Buckley, Wash. - It is a disturbing sight: Salmon struggling their way upstream to Mud Mountain Dam some 10 miles away on the White River. Last year, thousands of them never made it.
The seven species of fish get caught up at the Buckley Diversion Dam, west of the larger Mud Mountain Dam. That's the place where the fish are collected, then taken by truck over to the Mud Mountain Dam so they can continue their trip up the White River to Mount Rainier.
"They run into an old dam that's got rebar sticking out," said Mike Garrity of the American Rivers environmental organization. "They impale themselves."
Garrity said the Buckley Diversion Dam is why the White River is listed as one of the country's most endangered.
"The Buckley Dam is really in disrepair," said Garrity. "It's dilapidated."
Not for much longer. In a historic agreement, the Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA announced an ambitious five-year plan to replace the worn out dam and modernize its cache system to better protect the endangered Chinook salmon and steelhead.
It is something the Muckleshoot and Puyallup tribes sought for generations.
"That's a good thing for fish," said William Stelle, NOAA fisheries Regional Administrator. "It's a good thing for the White River. It's a good thing for tribal treaty rights and tribal fisheries."
A good thing, too, for the 800,000 people living downstream from the White River whose properties would likely flood every year if the Buckley Diversion Dam and Mud Mountain Dam weren't here.
Temporary repairs to the Buckley Conversion Dam will begin next summer. A brand new dam is slated to be in place by 2020.