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Fish Looking Down

News, projects, and other information about our sites is found here.

The Return of Lamprey, Sept. 29, 2021
Big Updates at Hatchery, March 2021
Volunteers in 2020
History Preserved, Oct. 26, 2020
Demolition at LNFH Begins, Oct. 25, 2020
Fishery Open Thanks to ENFH, Sept. 8, 2020
LNFH Boat Launch Closes for Season, August 2, 2020
Updates Scheduled for LNFH, June 8, 2020
Steelhead Survive to Spawn Again, May 26, 2020
Salmon Fest Postponed to 2021, May 5, 2020
Hunting in Alpine, April 10, 2020
New Complex Manager Hired, March 2, 2020
Partners Provide Public Service, January 14, 2020
Snowshoe Tours in New Hands, December 31, 2019
Theater Move Proposed, October 31, 2019
Hosts are the Most, October 21, 2019

Alpine Water, October 1, 2019
Spawning Chinook, August 21, 2019
Restoration Accomplished, August 5, 2019
Outstanding Fishery at Entiat NFH, July, 2019
Fishing Events Celebrate Summer, June 24, 2019
Dismal Chinook Run Likely, May 1, 2019
Science Camp, April 2019
Predation, March 2019
Snowshoeing Program, Jan. 2019
Problem Solving, Jan. 2019
Sharing Bounty, Oct. 2018
Lamprey at Wanapum Days, Oct. 2018
Snorkel Survey, Aug. 9, 2018
Groundwater Project Nearly Complete at Entiat NFH, Aug. 3, 2018
Boat Launch Closed, August 2, 2018
Water Shutdown Essential for Repair, June 18, 2018
Winthrop Kids Fishing Day a Success, June 17, 2018
Bill Gale Honored, May 21, 2018.
Team Naturaleza Community Fishing Day, June 10, 2018
Winthrop Kids Fishing Day June 9, 2018
Science Camp Premiers, April, 2018
Snow Lake Valve Project Delayed, March 27, 2018
Groundwater Project at Entiat NFH, Jan. 25, 2018
Reclamation Seeks Comments, Oct. 11, 2017
Cohos Rescued from Fire, Sept. 19, 2017
New Hunting & Fishing Event, Sept. 16, 2017
Using eDNA, August 24, 2017
Saving Fish, August 14, 2017
Anglers Welcome at Entiat NFH, July 21, 2017
Icicle Creek Opens for Fishing, June 23, 2017
Kids Fishing Event at Winthrop NFH, June 5, 2017
Hatchery Visits are Pathway to Learning, June 5, 2017
Partnership Provides Bilingual Education, March 14, 2017
Icy Disaster Averted, ENFH, December 21, 2016
Team Naturaleza Awarded, December, 2016
Free Snowshoe Tours, November 1, 2016
Restoration and Beavers in the News, October, 2016
Award for Pollinator Garden, August, 2016
Boat Launch Closed, July, 2016
Scholarship, June, 2016
Public Comment Sought, Apr. 2, 2016
Award for Complex and Friends, Mar. 9, 2016
Steelhead Broodstock Collection, Feb., 2016
Hands On the Land Grant, Feb. 19, 2016
Flood, Nov. 18, 2015
Clean-up, Nov. 9, 2015
Pumpback Project, Aug. 17, 2015
Saving Salmon, Aug. 5, 2015
Forging a Common Cause, June 2015

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The Return of the Eels: How indigenous-led conservation revived an ancient fish

    Ponds under construction

    Shekinah Saluskin, a member of the Yakama Nation Fisheries Pacific lamprey team, watches while Ian Johnson, a Student Conservation Association intern, gets acquainted with a lamprey.

    Written by Sarah Ortiz, a Student Conservation Association intern for Mid-Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, Sept. 2021:
    On an overcast August afternoon, I find myself, along with fellow biologists, hauling large bins down to the banks of the Wenatchee River. I struggle to grip the handles as something alive and energetic thrashes inside. I peer curiously over the rim, and my gaze is met with a writhing mass of Pacific lamprey.

    Lamprey are some of the oldest fish alive today and look like something out of a horror movie but their populations have been declining in the upper Wenatchee River for over a decade. Therefore, Yakama Nation Fisheries, in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is using generations of traditional knowledge and modern science to tackle this conservation catastrophe.

    Lamprey travel between river systems and the ocean, traversing miles of river in order to spawn; but today, a number of dams block their path. Without passage to spawning grounds in the upper Columbia River, Pacific lamprey numbers in the area decline.

    The Yakama Nation has deep cultural ties to the Pacific lamprey and has been harvesting the species as a source of food and medicine for centuries. Because of this, Yakama Nation Fisheries was the first organization to tune in to the Pacific lamprey population decline in the upper Wenatchee.

    In addition to their tribal significance, Pacific lamprey perform many ecosystem services, but lamprey conservation is still often overlooked. Ann Grote, a biologist for the Service, attributes this lack of attention to a lack of perceived economic value. "Salmon, to the dominant culture, have more perceived value. People are sport fishing for salmon... people are eating salmon, so in the bigger economy they are more valuable," she explains.

    In 2004, Pacific lamprey were denied endangered species status simply due to a lack of information. Without this status, state and federal agencies were limited in their abilities to restore lamprey populations. Therefore, native nations like the Yakama were the only groups equipped to spearhead these conservation efforts; and they did so skillfully, relocating spawning lamprey to the upper Wenatchee.

    Today in 2021, we stand waist deep in the frigid Wenatchee River, carrying out the conservation vision that began years before. Since the start of this project, lamprey have been detected at many of the release sites, indicating that populations are recovering.

    This restoration effort is one of many lamprey conservation projects taking place across the Pacific Northwest. A multitude of these projects involve partnerships between Native nations and federal agencies. The combination of knowledge and resources that these partnerships provide results in effective, efficient, and equitable solutions to pressing conservation conundrums.

    If it wasn't for the environmental stewardship of Native nations, the landscapes we love would look vastly different. This is something I contemplate as I release the prehistoric fish we have brought to the river. I look down at the lamprey in my hands, acknowledging the millennia of evolutionary and cultural history it represents. I then let it go and watch it silently slip away into the water: an old friend returning home.

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    Transformation in Progress at Leavenworth NFH

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    Construction of tanks in progress on March 14, 2021. Julia Pinnix/USFWS

    Three projects at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery are transforming the landscape in 2021. Visitors using the grounds are restricted to a safety corridor. But the projects are building benefits for fish, wildlife, and people. "We're making a better future for the community," said Mat Maxey, Hatchery Manager.

    The project began in November 2020 when ponds dating back to 1940 were torn out to make way for a pilot project. A Partial Re-use Aquaculture System (PRAS) is scheduled to be completed by June. The system allows water to be filtered, chilled, and re-used in circular tanks for raising fish. This saves water, allowing the hatchery to leave more in Icicle Creek to benefit wild fish. The project also includes a solid waste capture system to help reduce the amount of phosphorous in water sent back to the river, which is closely regulated by the state.

    100,000 spring Chinook salmon will be placed in the new tanks as soon as they are operational. If the pilot project works well over the next few years, the remaining old ponds will be torn out and replaced with a full build-out of the PRAS. Hopes are high at the hatchery.

    To power the project, Chelan Public Utility District will lay a new line from East Leavenworth Road, a second project that will ultimately benefit both the hatchery and the PUD. While the new power will only be used for the PRAS project at first, eventually it will be tapped to power the entire hatchery, allowing the old power line that runs from Icicle Road to be retired. Updating the power lines, transformers, and switching gear is costly, but new electrical equipment is safer and more efficient.

    The third project will rework the property between East Leavenworth Road and the hatchery production area (the North 40) to benefit wildlife and visitors. The hatchery plans to "make this area a bigger part of our greenspace," said Maxey. "Right now, it is not a pleasing place to walk." There are five miles of trail winding through forest and alongside Icicle Creek on a substantial part of the 180 acres managed by the hatchery. But the North 40 is mostly tree-less, flat, and gouged by vehicles that cut across the gravelly ground. Over the course of two months, a youth conservation crew led by the American Conservation Experience will lay irrigation line, plant trees and native grass, set up fences, delineate parking areas, and build a trail.

    Visitors must not enter the construction zone, but a safe corridor is provided from the boat launch along Icicle Creek to reach the hatchery and its trail system. We ask that the public follow posted signs to allow construction equipment to work safely. We look forward to inviting visitors to enjoy the North 40 later in 2021.

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    Volunteers Still Serve In Spite of Barriers

    Ponds under construction

    Eagle Scout Connor Hawk shows off the 3 benches he built for Leavenworth NFH. Photo credit:Hawk family

    My favorite people are volunteers. It doesn't matter what their political points of view might be, or what their belief systems are, or how old they are. They show up, and they serve. But what happens when something like Covid comes along?

    As it turns out, volunteers adapt. They still offer help. And once again, I am in awe of their goodwill.

    Hatchery staff have been restricted in our ability to go to any of our sites this summer. So whose eyes are on our site, and who takes care of the extensive grounds? Volunteers, evidently.

    Our neighbors who walk, run, or bike the trails pick up any trash they spot. Their daily efforts benefit us all. It was neighbors who put out a brush fire. Two on bicycles raced to the hatchery to report the fire and get 9-1-1 rolling. Another helped direct the fire trucks. Meanwhile, others grabbed shovels and started trenching and throwing dirt on the flames. It was the early efforts of volunteers that prevented the fire from growing.

