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Subject:   Pink Salmon Making Record Comeback in Skagit River
For Immediate Release:   
10/7/2003  12:00:00 AM
For More Information Contact:
Scott Thomsen  (206) 386-4233

More than two million Pink salmon, also known as "Humpies," are now returning to spawn in the Skagit River. The unusual-looking fish return every other year, and 80-90 percent of them spawn in the 27-mile reach of river just downstream from Seattle City Light's Skagit Hydroelectric project. In the mating season, they bear a distinctive hump, which gives the fish its nickname.

This year's record comeback is especially remarkable since in the fall of 1995, major flooding occurred on the Skagit River. Many of the millions of eggs deposited at that time were destroyed before the eggs were hatched. In 1997, only 60,000 Pinks returned to the Skagit to spawn. Since then, thanks to careful management of the habitat, the Pink runs have increased dramatically, leading to the large number this year.

This appears to be the highest number of returning Pink salmon on the Skagit in four decades. This potential record run comes during a year with very low water.

City Light manages water flows for fish protection while providing abundant power for its customers. This year has been especially challenging due to less rainwater and runoff flowing into the river. But City Light kept Ross Lake at higher levels during the winter and was able to refill the reservoir this spring, in spite of below-normal precipitation. The result is a spectacular salmon run and plenty of power.

The salmon nests or "redds" are currently receiving enough water for the eggs to survive. In previous years, the utility has voluntarily released additional water into the river to preserve habitat for spawning populations.

Jim Ritch, Seattle City Light's Acting Superintendent says, "This is a unique example of how a watershed can produce reliable power and healthy salmon runs. A million fish returned in 2001, and this return already looks even better."

In May, City Light's Skagit Project became the first large hydropower project in the nation to be certified "Low-Impact" by the independent Low Impact Hydropower Institute.

When this many pink salmon are in the river at one time, they force each other to use all available habitat for spawning. Because of this, many fish will be visible close to the banks of the river, with their backs out of the water. They are easily visible from any access point along the river.

Some recommended viewing spots are:

  • Rockport's Steelhead Park just off, just off North Cascades Highway State Rte. 20.
  • The bridge at Marblemount, as well as the boat launch just past the bridge, are accessible.
  • Bacon Creek, six miles east of Marblemount, just past the Bacon Creek bridge. Take first right and stay on gravel road to transmission line tower (approximately 300') and park. (road ends) Walk down to the Skagit River.

 

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