If the Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation project becomes a reality there are three ways that coho and sockeye salmon could be re-introduced into Wallowa Lake. The dam, which was originally built nearly 100 years ago, has no provision for fish passage.
Fish passage is a key component for the Nez Perce Tribes' involvement in the dam project and the Nez Perce Tribe involvement is a key component to the project's overall potential for success.
According to Rick Zollman, who works as a fish biologist for the Nez Perce Tribe's Enterprise office, the three ways to get fish past the dam are via a fish ladder, by means of an elevator, or trap the fish and haul them around the dam.
Since the engineering for the fish passage segment of the five phase project is scheduled to take place during phase two, Zollman points out that how to get the fish past the dam at this time is only a matter of speculation.
Zollman says that a fish ladder, though very costly, is not out of the realm of possibility. Disagreeing with with the local fish biologist is Becky Ashe of Lapwai, Idaho, production coordinator for the Nez Perce Tribe, who told a large gathering on the dam issue at the Joseph Community Center Oct. 3, "Obviously a fish ladder is out of the question."
Zollman and Ashe agree that the other two options are a fish elevator or trap and haul.
How an elevator would look would depend on how the engineers would draw it up site specific for the Wallowa Lake Dam. Zollman has seen elevators consisting of concrete towers within which a chamber traps the fish, then hoists the fish and water up to the level of the lake for release.
The trap and haul technique would not limit the trap portion to the base of the dam. It would, thought Zollman, place the point of release at the foot of Wallowa Lake.