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Sunday, April 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outdoors blog

Report: Columbia salmon restoration won’t happen overnight

Vancouver angler Dick Borneman with a typical Columbia River spring chinook salmon.
 (Allen Thomas / The Columbian )
Vancouver angler Dick Borneman with a typical Columbia River spring chinook salmon. (Allen Thomas / The Columbian )

FISHING -- Salmon recovery efforts in Washington appear to be making a difference – more salmon are returning home in some areas, although significant work remains – according to a new report released by the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office.

“Washington State has been investing in salmon recovery for more than a decade, and we are starting to see some results,” said Kaleen Cottingham director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, home of the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office, which created the report and Web site. “That’s heartening. But we also see that we have a long way to go until all salmon species are healthy enough to be removed from the endangered species list,” she continued in a media release.

The newly released State of Salmon in Watersheds Executive Summary and interactive Web site show Washington’s progress in trying to recover the 15 populations declared as at risk of extinction by the federal government and listed under the Endangered Species Act. The Web site puts online live data from many sources around the state and offers interactive story maps from efforts statewide.

Some findings from the report:

  • Nearly half of the 15 salmon populations are increasing.
  • Measurements of the amount of water in streams and rivers show that majority of the monitoring stations assessed have stable or increasing flows. Having enough water in streams and rivers is important for keeping the water cool enough for salmon to thrive.
  • 75 percent of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s hatchery programs meet or are expected to meet scientific standards to ensure conservation of wild salmon and steelhead, compared with only 18 percent of hatcheries meeting those standards in 1998.
  • Shoreline armoring in Puget Sound, through bulkheads and riprap, is increasing at a rate of about a mile a year. This substantially exceeds the amount of shoreline being restored. Hardening shorelines deprives young salmon of food and shelter.

Salmon recovery work has created nearly 7,500 jobs and generated $763 million in economic activity since 1999, said Brian Abbott, the executive coordinator for the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office. "Most of that money (80 percent) stays in the county where the restoration work occurred, which is a big help to the economies of rural communities.”

“We just have to recognize that recovering salmon isn’t going to happen overnight," Cottingham said. "Preserving salmon essentially helps us preserve our way of life. That’s worth the effort.”


Near Recovery Goal

  • Hood Canal summer chum
  • Snake River fall Chinook

Below Recovery Goal

  • Middle Columbia River steelhead
  • Lake Ozette sockeye
  • Snake River spring and summer Chinook
  • Upper Columbia River steelhead

     Consistently Low

  • Lower Columbia River fall Chinook
  • Lower Columbia River spring Chinook
  • Lower Columbia River steelhead
  • Snake River steelhead    


  • Lower Columbia River chum
  • Puget Sound Chinook
  • Puget Sound steelhead
  • Upper Columbia River spring Chinook

     Insufficient Data

  • Lower Columbia River coho

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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