Kalama Salmon Hatchery Takes Huge Hit In Storm

A Southwest Washington salmon hatchery lost a third of the fall Chinook being raised in the system when high waters and debris hit the facility during last week’s rainstorm, a disaster that could impact fishing on the ocean and in the Kalama River in several years.

A WDFW manager says they won’t be able to backfill the loss of the 2.4 million fry from elsewhere.

 MUD AND GRAVEL COVER THE GROUNDS OF WDFW'S FALLERT CREEK HATCHERY ON THE KALAMA RIVER. (WDFW)

MUD AND GRAVEL COVER THE GROUNDS OF WDFW’S FALLERT CREEK HATCHERY ON THE KALAMA RIVER. INITIAL REPORTS FROM THE SCENE SAID THERE WAS 3 FEET OF MUD INSIDE THE BUILDING AS WELL. (WDFW)

Another quarter million young spring Chinook were also impacted when their raceway was filled with debris that swept down Hatchery Creek last Tuesday evening.

Some of those salmon may have survived; if so, they’re in the Kalama River now, several months earlier than they’d been scheduled for release.

DEBRIS FILLS A RACEWAY AT WDFW'S SALMON HATCHERY ON THE KALAMA. (WDFW)

MURKY, DEBRIS-FILLED WATERS FILL A RACEWAY. (WDFW)

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(WDFW)

Photos from the scene by WDFW staffers and The Daily News of Longview show muddy, branch-filled waters filling a raceway and piles of mud and gravel across the grounds. An initial report said there was 3 feet of gunk in the hatchery building.

Facilities on the Kalama River raise 7 million fall Chinook annually. According to a WDFW press release out late in the day, the loss of 2.4 million equals 15 percent of all tules raised below Bonneville at Washington state hatcheries.

“Those fish will be missed, particularly in the ocean fishery,” said WDFW’s Kelly Cunningham. “Tules really drive the recreational fishery off the coast.”

The loss shook hatchery manager Thomas Kohl.

“I actually woke up twice in the middle of the night sitting on the end of the bed to get it out of my head,” he told the newspaper for a story out today. “The one thing that’s sad is we baby these things. This is what we live for, and for two days we just dumped fish. … I spend more time with those fish than I do at my own house.”

Elsewhere in the state, the same storm hit Soos Creek Hatchery in King County, which sustained some damage to chillers, according to WDFW hatchery manager Eric Kinne.

Last week’s flood was the fourth to hit the Northwest since Halloween, with December being particularly rainy, a strange turnaround from a year that begin drier and hotter than any other in many ways.

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