First sockeye of the year shows up in Sawtooth Valley

The first sockeye salmon of the season showed up Wednesday morning at the Sawtooth Hatchery trap on the Salmon River souh of Stanley..

With only 374 counted so far at the last of eight dams on the Snake and Columbia, Lower Granite in Washington, officials have been nervous that numbers may be down despite high pre-season estimates. The 10-year average for endangered Snake River sockeye returns by this date is an amazing 544 at Lower Granite, considering only one came back 20 years ago.

"It's great to see our sockeye arriving home this summer, but this year's lower counts in Idaho are a reminder that we're not out of the woods yet--and far from it,” said Tom Stuart, a board member of Idaho Rivers United. “This summer, on the 20th anniversary of Lonesome Larry's lonesome return, at 21 years after sockeye were listed as endangered, they still have a long, long way to go."

Since 2008, more than 650 sockeye have returned annually to the Sawtooth Valley, peaking in 2010 with 1,355, the most since the 1950s, before four dams were built in Washington. This year biologists were predicting 1,000 could return.

The sockeye recovery program has largely been funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the power from the dams to Northwest public utilities at cost. It also is funding a new hatchery under construction in Springfield that is expected to add 1 million new smolts annually to the effort.

You can read the whole story about Idaho's sockeye in a feature I did earlier this year on Lonesome Larry .

"It also is funding a new

"It also is funding a new hatchery under construction in Springfield that is expected to add 1 million new smolts to the effort."

Springfield? Missouri???

Wow! That is amazing. That will be a REALLY long swim for those smolt.

1 million? Just a one-time addition?
Pretty expensive project for only 1 million smolts.

UPDATE -duh!
Rock, you are a R O C K.

Lay off the drugs

you freaking nutcase.

come on now...

Springfield Idaho, of course. It's near Blackfoot, close to the north shore of American Falls reservoir, where an old hatchery is being modernized.

Do you also expect Rocky to add "Idaho," when he writes about Boise, Lewiston, or Idaho Falls? From the tenor of your posts, P2, I must assume your goal is only to criticize Rocky, not understand the news.

Now don't start being all logical and stuff

Of course Rocky needs to add Idaho. I mean really, at first I thought he meant they were building it right down stream from Mr. Burns' nuclear power plant...

Burns, Oregon

Ever been to Springfield, Oregon?

I do expect him

to add Idaho. He needs to stop being presumptive about his audience.

Springfield Mass.

Rivercityblue, you write they are modernizing "an old hatchery".
Rocko writes they are building a NEW hatchery. Which is it?

See my point? I am trying to understand the news. It's very difficult to do that by reading the Rock's blog- the main LOCAL source for this topic.

With further reading (as is required after reading the Rock's blog) - the project buys an old abandoned private trout hatchery that will be razed and replaced with the new construction. The key to the deal is the artesian well water.


This is not just one post- it is perpetual with the krap the Rock writes.

So yes, my goal is to criticize his writing and the fact the Statesman management keeps him around.

It's very much like the Statesman's goal of criticizing Governor Otter in hopes of a political change... I'm sure you can see the comparison.

It's both modernizing an old hatchery and bldg a new, P2

As your research confirmed. An old hatchery is being demolished and replaced by a new one on the same site, to be used as a conservation hatchery for sockeye salmon. New wells are also being drilled, to expand the water supply necessary for the project.

I think you're being a bit pedantic, and more on point, picky to the extent that it becomes a rant. No writer, including Rocky, can spoon-feed you the news to the standards you apparently expect.

Could have had more salmon

Well...isn't this interesting. Most of these Snake River sockeye outmigrated in 2010, a relatively low flow year when NOAA Fisheries and the Corps of Engineers recommended increasing juvenile transportation...but some state agency clowns and others pushed a "spread the risk strategy" and wanted very few sockeye collected so they could be barged around all the dams. I believe several Statesman writers also lauded that decision. How's that working out for you now???

