With August arrives the earliest and most vulnerable of the Cascadia salmonids. Chinook require abundant cold, clean water to spawn, and the challenged species is returning to find the Nooksack River historically low, warm and cloudy with glacial milk.
Chinook are an indicator species that yield clues about the health of the environment. The milk is an indicator, too, not only of a vanished seasonal snowpack, but loss of the icy heart of the glaciers themselves that feed the headwaters of the Nooksack.
“A healthy snowpack slowly provides water to rivers and streams, helping to sustain fish through the drier summer months,” state wildlife officials explained in their report on drought conditions across the state. “But, with little or no snowpack, flows in many rivers have dropped significantly and water temperatures have increased—conditions that are lethal to fish.” […]