By Rich Simms
“Hydro” is one of the “Four H’s” that have had a large impact on wild salmonids over their historic range, and it is sometimes one of the most contentious and political. But sometimes the stars align through the right circumstances, and wills and determination make a wrong right. Prior to 2011 we witnessed the deconstruction of Marmont Dam on the Sandy River and Gold Ray Dam on the Rogue. Now in 2011, the removal of the Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River, and Condit Dam that had blocked the White Salmon River has begun. There is much to celebrate regarding the removal of these fish blocking monoliths, and many folks and agencies to thank for their hard work as it comes to fruition. Let’s hope this trend continues as an important step of wild steelhead recovery.
However there seems to be another problem; on the Elwha we got rid of one of the “Four H’s” only to replace it with another “H”: Hatcheries. The plan to restore a wild river with wild fish went sideways with plans of hatchery supplementation for potential future harvest and to augment recovery. In September, The Wild Steelhead Coalition partnered with The Wild Fish Conservancy, The Conservation Angler and the Federation of Fly Fishers Steelhead Committee filed a 60-day notice to litigate against the agencies that plan to utilize a hatchery to restore wild fish to this free river, one with some of the most pristine habitat anyone could ask for in the Pacific Northwest. The two biggest issues of contention are the planting of Chambers Creek stock steelhead in the Elwha River and the lack of a solid, adapted management plan to restore wild fish. A new 60-day notice was recently filed to also include the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe as one of the agencies. On November 7th, the parties who filed the notice were invited by Congressman Norm Dicks to discuss the notice and our concerns. The Congressman has offered his help to get the fish restoration issues resolved, and we are optimistic his effort to work with the agencies will bear fruit and get us on right path toward wild fish recovery on the Elwha.
The WSC also recently hosted a fundraising event to show the new film “Connect”, with proceeds going directly to support our efforts with the Wild Fish Conservancy in restoring the Elwha with wild fish. The event raised $5,000, which included support from Emerald Water Anglers, Sage, Redington, Rio (Farbank Group), The Avid Angler, Creekside Angling, Orvis Bellevue, The Drake, Gig Harbor Fly Shop, Yellow Dog Fly Fishing, Allen Fly Fishing, Simms, Georgetown Brewery, Recycled Waders, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, and Westland Distillery. A big “thanks” also goes out to all who attended the event and support our efforts for a wild Elwha River. At the event, we also unveiled the new WSC logo and folks will soon be seeing a new look and feel for the organization as we move forward in 2012.
On November 8, the WSC also partnered with Save Our Wild Salmon in a meeting with Senator Maria Cantwell’s office to make a strong pitch for the Senator to support a legitimate stakeholder process regarding Columbia River Steelhead and Salmon. We urged the Senator to work with the Administration and other elected leaders in our region to convene an inclusive, collaborative stakeholder process focused on restoring abundant salmon and steelhead populations in a manner that also meets the important needs of our communities and economy.
Our VP of Science, Dick Burge, is also representing the WSC as part of the Puget Sound Hatchery Review Committee with support from our friend John McMillan and Nick Gayeski at Wild Fish Conservancy. The WSC was also instrumental in work to establish the Sol Duc River on the Olympic Peninsula as WSMZ by retiring the Snider Creek Broodstock program. And I urge you to please take a moment to thank the WDFW’s Director Phil Anderson, Ron Warren, and Jim Scott for standing up for wild steelhead by making this important decision to close the hatchery on Snider Creek.
I would also like to take this moment to recognize Richard Hunt for his years of service on the WSC Board as he steps away into an active member role. At the same time I would like to introduce our new Board member Luke Kelly who has jumped on board and been a big help to the organization.
Yes, 2011 was a Dam fine year. Now if we can only rise above human intervention to let the river and the fish do what they have been doing for so long.
Wild Steelhead Coalition