BUCKLEY, Wash. -- Indian tribes and a river protection group are demanding federal officials do something to stop the loss of tens of thousands of salmon in the White River.

Tribal officials were told this year that plans for new fish capturing equipment at the White River Diversion dam near Buckley had to be canceled because of budget shortages. The equipment is needed to capture some of the hundreds of thousands of pink salmon that return every other year to the White River.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the dam, confirms the fish capturing equipment has been dropped but Operations Project Manager Daniel Johnson said there is still funding for a new dam to replace the aging structure. Johnson said a new dam can be designed to adjust flows to guide fish to an existing capture structure. From there the fish are trucked around the much larger Mud Mountain Dam upstream, then released to their native river and streams.

But currently the system is overwhelmed by large returns of pink salmon and Puyallup Resource Protection Manager Russ Ladley estimated between 100,000 and 200,000 salmon will die this year before they can be captured and trucked around the dams.

Today thousands of the fish were racing up an apron to the dam only to crash against it and slide back into the river. Some were too exhausted to continue the fight; others were fatally injured by colliding with the dam.

Muckleshoot Tribal Fish Commissioner Don Jerry said that of all the places the government is spending millions of dollars for fish recovery, this is one place they could see instant results. He said the Corps needs to find the money to replace the dam and the capture structures and prevent the loss of 20 percent of salmon that return there.

The Army Corps of Engineers does not agree with our statement that it operates the barrier dam at Buckley and issued the following statement:

The barrier dam at Buckley is owned, operated and maintained by Cascade Water Alliance for the purpose of diverting water from the White River into Lake Tapps. The Corps of Engineers has a cooperative agreement with Cascade Water Alliance to provide funds to support the ongoing operation and maintenance of the dam because the barrier dam is a critical component in the operation of the Corps' fish trapping facility. The Corps has proposed a project to replace the aging barrier structure, which is intended to reduce the risk of harm to the migrating salmon and increase the efficiency of both the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and Corps of Engineers fish traps. If approved by the Office of Management and Budget and the Congress, funds would be appropriated for the construction of a new barrier structure in a future fiscal year. Funds are not currently appropriated for replacement of the Buckley barrier dam.

Read or Share this story: http://www.king5.com/story/tech/science/environment/2014/08/04/13297670/