Efforts to reintroduce salmon into the Deschutes Basin crossed a major milestone Friday. Wildlife biologists with Oregon's Department of Fish and Wildlife released 6 adult spring chinook salmon above the Pelton Round Butte Hydropower complex. These are the first migrating adult salmon to reach the Upper Deschutes in nearly 45 years.
When the dams first went up in the mid-sixties, initial attempts at fish passage never really worked. But in recent years the licensees, Portland General Electric and The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, have dug in their heels. Millions of little baby steelhead and chinook are released each year. For these 6 fish just released above the dams, it's actually their second trip across the complex. ODFW's Mike Gauvin says biologists know that thanks to a special marking applied to the fish's jaw before it makes its way to the ocean.
"So when they come back as adults in a few years we know that that fish originated above the project because it's a unique mark to those fish in the basin", says Gauvin.
Gauvin says the long term goal is for self-sustaining harvestable populations of chinook salmon, steelhead and sockeye above the project.