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Baker River Project breaks record for number of young salmon released

BAKER RIVER, Wash. (6/1/2017) Baker River has collected and transported more than one million juvenile sockeye and coho salmon from PSE’s downstream trap and haul facilities. This is only the second time in history to hit the milestone.

By Janet Kim, janet.kim@pse.com

The salmon smolts, which are mostly one-year-old fish, will be making their journey to the ocean, where they will spend the next two years before returning in 2019 as adult salmon. We have collected and transported over 1.1 million smolts this year.

“This is an incredible achievement, especially given that in the 1980s the Baker River’s sockeye population was nearly extinct,” said Matt Blanton, Baker River Plant Manager at Puget Sound Energy. “The milestone is a testament to the hard work and the partnerships built around this project.”

Puget Sound Energy works closely with the NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Sauk-Suiattle, Swinomish, and Upper Skagit Indian Tribes to manage this public resource.

“This outmigration is worth celebrating,” said Upper Skagit Indian Tribal Board Member Scott Schuyler. “It means a lot to our tribe to be able to fish in traditional areas of our village location, and this record-breaking number brings economic stability to our tribe through the jobs the fishery will provide.”

The Baker River Hydroelectric Project, a 215-megawatt facility in northwest Washington, is PSE’s largest hydropower operation. As part of its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license, PSE has continued to invest in the fisheries system, which has produced significant gains in the river’s fish stocks.

Sockeye and coho salmon are the most abundant fish in Baker River. Its annual adult-sockeye returns have averaged about 3,500 since the 1920s, but plunged to a low return of just 99 fish in 1985. Fish restoration efforts since then has had a dramatic effect in the recovery of Baker sockeye, with a record 52,243 returning to the Skagit River in 2015.