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 .