    Eagle Scout Conner Hawk built three handsome wooden benches to place in the portico at the main hatchery building. All the materials were donated by Lowes in Wenatchee. He built them in his home and delivered them when they were complete. Another Eagle Scout is working on fencing and revegetation at the boat launch, guided by a mentor. Both Scouts communicated with us via email and phone while working independently.

    A request on Facebook for a volunteer to build signboards to display two new interpretive signs brought aid. Don Little responded immediately, and within the week, had delivered two beautiful pieces of work. Ed Ramirez also built two more signboards for use elsewhere on the site. He re-engineered the design to make them stronger and lighter. Marson and Marson gave us deep discounts for the materials, as they have often done for our volunteer projects.

    Trout Unlimited continues with year three of the Wenatchee Beaver Project, using one of our old fish ponds to house beavers transitioning from one location to another. Volunteers have allowed the project employees to collect aspen saplings on their land to feed the beavers; and some have volunteered to stop by and check on the animals regularly to make sure all is well.

    Friends of Northwest Hatcheries volunteer Courtney Feeney added a storybook to the Nature Trail, so visitors can read "Trees are Made of Trout" as they go from one signpost to the next. The Friends group is a wonderful way to support not only the hatchery in Leavenworth, but hatcheries throughout the Pacific Northwest. It is this group that brings us the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival. Although this year's event was canceled, like so many others, they are planning now for 2021.

    During spawning season this year, volunteers signed up and showed up, wearing masks and ready to work. Spawning hundreds of salmon takes a big group effort. Volunteers were a vital part of that.

    The constant efforts of volunteers at our site surprise and delight us. It brings us hope in a difficult time. And it reminds us how even small efforts add up to build a better, stronger, cleaner community. My thanks go out to all of you volunteers, whatever it is you do. Our hatcheries belong to you; and your care for our sites and for the work we do is inspiring.

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    History Is Preserved at Active Hatchery

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    Diversion channel under construction in 1939. Photo credit: USFWS

    Oct. 26, 2020: Many visitors come to Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery to see fish, of course. At this time of year, there are more than 1.2 million young spring Chinook fingerlings in some of the outside raceways, and ready-to-spawn coho in Icicle Creek and the nearby adult ponds. But there are a lot of empty ponds too, as well as a huge constructed channel almost a mile long and often completely empty of water. Naturally, people have questions.

    This hatchery was the largest in the world when it was built in 1940. (Where is the largest hatchery in the world today? Think hard... I'll share the answer later.) But it was no ordinary hatchery: the innovative plan at the time was to raise fish directly in Icicle Creek. A series of four dams divided the natural creek into ponds. Adult fish were expected to make their way into the ponds and spawn; and young fish were meant to spend their first year right there. A 4,085 foot-long diversion channel was constructed to control water flow into the now-modified natural creek.

    The plan failed almost immediately. In summer, there was not enough water in Icicle Creek to flush out the fish waste and keep oxygen levels high. The temperature was just too warm for coldwater fish like salmon. And predators found the plan much to their taste. Banks of ponds were installed at the hatchery instead.

    But even these ponds were innovative. Called Foster-Lucas ponds for their inventors, the oval structures had automated brushes to clean up waste, as well as circulating water flow to help young fish develop muscle and maintain fitness. Three banks of 76 foot-long and four banks of 130 foot-long Foster-Lucas ponds were installed at the hatchery. But these proved problematic, especially when scaled up. In the large ponds, the rotating brushes simply swept fish waste into the water column, lowering oxygen levels and creating an unhealthy environment for the fish. None of the large ponds are in use today. Forty-five 8x80 foot rectangular raceways and fourteen 10x100 foot raceways replaced them. As for the smaller Foster-Lucas ponds, only some see seasonal use, and all are being phased out for better designs.

    The diversion channel was built so it is higher at the downstream end than upstream. This was intentional, capturing water in the channel to help charge several adjacent hatchery wells. When water levels are low in summer, the channel stands empty as all the water in Icicle Creek is now allowed to flow unimpeded into the natural creek to support wild fish and other aquatic creatures.

    The diversion channel may be dry now, but in spring and fall flood season, it is brim-full, gushing over a spillway into Icicle Creek. The sound of the waterfall draws salmon seeking their way upstream, but the spillway is too steep for a salmon to conquer. Instead, they may choose to leap up the fish ladder, or to follow the river farther upstream.

    Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery raises 1.2 million spring Chinook salmon each year for release. This is fewer than we once generated, but for good reason. More is not always better. A lower number of fish means more room in the rearing raceways and healthier conditions. We keep them nearly two years to ensure they are the optimal size for surviving the journey past seven dams to the sea. These practices are based partly on research carried out by the Mid-Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office's monitoring and evaluation team, which advises our hatcheries. So while we're still big, we're not the biggest hatchery in the world any longer.

    What hatchery holds that honor? I guessed perhaps one in China, where aquaculture has ancient roots (archeological evidence of it goes back some 8,000 years). But it is Anderson's Minnow Farm outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, that claims the title, counting by the number of fish. The history of aquaculture has many chapters. The role of our hatchery is significant enough to warrant being a National Historic Landmark. Come for the fish, but the history might grab your attention, too.

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    Demolition Begins to Prepare for New Building

    Ponds under construction

    Foster-Lucas ponds dating from 1940 will be demolished this fall. Photo credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS

    Oct. 25, 2020: Change is coming to Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, and it begins this fall. Some of the decrepit old fish ponds will be demolished to prepare for new construction in 2021.

    A pilot project will test a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) in circular ponds. The goal is to reduce the amount of phosphorous discharged into Icicle Creek, as well as install tanks that are easier to clean and provide better conditions for young fish.

    Construction of the new tanks and building begins in 2021. While demolition and construction are taking place, pedestrians will not be able to use the pass-through gate connecting the hatchery's property bordering East Leavenworth Road to the production area. An alternative route is being created.

    Questions about the project may be directed to Hatchery Manager Mat Maxey: 509-548-2917.

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    Fishery Open Thanks to Entiat Hatchery

    Ponds under construction

    Brandon Pasley holds up a gorgeous Entiat summer Chinook. Photo credit: Chris Pasley/USFWS

    Sept. 8, 2020:What does success look like? A salmon on the end of an angler's line? Bins full of ice and fish on their way to tribal families? This has been our measure of success for three years in a row, thanks to Entiat National Fish Hatchery's summer Chinook program.

    But the last three years have witnessed fairly poor returns overall for salmon to the Columbia River Basin. How has Entiat been successful when other populations of Chinook have struggled?

    While fish are in the hatchery, "we can control quantity and quality, timing and size," said Craig Chisam, Entiat NFH's manager. He points to high-quality work by his dedicated staff. "They come in and put the fish and the facility first. But of course, we can't control what happens once they leave here."

    The hatchery has a spring on-site, six wells, and an infiltration gallery to provide water to their summer Chinook. Eggs remain only on chilled well water from October until they are moved as fry to outside raceways in May. Well water is pathogen-free; and chilling it means development is slowed, so the timing for moving them is adjusted to maximize survival.

    The fish spend their second winter outside, on a mix of well and river water. Once winter arrives, the water temperature in the Entiat River drops to just above freezing. Craig said using the river water "naturalizes the growth cycle." This means fish develop at the rate they would naturally if they were in the river rather than in the hatchery. "I sweat from November to April," he said, describing the challenges of keeping water flowing steadily all winter, battling ice in the river and in the pumps, screens, and pipes.

    After nineteen months at the hatchery, the fish are released in April to make their own way down the Columbia River, past eight dams, and out into the ocean. Reports occasionally make their way back to Craig from the coded wire tags collected when his fish are caught in other locations-- like Sitka, Alaska, where Entiat's summer Chinook were being reeled in this January.

    Craig said the quality of the adult fish coming back is excellent. Angling has been worthwhile all the way into September in previous years. In 2020, he's seen more effort being put in than ever. Yet still thousands of fish make their way back to the hatchery, leaping up the short ladder into the shaded holding ponds where they will rest until spawning takes place in October. In 2019, 2,882 fish returned to Entiat NFH. In comparison, as of August 24 this year, Craig reported 3,747 fish have returned. He hopes to reach 4,000, representing a full one percent of the number originally released.

    Of the number of adult fish returned, 3,494 have been given to the Kalispel Tribe, Coeur d'Alene Tribe, Spokane Tribe, Yakama Nation, and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation . Providing salmon to upper Columbia River tribes is a key part of the hatchery's mission. Craig reports that Entiat's salmon are much admired and appreciated by tribal members. "It makes this worthwhile," he said, and even over the phone, I could hear him grinning with pride.

    Hayley Muir, a biologist for the Mid Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, collects data from every fish surplused to the tribes. On a single day, 1,242 fish were processed, which she confirms as the largest single surplusing event ever for the hatchery.

    Summer Chinook are still arriving at Entiat and will continue to arrive (although in lesser numbers) all the way into October. The hatchery collects and reserves fish for broodstock from throughout the season, so a good mix of genetics will be captured at spawning time. "Tons of TLC have gone into this program over the past ten years," said Craig. "It's gratifying to see great results."

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    Boat Launch Closes for the Season at Leavenworth NFH

    Ponds under construction

    Leavenworth NFH's boat launch is a busy place on a hot weekend afternoon. Photo credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS

    August 2, 2020: The boat launch at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery closes August 3. In an excerpt from a letter written by Hatchery Manager Mat Maxey and sent out to the community July 20, he explains: "Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery was built and operates today to produce fish as partial mitigation for the salmon production lost due to the construction and operation of Grand Coulee Dam. We produce spring Chinook salmon to provide sport, tribal, and commercial fishing opportunities. The hatchery owns and operates the public boat launch located on hatchery property three miles south of the city of Leavenworth on East Leavenworth Road. The primary purpose of this boat launch is to facilitate and support access to the creek for the various sport fisheries which may occur seasonally.

