Tanker trucks get salmon past dam

Tanker trucks get salmon past dam

BLUE RIVER, Ore. - Slides and tanks await swimmers in the foothills of the Cascades.

This isn't a water park for kids, though: it's a means for endangered Northwest Chinook salmon to make it around Cougar Dam.

Finished in late 2010 at a price of $10 million, Army Corps of Engineers biologists said the fish collection facility is helping reconnect adult salmon with prime spawning habitat above the dam.

"We invest to try to improve the fish survival," said Greg Taylor, an Army Corps biologist, "and I think it's absolutely been worth it."

Step one, the salmon ride down the flume "own into a tank that we have down there," Taylor said. "We're going to anesthetize them."

While the salmon are sedated, workers take genetic clips to sort the fish by their DNA. Biologists can identify where the fish was born, which helps return it to its home stream.

After the clip, the fish dive into a holding tank and take a water ride into an awaiting tank truck. The trucks take the salmon above the dam for release.

Biologists told KVAL News that what they've learned from this salmon "transit system" can apply to many other dams in the Willamette Basin.