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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Unusually warm Northwest rivers pose problems for endangered fish

With the unusually warm river temperatures in the Columbia and Snake rivers right now – as much as 6 degrees warmer than usual – Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists took the unusual step of capturing migrating adult sockeye salmon in a trap at the Lower Granite Dam southwest of Pullman, Wash., and hauling them 320 miles from Washington state to a state fish hatchery in Eagle. "This is giving them the best chance for survival," said Pete Hassemer, Idaho Fish and Game salmon and steelhead fisheries manager.

Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker reports that Northwest rivers are so warm that salmon and steelhead are dying in tributaries such as the Willamette and Deschutes rivers in Oregon. Oregon fisheries officials are now limiting fishing for trout, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon statewide to protect the fish from stress.

It’s a particular concern for endangered wild salmon and steelhead, as a federal judge decides whether enough is being done to keep them from going extinct. You can read Barker’s full report here via the Associated Press. Meanwhile, S-R reporter Becky Kramer reports that warm temperatures have caused significant warmups in North Idaho lake waters, with Lake Coeur d'Alene in the 70s and smaller bodies of water, including Lake Cocolalla, up into the 80s. While the warmer temperatures are a plus for swimmers, they’re bad for water quality, Kramer reports. Hot water stresses fish, spurs plant growth and depletes oxygen levels. Scientists are seeing signs of problems, particularly at Lake Coeur d’Alene’s shallow southern end; you can read the full story here.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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