Nelson Dam demolition wraps up, fish to have new passage by spring

YAKIMA, Wash. — Crews plan to finish demolition this week on the Nelson Dam in Yakima and get started on establishing a roughened channel to replace it in time for spring.

The old dam was built in the 1920 and had design flaws that made it difficult for fish to migrate upstream on the Naches River and resulted in sediment buildup that rose water levels and caused flooding.

City of Yakima Assistant Director of Public Works Dave Brown said being wider and more open, the roughened channel won’t have those same problems.

“We should drop the flood level by five or six feet,” Brown said.

Brown said the changes will also make the irrigation supply more reliable for farmers and the river less likely to flood neighboring properties.

With fish having an easier time swimming upstream, Brown said the area could see a boost in the fish population.

“It should enhance it quite a bit because it’s just a free ride for the fish to get up and over,” Brown said.

Brown said the new dam structure also opens up 300 miles of area for fishing, which could increase recreation and boating activity in the area.

“It’s going to offer a lot of opportunity for Yakima,” Brown said.

The project is a partnership between state, county and local governments and has a budget of more than $20 million. It’s expected to be completed by next spring.

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