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Posted 10/7/2014

Release no. 14-044


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Michael Milstein
971-313-1466

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Tanya King
206-764-3750

Seattle, Wash. – NOAA Fisheries today issued a Biological Opinion (BiOp) with a series of major improvements in fish passage at Mud Mountain Dam and related structures on the White River near Enumclaw, Wash., to protect Endangered Species Act listed fish species and their designated critical habitat.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is committed to improving fish passage conditions at Mud Mountain Dam with a focus on meeting the requirements of the Biological Opinion,” said Brig. Gen. John Kem, USACE, Northwestern Division commander.  “The Corps is transforming its civil works processes, and we will use these new procedures to seek funding for this project with the final objective of full operation in 2020.  We will continue to work with NOAA Fisheries, the Tribes and the State of Washington as we work toward our common objective of more effectively passing listed species."

The fish passage improvements are outlined in a BiOp issued by NOAA Fisheries. The BiOp is available online. The improvements include the following:

·         Immediate operational changes at Mud Mountain Dam to improve downstream passage of juvenile salmon and steelhead, increasing survival to at least 95 percent.

·         Interim repairs by summer 2015 at a deteriorating diversion dam downstream of Mud Mountain Dam to keep passing fish from becoming injured and trapped.

·         Replacement of the aging diversion structure and a related fish collection facility by December 2020 to protect passing fish and allow for safe capture and transport of adult salmon and steelhead upstream past Mud Mountain Dam.

Mud Mountain Dam is operated by USACE, Seattle District.  The dam is an earthen, rock-filled structure built in 1948 for flood risk management, which also provides for fish passage.  The project protects more than 400,000 homes along the White and Puyallup river valleys, between Buckley and Tacoma, Wash.

The Corps depends on the diversion structure as a barrier below Mud Mountain Dam where adult fish can be collected in a trap-and-haul facility and transported upstream past the dam. However the aging structure built in 1941 was not designed for current conditions or salmon numbers. The situation affects ESA-listed Puget Sound steelhead, Puget Sound Chinook, and Coastal/Puget Sound/Coastal bull trout. The Muckleshoot and Puyallup Tribes hold treaty reserved fishing rights on the White River and have long sought improved fish passage.

"The tribes (and many others) have waited many years to realize the full potential of the White River for salmon and steelhead. Fortunately we will now have the chance to see that happen," said Will Stelle, NOAA Fisheries regional administrator. "We appreciate the persistence and commitment of many to get us to this important milestone, and we especially appreciate the fresh commitment of the Corps of Engineers to enable this great progress in making the White River a place where fish can flourish again."

NOAA Fisheries’ mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our other social media channels.

Seattle District provides military and civil public works services as well as support for other agencies.  The district also plays a key role in environmental protection and improvement from protecting wetlands to ecological restoration and cleaning up hazardous and toxic waste pollution.

NOTE TO REPORTERS: Executives from NOAA Fisheries and the Corps will be available from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Please contact agency press contacts above for arrangements.

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