Blocked fishways less than rare a century ago
I was going through newspaper archives, and I came across an article with the headline "New Dam Stops Fish in Klamath" printed in the Mail Tribune on Oct. 26, 1914. The article was about the need for a fish ladder at a California-Oregon Power Company hydroelectric dam located near Klamathon (a former town near Hilt and Copco) because they interfered with the salmon run and were stopping a source of food for many members of the Klamath tribe. I would like to know how extensive blocked salmon runs were. Were other runs of fish blocked? Why weren't ladders built for the dam?
— Lauri H., via email
We perused the microfilm scan you submitted to us, Lauri. Our apologies if anything was lost in the paraphrasing of your question.
The particular story came from the Klamath Northwestern newspaper, so we were unable to turn up other October 1914 references to the Klamath River and their salmon runs in the dusty archives of the Muddy Tributary. That said, your clipping was far from the first that the Mail Tribune published about a fish run being disrupted, nor was it the first time a California-Oregon Power Company's dam was the culprit.
An Aug. 13, 2013, Mail Tribune 100 referenced a formal notice served by State Game Warden Finley mandating that the California-Oregon Power Company build a second fishway at Gold Ray Dam. The article notes that the state game and fish commission, predecessor to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, had recently changed its regulations and required all large dams to have two fish ladders.
Drawing from our archives, the health of area fish habitats seems to have been a concern a century ago. And in the MT 100 of Sept. 4 of this year, Oregon Governor Oswald West sent a telegram asking the U.S. government to remove fish racks at the Ament Dam near Grants Pass because they were blocking the fall run of steelhead and silverside salmon. And on July 21, 1914, an article was printed about fish culturist Hugh Mitchell's concern for the low water levels and warmest recorded temperature on the Rogue River.
Fish poaching seemed to have been a more common concern among fish and game officials a century ago. A Feb. 28, 1914, MT noted that a Charles Estes was fined $250 for dynamiting fish in Bear Creek, and according to a June 18, 1914, Mail Tribune a fish-poaching ring screening the end of a fish ladder was busted near Gold Ray Dam. Over 70 pounds of illegally caught salmon and steelhead were found in the bust.
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