Colvilles Aim To Release Returning Chinook Into Rufus Woods, Lake Roosevelt

The Colville Tribes hope to move surplus Chinook above two upper Columbia dams where the ocean-returning salmon haven’t been for as much as three-quarters of a century.


Construction of Grand Coulee Dam and then Chief Joseph Dam without fish ladders ended passage past Bridgeport, but the tribes want to release adults that returned to Wells Hatchery into the reservoirs behind each this summer.

They’ve got a state permit to do so in Lake Rufus Woods, according to an article in the Tribal Tribune earlier this week, and plan to get another for Lake Roosevelt.

The news outlet describes the bid as “part of a ‘cultural release'” and report it is dependent on whether the salmon first pass testing for IHN, an infectious virus that affects fish.

The salmon are otherwise distributed to tribal members.

Ahead of any possible action, tribal fish and wildlife managers put out a call to elders and other Colvilles for comment.

“We’re to the point that we could have fish ready to move by the end of this month or the first part of August,” CTFW Director Randy Friedlander told the Tribune.

There have been increasing talk about bringing salmon back to Washington’s Upper Columbia and the British Columbia side of the international river.

It does seem a bit of a long shot as a way to jumpstart a run, as for any salmon that are released in the reservoirs, the next challenge would be for the fish to find gravel, for the eggs to hatch, for the smolts to make it over or through the first two dams without any kind of surface collectors, survive the rest of their downstream and ocean migration, and then return to some point below the dams and be collected to spawn the next generation.

But you gotta start somewhere and it’s clearly very important to do so to the tribes.

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WDFW Asks Douglas PUD To Reconsider On Ending Hatchery Contract

WDFW is asking Douglas County PUD to reconsider dropping the state agency as operator of the utilities’ hatchery facilities in North-central Washington following allegations of sexual harassment at one.

Saying that 90 days is not enough time to turn over the Wells and Methow Hatcheries while safeguarding the salmon and steelhead being reared there, Director Jim Unsworth proposes to honor the existing contract while working out concerns that PUD has.


“WDFW and Douglas PUD have a long history of working together to benefit the fishery resources of the upper Columbia Basin. Hatchery production at the Douglas PUD facilities is very important to the state, federal, and tribal natural resource entities” there, reads a Sept. 7 letter from Unsworth to Gary Ivory, the utilities’ general manager.

The relationship has been rocky in recent weeks after news reports about sexual harassment and a hostile work environment at Wells surfaced this summer.

WDFW fired four employees allegedly involved in it, but then the PUD commission voted to terminate its contract with the state to operate the two hatcheries, as well as a weir and acclimation pond near Twisp.

Unsworth’s letter notes that “in retrospect WDFW failed to keep our partners at Douglas PUD informed of the progress of our investigation. WDFW was also aware of news coverage and we should have notified Douglas PUD of this potentially embarrassing issue.”

A draft agenda for the PUD commission shows Wells Hatchery operations are on the agenda today.



More Fallout From Wells Hatchery Issues

WDFW appears to be losing a $2 million contract to operate a pair of salmon and steelhead hatcheries in Northcentral Washington.

On Monday Douglas County PUD terminated its agreement with the state agency to manage the utility’s Wells Hatchery and Methow Hatchery.

“The District desires to run its own hatcheries to ensure license obligations are met,” reads a brief statement about the PUD commission’s Aug. 28 meeting in Bridgeport.


The news comes in the wake of reports of a “highly sexualized culture” at one of the fish-rearing facilities and was first jointly reported last night by The News Tribune of Tacoma and Northwest News Network.

Earlier this month, both news outlets ran stories that four WDFW employees at Wells had been fired following an investigation into claims of sexual harassment at that hatchery.

Those reports followed on another investigation into sexual harassment at agency headquarters in Olympia following a rape allegation.

WDFW, which operates 80-plus hatcheries statewide, had run Wells for half a century, according to the Northwest News Network.

According to the News Tribune, PUD “felt safer using its own employees when trying to meet federal regulations.”

Dam operators must mitigate their facilities’ impacts on fish and wildlife for federal relicensing.

A state spokesman reportedly said WDFW was reviewing a letter from the utility and would be “disappointed” to end the contract.

PUD reportedly is looking at hiring staff to operate the hatchery and that current employees could apply for positions.

4 Wells Hatchery Workers Fired Following Investigation Into Activities

A high-ranking state lawmaker and a Fish and Wildlife Commissioner are calling for changes within WDFW after reports surfaced that a highly sexualized culture also existed at an Eastern Washington hatchery, where four workers were fired last week.

Two stories out this morning paint an ugly picture of goings-on at the Wells Hatchery on the Upper Columbia, where the manager and three top hatchery specialists allegedly “routinely talked about sex and asked explicit sexual questions of coworkers” and made remarks about “the bodies of women who visited the hatchery.”

The pieces are reported by Walker Orenstein of The News Tribune of Tacoma and Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network.

They’re based on a 30-page report by Daphne R. Schneider and Associates commissioned this March after workers at a nearby hatchery expressed their concerns about alleged behavior at Wells to a WDFW officer.

Northwest Sportsman has filed a public disclosure request for the document, but in the meanwhile the reporters’ articles paint a picture of both the alleged activities and the workers’ defense.

The four men who were fired passed their conversations off as “locker room talk,” but it was allegedly so bad for one coworker that she left for a position elsewhere.

WDFW said that it is not pursuing criminal charges against the quartet “because their misconduct did not appear to rise to that level, agency spokesman Bruce Botka said. Also, the consulting firm did not conclude anyone had been sexually harassed,” Orenstein reported.

They can appeal their removal.

For WDFW, the latest story is effectively a one-two punch.

Early last week, Orenstein and Jenkins reported about a law firm’s investigation of sexual harassment claims at the agency’s Olympia headquarters.

Afterwards, Botka told Northwest Sportsman that “Director Jim Unsworth again today said he has no tolerance for the sorts of allegations that have surfaced in these stories and in this case.”


This latest incident left Unsworth “startled and taken aback” and he felt that the firing of the four would send a strong message throughout WDFW’s 1,500-plus employees.

Certainly, a problem was identified, investigated and action was taken, but some are calling for even more.

Rep. Brian Blake, the chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, which many WDFW-related bills go through, called on WDFW’s overseers to put their foot down.


“The [Fish and Wildlife] Commission who governs this agency needs to step up and through the director communicate very strongly that there needs to be somebody in charge that does have this expertise in the ability to change cultures,” Blake told the newspaper and radio reporters.

One of those members, Commissioner Barbara Baker, who was appointed earlier this year by Governor Jay Inslee, said that even more stringent training is needed, it was reported.


Wells Hatchery is owned by Douglas County PUD and operated by WDFW. It rears hundreds of thousands of summer steelhead, summer Chinook, trout and kokanee for fisheries, as well as sturgeon for conservation programs.

Troublingly, Jenkins’s report mentions possible misuse of state equipment by the former manager, while Orenstein’s article says that the WDFW officer’s initial report suggested hatchery workers had been “coached to provide false numbers for fish stocking records.”

This is not the first time WDFW hatcheries have been in the news for sex-related activities.

In 2012,  Carl E. Jouper, the former manager of the George Adams Hatchery in Mason County, was jailed for 90 days after pleading guilty to voyeurism, putting a camera in the women’s bathroom there.