As construction workers race against the clock to make fish ladders at Wanapum Dam operational, state fishery managers are standing ready with an alternate plan to move spring chinook up the river.
Shortly after discovering a 65-foot-long fracture in a spillway pier in late February, operators lowered the water level to reduce pressure on the structure, leaving fish ladders high and dry. Sometime this week, the first of an estimated 20,000 spring chinook are expected to arrive in the area near Vantage, pressing upriver to spawn. The run is listed as theatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The emergency plan is to intercept the salmon at Priest Rapids Dam and truck them around Wanapum Dam, 19 miles upriver. Working in rotation, experienced drivers will haul the salmon in eight tank trucks, each capable of moving up to 1,500 fish a day.
At the same time, a smaller number of hatchery fish, with a clipped adipose fin, will be fitted with coded radio tags and released from the Priest Rapids facility to negotiate the newly configured ladders at Wanapum.