Cle Elum Sockeye Reintroduction
The first sockeye returning to Lake Cle Elum in 100 years arrived at Roza Dam on the Yakima River on June 23, 2013. Many more Cle Elum-origin sockeye returned in the weeks that followed, the last ones, in October.
Thanks to the work of the Yakama Nation, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other partners, sockeye now have a good chance of being re-established in the Yakima Basin.
Sockeye were extinct in the Yakima Basin since the early 1900s when irrigation storage dams were constructed without passage. Four nursery lakes in the basin used to produce annual sockeye returns estimated at 200,000.
Work conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service from 1987 to 1993 in Lake Cle Elum returned from a small number of sockeye adults to the base of Cle Elum Dam, demonstrating that sockeye restoration was feasible with sufficient passage modifications. A preliminary juvenile passage flume was constructed and tested at Cle Elum Dam in 2006 and 2007. Based on the success of these efforts, the Yakama Nation negotiated an agreement with the U.S. v Oregon parties to transplant adult sockeye from Priest Rapids Dam to Lake Cle Elum contingent on run size.
One thousand adult sockeye were transplanted in the summer of 2009, 2,500 in 2010, 4,500 in 2011, 10,000 in 2012 and 4,000 in 2013. The sockeye successfully spawned in tributaries above Lake Cle Elum in all years, becoming the first sockeye to spawn in the Yakima Basin in over 100 years. Juveniles from the 2009 brood were observed migrating downstream at Roza and Prosser Dams in 2011. Preliminary data from trapping operations at Prosser indicated a 2011 smolt outmigration of approximately 80,000 sockeye.
This supplementation effort is likely to be necessary until the sockeye can return without a truck ride past Roza and Cle Elum dams. Fish passage at these dams is part of the recently approved Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan.
The Yakama Nation marked the historic return with a ceremony at Lake Cle Elum in July 10, 2013.
For more information about Yakima Basin sockeye, visit Yakama Nation Fisheries »