Chinook salmon and steelhead might return to a part of Baker County where the anadromous fish haven’t swum in more than half a century.
Whether that means anglers will ever be able to try to land one of these renowned fish is far from a certainty.
Still and all, we’re pleased that a proposed agreement between Oregon and Idaho Power Company would require the Boise corporation to release adult spring Chinook salmon and summer steelhead into Pine Creek, a Snake River tributary that flows in eastern Baker County.
Idaho Power would also have to study the fish and determine whether they are able to spawn successfully in the Pine Creek system. Seagoing fish have been blocked from Pine Creek since Idaho Power finished Hells Canyon Dam in 1967 (the dam lacks fish ladders).
The agreement, which is in a public comment period, would require Idaho Power, within 90 days of receiving a new long-term license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Hells Canyon Complex (Hells Canyon, Oxbow and Brownlee dams), to come up with a plan to release salmon and steelhead in Pine Creek.
Idaho Power’s original 50-year license expired in 2005. The company has been operating under annual licenses since.
Idaho Power was originally supposed to ensure that salmon and steelhead runs continued above the dams, but a failed attempt to trap fish at Hells Canyon Dam and truck them upriver above Brownlee Reservoir failed.
The prospects of restoring salmon and steelhead farther upstream in the Powder River system are limited because Thief Valley Dam also lacks fish ladders. But it’s appropriate, albeit belated, to require the company to try to live up to requirements laid down more than 50 years ago.
— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor