Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Redbands in the whitewater

Posted on Wed, Jan 26, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Development of a proposed whitewater kayak park in the Spokane River just below downtown may become more complicated, as a fisheries survey to be published in March has found the site to be one of the most robust spawning areas for native redband trout.

Tim Vore, environmental specialist for Avista, last spring identified several redband spawning nests, known as redds, in the reach of river between the Monroe Street and Nine Mile dams. The survey was conducted for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of Avista’s dam relicensing agreements with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The north bank on the first curve of the river below Monroe Street, just downstream from the Sandifur Bridge, was the most active spawning area when surveyed last spring, Vore says.

The proposed whitewater park, “as I understand it, is literally under and downstream of the Sandifur Bridge,” Vore says.

Steve Faust, director of Friends of the Falls, which is seeking to construct a whitewater recreation park in the High Bridge Park area, says clear information about the location of spawning gravels and where the native wild trout actually spawn is welcome.

“We are glad to have the data. It’s data we would need to look at how building the features would affect the hydraulics of the river, and whether that is good or bad or indifferent [to fish],” he says.

“It doesn’t preclude [the park] being built, but it is a challenge. It’s a big challege,” says Mike Aho, a supervisor with Spokane Parks and Recreation, which will be doing an environmental impact study with Friends of the Falls.

The spawning areas will loom large, Faust says. It is certain to come up in the permitting process, he says.

“We don’t know if the spawning areas would impact [the park] as currently proposed. We’re not sure if it’s possible to design a project that doesn’t really impact this spawning area.

“We are just starting to deal with this information and we’re not sure what flexibility we have,” Faust says. Significant portions of the project’s grant funding is tied to the High Bridge location, he says.

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