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Chinook returns shatter last year's record

Historic fish returns related to improving river, ocean conditions


Since Sunday, more than 180,354 adult fall chinook have climbed the fish ladders at Bonneville Lock and Dam on their annual migration into the Columbia River Basin, according to a new release by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration.

Sunday’s count of 67,024 chinook was soon surpassed by Monday’s return of 67,52, marking the largest, single-day return since counting began with the construction of the dam in 1938.

The previous record of 63,870 chinook was set less than a year ago on Sept. 9, 2013. On Tuesday, the numbers held strong with 45,809 chinook swimming past the fish counting windows at the dam, officials said.

The fish are among the 359,258 fall chinook seen thus far at Bonneville Dam.

Officials said these numbers are only a fraction of the 1.5 million adult fall chinook run expected to return by the end of the year.

The returns are the result of numerous federal, tribal, state, nonprofit organizations and sport fishing groups working together over the past decade to improve conditions in the tributaries and main stem river using an “all H” approach — harvest, habitat, hydro and hatcheries — as well as favorable ocean conditions.

“These record-breaking numbers show that the structural and operational improvements made at the dams have resulted in safer passage conditions for juvenile and adult fish,” said David Ponganis, Northwestern Division Programs Director for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The efforts represent one of the largest fish and wildlife programs in the nation, largely paid for by the region’s electric ratepayers along with funding from federal taxpayers.

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