Wednesday November 12, 2014

Union Democrat –

Fish biologists this fall are again counting Chinook salmon runs on the Stanislaus River and, so far, they say, the number of fish returning to their native breeding grounds is up.

Nearly 2,000 “fall run” salmon were counted in a recent tabulation by biologists with FishBio, a consulting firm that works with dam operators on the Stanislaus. That’s an improvement over counts during the last drought — between 1990 and 1996 — when salmon numbered in the hundreds, and 2007 to 2009, when salmon populations declined so steeply the state closed ocean and river fisheries.

While an improvement, the number counted this year is still a fraction of the “fall run” numbers estimated in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife statistics. As many as 35,000 salmon may have ventured up the river in 1953.

One big factor in the decades-long decline is, presumably, the construction of New Melones Dam, the last major dam built in the United States. The dam, operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, was completed in 1980.

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