Seattle City Light increasing salmon habitat

Chinook Salmon

Northwestern utility Seattle City Light completed the final purchase of 32.5 acres of land which will help protect key spawning areas for Chinook salmon in Washington's Skagit River.

Seattle City Light acquired the land through a series of purchases -- the most recent of which came December 11 when the company purchased 4.5 acres of land located six miles upriver from Marblemount, Wash.

The plot, known as the Hylback Property, is adjacent to other City Light-owned fish and wildlife conservation lands, and includes about 250 feet of Skagit River shoreline.

The land was purchased using a US$31,500 grant from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, City Light said.

"This was another important piece of property for salmon recovery," said Kaleen Cottingham, an administrator with the recovery board. "When combined with the other city-owned and publicly protected land, it continues to protect this high priority reach of the upper Skagit River."

Earlier this month, City Light (3) closed on about 20.5 acres of land along Diobsud Creek, a Chinook spawning tributary to the Skagit River. The property -- paid for with a combination of City Light and Salmon Recovery Board funds totaling more than $272,000 -- includes 500 feet of shoreline and is adjacent to U.S. Forest Service property.

That acquisition followed one in November which saw City Light purchase 7.5 acres along the Sauk River for $20,600. The deal includes 660 feet of Sauk River shoreline and connects to existing City Light conservation land. The utility said it ultimately hopes to acquire more land in the area to increase wetland access and provide more off-channel habitat for juvenile salmon.

In all, City Light has been awarded more than $2.9 million for salmon recovery work since 2000. The company said it claims 2,680 acres to protect Chinook salmon in the Skagit River watershed, in addition to 231 acres of general fish habitat and 10,081 acres of conservation land for other wildlife.

The Skagit River is home to Seattle City Lights' 711-MW Skagit hydroelectric project, which generates about 39% of the utility's overall power.

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