PENDLETON, ORE. -- Due to fish passage problems, all Umatilla River summer steelhead returning to Three Mile Falls Dam are being transported upstream by the Umatilla Fish Passage Operations Project, a BPA funded project co-managed by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The steelhead are being transported around Feed Canal Dam upstream and released at river mile 44.
According to Bill Duke, ODFW’s Umatilla district fish biologist, the river bed at Feed Canal Dam has down-cut below the fish ladder at the dam, creating a partial barrier for migrating fish attempting to enter the dam’s fish ladder and continue their upstream travel. Fish passage problems were first observed at Feed Canal Dam in early December during adult coho and fall chinook migration. Unlike coho and fall chinook which spawn in the main river system, all adult steelhead travel much farther upstream, moving into tributaries to spawn.
Modifications to improve passage have been made at the dam and are currently being evaluated. The goal is to restore adequate fish passage at Feed Canal Dam to allow fish releases to resume directly above Three Mile Falls Dam (located 25 river miles downstream from Feed Canal Dam). Modifications for successful fish passage are also critical for adult spring chinook returns beginning in April.
Although the most popular stretch of river for steelhead fishing is downstream from Three Mile Falls Dam, the area between it and river mile 44 does provide considerable angling opportunities. “We want anglers to know that until fish passage at Feed Canal Dam is restored, there won’t be additional steelhead released to that portion of the river,” said Duke.
Of the 594 steelhead that have returned to Three Mile Falls Dam to date, 242 were released above the dam, 274 have been transported past Feed Canal Dam and the remainder were collected for broodstock.
For additional information, contact Duke at the ODFW office in Pendleton office at 541-276-2344.