Juvenile fish get a ride downriver

The Tug Umatilla pushes two Corps of Engineers Juvenile Fish Barges into the navigational locks at The Dalles Dam for a trip downstream.

Three of the four Snake River dams, and McNary Dam on the Columbia River, have fish transport facilities.

At these four dams, juvenile fish that go through the bypass systems can be routed either directly back into the river below the dam, or to holding and loading facilities for loading into barges or trucks for transport.

The transport barges and trucks carry the fish past the remaining projects for release below Bonneville dam.

River water circulates through the barges allowing the fish to imprint the chemicals and smells of the water during the trip downriver.

The barges have a closed-circuit recirculation system which can shut off water intake in case of contamination in the river. They also have pumping systems which can help de-gas the water in areas where gas supersaturation is a problem.

The Corps runs the Juvenile Fish Transportation Program in cooperation with National Marine Fisheries Service, and in accordance with the National Marine Fisheries Service hydropower Biological Opinion for salmon. Fifteen to 20 million salmon and steelhead have typically been transported each year over the past several years.

The program has come under criticism in recent years from state and tribal fishery agencies and environmental groups, who believe that rather than putting fish in barges, efforts should concentrate on improving in-river migration conditions.

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