Fish Passage Celebration

by: Photo courtesy of Portland General Electric - PGE fisheries biologist Jim Bartlett releases salmon into Lake Billy Chinook to allow the fish to continue their migration back upstream, for the first time in decades.

For the first time in more than 45 years, adult chinook salmon were released above the Round Butte Dam on June 8, at a Fish Passage Celebration.
   The six 4-year-old fish released at Lake Billy Chinook were the first of what project partners hope will be many to be able to return to the streams where they were first released as fry.
   "The event on Friday was a tremendously important milestone in the continuing effort to get sustainable and harvestable fish populations above Round Butte Dam," said Julie Keil, director of hydroelectric projects for Portland General Electric, and one of the speakers at the event.
   PGE, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife were among the partners represented at the event, which drew nearly 50 people.
   Keil, who has been working on the project since 1994, was pleased to finally see the results of their efforts. "It's really gratifying to see so many of the partners we've been working with show up and help us celebrate this event," she said.
   Mike Gauvin, mitigation coordinator for ODFW, explained that the fish were first released as fry in the tributaries to the Pelton-Round Butte hydroproject -- the Crooked Deschutes and Metolius rivers.
   "These fish migrated through the fish collection facility," he said. "They were collected at the tower as smolts (1-year-olds), continued their migration to the ocean, spent a few years in the ocean and returned to the Pelton trap, which is below the reregulating dam. That's where we collect all our fish for brood stock."
   The fish "all have a unique fin clip, so we know they came from above the project," said Gauvin, adding that some also have radio tags in their bellies so that they can be tracked back to their spawning grounds.
   "Since 2007, we've been releasing fish in Whychus Creek, which feeds into the Deschutes, and the Crooked River and the Metolius," said Keil. "We don't know where this week's releases will go, but we know they're our fish."
   The ceremony included a blessing of the fish by Leslie Bill, vice chairman of the Warm Springs Fish and Wildlife Committee, and comments by Bobby Brunoe, natural resources general manager for the tribes.
   Keil said the event was also an opportunity "to look upstream," to the irrigation districts and the city of Prineville, "and their efforts to improve things so there will be a home for these fish when they go back upstream."
   The fish will be tracked and officials will conduct spawning counts in the fall, Gauvin said.
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