The sockeye salmon are back, headed to a river and lake near you. They are back by the tens of thousands, and that is one of the great natural resource success stories you have never heard of.
As of Friday, 166,989 sockeye had passed Bonneville Dam. A few will go to the Snake River, more to Lake Wenatchee, but the vast majority are headed for a left turn up the Okanogan River, eventually to spawn above Lake Osoyoos. This year’s run pales in comparison to last year’s record of 515,673 at Bonneville, but is still strong.
The renewed run is made possible by human intervention to undo human damage. A decade ago the Douglas County PUD, with Canadian agencies and tribes on both sides of the border, developed a system called the Fish Water Management Tool. By managing dams and releases it allows manipulation of flows and water temperatures in the sockeye spawning grounds between Osoyoos and Lake Okanagan. Habitat once hostile became prime, and the sockeye began to thrive. A sockeye return of 1,662 at Wells Dam in the mid-1990s became a record 326,00 in 2012, passing nine dams on the journey. It’s an example of the success possible with knowledge and concerted effort. Celebrate the salmon’s return.
This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Publisher Rufus Woods, Editor Cal FitzSimmons and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner.