Pacific lamprey have been found above the former site of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River, signalling an important step forward in habitat restoration, lamprey conservation, and partnership in the Columbia River Basin.
Removed in 2011, Condit Dam blocked passage of upstream migrating fish for over 100 years. Lamprey have a unique life history and important ecological role and their presence should broaden the natural diversity that improve conditions for other aquatic species. “Because of the critical ecological role that lamprey play in rivers of the northwest and the strong tribal cultural importance, the return of lamprey to the White Salmon make this a brighter day,” says Howard Schaller, USFWS.
Joined by concern for this vital fish, staff from The Yakama Nation and the Service began monitoring lamprey distribution in the basin in 2007. Prior to removal of the dam, surveys by Service biologists found no Pacific lamprey above the dam, only below. Non-migratory western brook lamprey were detected both above and below the dam.
In the summer of 2015, as part of the post dam removal monitoring, the Service surveyed for lamprey in several watersheds as well as the mainstem of the White Salmon River above and below the former dam site. Pacific lamprey were found at three locations upstream of the former dam site, around river mile four, in areas previously inundated by Northwestern Reservoir.
These findings give us a unique opportunity to monitor a potentially naturally-recolonizing population of Pacific lamprey and the aquatic community’s response to dam removal. “All lamprey need is a chance to recolonize on their own,” Councilman Luke confirms. Further monitoring is planned to document if the Pacific lamprey continue to use new areas over time.