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ID Salmon Festival Has More Fish to Celebrate This Year

August 21, 2008

Boise, ID – About 400 sockeye salmon have made it all the way from the Pacific Ocean to Redfish Lake near Stanley this year, just in time for the Sawtooth Salmon Festival this weekend. This is the highest number of fish that have made it back since the count was first recorded in 1985.

Amanda Peacher with Idaho Rivers United says the success can be explained, in part, by the extra water from dams and Mother Nature in 2006 that helped the baby fish get to the ocean.

"We had good, court-ordered spill, thanks to a judge in Portland. We also had higher out-migration flows, good spring run-off."

Peacher says part of the festival will feature retired U.S. Forest Service employees who remember the history behind the names "Salmon River" and "Redfish Lake."

"We are part of a generation right now where we've never experienced a Salmon River full of salmon, or Redfish Lake with any red fish in it."

Only four sockeyes returned last year. Peacher says while the fish are resilient, their traditional numbers that reached the millions aren't likely to happen again unless the most fish-destructive dams on the Lower Snake River are removed, or at least partially taken down to let fish through. That's an idea that has met with strong resistance by farmers who depend on irrigation water from the reservoirs, and those who say the dams provide an important electricity supply.

Deborah Smith/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - ID