River Of No Return Canals, Cannons Among Ideas Floated To Get Fish Past Dams

People have hatched lots of exotic notions and contraptions to save the salmon. Most never get beyond the idea stage.

The Northwest Power Planning Council once asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to look into digging a channel for salmon along the Columbia River, all the way to the sea.

During a 1991 salmon summit, someone suggested building a clear tube the length of the river to carry the fish. A salmon cannon, intended to shoot fish over the dams like mortar rounds, also was mentioned.

Another idea was to develop a fish elixir to attract adult salmon to fish ladders. Corps scientists called it Channel No. 5.

One contraption, known as the Holey Gates, actually was tried.

Years ago - nobody seems to remember exactly when - the Corps built massive metal plates with holes drilled in them to put in John Day Dam. The idea was to squirt salmon neatly through the holes and into the river.

Instead, the rushing water mushed fish into the holes. “Killed a lot of fish with that thing,” remembers Mike Smith, a program manager at the Corps. “Very bad idea.”

, DataTimes

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