The utility hopes the new $40 million fish passage system and $112 million total in other improvements in the works will quadruple current numbers of Baker River sockeye salmon returning to the watershed to spawn.
“We’re really enthused to see it under construction and about to go into effect,” said Stan Walsh of the Skagit River System Cooperative — a group representing the fisheries interests of the Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle tribes.
Walsh said the old fish passage system has had its downsides for salmon.
“A lot of juvenile sockeye and coho just don’t make it out of the reservoir,” Walsh said.
Seven years have gone into the design of the new facility, Walsh said. “Hopefully (the fish) will want to use it,” he added.
The new fish passage system is part of the agreement Puget Sound Energy made with a number of government agencies, environmental groups and tribes as part of its application for a new license to operate the dams.
The agreement provides for a number of projects to make up for the impacts of operating the dams. The total cost to PSE for those projects was estimated at $360 million in funds and lost power over 30 years, according to PSE spokesman Roger Thompson.