At Baker Lake just before the dam, a blue guide net moves fish toward a new floating surface collector.
In addition to a salmon hatchery that was completed in 2011, the floating surface collector is expected to help juvenile fish return in record numbers in a few years.
The floating surface collector forces the fish into holding tanks for transport from the dam reservoir down to the river. Years ago, the hydropower project cut fish migration to a historic low.
With as many as 1.2 million juvenile salmon leaving for the ocean this year, however, the fish migration is at a historic high.
"The intent is to increase the population without overwhelming it," said Lower Baker Dam Operation and Maintenance Supervisor Doug Bruland. "We are trying to slowly bring the population up without overpopulating the reservoir."
With a historic amount of salmon leaving, officials expect historic returns in a couple years.
"Which has allowed us to stay in touch with out culture, allowed us to continue our fisheries. We've fished in this valley for the last 10,000 years. It's important for our ancestors' sake and for our members today to keep in touch with our fishing culture. What's really great about this program today is that it benefits not just the tribe but it benefits the recreational fishery on the Skagit," said Scott Schuyler with the Upper Skagit Tribe. "It benefits people who just want to see a river full of fish. I think all eyes are on this project, and it's a great thing for everybody."
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