Idaho Public Television's Outdoor Idaho producer Aaron Kunz attempted to shoot video footage of the barging operations and to interview someone at the US Army Corp. of Engineers. The barging is managed by the Walla Walla District; but they would only grant permission to shoot if they could manage the content of the show, which we were unwilling to do. Ultimately we didn't shoot the barging operations or do interviews.
This is the description of their operations as based on the District's website. Fish transport is very controversial. Some biologists believe it reduces the salmon's ability to navigate back upriver as adults.
The District transports between 15-22 million fish each year, depending upon run-off and amount of spill. The Corps began a maximum collection and transport operation using specially designed trucks and barges to collect Snake River steelhead and late migrating spring/summer Chinook salmon during late spring. The Corps began barging as an emergency measure in 1977 in the record drought year as a way to move large numbers of fish. In 1978 the Corps modified two barges and started the program, in earnest, in 1981. By 1983 two more barges were built, giving the Corps the ability to barge every day out of Lower Granite Dam. The transport systems recirculate water, add oxygen and have refrigeration systems that allow us to heat or chill the water. If the water temperature is 65 degrees at Lower Granite Dam and it's 62 degrees at Bonneville Dam, then over the course of the trip we will slowly drop the temperature to 62 degrees before we release them. Transporting helps increase fish survivability by putting them on a more natural calendar and helps them bypass potential predators. Transporting fish gets them back toward their biological clock for the appropriate timing when they should be entering the ocean which enables them to have a better transition to salt water, and hence survival. Transport is not the total answer to long-term fish population restoration, but it is one tool in our toolbox. There is a time and place for transport, and as we incorporate new technologies like the spillway weirs, we're reconfiguring the project to accommodate them. We also are building new juvenile facilities and incorporating flexibility into our systems so we can operate the dams to maximize adult fish returns.