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Researchers look at salmon habitat above Enloe Dam

Tens of thousands of endangered salmon could access high-quality habitat in the Similkameen River watershed if Enloe Dam were removed, but any plans to demolish the dam would have to address arsenic contamination in sediment that's collected behind the dam under deep gravel.

At a community meeting on Enloe Dam in Tonasket last week, federal, state and tribal biologists and hydrologists, along with representatives from the Colville Tribes, presented conclusions from preliminary sediment analysis and studies of the potential for steelhead and spring Chinook to reach habitat in British Columbia. The presentation also included a tribal perspective on the Similkameen River and regional watershed.

With abysmally low steelhead return rates to the Okanogan watershed in recent years - just 87 native-origin adults survived this year - "The significance of removing Enloe Dam is probably the only chance these animals have to survive," Colville Confederated Tribes Biologist Chris Fisher said.

Research on fish habitat and sediment sampling have ramped up in the past three years, since the Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD), which owns Enloe Dam, decided in 2018 that it wasn't cost-effective to re-energize the dam to produce power, Fisher said.

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