Andrew McDonnell (left), PUD senior environmental coordinator, and Kyle Legare, PUD environmental coordinator, show off the PUD’s smolt trap, used to collect salmonoid numbers, in the lower reach of the Sultan River. (Snohomish County PUD)

Andrew McDonnell (left), PUD senior environmental coordinator, and Kyle Legare, PUD environmental coordinator, show off the PUD’s smolt trap, used to collect salmonoid numbers, in the lower reach of the Sultan River. (Snohomish County PUD)

PUD takes pride in protecting the Sultan River for salmon

Since 2011, Snohomish County PUD been a steward of fish habitats along the 30-mile-long river.

  • Friday, September 3, 2021 11:32am
  • Life

By the Snohomish County PUD

In the coming months, visitors to our regional waterways can observe the spectacular return of salmon to their spawning grounds.

Many of these amazing fish will travel for thousands of miles through varied terrain and conditions, evading predators and overcoming obstacles, to return to their birthplace and fulfill their biological destiny.

The Sultan River is a critical stretch in the Snohomish River basin, providing vital salmon spawning grounds for these incredible creatures with which we share a home.

The PUD takes great pride in its efforts to protect the Sultan River for salmon while providing vital utility services to residents of Snohomish County and Camano Island.

The utility’s Jackson Hydroelectric Project includes Culmback Dam, which sits above a natural fish barrier about 16 miles up the river, and a hydro generation station 11.5 miles downriver from the dam. The project provides enough clean power for 53,000 homes, recreation opportunities, flood control and clean drinking water for 75% of the county.

This month, the PUD celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the 45-year relicensing of its Jackson project. Issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2011, the new license includes an agreement by the PUD to improve fish habitats along the Sultan River. We take our stewardship of these fish habitats incredibly seriously.

In the last decade, the PUD has restored and enhanced more than 11,400 lineal feet of side channel habitat in a lower section of the river, providing additional territory for rearing salmonids. The effort included the installation of eight engineered log jams, as well as boulders and large woody debris placement.

To give migratory fish access to additional spawning grounds, the PUD modified a natural landslide that was making things difficult for them and created fish passage at a small diversion dam that had blocked salmon for more than 80 years.

Two weeks after the project was complete, coho redds, or spawning nests, were found 5 miles upstream from the Diversion Dam.

Discovering the redds triggered the next requirement of the relicensing: a project to give the PUD better ability to affect water temperatures in the river.

The PUD built a structure that could tap into the project’s intake tunnel and discharge warmer or cooler water into the upper reach of the river depending on the season to provide improved conditions for fish.

The work has created a river that is not only more accessible, but also safer for fish; better for rearing and agile to changing climate conditions. We will continue to make investments to protect salmon populations and maintain this incredible natural resource for future generations.

Visit Spada Lake

The PUD’s Spada Lake recreation sites provide hiking trails, boat launches, restrooms and other amenities from April through October. There is no swimming in Spada Lake and motorized boats with combustion engines are not allowed. For more information on the rec sites, including hiking maps and conditions, visit the Spada Lake Access page at

Jackson Relicensing and Improvements: 2011-2021 from SnoPUD on Vimeo.

Operating since 1949, Snohomish County PUD is a customer-owned, not-for-profit electric and water utility that serves more than 360,000 customers in Snohomish County and Camano Island. For more information on conservation programs, visit

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