There's been quite a bit of buzz over the work being done on behalf of the Sandy River's wild fish. Here are some links to learn about what's happening on the Sandy.
Oregon Guides Fight for wild fish on the Sandy
Possible Lawsuit over Sandy River hatcheries
After reading this and seeing the focus on display at the Native Fish Society auction a little over a week ago I wondered if Washington State had a Sandy River. Of course, in the Pacific Northwest almost every river faces issues much like the Sandy River but I think one Washington State river stands out.
My vote for Washington's Sandy is the Elwha River. Pouring out of pristine wilderness, its salmon runs have been blocked by two dams, the lowest one just five miles from saltwater. These two dams will be removed over the next three years at a cost of approximately 325 million of taxpayer dollars. The tribes, Olympic National Park, and WDFW have agreed to a five year fishing moratorium during and after the dam removal. It is an exciting time to be living in the area and the excitement over the dams coming down is real. There are celebrations scheduled throughout this summer.
There is a "but" to all of the celebrations of the Elwha and the fish restoration. The problem is the current hatchery plans during the restoration, specifically the Elwha Tribe planting non-native, out of basin Chambers Creek winter steelhead during the fishing moratorium. There is a heavy reliance on hatchery production in the Elwha restoration that is not based on the best available science.
Does anyone believe that planting non-native stocks of fish is a good way to restore fish populations after dam removals. The Elwha currently has wild winter steelhead returning and these fish along with the large numbers of native resident rainbows above the dams can be the building blocks for real restoration of native fish. The current plan will allow Chambers Creek steelhead to be the first steelhead colonizing habitat above the dam. This is a travesty!
How can we be serious about restoring wild fish when we continue down the path that has led to the destruction of our wild fish stocks in the past? The rivers of the Olympic Peninsula once had large early timed runs of winter steelhead. Chambers Creek plants along with the associated harvest pressure has destroyed almost all of the early timed fish. Planting Chambers Creek steelhead means we are giving up on restoring the true diversity of the Elwha River.
Sacrificing a large component of a wild fish run on the largest fish restoration project in our Nation's history is bad for the fish. Science should be guiding the way on the Elwha restoration and unfortunately in the case of winter steelhead science is being ignored.