Fish passage plans finalized for Cle Elum Dam

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A $100 million fish passage package is being installed at Cle Elum Dam on the Cle Elum River in Washington, and this was commemorated through a groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 27.

Attending the ceremony were officials from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (which owns the dam), the Yakima Nation, Washington State Department of Ecology and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The program is intended to allow salmon access to historic habitat and restore biodiversity and the natural production of anadromous salmonids in the upper Cle Elum subbasin. A particular species of interest is sockeye, but others that will benefit include coho, spring chinook salmon, Pacific lamprey, upper Middle Columbia River steelhead and bull trout. Cle Elum Dam is a 165-foot-high  earthfill dam that was built in 1933 without fish passage facilities.

The preferred alternative for fish passage allows juvenile fish to pass through a multilevel gated intake structure located against the right abutment and through a conduit on the right abutment of the dam. A trap-and-haul facility is proposed for upstream passage of adult fish.

Construction is expected to last about five years. Congress needs to authorize funding before the next phase of construction can proceed.

This work is part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan, a $4 billion to $6 billion collaboration between state, federal, tribal and local groups to improve water management in the region.

As we reported in February, President Barack Obama’s Fiscal year 2016 budget requests included $12.8 million for the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, which will continue funding grants to implement conservation measures and monitor the effects of those measures on the river diversions. Funding is also included to continue construction on fish passage facilities at Cle Elum Dam.

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