Barrier Dam repairs on hold as spawning season begins

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

Plans to repair the White River barrier or diversion dam flashboards have been put off once again by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The dam lost 17 flashboards during storms in December and January.

The barrier dam is used to divert water into the flume that feeds Lake Tapps and to direct spawning salmon, steelhead and other fish into the fish trap.

The corps operates the trap to capture spawning fish and move them by truck around Mud Mountain Dam, which was constructed without a fish passage.

The trap collects Chinook salmon, steelhead trout and bull trout, which are listed as threatened on the federal government's endangered species act.

The spawning season for Chinook and pinks began in July.

Jeff Dillon from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said a meeting took place with representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and Puyallup Tribe of Indians.

“We met to write up a work plan,” Dillon said. “And we wanted to let everyone know what's going on.”

Dillon said the river was running too high for Puget Sound Energy workers to get into the river and repair the flashboard.

“If the fish trap becomes inoperable we can build a small levy to help the fish trap work,” Dillon said.

Puget Sound Energy owns Lake Tapps, the barrier dam and flume. The utility will repair the flashboards when the corps gives them a date to begin.

Previously when the barrier dam needed repairs water was held back at Mud Mountain Dam, but that is not an option this year because of repairs to the 9-foot tunnel that passes water through the dam.

There are two tunnels used at Mud Mountain Dam - one 9-foot and one 23-foot.

Dillon said the repair work began last week and could continue well into fall.

The work on the tunnel is necessary because of the high water from storms and damage from the river water.

“The White is hard on everything,” Dillon said. “There is a lot of sediment and rock in that river.”

The loss of the barrier dam's flashboard was one of the reasons it took until July before the water level in Lake Tapps was near recreation level.

Other factors were the construction of the backflow dike east of Inlet Island in the spring and the weather.

The low lake level caused numerous problems, including wells drying up and people damaging their boats on the lake.

The corps is planning for the construction of a new barrier dam and fish trap. The estimated cost is about $35 million. The corps is looking at a possible construction date of 2009 or 2010.

Dennis Box can be reached at

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