The Colville Tribes hope to move surplus Chinook above two upper Columbia dams where the ocean-returning salmon haven’t been for as much as three-quarters of a century.
Construction of Grand Coulee Dam and then Chief Joseph Dam without fish ladders ended passage past Bridgeport, but the tribes want to release adults that returned to Wells Hatchery into the reservoirs behind each this summer.
They’ve got a state permit to do so in Lake Rufus Woods, according to an article in the Tribal Tribune earlier this week, and plan to get another for Lake Roosevelt.
The news outlet describes the bid as “part of a ‘cultural release'” and report it is dependent on whether the salmon first pass testing for IHN, an infectious virus that affects fish.
The salmon are otherwise distributed to tribal members.
Ahead of any possible action, tribal fish and wildlife managers put out a call to elders and other Colvilles for comment.
“We’re to the point that we could have fish ready to move by the end of this month or the first part of August,” CTFW Director Randy Friedlander told the Tribune.
There have been increasing talk about bringing salmon back to Washington’s Upper Columbia and the British Columbia side of the international river.
It does seem a bit of a long shot as a way to jumpstart a run, as for any salmon that are released in the reservoirs, the next challenge would be for the fish to find gravel, for the eggs to hatch, for the smolts to make it over or through the first two dams without any kind of surface collectors, survive the rest of their downstream and ocean migration, and then return to some point below the dams and be collected to spawn the next generation.
But you gotta start somewhere and it’s clearly very important to do so to the tribes.