A $110 million project to help fish get around Round Butte Dam is raising water temperatures in the Deschutes River. That’s awkward.
Fishermen are criticizing the temperature bump from a new tower that mixes warm and cold water from the dam reservoir to make the fish migration route less disorienting. The result of the fish passage project is actually warmer water headed downstream. It leaves the reservoir area at 58 degrees Fahrenheit (as opposed to 52 degrees before) and, lately, by the time it reaches the Columbia River, it’s a steamy 70 to 72 degrees (pretty warm for salmon and steelhead).
State agencies and dam operators who have taken control of the thermostat say they know what they’re doing. Fishermen got used to artificially cooled reservoir water over the past 50 years, ODFW biologist Rod French told The Oregonian.
“It’s been great for fishermen, but not necessarily healthy for the wild population of steelhead,” he said. “Maybe there’s a tradeoff.”
This is a curious match of fishermen vs fish.