Nearly a year after one federal agency mandated that downstream fish passage be built at a dam in eastern King County, another has again begun to plan towards that end.
It’s a move that would reopen 60 miles of spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead in the upper Green River above Howard Hanson Dam, finished without fish ladders in 1961.
According to a Seattle Times article out this morning, the Army Corps of Engineers’ 2020 Work Plan includes $3 million to jumpstart a project it began working on in the early 2000s but stopped in 2011 when it became clear expenses would exceed funding.
But now with the struggles of the region’s orcas front and center, reporter Lynda V. Mapes writes that Washington’s entire Congressional delegation recently sent the Corps a letter “insisting” the work start again.
“It is critical the design and cost update phase of this project is completed and the project is moved onto the construction phase,” the lawmakers state, adding that it would double the amount of fish habitat in the basin.
It also follows on last February’s new biological opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service that the Corps had to help ESA-listed juvenile Chinook and steelhead get from above Howard Hanson to the Green below there.
Upstream adult passage facilities are already in place 3 miles below the Corps’ flood-control dam, so essentially federal engineers need to construct a collector on the reservoir to help young fish get past it before mature kings, winter-runs as well as coho are placed in the upper watershed.
NMFS estimated that providing passage would lead to nearly 2,000 more natural-original Chinook returning to the Green, which becomes the Duwamish River a hop, skip and a jump away from our offices.
The federal fishery overseers gave the Corps a target of February 2031 to have the new facility’s bugs worked out and be operating for that spring’s smolt outmigration.
Mapes reports that with the project on hold so long, “a new design and new authorization are needed.”