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Our Work

Grand Coulee Dam

Entiat, Leavenworth, and Winthrop National Fish Hatcheries are mitigation hatcheries established by the Grand Coulee Fish Maintenance Project (1937) to compensate for anadromous fish losses above Grand Coulee Dam. All three produce spring or summer Chinook salmon, and Winthrop NFH produces steelhead. Coho salmon are also raised in cooperation with the Yakama Nation. The Columbia River Fisheries Management Plan under the U.S. v. Oregon decision of 1969 set production goals for the fisheries.

As part of the Leavenworth Fisheries Complex, the Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office evaluates the hatchery production programs, provides technical assistance, and assists the coordination of operations and production. The MCFWCO cooperates with other Service programs, agencies, tribes, and entities using and managing aquatic species and their habitats in the mid- and upper-Columbia River Basin.

Here's a quick look at the history of what we've raised since 1940...

Get the big picture of the work we do throughout the Pacific Region...

    Entiat National Fish Hatchery

    Teamwork during spawning

    Teamwork during spawning at ENFH.

    Entiat National Fish Hatchery (ENFH) was built on 37 acres of land by the Bureau of Reclamation as one of the fish mitigation facilities for Grand Coulee Dam, Columbia Basin Project.

    Fish culture work began in 1941. At that time the hatchery consisted of a water intake structure on the Entiat River, pipelines, a screen chamber, hatchery building, mixing chamber, domestic water system, four residences, and eight large and four small fish rearing ponds designed by engineers by the names of Foster and Lucas. The initial operating plan for the ENFH called for adult salmon and steelhead to be trapped at Rock Island Dam and hauled to the hatchery for holding and spawning.

    The hatchery was substantially reconstructed in 1979, which included the replacement of the Foster-Lucas rearing ponds with thirty 8’ x 80’ raceways, adult holding ponds, fish ladder, screen chamber and mixing chamber, and a generator building. Following this upgrading of the facility, spring Chinook salmon was the primary species raised from 1979 to 2008.

    Beginning in the fall of 2009, the ENFH began raising summer Chinook salmon. The program was initiated with eggs from Wells Fish Hatchery. The goal of the program is to maintain a segregated harvest program for summer Chinook. Fish from this program are not intended to spawn naturally and are not intended to establish, supplement, or support any summer Chinook salmon populations occurring in the natural environment. Released smolts and returning adult fish must travel 490 river miles between the hatchery and the Pacific Ocean.

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    Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery

Releasing alevins into tanks

Releasing alevins into the nursery tanks.

Construction of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery (LNFH) took place from 1938 to 1940 on 170 acres of Icicle Valley land, two miles south of the town of Leavenworth.

When the LNFH was first established, spring Chinook salmon and steelhead were identified as the primary mitigation species. The initial operating plan for the LNFH called for adult spring Chinook salmon and summer steelhead to be trapped at Rock Island Dam and hauled to LNFH for holding and spawning. Salmon and steelhead trapped at the Rock Island Dam represented a mix of fish destined for the upper Columbia River system. LNFH was originally considered to be the primary adult holding and spawning site, with eggs shipped from there to the Entiat and Winthrop hatcheries.

Over the years, the LNFH production program has included a variety of species, including spring and summer Chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead, kokanee, and various resident salmonids. Since 1974, spring Chinook salmon have been the priority species, and the continued success of the program provides for sport, tribal, and commercial fisheries in the Pacific Ocean, Columbia River, and Icicle Creek. Released smolts and returning adults must travel 497 river miles between the hatchery and the Pacific Ocean.

In 1998, the LNFH was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior, recognizing the historic significance of its construction in 1939. Major features on the facility site now include the hatchery building nursery and visitor center, adult holding ponds, fish ladder, numerous raceways, historic Foster-Lucas rearing ponds, sand settling basin, pollution abatement pond, and nature trail.

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    Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office

    Collecting data

    Collecting data on salmon during spawning at LNFH.

    The Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office (MCFWCO) provides technical fisheries assistance and cooperates with other Service programs, agencies, tribes, and entities using and managing aquatic species and their habitats in the mid- and upper-Columbia River Basin.

    The MCFWCO focuses on:

    **Assisting in the collection, evaluation, coordination, and dissemination of fisheries information to help restore declining fish species, recover species listed under the Endangered Species Act, preclude the need for future listings of new species, and provide science-based management of aquatic resources.

    **Providing long-term monitoring, evaluation, and technical support to assess the status of fish populations.

    **Determining the survival, contribution, and impacts of hatchery fish on wild populations. MCFWCO evaluates three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mitigation hatcheries located at Winthrop, Entiat, and Leavenworth, Washington that release spring Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), steelhead (O. mykiss), and coho salmon (O. kisutch).

    **Providing technical assistance to agencies that have authority to set fish management regulations and to many land owners (e.g., federal, state, tribal, and private) to prevent the loss of, damage to, and best management practices for the long-term benefit of fish and their habitats.

    **Promoting interagency coordination by serving on technical and policy level workgroups (committees, councils, commissions, etc.) in the areas of hydro systems, harvest, hatchery, and habitat management.
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      Winthrop National Fish Hatchery

      Spawning salmon

      Spawning salmon at WNFH.

      Construction of the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery (WNFH) occurred between 1940 and 1942. Fish culture operations were initiated at Winthrop in 1942. Adult sockeye, spring Chinook, and steelhead trout were identified as the primary mitigation species. The initial operating plan for the hatchery called for adult spring Chinook salmon and summer steelhead to be trapped at Rock Island Dam and transported to the Leavenworth hatchery for spawning. The gametes (fertilized eggs) were then transported to the Entiat and Winthrop hatcheries. By 1951, the hatchery reared not only salmon, but also rainbow and brook trout used to stock state waters for fishing.

      In 1969, fish disease, water quality, and technical problems were encountered in the production of salmon reared at the hatchery. The emphasis then turned to more trout production (more than one million fish) for the Colville Tribes and state planting programs. This continued well into the mid-1970s when the national fish hatchery objectives and priorities changed and the focus went back to restoring and rehabilitating Chinook salmon runs in the upper Columbia basin.

      Today, WNFH raises steelhead, spring Chinook, and coho salmon for release into the Methow River. Salmon and steelhead must travel 574 river miles between the hatchery and the Pacific Ocean.

      Part of the USFWS mission is to work with partners. At WNFH, one important partner is Douglas County Public Utility District’s Methow Fish Hatchery (MFH). Together, we raise spring Chinook salmon to provide fish for tribal, commercial and sport fisheries and to boost the wild population. We do this through a "stepping stone" conservation model, which has been in action since 2010.

      Each year, MFH collects wild adult spring Chinook and spawns them in its facility. The progeny of these wild fish are raised at MFH, where they are internally tagged. When these tagged fish return as adults to spawn, WNFH collects them for their broodstock. Because they are tagged, they are distinguishable from wild spring Chinook by using a tag reader, which allows the hatcheries to keep their broodstock populations separate. The fish reared at WNFH are therefore the progeny of the spring Chinook raised at MFH. This describes the stepping stone model, where MFH raises Chinook derived from the wild population, and WNFH raises Chinook taken from the MFH population.

      WNFH spring Chinook receive both an internal tag and external adipose fin clip. Removal of this fin signals anglers that the fish can be kept (in lower Columbia sport and commercial fisheries) and helps identify WNFH from MFH Chinook.

      WNFH spring Chinook are rarely used in spawning operations, which means that spring Chinook are only raised up to two generations in the hatchery environment. This reduces the effects of domestication, one of the benefits of a stepping stone model. Many hatchery fish have been born in and released from hatcheries for generations. The fish that thrive best in tanks are often the ones most likely to survive to spawn later, biasing the population towards traits that might not serve salmon well in wild conditions.

      The stepping stone model has also allowed for the development of more tribal partnerships. Because WNFH spring Chinook are not used in spawning operations, but still return to the hatchery as adults to spawn, there is an excess of salmon. This affords WNFH the opportunity to offer a tribal food program, where fresh spring Chinook are given to local tribes weekly throughout May, June, and even July. Excessing hatchery salmon to the tribes also leaves more room in the rivers for wild (or near wild) fish to spawn naturally.

      Learn more about our tribal food program.

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Last Updated: October 9, 2014
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