    "Typically, the hatchery will open access to the boat launch when the spring Chinook sport fishing season begins on Icicle Creek, usually in later May. Access to the boat launch area will close on July 31 consistent with the closure of the tribal and sport fishery." This date was revised to August 3 to incorporate a busy summer weekend and prevent the illegal parking and crowding issues likely to result from a July 31 closure.

    "The hatchery provides basic restroom facilities and trash receptacles at the boat launch area during this time. Access to the boat launch may also occur at other times of the year if the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife opens other sport fisheries on Icicle Creek (e.g. coho salmon). Leavenworth NFH hopes that the community understands the need to manage the property for continued public use during sport fishing seasons," Mat concluded.

    For questions or more information, call the hatchery at 509-548-7641; or contact Julia Pinnix at

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    Updates Scheduled for Eighty-Year-Old Ponds

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    The original Foster-Lucas ponds at Leavenworth NFH under construction in 1940. Photo credit: USFWS

    June 8, 2020: Leavenworth NFH is working with the Bureau of Reclamation to update our hatchery facilities, many of which date from 1938-1942. Original ponds are slated for replacement with new, updated, water-efficient versions. Since LNFH is a National Historic Landmark, we proceed with care, preserving the past while we move into the future. An "Historic Structures Report" is available here.

    The new system is expected to reduce phosphorous in water returning to Icicle Creek. Phosphorous is a mineral that boosts plant growth. Too much of a good thing results in problems downstream. The hatchery, always careful about its wastewater, is held under some of the nation's strictest standards for phosphorous.

    The hatchery also works with partners to find ways to keep water levels in Icicle Creek as high and cold as possible, for the sake of wild fish. Reducing overall water use at the hatchery benefits all water users, from fish to humans.

    Our history is important, as the historic structures here tell a story of enormous effort to keep salmon in our streams. Learn more here.

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    Unusual Hatchery Program Aims to Boost Wild Genes

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    Releasing a post-spawned male steelhead back into the Methow River. Photo credit: Michael Humling/USFWS

    May 26, 2020: The Winthrop NFH steelhead program is an integrated recovery hatchery program. This means it aims to boost abundance of natural spawning by using wild adults and allowing most of their offspring to spawn in the wild. Both the hatchery and wild fish are considered to be part of the same Upper Columbia population. Both are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

    The program has been in almost constant evolution since it began over 12 years ago. Program changes primarily aim at reducing the program's ecological "footprint" on ESA-listed species, by selecting wild fish adapted to the natural environment, not those that have evolved to thrive in the hatchery environment. Other ongoing strategies and research aim to reduce the number of non-migrant juvenile steelhead being released into the environment, as well as cooperative stock management with the Wells Fish Hatchery (Douglas PUD) to better manage gene flow in the river.

    We are experimenting with a new strategy in 2020 to minimize the effects of removing wild broodstock from the run by seeking to "borrow" fish temporarily for the hatchery program. Part of this goal has already been addressed. Since 2012, US Fish & Wildlife Service has teamed up with the Yakama Nation to live-spawn all female steelhead. Eggs are removed from the females, which are then transferred to the Yakama's Kelt Recovery facility on the Winthrop NFH campus.

    Unlike most other Pacific salmon, steelhead do not necessarily die after spawning. Some females survive to spawn a second, or even third time. Due to the difficulty of navigating a highly modified Columbia River environment, their success rate is very low, likely under 5%. The Yakama's program reconditions these "kelt" females and releases them to spawn again, drastically increasing their success rate.

    2020 marks the first year that zero steelhead were euthanized for spawning at Winthrop NFH, which is very atypical of a hatchery program! Like the females, all male steelhead were released to the river after being live-spawned. This will, we hope, allow them to contribute wild genetics to the spawning population. The Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office's Hatchery Evaluation program PIT-tagged all of these fish and hopes to document whether this is an effective strategy.

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    Salmon Fest 30th Anniversary Postponed to 2021

    Ponds under construction

    Local high school volunteers are a critical part of the success of Salmon Fest. Photo credit: Barb KellyRingel/USFWS

    May 5, 2020: The Wenatchee River Salmon Festival is typically hosted at Leavenworth NFH in September. Due to public health and safety concerns, this much-loved event is being postponed until 2021.

    "We're really concerned about the safety of all our volunteers," Festival Director and founder Corky Broaddus said. The event relies on hundreds of high school students to help run activities. Roger Amerman, coordinator for River Ramble (a Chelan County PUD event which joined Salmon Fest in 2019), expressed concern for the health of tribal elders who typically take part.

    An event on the scale of Salmon Fest pulls in hundreds of volunteers, activity leaders, and exhibitors. In 2019, 3,000 students and teachers attended over two days. On the public day, at least 4,000 people visited. Putting on Salmon Fest requires some $350,000 in cash and in-kind donations. Before plunging into the big expenditures of the year, festival organizers needed to assess the situation.

    Leavenworth Fisheries Complex managers discussed the pros and cons of hosting a large-scale event in a year of uncertainty. In line with the recommendations of the Salmon Fest Core Team planners, the hatchery agreed that it was best to postpone Salmon Fest until 2021. As Friends of Northwest Hatcheries member Sheila Bergren pointed out, the event is ready to celebrate its 30th year. Having extra time to plan for a truly special event held in 2021 is a benefit.

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    Hunting Allowed on Remote Part of Hatchery Property

    Ponds under construction

    View of Mt. McLoughlin from Upper Snow Lake. Photo credit: USFWS

    April 10, 2020: Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery (NFH) is well known in the community as a recreational destination. Five miles of trails are open for walking, birdwatching, and horseback riding. The same trails are used for skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Another part of hatchery property, in a separate area, has always been open for hunting.

    The area open for hunting is near Snow and Nada lakes in the nearby mountains, managed by Leavenworth NFH. When the hatchery was built in 1938-1939, Bureau of Reclamation engineers set up a high-elevation camp and constructed a water delivery system that included two alpine lakes. This system still provides cool, snowmelt water to the hatchery every summer. Property around the lakes is still owned and managed by the hatchery.

    This land is surrounded by U.S. Forest Service land, part of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It is also included in Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife General Management Unit 249. The complex intersecting network of federal and state hunting and fishing regulations can be difficult for hunters and anglers to navigate and act as a disincentive to engage in these activities.

    To remedy this confusion, we are formally recognizing hunting on the hatchery’s property at Snow and Nada lakes. This is part of a larger effort. Department of the Interior Secretary Bernhardt, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is proposing to open or expand hunting and fishing opportunities at 97 national wildlife refuges and 9 national fish hatcheries across more than 2.3 million acres. This continues the Administration’s focus on increasing access to public lands. This is not a change in the hatchery’s management of the land. We are just formally recognizing the land’s current use.

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    Local Leavenworth Manager Promoted

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    Jim Craig started his new position as Leavenworth Fisheries Complex Manager March 2. Photo credit: USFWS

    March 2, 2020: The position of Manager for the Leavenworth Fisheries Complex (LFC) has been vacant since May 2019. As of March 2, Jim Craig will take over the job. Jim has been the Deputy Manager for LFC since 2014 and a local resident since 2000.

    In 2000, Jim accepted a position as Deputy Project Leader at the Mid-Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (MCFWCO) in Leavenworth, Washington, which is part of the LFC. In 2007, he was selected as Project Leader of the MCFWCO, responsible for budget development and planning and the overall supervision of about 30 staff located over 3 different offices from Yakima to Winthrop. In 2014, Jim was designated as the Deputy Complex Manager of the LFC. In his new job as Complex manager, he will supervise about 50 employees spread over four locations, recruit personnel, develop and execute a large budget, and oversee management of facilities at hatcheries in Leavenworth, Entiat, and Winthrop. Jim lives in Cashmere with his wife Lisa.

    “I look forward to the opportunities and challenges of this position,� Jim said. “I am very excited about some major infrastructure projects we will soon undertake at Leavenworth NFH to improve our water delivery system and to test a new rearing system designed to help reduce our surface water withdrawals from Icicle Creek.�

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    Partners Provide Public Service

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    Hefting beavers in and out of the old fish ponds takes teamwork. Photo credit: USFWS

    Jan. 14, 2020: Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery's mission is to raise healthy salmon for release to mitigate for the impact of Grand Coulee Dam, supporting sport, commercial, and tribal fisheries. But the hatchery also serves as a de facto community park, tallying 100,000 visitors annually. Many of our visitors feel invested in this place from time spent on the trails, at events, or in other ways. Here's a look at what being part of a community does for everyone...

    A volunteer (who prefers being anonymous) came to us with a proposal: benches along some of the trail system so birdwatchers could sit down and wait for disturbed wildlife to reappear. He noticed how much more he saw by waiting patiently. We relocated benches along the trail, and he donated an additional bench. Then we put together a map and guide to the Birding Bench Trail. Now visiting birdwatchers have a unique trail experience; and everyone else using the trail can sit down to rest when they like.

