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Chinook Salmon Dying In Warm Lower Willamette

Rachael McDonald

An unusual number of Chinook salmon carcasses have been found in the Willamette River around Portland. State wildlife biologists are blaming warm water.

Salmon need cool water to thrive. Nick Swart, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says in the last week they've measured temperatures at 75 degrees around Willamette Falls.   

Swart: "That's really a precarious condition for migrating fish."

Jeff Ziller, with ODFW's Springfield office, says the warmer water is due to drought conditions.

Ziller: "This year the water temperatures hit high very early in the year while the salmon were still migrating. Those water temperatures are taking a toll on the latter part of the spring Chinook run."

In the upper Willamette basin around Eugene and Springfield, Ziller says, the water is cooler-- fed by the chill cascade-fed McKenzie River.

This year's Chinook Salmon run was bigger than predicted. Ziller says its fortunate most of the fish had already passed upstream before water temperatures rose.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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