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Learn about Yankee Fork’s Fish Recovery
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Wednesday, April 4, 2018
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Salmon and steelhead have traditionally brought millions of dollars to Idaho’s coffers.

But with dwindling populations, those dollars aren’t as significant as they could be. A 2005 economic study showed that the economic benefit of salmon and steelhead could be $500 million—five times that of its present-day value—if the populations of fish were restored.

With that in mind, several organizations have joined hands to restore a once-barren river system on the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River. And early indications show that effort is paying off.

Cassie Wood, a fisheries consultant for Trout Unlimited who has worked as a biological science technician for the U.S. Forest Service, will offer a slide presentation about the restoration effort during the Thursday, April 5, meeting of the Hemingway Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

The free event, which is open to the public, will be from 5 to 7 p.m. at Whiskey Jacques in Ketchum.

Logging to support the construction of Bonanza and Custer and feed a timber mill around the turn of the 20th century resulted in a river nearly devoid of trees. The result was a flume-like, rock-armored river with no meandering channels and no diversity.

The area was dredge mined during the 1940s by the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge, a barge with buckets that excavated the river bottom, turning seven miles of the Yankee Fork River upside down.

In 2012 Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bonneville Power Administration, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Idaho’s Office of Species Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Simplot Corporation and landowners in the area joined hands to right the wrongs of the past.

They removed mine tailings, filled stagnant ponds, created stream channels and added woody debris to stream channels to create new habitat and hold cover.

Adult salmon moved in, spawning in newly created habitat within hours in several places.

The Yankee Fork salmon and steelhead have one of the longest journeys of any anadromous fish in the United States. They must navigate eight dams as they travel nearly 850 miles from the Pacific Ocean to their spawning grounds.

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