Local News

New Pond for Juvenile Coho

May 20, 2017

By the end of the 20th century, native coho salmon no longer occupied the mid- and upper-Columbia river basins. Columbia River coho salmon populations, including the Methow Valley run, were decimated in the early 1900s.  Self-sustaining coho populations were not reestablished in mid-Columbia basins for were several reasons, including the construction and operation of Columbia River hydropower projects, habitat degradation, harvest management, hatchery practices, and genetic guidelines. Conditions and practices have changed, and some of the local habitat causes of coho depletion have been corrected, although work is still needed.

“Natural resources are abundant but they have limits,” said Mike Liu, Methow Valley District Ranger.  “The Forest Service is charged with ensuring these lands remain healthy and productive, now and forever.  Helping to restore coho salmon to the Methow River Basin is another step toward the greatest good.”

As part of an ongoing effort to restore coho to the area, the Methow Valley Ranger District, in partnership with Bonneville Power Association and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation will begin construction next month on a coho salmon acclimation pond at Eightmile Ranch, north of Winthrop Washington.

The new acclimation pond, operated by Yakama Nation, will be supplied with a small amount of water from the Chewuch River that will quickly return to join river flows.   The long term objective of the coho acclimation pond includes encouraging establishment of a self-sustaining, naturally reproducing, population of coho salmon with tribal and non-tribal harvest in most years.  This pond will help support natural production and broad distribution of coho throughout the entire Methow River basin.

Those traveling up Forest Service Road 5100, on the west side of the Chewuch River, may notice equipment such as excavators and dump trucks working along the river bank at Eightmile Ranch.  Up to 40-60 dump trucks per day will be hauling an estimated 4,000 cubic yards of material that is being excavated to make the new pond.  The material will be deposited in a gravel pit near the Chewuch Campground.  .

After the new pond is established, each spring, the Yakama Nation’s Fisheries Specialists will move juveniles from the Methow Valley Fish Hatchery and from lower Columbia River facilities to the pond so that they can imprint the location as they continue to grow.  Later in the year, the coho will swim down the Chewuch River to the Columbia and out to the Pacific Ocean.  Approximately three years later, when it’s time for them to spawn, they will return to the Chewuch River.

“We’re excited to be part of a project that is working to restore an important cultural and natural resource,” said Gene Shull, Fish Biologist for the Methow Valley Ranger District.  “Restoring coho will go a long way toward reclaiming a historically key component in aquatic biological diversity.”

The long-term vision for coho reintroduction is to re-establish naturally spawning coho populations in mid-Columbia tributaries to biologically sustainable levels which provide significant harvest in most years.  Eightmile Ranch Acclimation Site is considered key, due to its location near potential habitat in the Chewuch River.  It will play a vital role in accomplishing program objectives.  The program requires that sufficient numbers of young coho be released in multiple tributaries throughout the basin; dispersing returning coho adults in suitable habitat and encouraging establishment of self-sustaining, naturally reproducing populations. Operations include the acclimation and release of up to 200,000 juveniles between March and June annually until project objectives are met.


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