    Isaac Tveten came to us with an Eagle Scout project in mind. He built beautiful new sign kiosks for us to use, replacing a decrepit one and expanding our sign locations. Another Eagle Scout, Zane Priebe, made waterproof containers for doggie bags to attach to our sign kiosks. This idea came from a neighbor who walks her dog at the hatchery regularly and saw a need. A third Eagle Scout, Anthony Villalobos, learned that we needed some remodeling in our conference room. He organized a crew to tear out some old wall sections, set drywall over the original concrete, painted the new wall, and replaced the trim. He also painted a gorgeous mural on the new wall. Eagle Scouts have done many valuable projects for us over the years, with tangible benefits.

    The Department of Corrections has been a great partner, bringing groups to the hatchery on Mondays for a variety of projects, from mowing the lawn to installing trail markers to shoveling snow. This frees up our two maintenance employees to tackle the list of projects requiring higher skill levels.

    Wenatchee River Institute (WRI), an educational non-profit organization, has been our partner for some time; but this year, we've expanded our relationship. The hatchery offered free snowshoeing tours over the past three years that, thanks to Park Ranger Marjie Lodwick's hard work, became so popular that the program outgrew our ability to staff it. WRI agreed to take it over, providing low-cost public snowshoe tours on Fridays and Saturdays throughout January. We provided a day of training in December to volunteers and WRI staff to get them started off on leading interpretive tours in our stead. Given our past experiences with WRI, we expect this will prove to be another positive way we can work together to give our best to the community.

    Trout Unlimited (TU) reviewed its agreement with the hatchery in December, reminding us of all the good work they do also. TU leads the Wenatchee Beaver project, relocating beavers from spots where they conflict with people to sites on public lands where their natural engineering is appreciated. Beaver dams trap water, creating oases for diverse wildlife, feeding cool water all summer into streams that support native fish. TU members also help at events, as well as assisting with hatchery activities like spawning.

    From individuals who care enough to bring ideas to us, to organizations whose missions mesh with ours, many people come together at this hatchery to build benefits for everyone. If you have an idea for a project at the hatchery, please get in touch: 509-548-2915.

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    Snowshoe Tour Program Now in New Hands

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    Snowshoeing is a great activity for all ages. Photo credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS

    Dec. 31, 2019: The hatchery has led free guided snowshoe tours since 2016, but the program is too big for the staff of two to continue. Wenatchee River Institute has stepped up to take over, providing two hour educational snowshoe tours at the hatchery for just $12. Tours are on Fridays at 1 p.m., and on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Call Katie at WRI to sign up: 509-548-0181.

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    Leavenworth NFH Looks at Move for Summer Theater

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    Outdoor performances at Leavenworth Summer Theater have taken place for many years. Photo credit: Leavenworth Summer Theater

    Oct. 31, 2019: After 26 years of service, the outdoor theater at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery is showing its age. Leavenworth Summer Theater (LST), primary user of the stage, requested permission to rebuild it. But the hatchery thought a better option is to rebuild at a different site, still on hatchery grounds. The public comment period for this proposal closed Nov. 27.

    The first stage was built in 1991 by hatchery staff for the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival. Today’s structure followed in 1993, with upgrades several years later funded by LST. Through a Special Use Permit, LST has continued to provide engaging musical theater productions every summer since then. "We value the opportunity to welcome visitors to our site," said Julia Pinnix, Visitor Services Manager for Leavenworth Fisheries Complex. "Sitting outside with the birds, frogs, and incredible views of the surrounding mountains while watching live theater is a special experience."

    There are some problems with the current site that reach beyond the condition of the building. Water leaches into the basement of the theater every summer from the adjacent drainfield. Hatchery housing is a stone's throw away on the hill above, and there are other close neighbors, all of whom are impacted by amplified sound. The main entrance to the hatchery has to be blocked on performance evenings. Entry and parking for theater guests is from East Leavenworth Road, using an area that is occupied when the US Forest Service needs a base of operations during major fires, bumping parking for LST into the hatchery production area.

    All of these issues vanish by moving the theater building to a spot farther south. Hatchery staff identified an area currently used only for piling gravel as a likely location. Parking is available in the same area used for winter cross-country skiing. Access to the site is via existing trails. Icicle Outfitters offers guided horseback rides on the same trails, but those end before the theater evening begins. The site is further away from any residences and surrounded by a protective natural berm and native trees.

    Nearly 8,000 visitors and LST staff use the theater each year. To build a new structure on federal land, the National Environmental Policy Act spells out a procedure that allows for public comment and consultation. This includes researching and compiling an Environmental Assessment (EA). The EA is available to view at the hatchery, or via the link below. Information is available from Julia Pinnix by email (

    Environmental Assessment pdf...

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    Hosts are the Most at Hatcheries

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    Doug Moshier, Hatchery Manager Mat Maxey, and Jody Moshier take a moment during the Wehatchee River Salmon Festival for a photo. Photo credit: USFWS

    Oct. 21, 2019: It's important to have friendly folks ready to help when people arrive on their public land. With a staff of two to cover visitor services at three hatcheries and a conservation office, and an estimated 150,000 visitors, that's not always possible. So we recruit hatchery hosts to help, providing an RV pad in exchange.

    Volunteers are the backbone of communities. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, 30% of Americans volunteer, and nearly 80% of them donate to charity; volunteers donate twice as often as non-volunteers. 40% of parents volunteer. 20% of volunteers support education or youth service. And they are often some of the friendliest people around. Our hosts sure are! Doug and Jody Moshier came to Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in 2018 as hosts, and returned again this year. Both are retired teachers from Ohio. They are at ease with large groups of visiting students, and equally comfortable chatting with adults.

    Doug told a story from this fall about a couple who came over from Spokane, arriving after regular visiting hours. The woman was suffering from the effects of illness, and was unable to speak or move easily. Doug assisted the couple into a golf cart and took them around the site. "You could tell they were both once active people," he said. "She was really happy to be able to see something new." He spent more than an hour with them, and had a lengthy conversation with the husband. Before they left, the man said how grateful he was for the chance to talk. "He's a full-time caretaker," Doug said. "He doesn't get out much anymore. I'm glad I could spend that time with them." Their warm welcome to visitors has been reciprocated by the hatchery staff and the community of Leavenworth, something both Doug and Jody have noted.

    Steve Crowe and Joan Ritten were this year's hosts at Entiat National Fish Hatchery. "I showed a couple around and walked them through the whole process," Steve told me. "They asked, 'Are you a biologist?' We get that a lot." He added, "The complexity of what they do here… the temperature of the water, the amount of feed, they collect data for everything so they can tweak what they do. I had no idea it was so complex." Steve and Joan have volunteered at a number of different places across the country, and will be heading in 2020 for North Carolina's Cradle of Forestry. Joan told me, "Entiat Hatchery has been my favorite place. But it's not for someone who just wants a place to camp. You have to love learning. There's so much to learn."

    At Winthrop National Fish Hatchery, Frank and Maria House spent the summer providing tours and helping with fish production. This was their first summer at Winthrop. Like the hosts at Leavenworth and Entiat, they enjoy working with people and learning new things. All three sets of hosts, plus Leavenworth's spring hosts, Heather and Josh Enevoldsen, got together in June for a group training, visiting Chief Joseph Hatchery and learning from staff at Winthrop NFH. It's the one time of the year everyone can come together and compare notes. The Kiwanis Club of Winthrop generously provided housing for the hosts from Entiat and Leavenworth during their visit.

    Our hosts often arrive in May and stay until September or October. It's a long season; but with so much to learn, it's never dull. On days off, they explore Washington. Joan said, "We've put 10,000 miles on the jeep since we got here!" After all the time our hosts spend at our sites, it's hard to say goodbye. Walk through the front doors of Leavenworth NFH and you'll see the handsome new bench Doug and Jody designed and built to share with visitors. They provided the plans, too, in case other volunteers want to make more benches. It is fitting that their parting gift be one that encourages stopping to take time for conversations, and creates a volunteer opportunity. It's a reminder that all the work we do for wildlife is done for people, too.

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    Water from the Alpine Remains Essential

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    The original valve served for decades up at Snow Lake.. Photo credit: USFWS

    Oct. 2, 2019: This area is rich in history. Tribal people have fished for salmon from Icicle Creek for thousands of years, and still do so. Apple orchards first got started in the region around 1884. And Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery is a National Historic Landmark. What do tribes, orchards, and a fish hatchery have in common? Water.

    Icicle Creek has been a reliable home for salmon for countless generations, fed by snowmelt from the nearby mountains. The orchards for which our area is famous are irrigated with water from high elevation lakes. The hatchery, built to mitigate for the impact of Grand Coulee Dam on migrating fish, was located on the shores of Icicle Creek for access to this essential water.

    It was already known when the hatchery was planned that summer water would be in short supply. Temperatures soar then, and salmon must have cool water to survive (below 60 degrees F). U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) engineers came up with an audacious plan to bring chilly alpine water to the site from eight miles southwest of and 3,000 feet above the hatchery.

    U.S. Forest Service workers dug a 30 inch-wide trail in 1938 up to Nada and Snow lakes—the same trail hikers use today to access the high country for recreation. Reclamation, in charge of the engineering project, established Nada Lake Camp in the high country. Forty men lived there for nearly a year. Every piece of equipment, every bite of food, every last thing needed at Nada Lake Camp had to come up the narrow trail with the help of horses and mules.

    Low-head dams were built across the outlets of Nada and Snow lakes to store more water. The plan was to tap Snow Lake from beneath with a pipe and valve system. When water was needed, the valve could be opened, and water would be released to flow down into Snow Creek, which empties into Icicle Creek. A tunnel 2,250 feet long had to be cut into solid granite. Several crews of men labored on this monumental task.

