Environmentalists donate to removal of aging dam near Yakima

Associated Press

YAKIMA — A national environmental group has donated $75,000 to help pay for the removal of the Nelson Dam on the Naches River, which has hampered salmon trying to migrate upstream for nearly a century.

The donation will go toward the estimated $12 million price tag for the dam removal project that has been planned for years by Yakima city and county officials and the Yakama Indian Nation.

Located west of Yakima, the dam was first built in the 1920s, and rebuilt in 1985 in order to divert irrigation water into the city, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported Wednesday.

At a height of 8 feet, the dam presents a formidable obstacle to fish trying to migrate upstream.

By slowing the natural speed of the river, the dam also traps sediment upstream, creating conditions that have led to flooding.

Removing the dam will help with the flood risk, said David Brown, Yakima’s water and irrigation manager.

Removal will allow more than half a million cubic yards of gravel to be carried downstream to create more salmon spawning habitat in an area that’s been deprived of natural sediment for decades.

The removal of the dam is scheduled to start next fall if all permits are in place.

Tuesday’s grant was provided by Open Rivers Fund, a philanthropic fund dedicated to dam removal and river restoration.

The fund also provided money for the removal of the Matilija Dam in California’s Ventura County and the Savage Rapids Dam on Oregon’s Rogue River.

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