Yakamas Reintroduce Salmon To River System
Over a hundred people cheer and applaud as almost 130 sockeye salmon make their way into Cle Elum Lake.
"It's a tremendous feeling not only for me, but the whole Yakama Nation to bring back a species that had become extinct," said Fish and Wildlife Chairman, Virgil Lewis.
Today marks the full migration of these salmon.
It's been more than a century since this type of migration took place, the fish were wiped out after several dams were constructed along the Yakima Basin, making it impossible for the fish to migrate to the ocean.
The Yakama Nation began a project back in 2009, by introducing a group of salmon to the area, and helping them migrate using tanker trucks and other makeshift devices.
The group introduced it's first batch of salmon to this lake nearly 4 years ago.
Today's ceremony marks not only the return of a species that was long extinct from these waters, but also other animals who have been missing for quite some time.
"Everything that's going on since we reintroduced the sockeye back up here; we've seen golden eagles and bald eagles and different animals utilizing those fish after they have spawned," said biologist Mark Johnston, "So it's really-really important for the ecosystem that we're trying to restore to where it historically was."
For natives, it also means a bright future for the people in our area.
"The whole Yakama Nation eventually will have the capacity to harvest sockeye salmon in our own Yakima River," said Lewis, "Not only the Yakama people, but sportsmen who enjoy catching sockeye salmon will have that opportunity [as well]."
The Yakama Nation Fish and Wildlife group says it plans on building fish ladders on the local dams in the near future to allow the salmon to migrate.