Clearwater and Dworshak Hatcheries, Working Together to Save Chinook
Clearwater Hatchery quickly found itself in short water supply. Operations at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery (Dworshak NFH), a sister Lower Snake River Compensation Plan facility located across the Clearwater River, were unaffected by the damaged pipeline. Thankfully for Clearwater, their secondary waterline was undamaged and the water line only needed to be shut down to investigate and repair the damage on the main line. However, until the main is repaired, the hatchery will not have enough water for all their outdoor rearing ponds. Clearwater needed water. Dworshak provided a solution.
Both hatcheries can share reservoir water, however most of Dworshak NFH's water comes from the North Fork Clearwater River which contains the Infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV), a naturally-occurring virus that can be deadly for steelhead. Clearwater needs disease-free water, so instead of shipping in water, the hatchery avoided disaster by sending their spring Chinook salmon, which are more resistant to IHNV, to Dworshak.
This agreement took rapid planning, preparation, and teamwork. The Nez Perce Tribe, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Lower Snake River Compensation Program, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Army Corps of Engineers, all came together and prepared 25 Burrow’s ponds, improved Dworshak's waste water system to accommodate additional fish, and moved 2.5 million juvenile Chinook in less than two weeks!
A little over two months have gone by since the move, and both fish and staff are adjusting to the new routine. Clearwater’s Chinook will remain here until their release next spring, allowing the hatchery to shut down and repair their main waterline without losing any fish.
What might have been a disaster ended up an example of the power of partnerships to conserve fish and future tribal, commercial, and sport fishing opportunities. It comes down to what is important for both hatchery and wild fish, their habitat, and the people that depend on them. Only when people work together can we overcome unanticipated difficulties and keep preparing for a more fish-filled future!
Last updated: November 26, 2012