    A vital piece of equipment had to be delivered to the work site high in the alpine: the valve that would hold back the water. The gate valve weighed 2,800 pounds! It took a month to maneuver its two halves up the six mile trail. On October 16, 1939, a charge of dynamite cracked the lake bottom and allowed water into the tunnel—and the valve held! Every year since 1939, someone from the hatchery climbs up the trail to Snow Lake and turns the valve gate open by hand to let alpine water out, returning periodically to make adjustments before shutting it off in October.

    The Alpine Lakes Wilderness was established in 1976, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) still owns land around Snow and Nada lakes. Easements allow the hatchery to continue to maintain its water delivery system. At the time the Wilderness was designated, inholdings for access to water were not a concern. Increasing use of the Wilderness by outdoor enthusiasts has led to increasing pressure on the ecosystem, and greater scrutiny of activities not associated with recreation.

    In October this year, a new valve will be installed. (The original 1939 valve is on view at the hatchery.) The current valve was downsized from the original, and is too small to meet the full water rights needs of both the hatchery and Icicle Peshastin Irrigation District. Demand for water is increasing as our population grows and the reservoirs of snow and ice in the mountains decrease. Stress on the valve could lead to catastrophic failure, with downstream consequences for nearby residents as well as for the hatchery’s spring Chinook salmon. The new valve is the correct size and designed to function more effectively. Timing of the project was carefully selected to have the least overall impact on wildlife and people during feasible construction months.

    The engineers who designed the water delivery system for the hatchery deserve awe. It is a system that has served us well for eighty years, and continues to do so even as conditions change. The value of the alpine lakes dammed in the previous century, and the infrastructure that carries water to orchards, towns, and hatcheries, is high. Their value only increases as populations grow and demand for food, drinking water, and recreation grows as well. Hatchery use of water has not increased, thanks to changes made in operations; but water remains as essential today as in 1939.

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    Salmon Spawning Starts New Generation

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    Winthrop NFH Manager Chris Pasley fertilizes spring Chinook salmon eggs in the nursery. Photo credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS

    August 21, 2019: In late August and early September, our next generation of spring Chinook salmon at Leavenworth and Winthrop national fish hatcheries gets its start.

    Leavenworth NFH raises 1.2 million spring Chinook salmon every year for release into Icicle Creek. Releases happen in April, and the young smolt swim 500 miles downstream, through seven dams, and out into the Pacific Ocean. Half will die before reaching the sea. The other half are on their own, heading north to the Bering Sea to feed and grow for another one to four years. Winthrop NFH raises 400,000 spring Chinook for release into the Methow River. Their fish must swim 574 river miles to the ocean and pass nine dams.

    The fish find their way back to the Columbia River when they feel the urge to spawn, and travel all the way upstream and through those dams to enter our holding ponds, following their acute sense of smell and their memory of the journey out. Our fish's stray rate is exceptionally low.

    Spring Chinook are named for their habit of returning in spring, even though they won't actually spawn until August. This timing may seem odd, until you take a walk beside a local river right now and have a look at the low water level. Now is not the time to migrate into the high, cold streams Chinook salmon prefer. A spring arrival means there is plenty of water, and the fish can get well up into the headwaters of their preferred home stream. Then they find a cool pool, and wait.

    Why not lay eggs in spring? Because summer is coming, with its high water temperatures and shallow depths. That's a lousy time to be an egg. Laying eggs in August instead means the salmon will hatch in autumn, a better time for them to survive as temperatures cool and fall rains raise the river levels.

    The entire staff at each hatchery turns out to help with spawning. Unlike their wild brethren, hatchery fish will have their eggs collected in bowls. Each bowl will be fertilized with milt from two male salmon, ensuring a high degree of fertilization. The bowls are carefully driven to the nursery, where the eggs are washed and each bowl is emptied into trays designed for incubation.

    Staff from the Mid-Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (MCFWCO) take data on the spawned fish. Measurements, genetic samples, and scales are used to describe the broodstock. Additionally, each fish is put through devices that detect two types of tags that were implanted into the juvenile fish months before they were released. Coded wire tags, the width of a mechanical pencil lead, are collected and read under a microscope. Then the code is entered into a huge database that covers the entire Pacific Northwest. Passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag information is also collected. These tags can bounce back signals and help us track our fish in real time as they return.

    In addition, Fish Health veterinarians and staff take measurements and biological samples. For example, liver samples can indicate whether a female salmon was infected with bacterial kidney disease (BKD). BKD can be passed down to the eggs. Since every female's eggs are kept in a separate tray, we can go back later and remove any unhealthy eggs without infecting the other batches.

    Our hatchery program is monitored and evaluated by the MCFWCO to make sure we get the best possible results. We want our hatchery fish to come back to our hatchery and not interbreed with wild fish. Our production staff watches over them closely, reporting any issues at once to our on-site Fish Health staff and working together to solve health problems rapidly. We support tribal hatchery programs by supplying space at our site and providing eggs during spawning season to be raised in other locations. When ocean conditions cooperate, our salmon offer commercial, tribal, and sport harvest as well as being a source of food for wildlife.

    The fisheries of the Columbia River Basin are challenging to manage. Hydroelectric and irrigation dams provide low-cost electricity for industry and residents, and water for millions of acres of agricultural land, forming the backbone of our economy and keeping the cost of living among the most affordable in the nation. The economic infrastructure and our growing population put enormous pressure on our natural resources. Keeping salmon in our rivers is not easy and not without risk or cost; but it is a task that multiple partners-- federal, state, and county agencies, tribes, public utility districts, cities, and communities-- all work together to support. We are proud to be part of this effort. And we welcome visitors to our hatcheries to learn more and, if your timing is right, to watch the spawning and welcome the next generation of salmon.

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    Restoration of Hancock Springs Accomplished

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    A "slinger" shoots soil into place while workers spread dirt and lay sod to rebuild streambanks.. Photo credit: Katy Pfannenstein/USFWS

    August 5, 2019: On August 5th, 2019 Robes Parrish and Katy Pfannenstein completed the ten year long process of restoring Hancock Springs near Mazama, Washington.  Hancock Springs, a tributary to the Methow River, is a rare spring fed system.  With its consistent temperature and flow, Hancock Springs provides cold water refugia in the summer and protection from freezing water temperatures in the winter. The project area is an historical dairy farm. For more than 75 years, cattle and horses grazed the property, degrading the instream habitat and water quality while obliterating the stream banks and the riparian zone.

    Between 1995 and 2007, numerous habitat enhancement activities took place on the property.  These included livestock fencing, water crossings, and planting shrubs. Most of these actions were ineffective due to the lack of maintenance by the past land manager. In 2005, the Methow Conservancy purchased a conservation easement for the property.   In 2008, the Yakama Nation partnered with the USFWS and the Methow Conservancy to work on restoring this area in earnest.  The Yakima Nation had placed some small woody debris to try to improve spawning gravels in the lower channel. In addition, they began working on baseline monitoring for the small watershed.

    Robes Parrish and other Service staff began collecting stream survey data and local native seeds, and in the next few years, completed the restoration design for Phase 1.  Phase 1 was completed in 2011.  This was comprised of the upper channel from the spring downstream approximately 1,800 feet. A slinger was used to rapidly place topsoil for rebuilding streambanks.  All heavy equipment entered the riparian zone on construction mats to minimize damage to soils and established vegetation.  The wetland sod was placed along the new channel margin to immediately stabilize the streambanks, and the remaining fill was planted with plugs. Work was completed by mid-September, and fish were observed in the newly constructed channel within 12 hours. Implementation and effectiveness monitoring was conducted for 5 years post-construction.  Data from this project was used to inform the design for Phase 2.

    Construction of Phase 2 started in FY 2017 with the collection of native seeds and a stream survey. Over the course of two years, Robes designed a project to restore the natural channel morphology, decreasing the stream width and doubling the channel length. The project went to construction the end of June 2019 and was completed on August 5th.  Construction of Phase 2 came with its own set of challenges. The project area experienced a very wet late spring and early summer. Controlling the water around the project area proved to be difficult but the staff and contractors were able to devise a plan to make it work. Similar techniques were used in Phase 2 as in Phase 1. The stream channel was constructed, 70 structures were installed, stream banks were created with fill and topsoil using a slinger, and sod mats were used to line the newly created stream banks to keep all the topsoil in place. A total of 405 sod mats and 36,000 plugs were installed.  After completion of the project, wildlife exclusion fencing was installed to protect the new vegetation from deer browse.

    Hancock Springs Phase 2 Statistics
    Unrestored stream length: 1350 ft
    Restored stream length: over 2600 ft planned (As built survey still needs to be conducted)
    Sod mats:405 (three types: two were single species, one was a three species mix)
    Plugs: 36,000 (nine different species)
    Shrubs: 375
    Logs: 206 (not including existing wood)
    Rootwads: 35 (not including existing rootwads)
    Whole trees: 5
    Instream Structures: 70
    Construction days:24

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    Outstanding Salmon Fishery Started Small

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    2019's summer Chinook are simply gorgeous. Photo credit: Julia USFWS

    July, 2019: Sometimes the world seems mighty big. What can one or two people really do to make an impact? In the case of Entiat National Fish Hatchery (NFH), create the best summer Chinook fishery in the Columbia River basin. On July 10, Entiat fish made up 14% of all the summer Chinook across Bonneville Dam-- a giant proportion for a hatchery that releases just 400,000 fish annually.

    On July 11, staff fought to net lively, thrashing salmon in the hatchery's holding pond. These were surplus: fish that returned faithfully to the hatchery that weren’t needed for broodstock. Their destiny was to become food for the Coeur D'Alene tribe, members of whom watched with appreciation of the strength and beauty of the fish. Salmon for spawning had been separated into another, quieter pond already.

