Fall chinook count sets all-time record

Pacific Northwest Regional Center of the National Wildlife Federation Regional Outreach Coordinator Nic Callero shows off a chinook salmon he caught this season on the lower Columbia River. Looking on is Andrew Picken of Pendleton. The Bonneville Power Administration reported a record count of 67,521 chinook passing the Bonneville Lock and Dam Monday. It is the largest single-day return since counting began at the dam 1938.

CASCADE LOCKS — 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.

Sunday’s count of 67,024 chinook was soon surpassed by Monday’s return of 67,521 — marking the largest, single-day return since counting began with the construction of the dam in 1938. The previous record of 63,870 had been set Sept. 9, 2013. On Tuesday, the numbers held strong with 45,809 chinook swimming past the fish counting windows at the dam.

The fish are among the 359,258 fall chinook seen thus far at Bonneville Dam. These numbers are only a fraction of the predicted 1.5 million adult fall chinook returning by the end of 2014.

These returns are the result of a host of federal, tribal, state and nonprofit organizations in the region 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, reported the Bonneville Power Administration.

“With our many partners, we work to balance the needs and interests of the region with large-scale improvements for fish,” said David Ponganis, northwestern division programs director for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “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.”

These 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, BPA reported.

“The results we are seeing reflect a tremendous collaborative effort within the Columbia River Basin,” said BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer. “We look forward to working with our existing and future partners towards a common vision of continuing to bring back more fish to the rivers.”

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