SEATTLE – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is lowering the reservoir water level upstream of Chief Joseph Dam by 1.5-2.5 feet below normal pool this weekend, but the Seaton’s Grove boat launch will remain open.
Water managers expect that work scheduled for April 11-12, to prepare for a bank stabilization project, will lower Lake Rufus Woods from its normal low-pool level of 950 feet above sea level to a lower elevation between 947.5-948.5 feet.
The project will eventually address erosion problems by placing bank-stabilizing rock armor and native plantings along 700 feet of shoreline on the Columbia River’s northeastern bank downstream of Seaton’s Grove boat ramp.
To prepare the site for construction, the waterline is being lowered this weekend for an inspection of conditions, and to remove vegetation and other obstructions that could impact bank protection integrity.
Water levels are expected to return to normal April 13.
A Corps spokesman said he didn’t know when the actual construction work would take place or how long it would take.
When complete, the structure will provide protection against reservoir erosive forces, the Corps stated in a press release Friday.
The Corps said that throughout the planning process it coordinated with the Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Reclamation, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington Department of Ecology, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
Between a renewed push for re-introducing salmon to the Columbia River above Grand Coulee Dam and a newly developing technology, a consortium of tribes is hopeful that somehow, there will be a way to bring salmon back.
The icon of the Pacific Northwest has been gone from the upper reaches of the Columbia since the building of Grand Coulee Dam. Now they’re actually stopped at Chief Joseph Dam, more than 50 miles downriver.
But a treaty may open for negotiations between the United States and Canada that dictates exchanges of water and electricity and infrastructure provided. And the Upper Columbia United Tribes is hopeful, along with the Colville Confederated Tribes, that a way for cheap transport may have been discovered by company touting its “salmon canon.” Picture a kinder, gentler form of the same kind of suction tube that takes your deposit at a drive-up bank.
Whooshh Innovations, of Bellevue, Washington, has more information about adapting their fruit moving technology, to help solve the problem of letting fish move upstream. Below is a video that demonstrates the innovation. The company has lots more on its website, which was even recently featured in a segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
Although a way may be found to move salmon upstream over huge dams, that may actually be the easier part of the problem to solve. After hatching, the young salmon have to get back to the ocean. They only swim upstream, so they have to be pushed by a considerable current, which is not present in Lake Roosevelt above Grand Coulee Dam.
But the salmon canon idea is still fun to watch:
Image of a chinook salmon by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used under Creative Commons license.
The level of Lake Roosevelt has already dropped to to a level not predicted until March, in a forecast put out in mid-January, 2015.
On Friday, Jan. 30, the lake surface was at about 1,276 feet above sea level, which will put out of reach several boat launches on the lake, but certainly not all. (See the list below).
The deepest access is offered at the Spring Canyon launch near Grand Coulee.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Grand Coulee Dam, which controls the lake, had published an estimate of the lake level drop this year showing a flood control schedule that would have still held the level at full pool until the end of February and eventually dropping to about 1,243 in April, not as far down as in 2014. But factors including weather and power demand can be hard to predict.
MINIMUM BOAT LAUNCH ELEVATIONS
Crescent Bay 1265′
Spring Canyon 1222′
Keller Ferry 1229′
Hansen Harbor 1253′
Jones Bay 1266′
Lincoln Mill 1245′
Hawk Creek 1281′
Seven Bays 1227′
Fort Spokane 1247′
Porcupine Bay 1243′
Hunters Camp 1230′
Bradbury Beach 1251′
Kettle Falls 1234′
Marcus Island 1281′
North Gorge 1280′
Snag Cove 1277′
French Rocks 1265′
Napoleon Bridge 1280′
China Bend 1277′
Staff from the Colville Tribes Resident Fish (CTRF) program released approximately 5,700 “triploid” rainbow trout ranging from two to three pounds each into Lake Rufus Woods July 31.
The fish, which can be identified by the absence of the adipose fin, are part of a supplementation effort of the Rufus Woods Net Pen Project, which the program’s staff oversees. The CTRF program purchases these fish from a local commercial aquaculture facility. Since 2011, some 118,100 triploid rainbow trout have been released into Lake Rufus Woods. Approximately 48,000 will be released this year alone.
“Normally, fish are diploid and have two sets of chromosomes (one from each parent),” Hatchery Manager Jill Phillips said, explaining the word triploid. “When a treatment of heat or pressure is applied to a fertilized egg prior to a certain egg development stage, the results are triploid or three chromosomes within the cell.”
She said, “Triploid rainbow trout females do not develop eggs. Male triploid rainbow trout sperm is not viable. Basically, both sexes are sterile. Utilizing triploid rainbow trout to supplement fisheries allow managers to mitigate impacts on native fish species.”
“Our overall goal of the CTRF program is to provide a subsistence and recreational fishery on Lake Rufus Woods which remains a popular fishing attraction,” said Bret Nine, resident fisheries manager for CTFW.
All non-members fishing by boat on the boundary waters of the Colville Indian Reservation or from the shore of Lake Rufus Woods at a Designated Fishing Area must have either a valid Colville Indian Reservation Fishing Permit, or a valid fishing license issued by the state of Washington, a tribal press release states. Tribal members must possess a Colville tribal identification card, which is a legal permit to fish.
With Lake Roosevelt about 4 feet from being full, the Bureau of Reclamation expects the lake to rise starting July 3 by up to a half foot each day through the weekend.
Filling the lake lifts accumulated debris off the shores and into the water where it can be dangerous to boaters.
The Bureau of Reclamation is advising people camping along the Lake Roosevelt shoreline over the July 4 weekend to be aware of potential dangers that could exist due to rapidly rising lake levels.
“When camping along the shoreline, it is recommended that tents and other belongings be kept well away from the water’s edge,” said Public Affairs Officer Lynne Brougher. “Although the lake is a popular vacation spot, it is also a working reservoir that supplies water for hydroelectric facilities at Grand Coulee Dam which can result in rapid fluctuations.”
Brougher says campsites that are too close to the water’s edge could potentially become flooded and boats that are not properly anchored or secured could drift out into the lake and become a safety hazard.
Reclamation must adhere to the court-ordered 2008/2010 FCRPS Biological Opinion requiring the lake to be at the full pool elevation of 1,290 feet above sea level between late June and early July. It was at 1,286 feet above sea level Tuesday evening.