Salmon will first have to pass screening for IHN before being moved above Chief Joseph or Grand Coulee dams

NESPELEM – The Colville Confederated Tribes might be only weeks away from moving salmon above the Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams.

At some point in the next month, the Colville Tribal Fish and Wildlife department will move Chinook from the Wells Hatchery above Chief Joseph and (possibly) above Grand Coulee dams as part of a “cultural release” if those salmon pass a screening for Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis virus, a virus found in trout and salmon.

CTFW director Randall Friedlander presented a 2019 Fish Passage plan to the Colville Business Council Natural Resource Committee, Tuesday.

“We’re to the point that we could have fish ready to move by the end of this month or the first part of August,” said Friedlander, who noted the fish will be tested at Wells Hatchery on “a Monday or Tuesday. We won’t know the results until probably Wednesday or Thursday.”

Pacific Aquaculture, which produces fish in Lake Rufus Woods above Chief Joseph Dam, has started inoculating their stock for IHN, but the private company will not complete their inoculation until next year, according to Friedlander.

The movement of salmon into Lake Rufus Woods would represent the first migratory salmon above Chief Joseph Dam in 64 years. The movement of salmon to Lake

Roosevelt or the lake’s tributaries would represent the first migratory salmon above Grand Coulee Dam in 77 years.

The salmon would be from a surplus of the current summer Chinook run up the Columbia River, and CTFW’s Kirk Truscott stated the number of fish available could be as high as 500.

In past years, surplus salmon had been distributed to the Colville tribal membership, and some of this year’s surplus is expected to be used for that purpose.

According to Friedlander, the tribe currently has a state license to move the fish from the Wells Hatchery to Lake Rufus Woods and the CTFW director stated the tribe would work to get a second state permit to move the salmon above Grand Coulee Dam to Lake Roosevelt as well.

Friedlander defined a cultural releases as a salmon release with the intent of “reconnecting traditionally with the resource and creating awareness of fish passage.”

The director and others present noted a desire to hold a ceremonial event representing the occasion.

“Because an event like this taking place is so significant, because we haven’t had fish above Chief Joseph, or above Grand Coulee Dam, in so long, being a reintroduction there does, in my eyes, need to be something done as far as recognizing that we are trying to help the salmon be brought back up there,” said Colville tribal member Jim Andrews.

“I can only speak on my behalf,” said Andrews. “The way I see it is at least before they are released, something I would do is just sing a song for them and let them go. Acknowledge that yes we are helping them up there.”

CTFW has published a call for input that reads, “The Colville Tribes’ Fish and Wildlife Department (CTFW) is seeking input from tribal elders and other interested tribal members regarding the first return of salmon above Chief Joseph Dam in 64 years and Grand Coulee Dam in 77 years.  A cultural release is being planned and we welcome your input.

Our planning meeting will be held in the Auditorium, Lucy Covington Building (main floor) on Tuesday, July 23 from 12 noon to 2pm.

If you have any questions, please contact Randall Friedlander, CTFW Director at (509) 978-8005.”

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