Washington’s White River Among America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2014

Outdated dam impacts salmon and steelhead

April 9th, 2014

Michael Garrity, American Rivers, (206) 852-5583
John Weymer, Puyallup Tribe, (253) 405-4893
Bill Anderson, Citizens for A Healthy Bay, (253) 383-2429
Alicia Lawver, Puget Sound Partnership, (360) 464-2011
Kate Miller, Trout Unlimited, (503) 867-1344
Linda Burgess, Puyallup River Watershed Council, (253) 863-1860
Lisa Spurrier, Puyallup-White/Chambers-Clover Lead Salmon Recovery Entity, (253) 798-6158

www.americanrivers.org/WhiteRiverWA

Washington, D.C.- American Rivers named Washington’s White River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2014 today, shining a national spotlight on the impacts of two Army Corps dams on salmon and steelhead runs and river health.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are at a critical tipping point,” said Michael Garrity of American Rivers. “It is time for the Army Corps to fix the problems on the White River’s Buckley Dam, which are killing thousands of salmon and steelhead every year.”

The outdated Buckley Diversion Dam is supposed to serve as a fish passage facility for the larger Mud Mountain Dam five miles upstream. However, the poor condition of Buckley Dam and its fish collection facilities cause thousands, and sometimes hundreds of thousands, of salmon and steelhead to die each year. Even if salmon do make it into the overcrowded fish trap, they are often exhausted, delayed, impaled on rebar, and/or injured from the cramped holding facilities, which reduces their chances of survival after release.

American Rivers and its partners called on the Army Corps to design and install a modern diversion structure and updated fish trap by 2017— the soonest feasible time for completion of such a project while avoiding another massive fish kill during the 2017 pink salmon run.

“These fish have supported our people since time immemorial,” said Bill Sterud, Vice-Chairman, Puyallup Tribal Council. “Salmon are the lifeblood of our tribe, and we call on the Army Corps to fix the dam and ensure abundant fish returning to spawn in the White River for generations to come.”

“Continued problems with fish passage at the Buckley Dam undermine salmon recovery efforts on the White River, and by extension, in Puget Sound,” said Martha Kongsgaard, Chair of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council. “Replacing the failed dam and fish trap is an immediate, high-impact action that will accelerate recovery of imperiled salmon in the White River.”

“Addressing the problems with the Buckley Dam is one of our top priorities,” said Bill Anderson, Executive Director of Citizens for a Healthy Bay. “The White River’s inclusion in this report confirms that the time has come to replace the dam and install a modern fish passage facility.”

Originating from the Winthrop, Emmons, and Fryingpan glaciers on Mt. Rainier, the White River travels 68 miles and drains 494 square miles before flowing into the Puyallup River and Puget Sound. The White River is enjoyed by kayakers, fishermen, hikers, and visitors to Mt. Rainier National Park and the surrounding area. The river is home to four species of salmon (Chinook, coho, chum, and pink), as well as steelhead and bull trout. The river’s salmon and steelhead are central to the culture of the Muckleshoot and Puyallup Indian tribes.

The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates.  Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2014:

#1  San Joaquin River
California
Threat:  Outdated water management and excessive diversions
At Risk:  River health and resilient communities

#2  Upper Colorado River System
Colorado
Threat:  New trans-mountain water diversions
At Risk:  River health and recreation

#3  Middle Mississippi River
Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky
Threat:  Outdated flood management
At Risk:  Wildlife habitat and public safety

#4  Gila River
New Mexico
Threat:  New water diversions
At Risk:  River health, fish & wildlife, recreation, and tourism

#5  San Francisquito Creek
California
Threat:  Dam
At Risk:  Fish and wildlife habitat and public safety

#6  South Fork Edisto River
South Carolina
Threat:  Excessive water withdrawals
At Risk:  Fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, and water quality

#7  White River (CO)
Colorado
Threat:  Oil and gas drilling
At Risk:  Drinking water supplies and fish and wildlife habitat

#8  White River (WA)
Washington
Threat:  Outdated dam and fish passage facilities
At Risk:  Salmon, steelhead, and bull trout populations

#9  Haw River
North Carolina
Threat:  Polluted runoff
At Risk:  Clean water

#10  Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers
Idaho
Threat:  Industrialization of a Wild and Scenic River corridor
At risk:  Scenery, solitude, world-class recreational values


###

About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.