“I say, 'before I die, something’s gonna be done and then you can bury me out here.' I don’t care,” said Palmer.