Fish stranded in Puyallup River due to low water levels

KING 5's Alix Rozier reports.

Rivers in Washington are seeing historic low water levels following a difficult winter and early summer.

Leaders with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) say this is uncharted territory and they haven't seen anything like it.

"We have a condition that's compounded. Low snow pack through the winter, high temperatures right now, and to top it all off, we've got rainfall that's way below normal as well," WDFW Biologist Larry Phillips said. "We've got conditions, for whatever reason, that are the most extreme we have ever documented."

The Puyallup River is the lowest Brenda Bresnahan has ever seen. She's lived down the block from the Milwaukee Avenue Bridge for 24 years and has never walked under the bridge before.

This summer she's already had that chance. The water level is so low, most of the water underneath has evaporated. While she was out there two days ago she noticed several schools of fish were stranded in a puddle that had become disconnected from the river.

"I figured it was something to be really concerned about," Bresnahan said. "I saw clumps of fish that looked like to me that were gulping for air."

Bresnahan got in touch with the WDFW, who went out to investigate on Thursday. Bresnahan thought the fish might be stranded salmon, but biologists found they were a smaller species of fish called Sticklebacks.

"Although they are not a game fish, they play an important role in the ecosystem. They're a food source for probably hundreds of other things," Phillips said.

Phillips said he was grateful that the fish were not stranded salmon or steelhead, but he still worries that this small sample of fish in danger may be a sign of bigger things to come if mother nature does not provide more rain.

"It's going to get worse before it gets better here," Phillips said. "We're not even to July yet."

Phillips said he was grateful that Bresnahan reported the tip and urged anyone who may see something unusual on the water during this dry time to contact the WDFW immediately.


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