Bonneville Dam working to bring more salmon through spillway

Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 6:09 PM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MULTNOMAH COUNTY, Ore. (KPTV) - Every spring, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opens the spillway at Bonneville Dam, about 45 minutes east of Portland, to help salmon travel through.

UACE has all kinds of responsibilities at the dam, but Columbia Basin reservoir control center chief Julie Ammann said it views this as one of the most important.

“We’re changing how we release water through turbines,” Ammann said. “We’re changing how we release water through spillways to better mimic conditions that they will find more advantageous.”

During the spring, over three quarters of the water in the dam goes over the spillway. Biologist Doug Baus said this is an important step for salmon.

“We’d ultimately like to have adult returns so they are no longer listed under the endangered species act,” Baus said.

The goal is to have fish come back through the Bonneville Dam as adults on their way to spawn. You can view the place where the adult fish count happens at Bonneville Dam.

Low salmon counts have caused commercial fishing to be canceled this year south of Cape Falcon to the Mexico border. Baus says he wants to avoid that happening in our area by being aware of what’s causing it.

“For example, environmental conditions, harvest, hydro and habitat,” he said.

Ammann said dam managers are also trying to make salmon passage a priority.

“I feel like the (UACE) definitely has a role to play in trying to help these fish maintain their populations,” she said.

Last year’s spring chinook count at Bonneville Dam was above the 10-year average but that’s the first time that happened in six years.

Bonneville Dam also provides hydroelectric power and a system of locks for barges traveling up and down the Columbia River.