Oh, and before these same clowns get on here and start griping about how many more salmon there would be without the snake river dams....remember that over 300,000 sockeye salmon have returned to the Upper Columbia...and those fish have to cross 9 dams total...Snake fish only have to do 8.

Salmon22, improved survival of sockeye salmon

and other Idaho salmon & steelhead runs in recent years is a consequence of court-ordered spill through dams and reservoirs on the lower Snake and Columbia Rivers, as well as good snowpack and a food-rich ocean. As you know, "spill" means releasing water from those 8 dams, increasing the current through otherwise slackwater reservoirs and providing the safest passage over the dams. Prior to 2007, when the benefits of spill began, Idaho sockeye returned at ridiculously low rates. As recently as 2006, only 3 sockeye returned. Since spill began, the numbers have improved.

Barging doesn't work well enough to offset the damage done by the Snake R dams. Barging was the primary federal strategy starting in about 1980; by the 1990s, because barging didn't work well enough, salmon species ended up on the endangered species list. Relying fully on barging once again would add insult to injury, and stupidity to foolishness.

Upper Columbia sockeye returns are indeed huge, headed primarily to the Okanogan River. Dams between the Okanogan and the Pacific are better designed than the Lower Snake dams, allowing safer passage and higher river flows/current. The good survival of Okanogan sockeye is an indictment of the lower Snake dams, where court-ordered spill has been the only substantive measure to create more salmon-friendly conditions. More spill would further improve salmon survival. How about advocating for that?

The lower Snake dams are so poorly designed, they are still lethal for salmon.

You are clearly confused

You are clearly confused between run of river dams and storage dams. The lower Snake and Columbia are run of river dams…they don’t store water. “Spill” does not mean “releasing” more water from the dam. Spill is putting water that would normally go through the turbines through a different route at the dam, the spillbays. With the exception of minor pool elevation changes, if 100 kcfs comes into Lower Granite 100 kcfs goes out. Furthermore, the “reservoirs” behind the run-of-river dams are not anywhere near slackwater. If you don’t believe me, come up to the lower Snake in May when sockeye, steelhead, and Chinook are outmigrating and jump in that “slackwater reservoir” and swim upstream…you will understand very, very quickly just how much current is there.

I agree with you that barging alone won’t recover salmon. That’s because much of the decline in salmon (especially SR Sockeye) occurred long before Snake River dams were built. Barging alone can not solve over harvest, other habitat degradation, hatchery fish effects etc.

Upper Columbia dams and Snake River dams have very similar survival…in the low to mid 90’s at each project…so your argument is just factually wrong. Unfortunately, you are simply restating talking points provided by some Portland extremists. More spill will not help or lead to recovery, but I do agree that some spill has been beneficial for some stocks in some years. Barging on the other hand is beneficial in most years for most stocks. My main point is still that had we barged more fish in the low flow year of 2010 we would have had more salmon and steelhead coming back to Idaho. The data are very clear on barging…more salmon and steelhead come back to Idaho if they are barged at Lower Granite. All the extremists hate barging and love spill for one simple reason…spill means less power generated which means the dams are less valuable and easier to justify breaching. Barging is hated because it increases adult returns and allows for power production. I have no problem with people wanting to breach dams because they prefer natural rivers…it just drives me crazy when they use bad science and misinformation to try and justify their position.

Salmon 22, you have a well-studied argument,

and your description of spill is more technically correct than mine. My point is, however, that spill works for salmon and barging doesn't.

Empirical evidence about barging salmon contradicts your claims. You claim that barging is beneficial in most years for most stocks. I strongly disagree (with no input from 'extremists in Portland'). The simple fact is, if barging worked as well as you suggest, SR/Idaho salmon populations would never have declined to a state in the early 90s warranting ESA listing. And, if barging worked as well as you claim, more progress in SR salmon runs would have occurred during the 10+ years between ESA listings and 2006. Only after 2006, when court-ordered spill began, did significant benefits for most salmon stocks in the Columbia Basin, both wild and hatchery, become immediately apparent.

