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Special Issues & Guides » The Green Issue

The Upper Deschutes Salmon and Steelhead Reintroduction

One of the most ambitious species reintroduction efforts in the United States is happening right here in Central Oregon with the $100-plus million Pelton Round Butte Dam fish passage project.

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One of the most ambitious species reintroduction efforts in the United States is happening right here in Central Oregon with the $100-plus million Pelton Round Butte Dam fish passage project. Last year, fish biologists counted more than 100,000 chinook and sockeye as they passed the Round Butte dam at Lake Billy Chinook on their journey from the Upper Deschutes to the Pacific Ocean. It's the first such migration in more than a half-century for these once-plentiful fish after their historic migration was blocked by the construction of dams and irrigation diversions in the Deschutes and its tributaries. The goal is to bring salmon and steelhead back to their home waters, reestablishing resident populations within the next decade. If successful, Central Oregon's experiment could become a model for species reintroduction around the world. It's also evidence that it's not too late to fix some of the mistakes of the past - a lesson that can be taken far beyond Central Oregon. And if the thought of watching a thousand ruby red sockeye barreling their way up Lake Creek outside Sisters to their historic spawning grounds in Suttle Lake doesn't inspire awe, you're probably living in the wrong place.

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