WHITE SALMON, Wash. – For the first time in nearly a century, migrating fish are being found in the White Salmon River, upstream from Condit Dam.
Scientists with the Yakama Nation and USGS spotted what appeared to be steelhead jumping at BZ and Husum Falls last Sunday, and on several occasions since.
“I love watching salmon and steelhead jump waterfalls anyway; it’s a feat of nature. But knowing that fish actually made it through and past Condit Dam is very exciting,” said Jeanette Burkhardt, a watershed planner for the Yakama Nation.
Condit Dam, built in 1913, was breached last October. Power Company PacifiCorp decided to decommission the dam, rather than add expensive passageways for fish, as would be required by law. Instead they used explosives to blow a large hole into the bottom of the 125-foot concrete structure.
Workers continue to remove the dam itself, but the highway-sized tunnel now appears to be sufficient to let fish though, and upstream.
“It’s amazing, a beautiful thing and neat to see and be up here to witness… this river was used historically by salmon and steelhead and they’re going to re-colonize,” said USGS fish biologist Brady Allen as he stood near BZ Falls, about 9 miles upstream from Condit Dam.
Allen said although the fish seen above Condit appear to be steelhead, salmon may also be in the mix.
Burkhardt said the anticipation for these fish returning was high, and the fact that they have, in just nine months, is a very good sign for their future.
“There are lots of opportunities for people to see salmon now, to fish for them and I think it’s an exciting thing for residents to know that there are salmon back in the White Salmon River,” she added.