The Skagit River, where three Seattle City Light dams are located, has the highest returns of wild Chinook salmon, steelhead and chum salmon of all Puget Sound rivers. That means inexpensive hydroelectricity for you, and a healthy salmon population for the Skagit.
Here’s what others are saying about how we treat salmon:
Tulalip News: “Tribes, Utility Protect Salmon Eggs”
The Fish Site: Salmon Return to Skagit River
Seattle Times: More Power to City Light, Steward of Skagit Salmon
National HydroPower Association 2008 Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters Award
The Skagit River Project Fisheries Program has five major components: managing flows; acquiring, protecting, and enhancing important fish habitat; research; and monitoring spawning salmon populations.
The historical spawning grounds for Skagit salmon are located downstream of the dams, below a natural fish migration barrier. However, if flows are not carefully managed the dams can negatively impact salmon by de-watering salmon eggs downstream or by stranding juvenile salmon on gravel bars. Seattle City Light has been regulating river flows from the Skagit Project to protect salmon since 1981.The flow-management plan that was developed as part of settlement agreements and incorporated into the Skagit Project FERC License mandates a policy requiring Seattle City Light to strive for 100 percent protection of salmon and steelhead spawning nests (redds). Flows through the dams are adjusted on a seasonal, monthly, and daily basis to supply the right amount of water for spawning, incubation and protection of juvenile salmon.
Skagit River flows levels vary due to flow regulation at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project as well as from unregulated tributaries such as the Sauk and Cascade rivers.
For the latest flows, please check the Skagit River Current Conditions.Want more information on Skagit River flows and salmon? Check out the following:
Over $2 million (in 1990$; $3.6 million in 2012) of funding was allocated for fisheries habitat acquisition, protection, and restoration under the Settlement Agreement for the Skagit Project license. Since that time Seattle City Light has spent nearly $1.6 million to acquire and/or restore select areas of riparian and off-channel habitat. Restoration activities have included:
|Project||Type||Aquatic Habitat Area (sq ft)||Location (RM)|
|Newhalem Ponds||New channel construction||81,000||90.2|
|County Line Ponds||New channel construction||22, 000||89|
|County Line Ponds Expansion||Added a pond||730||89|
|Taylor Channel||New off-channel construction||5,694||79.4|
|Powerline Channel||New off-channel construction|
|Illabot Channel||New off-channel construction|
|Johnson Slough||Off-channel habitat acquisition and restoration||7,466||67.7|
|Bacon Creek Rip-Rap Removal||Off-channel habitat restoration and floodplain re-connection||792,792||83|
|O'Brian Creek Culvert Replacement||Bridge installed to replace undersized culvert||100,000||73|
|Bacon Creek Road Replacement||Rip-rap removal and road replacement||24,000||82|
|Ross Island Slough Acquisition||Acquisition and restoration of off-channel habitat||25,000||30|
|Savage Slough Acquisition||Acquisition and riparian habitat restoration|
|Finney Creek Road Restoration|
Seattle City Light has been a leader and key partner in groundbreaking research projects on fish species in the Skagit Watershed. Under the Settlement Agreement, over $4 million was allocated for fisheries research and more is known about salmonid populations and ecology in the Skagit River basin than in any other drainage to Puget Sound. Most of the research has been conducted under partnership and funding agreements with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, Skagit River System Cooperative (SRSC), and University of Washington. Major research projects include:
This study examines seasonal freshwater habitat preferences and spatial distribution of yearling Chinook salmon, juvenile bull trout, and yearling and older juvenile steelhead. For each of the three species, this study determined the following: (1) seasonal habitat use; (2) seasonal location of fish within the basin; and (3) habitats types by location within the basin. The results of this research study will be used to guide habitat protection and restoration actions throughout the basin to improve the spatial distribution and life-history diversity of the yearling form of these listed species.
This 10year study assessed natural origin downstream migrant Chinook salmon production. Chinook salmon outmigration total varied greatly from one to five million natural-origin sub-yearlings annually. Egg-to-migrant survival also varied greatly from 2-17 percent. Natural origin coho smolts, chum fry, pink fry, steelhead smolts, Dolly Varden trout/bull trout smolts catches were recorded. Egg-to-migrant survival was inversely related to flow level during vulnerable egg incubation periods each fall and winter.
This inventory of natural and constructed off-channel habitat in the upper Skagit River basin was conducted in 2004 to assess the loss of off-channel habitat attributed to the hydroelectric project and to establish the need for additional off-channel habitat within the affected reach. The study found that the density of natural off-channel habitat in the Upper Skagit Reach (normalized by effective floodplain area) is lower than the habitat density in unregulated river reaches. The study also determined that when constructed habitat is factored into the analysis of off-channel habitat density, the upper Skagit Reach is comparable to other unregulated river reaches. In addition, the off-channel habitat inventory documented hydro-modified reaches that restrict available floodplain area, further limiting the formation of new off channel habitat.
Seattle City Light monitors the salmon that spawn in the upper Skagit River annually in cooperation with the Skagit River System Cooperative. Monitoring results are provided to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to estimate escapement and are also used by Seattle City Light to manage flow releases from the Skagit Project to protect redds and juvenile salmon. Spawning timing is as follows:
Chinook: August 20 - October 15, each year (flows < 4,500 cfs)
Pink: September 12 - October 31, odd years (flows <4,000 cfs)
Chum: November 16 - January 6 each year (<4,600 cfs)
Steelhead: March 15 - June 15 (<5,000/<4,000 cfs)