The Puyallup Tribe of Indians is participating in a study this summer to figure out just how many fish are killed by the Electron hydroelectric project.
“For years we’ve been putting effort into restoring upper Puyallup watershed salmon,” said Russ Ladley, resource protection manager for the tribe. “But we aren’t sure how many of these fish are being killed when they pass through Electron.”
The study is funded jointly by the tribe, the state of Washington and Puget Sound Energy (PSE), the owners of the hydroelectric project.
The Electron project diverts water from the Puyallup River into a wooden flume for 10 miles to a reservoir and powerhouse. When salmon reach the reservoir they can either escape through a trap or be sucked into the powerhouse and killed.
“We know some of the juvenile salmon, steelhead and bull trout from the upper watershed get pulled into the flume,” Ladley said. “What we don’t know is how many end up being killed somewhere along the line instead of being safely trapped.”
Several thousand juvenile chinook, coho and chum salmon will be fitted with electronic tags and released into the flume. The salmon will then be counted as they pass through a trap at the reservoir. “We’ll be able to get a good idea of how young fish do under different conditions throughout the migration period,” Ladley said.
Until 2000 the low-lying Electron diversion dam blocked over 30 miles of prime salmon spawning and rearing habitat. As part of an agreement with the the tribe, PSE built an adult fish ladder around the dam, allowing the first salmon to spawn in the upper reaches of the watershed for nearly 100 years.
Since 1997 the tribe has been operating three juvenile salmon acclimation ponds in the upper watershed. The Puyallup Tribe also releases excess coho and chinook salmon from a nearby state-run hatchery into the upper watershed. “We’re putting a lot of effort to jumpstart the runs up here,” Ladley said. “We need to be sure we aren’t losing all that effort into the Electron powerhouse.”
For more information, contact: Russ Ladley, resource protection manager, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, (253) 845-9225. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, NWIFC, (360) 528-4304, firstname.lastname@example.org