Meeting set for fish passage proposal

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(Image courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) The fish passage project's preferred alternative involves trapping bull trout and hauling them upstream to be released.

SANDPOINT — If you have thoughts on restoring fish passage at Albeni Falls Dam, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would like to hear them.

The agency is conducting a public meeting on the proposal on Wednesday, Dec. 13. It runs from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Sandpoint Center (Columbia Bank building), 414 Church St.

The proposal involves establishing permanent upstream fish passage via an entrance, ladder, holding and sorting areas, fish lift and a truck loading area. The corps has not disclosed the cost of the project, which is subject to permit approval and funding appropriations. The facility would run nearly year round, except in August, when temperatures exceed lethal thresholds for bull trout, and when the passage ices over during winter.

A 2000 biological opinion developed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service required the corps and other agencies to implement ways of ultimately restoring fish passage at federal hydroelectric projects.

The biological opinion called for the restoration of two-way fish passage, although the project being eyed at Albeni Falls focuses on upstream passage of adult and sub-adult bull trout.

Downstream passage is possible at Albeni Falls, according to a 2014 survivability study which found that 90 percent of trout species could pass through the damage without being injured or killed.

The Columbia River’s population of bull trout, which includes the Pend Oreille River’s bull trout, were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1998.

Prior to the dam’s construction, native fish such as bull trout, could navigate Albeni Falls, but upstream passage ceased when the dam became operational in 1952.

The 30-day public comment period opened on Nov. 28 and closes on Dec. 28. Comments can be directed to District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ATTN: CENWS-PMP-1803, P.O. Box 3755, Seattle, WA. 98124-3755 or by calling 206-764-3646. Remarks can also be emailed to CENWS-AFDComments@usace.army.mil.

Information: http://tinyurl.com/AlbeniFishPassage

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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