This morning staff from the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board took two flights with Lane Gormley, a volunteer pilot for LightHawk. The first flight was dedicated to taking aerial photography of the low water in the Wenatchee River. Today’s flow at Monitor is 380cfs, one third the average flow for this date and the lowest on record for the entire 52 years of monitoring. The second flight brought a member of Senator Patty Murry’s staff on the same flight path to witness firsthand the low water conditions and see the effects of the recent Sleepy Hollow fire.
Our previous flight with LightHawk captured the effects of devastating fire on watersheds in the Methow Valley.
Low water+ high temperatures = drastic effects on fish?
A warm winter with near record-low snowpack followed by extreme warm weather and low precipitation this spring and summer has put our salmon in an uncomfortable position. The warm winter didn’t allow for snowpack accumulation which means very little water to replenish our streams and rivers throughout the summer with cooler water. The early season hot weather (June average temperatures were 10.9º F above normal in Wenatchee) caused what little snowpack we had to melt at least a month earlier than usual. The mainstem Columbia has been running about 50% lower than average in the months of June and July (Columbia River DART). According to the Department of Ecology, 43% of rivers statewide are running at record-low levels. Streams across the Upper Columbia are running at record lows and many in the Okanogan have already dried up for the year.
The following graph depicts flows for the Wenatchee River this year compared to 2005 (the last really low year) and 2014 (Cody Gillin, Trout Unlimited).