Ground broken for new Yakama Nation fish hatchery

Yakima Herald –

DJ Brownlee remembers fishing for chinook salmon at Sunnyside Dam with his father while growing up in Wapato.

Through the years, and now as a hatchery foreman with the Yakama Nation Fisheries, he’s seen drought, habitat loss and dam construction continue to threaten the existence of the fish and tribe’s way of life.

“I started my fisheries career at the Klickitat Salmon Hatchery and when I first started seeing we weren’t having any more winters, warm summers, not very much snowfall or runoff, I could see this coming,” Brownlee said. “I saw the environment changing and I had a recurring nightmare, if you will, that the Klickitat ran dry.”

Although droughts haven’t gotten that extreme, accelerating temperature increases have created the need to help salmon adapt quickly to survive. Three tribal facilities on the Yakima River already aid the resilient fish, and groundbreaking last week for a fourth — the Melvin R. Sampson Coho Facility northwest of Ellensburg — represents another big step toward that goal. Pegged at $16 million for design and construction, the facility is targeted to open in fall 2019.

Brownlee will serve as its operations manager. He and two tribal members will live on-site at a facility expected to employ all the latest technology and methods, making it far superior to the Cle Elum facility where Brownlee works.

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