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Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Vol. 32, No. 15
Page A1, column 2
12,329 wild chinook counted on Scott River
Columbia River in Washington had an all-time high of 920,000.

By Liz Bowen

FORT JONES, CALIFORNIA – Chinook numbers are up all along the Pacific area and Siskiyou County rivers reflect that trend.

In 1995, more than 14,477 chinook returned to the Scott River at the top of the state. This year, the estimates on the 2003 fall-run came in at 12,329, which is the second-highest, since the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) began conducting counts in 1978.

Many landowners allowed access to the river through their private land, so DFG employees and volunteers could walk the Scott River to count live salmon, dead salmon and spawning beds. Chinook swam the 25 miles of the Scott River canyon in September and began reaching Scott Valley the first part of October. The run was over by the end of November.

Mark Hampton, associate fishery biologist for the Klamath River Project, thanks the farmers and ranchers for allowing access through their land. He was pleased with the high numbers.

"Spawning was distributed throughout the river from Young’s Dam downstream with a hand-full of fish upstream of the dam," said Hampton. Young's Dam is where the Scott Valley Irrigation District diverts its allotted water right from May to October.

This year the spawning areas were mapped using a Trimble GPS unit. Copies of the map will be available in the near future, providing valuable information for a variety of needs.

Salmon harvests in the Pacific Northwest are highly managed by state and federal agencies. Klamath River and its tributaries have been in the limelight for many years. Collecting correct data will aid the positive management of salmon harvest on the Klamath River, according to Hampton. The news is also good for Tribes, who are allowed 50 percent of the returning numbers.

According to the graph, chinook numbers seem to cycle, yet to the untrained eye, there is little correlation between the Scott and Shasta River chinook numbers and the Iron Gate Hatchery numbers. Scott and Shasta chinook are considered "wild salmon," while those returning to Iron Gate are hatchery-grown fish.

Sari Sommarstrom, chairman of the water committee for the Scott River Watershed Council was excited about the high numbers this year. She said that the last 10-year average, of 7,394 is higher than the 1978 to 2003 average of 5,838.

"Lots of reasons may be attribute to this increase, but our efforts in this watershed certainly should be counted as a contributing cause," said Sommarstrom. "Our ten-year average is going up."

Biologists have acknowledged the better ocean temperature conditions in the last few years, a good water year and better harvest management as positive influences. Farmers and ranchers in Siskiyou County have also been proactive in enhancing the streambeds and banks.

Shasta River did not see the same spike in numbers as the Scott River. But that river’s 10-year average is also on the increase, compared to the previous 10-year average.

Numbers returning to Iron Gate Dam were the third highest count since the documentation began in 1962-1963. That first year saw just 1,339 return.

In 1972-1973, the number reached 3,499.

In 1982-1983, the chinook were at 10,186.

The 1992-1993 year marked 7,318.

The 2000-2001 year at Iron Gate found a whopping 72,474 return with the next year the next highest at 38,568.

Chinook numbers were also tremendously high on the Columbia River in Washington. More than 920,000 chinook passed Bonneville Dam counters this last fall, which is the biggest return since the dam was completed in 1938.

The 10-year average on the Columbia River has been 399,000. Other species were also above average on the Columbia: 364,000 steelhead, 126,000 coho and 39,000 sockeye.

These figures were released by the Federal Caucus, which are the nine federal agencies that are working on salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin.

The lower Columbia River chinook were listed with the Endangered Species Act as "threatened" in March of 1999.

The three graphs have been printed of Siskiyou County chinook salmon return numbers. They are on the Scott, Shasta and Klamath Rivers.

To receive these graphs make a phone call to Liz Bowen at 530-467-3515.


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