Tuesday April 9, 2024

The Columbian

A caravan of vehicles snaked from the Water & Environment Center at Walla Walla Community College to the end of Mill Creek Road in Umatilla County on Wednesday, March 27, dodging potholes and raindrops in the damp, green scenery.

Where the road ends, Mill Creek flows. Some water is diverted into the city of Walla Walla’s water intake facility, but the rest joins with the Walla Walla River and Columbia River, eventually flowing out to the Pacific Ocean.

As cars parked, community members gathered on the bank to watch the release of about 30,000 spring Chinook smolts into the stream, part of a larger effort to return salmon to the Walla Walla Basin.

Jerimiah Bonifer, manager of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Fisheries Program, said the smolts were part of the second full-term group from the Walla Walla Hatchery that has operated on the South Fork of the Walla Walla River since 2021.

The hatchery mimics the natural process, Bonifer said, collecting spawn from adult spring Chinook, incubating the eggs and rearing them until they are about 6 inches long, shiny and ready for release.

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