By Greg McMillan
“It’s not the heat, it’s the humility.” –Yogi Berra
On Saturday, July 4, Steve Pribyl, retired Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist and Deschutes River Alliance board member, found over a dozen dead sockeye salmon between Rattlesnake Rapid and Moody on the lower Deschutes River.
According to Steve, the fish were dead of apparent thermal stress from the high water temperatures. Several sockeye were observed in slow, shallow water in obvious distress. No other possible cause of this fish kill was noted (toxic spill, etc.).
Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) are known to have a lower tolerance for warm temperatures than other salmonids. That makes them the “canary in the coal mine” for heat related stress and death for salmonids.
Steve attempted to notify officials from The Dalles Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office, but was unable to reach anyone over the weekend. The Dalles ODFW office has been notified by email that the dead fish had been observed.
At the present time, despite high temperatures in the lower river, we don’t believe any monitoring program is in place to detect fish die off.
Although record high temperatures in north central Oregon are warming water, discharge temperatures at the Pelton-Round Butte Dam Complex (owned and operated by Portland General Electric and The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation) have been increasing as the dam operators are drawing from the surface of the reservoir as the primary component of water being used to run turbines.
Last summer (2014) the dam operators elected to lower discharge temperatures by using more water from the bottom of the reservoir. We think it’s time to do that once again.
Deschutes River Alliance: Cooler, cleaner H2O for the lower Deschutes River.
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