    Entiat NFH is a small place, although its manager, Craig Chisam, doesn't like to think of it that way. Completed in 1941, the hatchery has raised a variety of different fish over the years, and was an important research facility early on, experimenting with fish feed and health. In 2009, the hatchery switched from raising spring Chinook, which they had done since 1979, to summer Chinook. The Complex provides excess fish to tribes as part of our mitigation responsibility. When Grand Coulee Dam cut off a third of the Columbia River to fish passage, our three hatcheries were built to compensate, aiming to keep salmon numbers high and provide fish for tribes whose access to salmon was lost or impaired.

    It took some time for the new program to prosper. Meanwhile, staffing declined to just two employees by 2016: manager Craig Chisam and maintenance worker Jason Reeves. Craig and Jason did extraordinary work, keeping the hatchery running for two years before additional staff joined them. Last year's returning summer Chinook were the result of this tremendous effort, as were this year's.

    In 2018, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife set a daily take of six summer Chinook on the Entiat River. This astounding bounty filled many local freezers. The purpose of the program is to establish a fishery on the Entiat River, and success is measured in pounds as anglers bring these enormous fish to the bank. This year, the fishery was extended from Rocky Reach Dam to Wells Dam. Travis Maitland of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said locals love the fishery. "It's pretty exciting to fight such a strong fish in a small shallow river like the Entiat. Anglers should be ready by making sure their gear is up for the task of landing a fish that may approach 40lbs!" Nowhere else in the state that Travis knows of can anglers take six Chinook a day.

    "These fish are monsters this year," Craig reported, and he and his crew have the aching bones from handling them to prove it. Why are Entiat fish so big and beautiful? Craig said, "It might have something to do with pride: the care we put into this facility and the fish." Greg Fraser of the Mid-Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office tracks returns of fish for the Leavenworth Fisheries Complex, of which Entiat NFH is a part. Greg explained that one reason for the large fish this year could be ocean conditions where Entiat fish migrate. The Pacific Ocean is "patchy and dynamic." Salmon stocks occupy different areas of the ocean, which could explain why some runs do well in some years while others do not. Entiat’s summer Chinook are often caught in Alaska while still in the ocean. Greg said it's also due to "hatchery staff and their dedication to their craft."

    The success of Entiat's summer Chinook was not guaranteed. Craig said he was forced to release fish in 2016 ten days earlier than normal. Black ash and silt washing downriver from fires the previous year choked the runways during high spring run-off. The fish were suffering, and working alone, he simply couldn't keep up. Consulting with Complex staff, he decided to let them go and hope for the best. It must have been the right decision, because they're back, big, and beautiful.

    That pride Craig feels was on display during the surplus. He was in the pond for hours with barely any breaks, along with Matt Cooper of the Mid-Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, and Craig's two employees, Travis Collier and Becky Christopherson, until 524 fish had been packed into ice for the Coeur D'Alene to haul home. Their blistered hands, cramped muscles, and aching backs testified to their devotion. Even while they worked, they smiled with delight at particularly marvelous fish, admiring their salmon hour after hour. That kind of dedication is as beautiful as the fish.

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    Fishing Events Celebrate Summer

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    Families enjoy introducing their children to fishing at hatchery events like Winthrop Kids Fishing Day. Photo credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS

    June 24, 2019: In a world where virtual activities claim an awful lot of attention, still nothing beats a wriggling, live, slimy, glittering fish on the end of a line. The Methow Valley National Fishing and Boating Day Celebration (also called Winthrop Kids Fishing Day) draws people from the Methow Valley, and also from cities and towns throughout the region, to Winthrop National Fish Hatchery. One girl photographed in 2016 insists on returning every year all the way from Everett, WA. Her first fish was nearly as long as she was tall.

    This year’s event was at risk when, after winter ice melted, staff discovered otters had consumed every one of the trout in the hatchery kids fishing pond. The Confederated Tribes of the Colville came to the rescue, re-stocking the pond with handsome, healthy rainbow trout. 538 people came to enjoy the event on June 8. While fishing is the centerpiece and primary draw, local non-profits, volunteer groups, and agencies set up booths and lead educational activities focused on fish and water. Visitors could try rolling programmable spheres along a painted river to imitate migration, guided by North Central Regional Library staff; practice casting with fly rods; listen to fish stories read inside an inflatable salmon tent; sample smoked salmon, learn about watersheds and recycling, and examine live macroinvertebrates.

    A different event happened at Entiat National Fish Hatchery in May and June. Manager Craig Chisam designed a program with the Entiat School that brings four grades out to the hatchery, each on its own day. Classes are broken into smaller groups and rotate between three stations: archery, ecology, and fishing. At the fishing pond, massive rainbow trout await: the biggest catch this year was over fifteen pounds! The fish are cleaned and packed on ice for students to take home to their families, sharing their experience in a direct, tangible way. As with all the events run at our hatcheries, this one involves volunteers—for example, from Trout Unlimited, whose members help teach fly-fishing skills and show the kids how to clean their trout.

    There’s no better way to celebrate summer than by taking kids fishing. New brochures, a cooperative effort between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, direct visitors to our hatcheries to local places for public fishing. Click on these links to download the pdfs: Entiat NFH, Leavenworth NFH, Winthrop NFH.

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    Dismal Year for Spring Chinook Returns Predicted

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    Chinook face a difficult year. Photo credit: Huss/USFWS

    May 1, 2019: Every year, the Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office (MCFWCO) gathers data together to make predictions about the return of spring Chinook salmon to Icicle Creek. This year’s prediction is looking grim.

    This is a below average water year. The Columbia and other rivers did not receive much snow. Temperatures in the Columbia River are also higher than usual. This combination of temperature and flow does not suggest that the run is delayed, says, Greg Fraser, a biologist at the MCFWCO. Water conditions coupled with low pre-season predictions, indicates low salmon returns.

    Predation by pinnipeds can be high at the mouth of the Columbia River, especially for the early portion of the spring Chinook run. Some of the early returning spring Chinook salmon runs can be depleted by up to 44%.

    Direct observation of fish as they pass through dams also helps the view of the future. As of April 30, only 3,336 Chinook had passed Bonneville Dam. In comparison the average 4-year (2015-2018) count for April 30 is 40,409. Based on the number of April arrivals, along with other data collected, it seems likely that fewer than a thousand spring Chinook may return to Icicle Creek this year.

    Ocean conditions have a strong influence on salmon returns. Researchers studying ocean conditions found unfavorable conditions for juvenile salmon in 2017, which was when most of this year’s spring Chinook migrated to the ocean. Additionally in 2017, they found enormous numbers of pyrosomes. Pyrosomes are colonial clusters of animals previously rare in northern waters, that competee with salmon prey (krill and copepods) for plankton. It is unknown whether salmon eat pyrosomes, and whether, if they do, they get much nutrition from them. The long-term impact of pyrosomes in the northern Pacific Ocean is unknown.

    In 2017, sampling for young Chinook and coho yielded the lowest numbers ever seen. Good news for next year was the presence of much higher numbers of young salmon during sampling in 2018. So while this year’s returns are likely to be terribly low, the future might be a bit brighter.

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    Students Dive into Science for Spring Break

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    Students capture goldfish in a habitat research exercise. Photo credit: Anni Ponder/USFWS

    April, 2019: Camp Biota is a hands-on science camp for middleschoolers, hosted by Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. Eighteen students dug into dead fish as part of the curriculum, which also included a macroinvertebrate safari in Icicle Creek, investigating plants along a transect, and using chemistry to test water quality.  And there were lamprey “kisses,” too, courtesy of the Yakama Nation’s lamprey research and breeding program.

    This is Camp Biota’s second year. Barbara Guzman of the Northcentral Educational Service District (NCESD) and Julia Pinnix, Visitor Services Manager for the Leavenworth Fisheries Complex, wanted to spark interest in science in our region’s migrant students. Latino students seldom see science professionals who look like them. The aim was to create a space where interest in science is shared by both women and men, by people of color, and in more than one language—a welcoming space where everyone can be at the table.

    “Last year, we called in all our favors,” said Marjie Lodwick, Park Ranger for the Complex. For the pilot program, partners throughout the region helped. The response was exceptional. This year, even more people stepped up, supported by their workplaces, eager to help inspire the next generation of scientists. Wolf Haven International, for example, sent two biologists for several days, one educated in Mexico, the other in Costa Rica, both talented, charismatic role models. Instructors from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Cascadia Conservation District, Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, Friends of Northwest Hatcheries, Team Naturaleza, and independent educators joined the team. The Northcentral Regional Library supplied a bilingual educator for the entire week, and sent the bookmobile to camp.

    The library’s Heather Inczauskis also partnered with Barbara on a second camp, run concurrently with Camp Biota. Camp Tinker focused on technology and engineering, offering an additional range of science education for 19 campers. Students tried out GPS units, built computers, and programmed rolling spheres.

    All the campers were housed at the Lake Wenatchee YMCA. Lingering mountain snow provided a chance to investigate snow science. The snug cabins each have woodstoves. On three of the four full days, a bus took the Biota students down to the hatchery, while Tinker students met in the main lodge; but students shared projects and play in the evenings at camp.

    Funding from the U.S. Department of Education, funneled through the state, supports both camps, said Sylvia Reyna, supervisor of the migrant education program for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Barbara’s success in gaining funding for the camps means students from our region get custom-built experiences close to home, rather than traveling to the West side for supplementary programs.

