Salmon return in big numbers
Associated Press file
Chinook salmon pass the viewing window at Bonneville
Bonneville Dam officials are witnessing a record
number of fall-run chinook.
October 14, 2003
Federal officials watching the counts at Bonneville
Dam said they are elated by record-setting numbers
of returning salmon this year, including more than a
half-million fall-run chinook.
Between 1,200 and 1,450 fall chinook come through
the fish ladder each day.
Those fish are counted through the end of November,
when the run drops off.
Single-day totals were highest in mid-September,
when counters recorded three consecutive days when
more than 40,000 fall chinook passed the crowded
Those were the highest daily counts in 65 years of
record-keeping. A single-day record of 45,884
chinook was set Sept. 11.
Officials with the Federal Caucus — the nine federal
agencies responsible for salmon recovery in the
Columbia Basin — said they are optimistic about the
“We know that favorable ocean conditions have
substantially boosted these adult returns,” said
Witt Anderson, the chief of the Army Corps of
Engineers fish management office. “But, we also
believe that the money and effort the region has
invested in salmon recovery have appreciably
contributed to these numbers.
“We also know that while most of the fish are
hatchery-reared, the wild fish also are making a
Caucus officials said that technical improvements to
the federal hydroelectric dams, better management of
salmon hatcheries and restoration of streamside
habitat are factors contributing to salmon recovery.
As an example, survival of juvenile fish moving
through the network of dams has improved
significantly, with Snake River spring chinook
numbers more than doubling compared with conditions
in the 1970s.
Actions that have contributed to improvements for
all species include: Spilling water to help fish
migrating downriver, turbine screens to keep young
fish from getting ground up or beaten to death in
generators, controlling predatory northern
pikeminnow through the Oregon/Washington bounty
program that wrapped up for 2003 on Sunday.
Other improvements are taking place on a much
broader scale, officials said.
Federal restoration projects have improved and
protected more than 500 miles of riverside and
Many in-stream barriers to migrating fish such as
temporary gravel diversion dams or inadequate
culverts, have been removed or modified to allow for
better fish passage.
And more scientific management of hatcheries has
improved when and how fish are released into
The conclusions of caucus officials have been
bolstered by release of the 2003 Check-In Report
issued by the Federal Columbia River Power System
agencies that are responsible for getting the 2000
NOAA Fisheries biological opinion (BiOp) up and
Agencies that participated in preparation of the
report are the Bonneville Power Administration, the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of
Officials for all three said the overall
implementation of the BiOp is on track, and that the
status of the Columbia River basin salmon and
steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act is
improved over the conditions prior to the BiOp three
The 2003 Check-In Report acknowledges that good
ocean conditions are a major contributor to the good
returns, but improved fish passage at Columbia and
Snake river dams and better habitat, hatchery and
harvest practices are also contributing.
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