Biologists are predicting large losses of sockeye salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers, despite their best efforts to rescue some of the fish. Idaho Department of Fish and Game employees have been spending the past several days trying to trap the salmon from the Snake and transport them to the cooler waters of fish hatcheries.
An emergency declaration was triggered earlier this month when officials from the National Marine Fisheries Service said warm waters had resulted in more than 250,000 sockeye threatened, dead or dying in the Columbia River and its tributaries.
"We think probably 80 to 90 percent of the adult [Snake River] sockeye are going to be lost this year," Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the federal fisheries agency, told the Lewiston Tribune.
Meanwhile employees of the IDFG offices in the Treasure Valley are working to trap and truck some of the salmon to the Eagle Fish Hatchery, where they'll stay until they can be released into Redfish Lake. As of July 27, 37 sockeye had been trapped and loaded on trucks bound for the hatchery.
Officials said that of the more than 4,000 sockeye salmon that have passed through the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, only 350 have been counted at Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River. In the 1990s, sockeye salmon approached extinction before officials dialed up a captive breeding program. In 2012, when IDFG reported record numbers of sockeye salmon swimming over the Bonneville Dam, the news was met with caution from Idaho Rivers United.
"Removing the four low-value dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington is still the only sure way to keep redfish in Idaho's Redfish Lake," said then-IRU Executive Director Bill Sedivy.