The Eklutna River basin, tucked away in a valley not far from Anchorage, was once a thriving salmon fishery but has been greatly diminished by inadequate water flows. We are working to bring salmon back in greater numbers. Dam removal is beginning to happen in various places in the Pacific Northwest in an attempt to increase spawning habitat and allow access to anadromous fish. Though it’s still early in the game, some of these dam removal projects are bearing fruit. The Elwha River dam removal project in Washington is a good example. Natural runs of salmon and especially, summer steelhead are making use of the opened habitat and are increasing in number.
In this video, Eric Booton, Sportsmen Engagement Coordinator for Trout Unlimited Alaska tells the tale of dam removal on the Eklutna River, just north of Eagle River. The hydro project on the Eklutna began about 100 years ago and the Eklutna River streamflow was drastically reduced as a result of water diversion primarily for hydroelectric power. The dam and water diversion reduced available spawning habitat tremendously, and the salmon runs in the river suffered as a result.
With the removal of the dam, fish now have access to the upper 8+ miles of the river. The next step is to allow some of the water being diverted from Eklutna Lake to actually flow down the streambed. This will provide the flows and spawning habitat needed to restore historical runs of salmon to the stream. As it stands right now, 90% of the river water gets diverted to produce electricity, 10% for Anchorage drinking water, and 0% goes down the river to support fish. It is vital to allow some of this water to flow down the Eklutna River if we want to restore salmon in the river to historical levels.
What can you do to help? Make sure to let the utility companies know that you want to see a restored Eklutna River providing not only electricity and drinking water, but also a flowing river full of fish. You can send a note to them by going to their website.