Starting with the August 24 Rhythms by the River
Condit Dam removal in 2011 was historic. Pre-dam stocks of steelhead (the sea-run life history of rainbow trout) were trapped behind the dam. Are they now returning to anadromy? Are other stocks of steelhead, along with Chinook Salmon and Coho Salmon, establishing and increasing natural spawning populations in the White Salmon River?
The answers appear to be “yes”, but that’s about all we know, because there is insufficient money for research and monitoring. Basic facts, like how many fish are using the White Salmon for spawning, are not known. We cannot judge if the numbers coming back are meeting expectations.
Dr. Pat Connolly, now retired from USGS, was heavily involved in pre-dam removal research. He and his collaborators wrote a plan for post-removal research, which was not funded before his retirement. Dr. Connolly estimates that about 10% of the needed research is being done. Ten percent. Think about that.
There is a clock ticking on research on wild salmon and steelhead. That clock is ticking to the start-up of commercial tribal fishing, which may induce the introduction of hatchery stocks. Can the wild fish produce sufficient harvest to negate the desire for hatchery fish introductions? Are there key habitat enhancement projects needed to promote natural production? We don’t know.
Friends of the White Salmon, as a long-term proponent of dam removal and restoration of wild salmon and steelhead, finds this situation frustrating, as do all the local researchers. Limited research funds are committed to long-term research elsewhere, so the normal sources for funding are tapped out.
The situation is urgent. Seven spawning seasons have now passed since dam removal.
There is a research plan. There are researchers available. Research can be funded through Memorandums of Understanding with a local partner. All we need is money.
Clark Skamania Flyfishers, bless them, are funding a juvenile salmon and steelhead counting effort this year. This funding provides for a juvenile downstream trap and some highly limited assessment of juvenile fish density in a few sections of stream.
The August event Rhythms by the River is planned to raise seed money for a large auction next February. We will be auctioning fish research packages, unlike the usual auction of vacation packages or artwork.
How much money is needed? Optimal funding would be $300,000 for the first year of research, including equipment purchase, and about $200,000 for five additional years. A more modest goal is to raise $10,000-25,000 to provide a real boost to research entities seeking matching funds to fulfill application requirements.
It may seem silly for an organization with an annual budget under $10,000 a year to try to raise this money. NO ONE ELSE is doing it, so we must. Please help.
We can also use volunteer help on this and other projects. You very much matter to the restoration and protection of the White Salmon River.