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An unusually wet July has swollen the Pelly River to the point where it’s difficult for indigenous fishers who rely on the salmon run to set their nets. (Derrick Redies) An exceptionally wet July has swollen the Pelly River to twice its normal size, making it difficult for people in the Kaska community of Ross River to put in nets for the annual king salmon run.

Environment Yukon hydrologist Ric Janowicz says, during the month, it rained for 23 days in the Ross River and Faro area.

"For this time of year, for August 1st…it’s about 190 percent of the normal amount for this time of year," said Janowicz. "It’s been really wet – it rained 121 millimetres in July, which may be a new record. That’s a lot of rain. There was one day that was 23 millimetres."

Envirionment Canada says the average July rainfall for the region is 56 millimetres.

That’s creating problems for the Ross River Dena salmon harvest.

"Many of the community members are finding themselves unsuccessful because the river levels are so high, it makes it hard to find a good suitable spot to be able to harvest salmon," said Ross River Dena councillor Derrick Redies. Derrick Redies of the Ross River Dena Council says the salmon havest is a critical even for his people, particularly because of increased hunting pressures in the region. (CBC) "Typically when you go to set a salmon net you would look for an eddy, and that’s where you would set your net, to find the salmon where they go to rest as they’re making their journey upstream," said Redies.

"The water level being so high, it makes it very difficult to find these places. It’s difficult for reading the river, for safe boat rides. Some people set the net from shore, and that makes it immensely difficult when the river is so high."

Redies says people rely on the king run, which usually starts the last week in July and lasts until mid-August.
He says the fish are badly needed, especially when people in the community are already facing food shortages because of hunting pressure in once-pristine areas such as the North Canol Road.

"The salmon are really important to our people. It’s something we look forward to every year, and we rely on it to subsidize our living."

Meanwhile, Janowicz says relief is in sight. He says a high pressure ridge is forecast for most of the Yukon during August.

"So a definite drying trend, I think the rainy spell is over," he said. "The Pelly River has leveled off now. It hasn’t risen in the last couple of days and it should be falling off fairly quickly now."

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