Capitol Lake fish ladder damaged, blocking fish runs except at very high tide

OlympianSeptember 11, 2013 

Migrating Chinook salmon make their way up fish ladders into Capitol Lake in this 2008 file photo.

STEVEN M. HERPPICH — The Olympian file photo

Washington state has hired a contractor to inspect and repair the downtown Olympia fish ladder that lets migrating chinook salmon move upstream from Budd Inlet into Capitol Lake and a nearby river and creek.

Roglin’s Inc. of Aberdeen is expected to start inspecting the situation at 4 a.m. Thursday and begin repairs once it determines what is blocking four of the 11 wooden cells that make up the passageway, according to the state Department of Enterprise Services.

“Because of the damage the salmon are pretty much blocked from getting up stream,” Enterprise Services spokesman Jim Erskine said Wednesday. “They can still get up stream when we have a high tide but it has to be high enough they can get up the ladder. But some tides are not high enough.’’

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has told DES there is not an emergency but that the repairs need to be made quickly, Erskine said. The problem was noticed last Thursday and the agency hopes repairs can be done in two or three days.

The cause of the damage is still unknown. “We assume, but don’t know, it was caused by logs or other debris going through the ladder during one of the recent storms,’’ Erskine said. 

The wood-walled salmon passage is built using heavy, 12-foot fir planks measuring four inches by 10 inches.  The planks are stacked to form the cells, and the ladder is used by coho and hatchery chinook.

Low tide is at 5:17 a.m. on Thursday, and Roglin’s has scheduled its work when its crew has the most access to the units, Erskine said.

He said fish are able to get through the passageway only when tides are over 13 feet, which is less than half of the high tides listed this week in local tide tables.

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