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Flash Floods Create Unusual Problem For Farmers, Fish

Flash floods this August swept mud, debris, and ash through north central Washington. All that gunk created an unusual problem for farmers and migratory fish.

Farmers often install screens on the end of irrigation pipes to prevent clogs. Those screens also keep fish from being sucked out of the water and into farmers’ fields. But fish screens do little good when they get inundated with debris and mud.

Danny Didricksen, the fish screening unit leader for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said crews have been working non-stop to help unclog fish screens.

“If most of it’s clogged but not all of it, and we get into a situation where there’s extra draw going at a point of the screen, the fish may not be able to avoid it,” Didricksen said.

That extra suction could pull migrating fish into irrigation pipes.

Didricksen said completely clogged fish screens block water to farmers’ crops, like alfalfa this time of year. He expects more flooding and debris to wash through the Methow Valley with spring snow melts.

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In August, flash flooding swept through north central Washington and took residents by surprise. High tech weather sensors will now warn residents of potential flooding.
Courtesy of the Washington Department of Ecology /
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In August, flash flooding swept through north central Washington and took residents by surprise.

Courtney Flatt