    By the last day of Camp Biota, students were so deeply engaged in a high school level activity that they couldn’t be distracted, mixing Spanish and English as they debated their points about watershed management and habitat protection. These are our future community members and decision makers.

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    Predators Leave Their Mark

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    Protective screens over Leavenworth NFH raceways must be raised when snow is heavy. Photo credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS

    March, 2019: During winter, snow becomes a revealing window of activity at the hatcheries of Leavenworth Fisheries Complex. Wedge-shaped, pigeon-toed tracks show where mallard ducks have waddled out of the fish ponds. Immense tracks of great blue heron span a six foot stretch, with wing marks left at either end, an abstract rendition of landing and taking off again. Leaping clusters of five-toed tracks the size of silver dollars trace the fast-moving activity of mink. All this wildlife is focused around the fish ponds, where the buffet at the banquet is young spring Chinook, steelhead, and coho.

    Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery aims to raise and release 1.2 million spring Chinook salmon every year. There are challenges, not the least of which is predation. Wildlife is attracted to the salmon raceways, and no wonder.

    We do what we can to ward off predators. Our most secure raceways have a roof overhead and are surrounded by both fence and net. Our older ponds are tougher to protect. They are covered with screens, but when heavy snow threatens, we’re forced to raise the screens to keep them from collapsing, leaving the fish vulnerable. And the screens are ineffective at keeping out slender, voracious mink.

    Larger animals take advantage of the ponds, too. Last winter, fresh tracks led to the edge of a raceway. There, peering from beneath the edge of the ice, was a river otter! Otters stay warm partly with dense fur, but also by way of a rapid metabolism. They must eat 15-20% of their body weight every day. At Entiat National Fish Hatchery, an otter got into one of their raceways and spent a month feasting. Manager Craig Chisam reported a loss of 10,000 young fish before new fencing could be installed.

    A common activity in school is to illustrate a food chain. At one end is often a plant or an insect, while at the other is an apex predator, like a cougar, a bear, or a human. Salmon are a critical part of food chains at every stage of their lives. Ducks like mergansers dive for salmon eggs in river gravel. Tiny sac-fry are devoured by trout. Fish and birds prey on salmon as they make their journey to the ocean. In salt water, killer whales and commercial fishermen make a living on salmon. Upon their return upriver as adults, sea lions, osprey, bears, and anglers await them.

    Our purpose in raising salmon is to feed the ecosystem, from kingfishers to eagles to people. But we need to make sure enough survive to keep the cycle going. Sometimes that means trapping otter, or installing wavy-armed inflatable tube men that frighten birds. Even with precautions, a hatchery is a good place to watch for wildlife taking advantage of the potential buffet. If you visit one of our hatcheries this winter in Entiat, Winthrop, or Leavenworth, bring along binoculars and keep your eyes open. You might spot one of our hungry wild visitors, or see their prints telling stories in the snow.

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    Snowshoeing an Unexpected Ambassador Program

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    Biologist Mark Inc leads a snowshoe tour by Icicle Creek. Photo credit: Marjie Lodwick/USFWS

    Jan., 2019: Who knew that snowshoeing could be about fish? When we re-started free snowshoeing tours at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in 2016, we recruited biologists at the Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office to guide tours. Of course, they talked about their work as they led groups past the snow-covered fish ponds and along the banks of Icicle Creek.

    People loved it. After all, how often do you get to have a wildlife biologist all to yourself to pepper with questions? We realized that we weren’t just providing a great recreational experience. We had something different on our hands.

    This hatchery is so much more than a hatchery. It is a de facto community park, a greenspace in an increasingly developed Icicle Valley. 100,000 visitors come here every year—many of them for reasons having nothing to do with fish. When we go out snowshoeing with groups, we have a chance to tell our story, to show them the purpose of a hatchery. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service works with plants and animals of all sorts, and manages the land it cares for to benefit wildlife—but we do it for the American people.

    Our visitors come for snowshoeing, but they leave with an appreciation for what we do and why we do it. We win friends—lots of them! In 2018, we can’t keep up with demand, but we’re glad to try.

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    Problem Solving a Long Tradition at Hatcheries

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    Fish food scoop made from an old tin can Photo credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS

    January, 2019: It was cut from an old tin can. One end of an aluminum pipe was hammered flat and bent to form a handle, then attached to the can. This conglomeration of old junk was transformed into a useful tool: a scoop for serving fish food.

    Made decades ago by an employee at Entiat National Fish Hatchery, this hand-built tool filled a need cheaply and effectively. This kind of creative problem-solving is a long-standing tradition at our hatcheries, born of necessity.

    Most visitors are shocked to hear how few employees work at our sites. At Leavenworth, a crew of seven currently cares for 2.4 million spring Chinook salmon. At Winthrop, there are five employees watching over 851,000 spring Chinook, 536,000 coho, and 436,000 steelhead.  Entiat NFH has three staff currently. For two years, it ran with just two employees, caring for 860,000 summer Chinook salmon. These numbers include two generations of fish; they are kept almost two years before release.

    One current problem hatchery production staff at Leavenworth are working on is complex. There are two generations of fish on station: the young fish that were eggs in 2017, and the newly-hatched alevins that were eggs in 2018. At this time of year, the alevins (also called sac-fry, as they still are nourished by their yolk sacs after hatching) are inside the nursery. The fingerlings (so-called because they are from finger- to hand-length) are in the outside ponds (called raceways). In the past, the alevins became fry (fully-formed tiny fish) and were ready to go outside into the larger raceways at the same time that our fingerlings were still occupying the outdoor space.  Fish had to be shuffled around and squeezed into limited space. All those fish eating and growing produce waste, some of which made its way into Icicle Creek in the form of extra phosphorous dissolved in the water.

    Leavenworth NFH operates under a strict effluent discharge permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, which requires that phosphorous output be kept at a very low level. It is a constant challenge to not violate the permit. One solution is to slow down the development of the youngest fish to avoid a peak in waste production.

    How? By using a chiller. The chiller takes the relatively warm wellwater from 46-54 degrees F down to 40F. At this temperature, their metabolism and need for food slows waaaaay down… without harming the fish. Assistant Hatchery Manager Craig Thomas figures tiny fry may be taken from their incubation trays and put them into open tanks in the nursery around March 10. That’s a full seven weeks later than usual.

    If this experiment works, older fish will be released in April, the raceways scrubbed clean, and the youngsters put outside in May. Less phosphorous will go into the stream at one time. It is a win-win situation for everyone.

    Another piece of this puzzle is the use of a pit on the property, left over from another project. This year, hatchery staff ran pipes from the pollution abatement pond to the pit to allow water to drain back into the aquifer, filtered by sediment. That means even less phosphorous going into Icicle Creek, another creative winning solution.

    A team at the Mid-Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office checks up on hatchery work to be sure the results are good. Summer steelhead are known to have a small portion of the population that doesn’t migrate, staying in the freshwater rivers of their birth. At Winthrop NFH, the monitoring team discovered the steelhead were being overfed, which changed their behavior: instead of heading for the ocean once released, the small number that stayed behind increased. The goal was for as many as possible to migrate to the ocean, so something had to change.

    The Assistant Manager explained to that they changed their strategies, cutting back on feeding the fish in fall and winter. Then they set up a “volitional release” system in the spring: if the fish wanted to leave, they had to purposely exit the pond through a hole at the end of the raceway. If they still stuck around after four weeks, they were put into area lakes or the kids fishing pond, where they can be caught and eaten. This adjustment meant the already small number of fish staying behind got smaller, and were easier to remove from the population.

    From building tools to changing methods of fish production, staff constantly find ways to fulfill our goals. Back to top...

    National Fish Hatcheries Share Bounty

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    Tribal members work to sort surplus fish from broodstock. Photo credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS

    October 31, 2018: Visitors from other countries are often startled to learn that our national fish hatcheries don’t sell fish. The US Fish and Wildlife Service raises fish for the American people, not for profit, as part of our conservation mission. Millions of salmon and steelhead from Leavenworth Fisheries Complex hatcheries support the cultural, economic, and recreational values that shape our Pacific Northwest way of life.

    Native Americans have long since valued and used salmon and steelhead. These powerful fish provided bountiful food and useful materials, as well as meaningful connections. They still do. Working with tribes to support fish populations reminds us that tradition and values play a role in how we operate.

    Our hatcheries at Leavenworth, Entiat, and Winthrop exist because the Grand Coulee Dam cut off a third of the Columbia River to migrating fish. The dam also cut off access by tribal people to the salmon vital to their culture and livelihood. As mitigation for these impacts, we raise salmon and steelhead for release, and provide food fish for the tribes as well as commercial, sport, and tribal fisheries.

    Stop by Leavenworth NFH in early June and you’re likely to see tribal anglers at Icicle Creek. A stretch of the river is reserved for them. The hatchery was not located on the banks of Icicle Creek by accident. This spot was used for thousands of years by Native Americans. And they continue to have the right to fish on hatchery grounds.

    In addition, extra fish not needed by our hatcheries go to the tribes. Leavenworth NFH only needs 500 female and 500 male spring Chinook salmon to produce 1.2 million fish for release every year. Sometimes many more salmon return than what we need. The surplus can then be given to the tribes.

    In 2015, Leavenworth NFH had 6,500 salmon return. This bounty was shared with the Spokane, Coeur D’Alene, and Colville tribes. In 2016, the Spokane received extra fish. In 2017, extra salmon were given to the Kalispel Tribe. The Yakima Nation sometimes takes excess fish as well.

