The Yakima River is seeing its own sockeye salmon resurgence.
The Yakama Nation is four years into a project intended to restore sockeye salmon to the upper reaches of the Yakima River Basin, where they had been wiped out when dams were built for irrigation a century ago.
The fish spawned again this fall in the Cle Elum River, an upstream feeder of the Yakima. By early October, tribal fisheries officials counted about 2,000 sockeye in the spawning grounds with many more adults on their way back upstream.
The goal is a self-sustaining run that could become big enough for authorities to allow a sport fishery.
The Yakama Nation has been operating the program, which takes Columbia River salmon Priest Rapids and trucks them to Lake Cle Elum for release. This year, the tribe transferred about 10,000 young Columbia River fish.
The fish escape the lake by way a slough that leads them around the dam downstream into the Cle Elum River.
When they mature, they follow their noses back upriver toward the lake.
They make it as far as the Yakima River’s Roza Dam near Selah on their own. From there, officials transport them to Lake Cle Elum.