Federal money not coming for salmon
July 14, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
A proposal to replace a dam near the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery with a structure friendlier to migrating salmon will not receive federal dollars, leaving city and hatchery officials to search for new funding sources.
City and hatchery officials unsuccessfully sought a $3.2 million National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant to pick up the bulk of the $3.9 million project tab.
Local officials said the fish passage project competed for federal money against a crowded field.
“There were $3 billion in applications and only 6 percent were funded,” city Surface Water Manager Kerry Ritland said.
The dam is located on Issaquah Creek about a half-mile upstream from the hatchery. A poorly designed fish ladder blocks chinook, coho and other salmon as the fish migrate upstream. About 10 miles of prime salmon spawning habitat exist beyond the dam.
Officials proposed replacing the 11-foot dam with a series of low boulder weirs that would allow fish to pass through.
Plans call for a new water supply intake structure to be built. The intake would supply water to the hatchery.
“The project needs to happen,” Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery Executive Director Gestin Suttle said. “We’re just going to have to find another source.”
Projects in Seattle, Bellingham and four other cities will receive federal dollars. Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the grant recipients June 30.
Because of the cost of the Issaquah fish passage, officials said the funding source would probably be a federal agency with grant money to award. Officials noted how state and local grants are usually awarded in smaller amounts.
Problems with the aging dam and intake structure are nothing new.
Suttle said many adult salmon become marooned and die each year when they jump onto the concrete apron at the base of the dam. She noted the high quality of salmon habitat beyond the dam.
“They just need to get up there to spawn,” Suttle said.
Trees toppled near the intake and damaged a fence when Issaquah Creek flooded in January.
Nearly 200,000 year-old coho salmon died at the hatchery in November 2006 after leaves blocked the intake, cutting water flow to the hatchery and causing the water’s dissolved-oxygen content to fall too low for the number of fish in the pond.
A proposed airburst system would cut the risk for such incidents by automatically removing debris from the intake screens. With the existing intake, workers have to trek to the intake to brush leaves from the screens each fall. The proposed intake structure would also limit the amount of sediment flowing to the hatchery.
Local officials have been working for years on plans to overhaul the dam.
In March 2008, the city received a $400,000 Salmon Recovery Funding Board grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office. The city, state Department of Fish and Wildlife, local agencies and FISH provided the required 15 percent local match for the grant, bringing the total to $470,000.
Local officials said about $4 million would cover costs to design, permit and complete the hatchery project. About $800,000 in state dollars has been earmarked for the effort.
The hatchery was built as a federal Works Progress Administration project in 1936. Though the original dam was overhauled, advances in the study of fish behavior and improved fish ladder designs would enable workers to build a structure friendlier to salmon. Construction would take about two years and support 30 jobs.
Ritland said he was hopeful other funding sources could be found.
“Everyone agreed it was a good project, but there were lots of good projects out there,” he said.
Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.