Friday brought a special moment of celebration for a Northwest icon: After more than 45 years, full-grown adult salmon have made it upstream of the Pelton Round Butte Dam on Lake Billy Chinook.
"To tribal membership here, it's part of who we are -- it's our spirituality. And it's a special day,? said Billy Brunoe, natural resource manager for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.
Nearly 17 years of planning and more than $100 million in construction have gone into this moment.
"We can proudly say that we are doing something wonderful here,? said one Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife official during Friday's ceremony.
As part of the relicensing of the Pelton Round Butte hydroelectric project, salmon and steelhead runs had to be restored. The answer project managers developed: An underwater tower that pulls in water for electricity -- and fish that are trucked downstream.
Three years later, the first truck comes the other way.
"Viable electric generation, really robust environmental protection, and vibrant economies and communities all in the same place," another member of the project team said. "Those things are not mutually exclusive, and this is one of the place we like to point to, to prove that.?
As many as 100,000 cCinook and sockeye salmon and steelhead go downstream each year. Nobody knows yet how many will make it back.
"What we really want to see is harvestable, sustainable populations of fish," an official said.
Six Chinook have made it back so far -- A start everyone involved in the project agrees is worth celebrating.