Condit Dam removal in 2011 was historic, opening a cold-water river just one major dam from the ocean. Pre-dam stocks of Steelhead (rainbow trout if they don’t go to the ocean) were trapped behind the dam. Are they now returning to anadromy? Are other stocks of Steelhead, 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.
Dr. Pat Connolly, now retired from USGS and a member of the FWSR Board of Directors, was heavily involved in pre-dam removal research. He and his collaborators wrote a plan for post-removal research, and this research has still not been funded! 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. The countdown is to the start-up of commercial tribal fishing, which may bring the introduction of hatchery stocks. Can the wild fish produce sufficient harvest to forestall a move to hatchery fish which compete with wild stock? We need answers, and answers require multi-year research.
Existing research funds are limited and are committed to worthy projects elsewhere. The normal sources for funding are tapped out.
Seven spawning seasons have now passed since dam removal. Climate change is upon us. The situation is urgent.
There is a research plan. There are researchers available. There are funding mechanisms through the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group. We can gear up quickly. All we need is money.
Clark Skamania Flyfishers, bless them, are funding one juvenile salmon and steelhead annual count in the mainstem of the river, below Husum. The Yakama Nation are doing some monitoring of steelhead spawning in Rattlesnake Creek. Much more is needed.
How much money is needed? Optimal funding would be $300,000 for the first year of research, including equipment purchase, and about $175,000 per year for five additional years. Any amount of money raised will be used for fish research. Even small amounts can be useful as matching funds for other grants, or in other ways.
Maybe it’s silly for a volunteer organization with an annual budget under $10,000 to try to raise this money. However, it is our mission, and so we must put our hearts into this.
Each person’s efforts matter significantly, immensely, tremendously to the restoration and protection of the White Salmon River. Join us in this effort. Together we can make history.