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Salmon Return to Skagit River

15 October 2009

WASHINGTON, US - Pink and Chinook salmon that have returned to the Skagit River to spawn in numbers that have not been seen for decades.

Standing on the banks of the Skagit River near Rockport, it's nearly impossible to avoid the sight of pink and Chinook salmon that have returned to spawn in astonishing swarms that have not been seen in at least 35 years.

Seattle PostGlobe reports that an estimated 1.2 million pink salmon and 25,000 Chinook are crowding into the upper Skagit River below Seattle City Light’s three hydroelectric dams to renew the cycle of life. It’s been more than 40 years since the river had a pink run this big and this is the biggest Chinook run forecasted since record keeping started 35 years ago.

Compare that to the past two years when only 11,000 Chinook came back to spawn on the Skagit. The turnaround is so good, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife allowed fishing for Chinook on the Skagit this summer for the first time in 16 years.

“Some people said we’d never see 20,000 Chinook again,” Seattle City Light Fish Biologist Ed Connor said. “Everybody has been working together to make this happen.”

Seattle City Light is a key player in the effort to restore and protect salmon runs on the Skagit River, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Forest Service, the North Cascades National Park, the Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA fisheries, the state departments of Ecology and Fish & Wildlife, Skagit River tribes, the Skagit Watershed Council, the Nature Conservancy and others.

“Operating hydroelectric dams that produce 17 per cent of the power used by our customers on such an important river comes with great stewardship responsibility that we take seriously,” City Light Superintendent, Jorge Carrasco said.

The utility’s salmon efforts fall into three areas: river flow management, habitat protection and restoration, and research.



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