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NW Fishletter #375, November 6, 2017

[8] Work on a Juvenile Fish Tunnel Begins at Cle Elum Dam

Construction started in October on a 1,250-foot tunnel for fish passage at Cle Elum Dam in the Yakima River Basin.

The $15.2 million tunnel, which will shuttle juvenile salmon past the dam, is one of the key elements in the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan, a partnership that includes the Yakama Nation, the State of Washington and BuRec.

Completed in 2011, the Yakima water plan is a 30-year, $3.8-billion consensus-based approach to the basin's water conflicts, according to the plan's support organization, Yakima Basin Fish, Families and Farms.

The plan covers management of water resources for conservation, irrigation, fish, wildlife, electricity, habitat enhancement and market reallocation, among others.

Proposals in the water plan include fish passage at all Reclamation dams, new and expanded reservoirs, and improved water delivery infrastructure. Funding will be a mix of federal and state dollars.

Cle Elum Dam. Credit: BuRec

The Yakama Nation sees the new fish bypass system at Cle Elum Dam as vital to its efforts to reintroduce sockeye to Lake Cle Elum. Principal components of the effort include earthwork, tunnel, cast-in-place reinforced concrete features, metal fabrications and electrical features, a BuRec news release said. The work is expected to take until August 2020 to complete.

Built in 1933, the Cle Elum Dam is an earthfill structure on the Cle Elum River about 75 miles from Yakima, Wash.

The tribe currently trucks fish around Cle Elum Dam. Last year, the tribe trapped and hauled 4,000 sockeye around the dam.

The tribe and its project partners tested a volitional upstream migration system, the Whooshh pneumatic tube, in 2016 as an alternative to the trap and haul method of getting adult sockeye above the dam. The technology is still in the trial stages, however.

Currently, dam operators enable downstream migration of juvenile sockeye by leaving gates open at the top of the dam when water levels reach the spillway. Once the tunnel and bypass structure are completed, the juvenile fish will have a safer route from the reservoir to the river.

Additional work to facilitate fish passage has been done or is in the works. According to a Washington Department of Ecology report, the total cost of the project is estimated at $135 million and is expected to take until 2023 to complete. -Laura Berg

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Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: Laura Berg
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