Clear Problem, Clear Solution
Today’s guest blog about the #8 White River in Washington- a part of our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series- is from Bill Anderson, Executive Director of Citizens for a Healthy Bay. Citizens for a Healthy Bay is an environmental organization whose mission is to represent and engage citizens in the cleanup, restoration, and protection of Commencement Bay, surrounding waters in the Puget Sound area, and our natural habitat.
There is a place along the White River, not far from our majestic Mount Rainier, where the unpleasant smell of dead fish reaches your nose during the bi-yearly pink salmon runs. Salmon normally die and rot when they spawn, providing important nourishment for the baby fish – yet the stench that fills the air around the Buckley Diversion Dam on the White River is not part of the salmon lifecycle. Instead, it serves as proof that the dam is killing fish in huge numbers.
We’ve been fortunate here in Washington State that the investments in restoring and protecting our salmon populations have started to pay off. The pink salmon has made a considerable comeback in the White River, and is now one of the major runs in the Pacific Northwest. Their numbers have increased 350 percent since 2007. This is thrilling news.
But the thrill doesn’t last. Roughly a third of the pink salmon that swim upriver meet their death at the Buckley Diversion Dam, according to the Puyallup Tribe. The salmon are impaled by old rebar and nails from the dilapidated facility as they try to make their way into the outdated fish trap. It’s a devastating sight. The ones that die are scattered amongst the rocks beneath the dam. The ones that make it into the fish trap are exhausted. Some of them will die in the trucks that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers use to haul the fish past Mud Mountain, a bigger dam several miles upstream.
The wooden Buckley Diversion Dam is more than a century old. Younger dams than that, like the outdated dams of the Elwha River, have already been removed. The installation of the Landsburg Dam Fish Passage on the Cedar River is another example of where necessary steps have been taken to ensure that the effects of the salmon restoration efforts don’t go to waste.
Last week, American Rivers presented their annual top 10 list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®. The White River is on that list because of the danger the Buckley Dam poses to the recovery of the salmon.
We are joining American Rivers and other allies – the Puyallup and Muckleshoot Tribes, Puget Sound Partnership, and Trout Unlimited – in calling on the Army Corps to replace the dam, as well as the fish trap, which is also outdated and currently running at capacity. This broken old infrastructure is undermining the millions we are investing in the restoration and protection of our salmon.
Salmon restoration efforts can be complex affairs, but not here. It’s painfully clear what the problem is, and what the solution is.
The Buckley Diversion Dam is killing fish. So fix it.