Thursday April 18, 2024

The Columbian

More than 2,500 chinook salmon died in the South Fork of the Nooksack River from overheating during the 2021 summer “heat dome” that saw temperatures reach over 100 degrees.

“We really ramped up our efforts in the last 10 to 15 years to bring our salmon back,” Lisa Wilson, secretary for Lummi Indian Business Council told The Bellingham Herald. “Two years ago we brought that population back to over 3,000, but over 2,500 of them died before they could reach spawning grounds.”

The effort to save the salmon recently received a boost in the form of a $9.8 million federal grant to help restore the watershed.

The South Fork Nooksack Watershed Restoration Project is a combination of five smaller projects across 3.2 miles of the Nooksack River and Skookum Creek in the South Fork Valley, Wilson said. Restoration efforts can only be conducted between mid-July and mid-August, when the salmon population in the river is low, meaning the project itself will take four to five years to complete.

“The first project we hope to complete is Construct 1 ELJ in the mainstream, and re-route the Skookum Creek Hatchery outfall to restore low-flow fish passage,” Wilson said.

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