Barging never worked as well.

You don't mention the considerable evidence and debate about delayed mortality that occurs following juvenile salmon collection and barging, or following bypass through the passage plumbing sytems in dams. This evidence is significant, as you know, although Corps and BPA biologists tend to ignore it or speak as apologists regarding it. Accordingly, a focus on reach survivals and survival percentages passing individual dams may be inconclusive, and potentially irrelevant. I believe that relying on reach survivals is erroneous and misleading; life-cycle survival measures like SAR, lambda, etc., are more reliable indicators. Claiming that salmon are OK because they survive from point A to point B is akin to tossing a bowl of goldfish off a 10-story building, and claiming all is well because the fish were alive when they passed the 5th floor window.

I supported barging in the early 80s, because it appeared to be a logical experiment worth attempting. I now oppose barging fish, because it doesn't work well enough to sustain salmon runs, much less restore them. I can respect your obvious loyalty to dams and barging; it would seem, however, that if the Corps and BPA really want to restore salmon and retain all 440 dams in the Columbia Basin, they'd get serious about experimenting with expanded spill - esp. in the Snake.

Perhaps upper Columbia sockeye are doing far better than Snake River sockeye because they haven't been subject to as much barging.

Are you still working for BPA? or the Corps?

What significant benefits

What significant benefits were clear after court ordered spill?? I hear this but I have seen no consistent spike in adult returns or juvenile survival that can be attributed directly to Im not sure what data are supporting these "significant" benefits claims.

I think we actually agree a fair amount about will not recover salmon populations. Not because there is no benefit or that it causes harm, but because much of the decline of salmon is attributed to factors beyond dams. I think barging was over sold by many people decades ago as the path to recovery, which was clearly a mistake. If you look at barging as a failure because it didn't recover salmon, then yes it will never get us there. I look at barging as a management most years for most SR stocks we get anywhere from a 20-200% increase in adult returns if fish are barged relative to being passed through spillways or bypassed (This accounts for any delayed or differential mortality). So, when we look at say 2010 with a "spread the risk" strategy and know that in low flow years barging does very well relative to in-river migration (even through spillways) I know we would have had much higher sockeye, Chinook, and Steelhead runs this year. Some argue there are unknowns or long-term ecological consequences about barging, which may be true, but I think policy makers should be very clear with the public that by choosing to "spread the risk", particularly in a low flow year, they are reducing salmon and steelhead returns to Idaho by the tens of thousands.

Getting to your delayed mortality point...there certainly is evidence that passage or collection at dams may cause mortality at a later life stage. However, it is not as settled as some claim. ISAB issued a memo recently noting that while there has been a correlation established between powerhouse passage and reduced adult returns the causative mechanism has not been determined. They go on further to say that it could be the result of non-random sampling...essentially saying that it might just be that smaller, weaker fish are collected at dams and larger stronger fish are the ones going over spillways. Either way, even if there is some latent mortality associated with dam passage, that is all the more reason to barge them.

Now...I have no loyalty to barging or dams...and to stir the pot a little more, if I had my choice of dams to breach the Hell's Canyon complex would be the first to go...followed closely by Dworshak...that would significantly and immediately lead to substantial increases in steelhead and in the medium term Spring and Fall Chinook would soar as well. I've never understood why folks aren't more aggressive about those dams which block significant habitat!!


In an IDFG document they mention, "Sockeye salmon fry from Babine Lake, British Columbia, were introduced into Alturas and Stanley Lakes (not Redfish Lake) in 1980-83."


Interesting the Canadian fish were "introduced" but the Candadian wolves were "reintroduced".


I think its time to eliminate the opportunity to comment on this blog. The current circus is counterproductive and the lack of civility is detracting from what should be productive discussions. Please stop this clown show.