Dams Impact Fishing

Historically, the Northeast Washington Salmon Recovery Region was comprised of free-flowing rivers supporting migrating salmon, steelhead trout, bull trout, and west slope cutthroat trout that the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Spokane Tribe of Indians, and Kalispel Tribe of Indians, as well as many other upper river tribes relied on for subsistence, ceremonial, religious, and other cultural uses.

Completion of Grand Coulee Dam in 1941 and Chief Joseph Dam in 1955 on the Columbia River blocked migrating fish from traditional tribal fishing sites in the Columbia, Spokane, and Pend Oreille Rivers watersheds. About 37 percent of all salmon and steelhead losses in the Columbia River basin occurred in the areas blocked by these two dams. But they are just two of many dams that create problems for Pend Oreille River salmon.

While widespread habitat degradation and loss increasingly are addressed by improvement projects, they have affected resident fish. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed a feasibility-level design for a trap and haul fish passage facility at Albeni Falls Dam just over the Idaho state line. Funding for final design and construction has not been allocated, but the project, when implemented, would restore bull trout access to 239 miles of stream habitat and 125 square miles of cold-water habitat and abundant prey in Lake Pend Oreille.