Winter floods impacting Washington salmon hatcheries

King 5 News –

Winter’s flooding and heavy rains have been causing problems for western Washington salmon hatcheries, and could have lasting impacts.

At the start of February, rising floodwaters from Issaquah Creek threatened the state-run hatchery there. Washington Fish and Wildlife raises Coho and Chinook salmon at the hatchery, along with rainbow trout to stock various lakes.

They also raise endangered Kokanee – but none of those fish were affected.

During the floods, sediment mostly clogged one of the water intakes and left the young fish swimming in murky water that makes it difficult to feed them. The silt can also scratch their gills.

Floodwaters were controlled at the facility through round the clock work, keeping the fish ponds from overtopping. Hatchery specialists worried if it got out of hand, the worst-case scenario would be that floods could wash fish into the road.

They also had to work to clean silt to make sure oxygenated water kept circulating.

Other facilities outside of Issaquah weren’t so lucky.

A Puyallup Tribe hatchery had one pond flood, which led to the early release of about 30,000 Coho salmon into the river system. Though not a catastrophic loss, they usually try to get the fish a little larger before releasing them, said enhancement biologist Blake Smith.

“Eighteen months from now, we’ll know if survival was normal or below-normal,” he said.

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