Nightly News   |  October 09, 2012

Salmon make a comeback in California

A resurgence of fish in the Klamath River has some locals hoping that the Chinook salmon may be back for good. NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren reports.

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>>> finally tonight, we're happy to report we have rare good news on the environmental front. this story is from the american west where wild salmon are making an incredible comeback as you're about to see in vivid detail. our report tonight from nbc's kristen dahlgren.

>> reporter: early morning on california's clamath river. it's what's lying beneath that has people cheering. chinook salmon , huge and althy. what's the most you've seen out here?

>> 8,000 fish.

>> reporter: more than they've caught in decades.

>> it's projected to be 380,000 which is more than double what it's been in recorded history .

>> reporter: these brothers are members of the local urack tribe.

>> i've been doing it since i was six.

>> reporter: they depend on this river and suffered through its tough times, when they saw one of the biggest fish kills in recent history.

>> it's sad it had to come down to a big fish kill like that for everyone to open their eyes.

>> reporter: for years it was caught in a tug of war between fish and hydroelectric dams all fighting for the water. until they agreed to remove the dams. compromise that helped create this year's bonanza. and this is where all those salmon are headed. up river where they'll span. it's not just about this year, healthy return now means even more fish returning in the future. but the future is far from certain. is this river healed?

>> we still have a lot of work to do.

>> reporter: the federal government still has to approve the billion dollar plan to remove the dam. and every day health assessment teams carefully wash the fish for any sign of disease. for now, at least, there is reason to celebrate.

>> there we go.

>> thanks to the salmon's robust return. kristen dahlgren, nbc news, clamath, california.