By Chelsea Vitone
Tacoma Power has spent millions to install mechanical devices for getting fish around its Cushman dams to honor a 2009 legal settlement with the Skokomish Tribe.
Among the improvements: A fish-collection system at the utility’s lower dam complete with a tram to move adult fish up the 175-foot dam.
But fish don’t make it to Cushman Dam No. 2 for that ride toward spawning grounds if they can’t get past Little Falls two miles downstream. As the utility worked to rebuild fish populations, experts noticed that migrating salmon and steelhead would gather below Little Falls, unable to ascend.
Tacoma Power could have solved the problem by bolting a pre-manufactured aluminum or steel fish ladder to the rock, Generation Manager Pat McCarty said. But that wouldn’t have protected the beauty of the culturally significant spot, which was once prime fishing grounds for the tribe.
So the utility collaborated with tribal officials, environmental consultants, and regulatory agencies to create a more natural-looking fish ladder at the Mason County location. They came up with a plan to ease fish passage by carving ascending resting pools into existing bedrock in the two channels of Little Falls. Read more