    2017 was a tough one at Leavenworth NFH. Returns for spring Chinook salmon were so low that no public fishing was allowed, and tribal fishing was severely limited. But at Winthrop NFH, 938 fish (spring Chinook and steelhead) were given to the Colville, Spokane, and Kalispel tribes. Returning summer Chinook at Entiat NFH were available in abundance. Nearly 1,200 fish went to tribes over the 2018 season.

    When fish are collected from the hatchery ponds, there is a palpable feeling of celebration as tribal members work side by side with hatchery staff. Salmon are special, and we all appreciate their beauty, strength, and nourishment, as well as their significance in tradition and ecology.

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    Lamprey a Hit at Wanapum Days

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    Two young Wanapum assistants learn to handle adult lamprey. Photo credit: Barb Kelly Ringel/USFWS

    October 29, 2018: For 11 years, Barb Kelly Ringel has headed for the Wanapum Heritage Center in October with buckets of live Pacific lamprey sloshing in her truck. The Wanapum people and Grant Public Utility District sponsor Archeology Days, to share the Wanapum way of life. Busloads of students come to explore the center (located along the Columbia River near Priest Rapids Dam), to try their hand at traditional arts and crafts, and to learn about natural resources-- including lamprey.

    Barb introduces students to Pacific lamprey and seizes the opportunity to engage Wanapum youth with this important cultural icon. She recruits some children to help teach other students about lamprey. “A few have become quite comfortable handling the adults,” she said. Showing photos of two who braved letting adult lamprey suckeronto their hands, she added, “We helped literally connect tribal youth with lamprey.” One of their mothers reported that her daughter “could not stop talking about the eels. It was by far her favorite exhibit.”

    Lamprey are a primitive jawless group of fish that use their sucking mouths to ascend rapids and falls. One of the Wanapum elders at the event shared stories of collecting a hundred “eels” per night at Priest Rapids. Lamprey are a traditional food for many tribes in Washington and Oregon. Like salmon, they migrate out to the ocean to gain weight and store fat, returning to freshwater to spawn. Pacific lamprey leave the ocean in summer and overwinter in fresh water. They spawn the next summer, almost a full year since their last meal. Their rich fat stores help them survive this period, and have made them a favorite tribal food.

    Now scientists are adding to the value of lamprey as we gain a better understanding of their role in the ecosystem. Barb researches lamprey and other native fish and shares her knowledge at special events. Learn more about lamprey here:
    and here:
    and here:'sHappening.cfm#eDNA

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    Annual Snorkel Survey Lands Biologists in Cold Water

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    Snorkel surveys are chilly, but researchers make it fun, too. Photo credit: Jonathan Blackmon/USFWS

    August 9, 2018: Snorkeling down Icicle Creek looking for fish sounds like a great way to spend time. And doing it for work? Even better. For fifteen years, the Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office (MCFWCO) has led a midsummer survey to count adult spring Chinook salmon and bull trout.

    When MCFWCO sent out the invitation for 2018, Jonathan Blackmon joined them. Here at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery on a Fellowship, he is from Miami. This was his first visit to the West, and his first time wearing a drysuit.

    “People tell you it’s going to be cold, but you never know,” Jonathan said. “It was!”

    The lower 5.5 miles of Icicle Creek, just south of Leavenworth, are the target area for the survey. But even in August, stream temperatures average 66 degrees. Drysuits are essential to ward off hypothermia and stay focused on fish.

    Icicle Creek deserves its name. Fed by snowmelt from the nearby mountains, it is cooler than the Wenatchee River by as much as 7 degrees F. That makes it attractive to fish like bull trout and spring Chinook salmon, which need cold water to be healthy. Other fish benefit from the cold water as well. Rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, mountain whitefish, summer Chinook, and sockeye salmon are typically spotted during the survey.

    The chilly water is partly a side effect of Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery operations. The hatchery maintains a valve at Snow Lake, installed in 1939 to trap snowmelt at alpine elevations. The hatchery opens the valve in summer, letting very cold water into Snow Creek, which flows into Icicle Creek. The hatchery uses water from the creek to raise 1.2 million spring Chinook salmon annually; and the same water serves to keep Icicle Creek living up to its name.

    MCFWCO’s Haley Potter explained how the data from the survey is used. “It’s a snapshot in time,” she said. Imagine taking a photo at the same place year after year. You can see how things change, in a general way. “It gives us an idea of what fish might be here and could be spawning in the stream.”

    Learn more about the research of the MCFWCO at our website:

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    Groundwater Project Nearly Complete at Entiat National Fish Hatchery

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    The project is expected to be completed in mid-September. Photo credit: Jimmie Daves/USFWS

    August 3, 2018: The Bureau of Reclamation is nearing completion on a project to revolutionize Entiat NFH's groundwater supply. Installation of an infiltration gallery could increase the hatchery's water resources from 1,500 gallons per minute (gpm) to perhaps 5,000 gpm.

    An infiltration gallery is essentially a horizontal well, broad rather than deep. According to Craig Chisam, manager of Entiat NFH, the gallery will be drawing from just twenty feet below the surface. "This shallow aquifer is recharged by the river," he said. The shallow depth means impact on neighboring landowner’s wells should be little to nil.

    What are the advantages? For starters, groundwater is much cleaner than river water, which means healthier fish in the hatchery's raceways. Another advantage is simply quantity. "We don't have enough water to use all of our raceways," said Craig. With additional water, the hatchery's production of summer Chinook salmon could increase.

    "This project is the first major infrastructure change here since the current raceways were built in 1978," said Craig. "It is really exciting for us.

    Although the US Fish and Wildlife Service operates Entiat National Fish Hatchery, it was built (along with hatcheries in Winthrop and Leavenworth) by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) as mitigation for construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. BOR continues to fund operation for the three hatcheries, including large-scale projects like the infiltration gallery.

    In June, the new aeration chamber and pump house were finished. Pumps should arrive in August. Mid-September is the likely completion date for the project.

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      Boat Launch Closed for Low Water Season

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      At low water, Icicle Creek is not the best place for tubing. Photo credit: USFWS

      The boat launch at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery is now closed for the season. The launch is typically closed at the end of July when water levels in Icicle Creek are low, in order to protect salmon and steelhead spawning grounds.

      The launch usually opens in April, when water levels are high, to accommodate rafting, kayaking, and paddle-boarding. Commercial companies that offer guided trips or lessons may apply for a special use permit to operate from the hatchery's launch. Fees for commercial use were set during a public meeting with local commercial operators. The funds help provide interpretive signs, a porta-john, and a trash bin at the site.

      When fishing seasons are open at Icicle Creek, the boat launch sees heavy use. Commercial fishing guides must apply for a special use permit to use the launch. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife sets the seasons for fishing.

      When the weather warms, the boat launch becomes popular with people wanting to float the river in tubes. As long as there is enough water for people to actually float, the hatchery leaves the gate to the launch open. But by the end of July, tubers spend more time walking through shallow areas and dragging their tubes than floating. The gravelly areas downstream of the hatchery are good habitat for salmon and steelhead to spawn. Tubing can be destructive of this vital habitat.

      Several commercial operators rent tubes to clients. Some have illegally used the boat launch without a permit. On the last weekend in July this year, more than 150 vehicles were counted at the hatchery boat launch, and at least two commercial operators were illegally renting equipment on site.

      As numbers of river users increase, pressure on resources like the hatchery’s boat launch also increases. During low water periods in summer, visitors are advised to seek deeper water at places like Lake Wenatchee and the Wenatchee River, for the sake of fish conservation and for a better floating experience.

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        Water Shutdown Essential for Repair

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        A view of the intake for the hatchery up Icicle Creek. Photo credit: USFWS

        Customers of Cascade Orchard Irrigation Company (COIC) have experienced two shutdowns in service this spring, with one more scheduled for June 26. The problem is a valve located at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. The good news is that a more permanent solution is planned that will separate hatchery lines from COIC lines.

        Both the hatchery and the COIC share an intake two miles upstream from the hatchery on Icicle Creek. When the hatchery has to shut down the intake, it cuts off water for irrigation at the same time. This spring, a stripped nut in a valve has triggered repairs and disrupted service.

        Water from the intake travels to the hatchery and empties into a settling basin before being drawn off into the raceways where spring Chinook salmon are reared. This sediment trap is essential because the intake allows too much debris into the pipe, and sediment is unhealthy for fish. In 2013, new 36 inch valves were installed so hatchery staff could remove wild fish that also enter the intake and end up entrained in the settling basin. Endangered Species Act listed fish like bull trout, spring Chinook salmon, and steelhead must be removed and released. Once a week, the settling basin is drained of water to capture fish and return them to Icicle Creek.

        One of the valves has failed. An internal nut must be replaced. The replacement nut is being shipped from the Ukraine, but has been delayed. Holland Machine, Inc., of Wenatchee has built a bronze insert to keep the old nut working. And a large chunk of brass is on its way from another source, which Holland Machine could shape into a replacement nut as well. The best nut available from these three options that is on hand June 26 is the one that will be used, says Steve Croci, project manager for the hatchery.

        In order to repair the valve, surface water to the hatchery must be shut off. The hatchery has wells for ground water, but they only provide 15% of what is needed. All available ground water will be used, and reused, multiple times to keep the fish alive. The work is expected to last a few hours. During this temporary reduction of water, the salmon on station should be okay.

        “This is probably the best time of year for a problem like this to happen,” said Steve. Right now, there is only one generation of fish present (1.2 million spring Chinook), and they are still small and occupying a smaller number of raceways. At other times of year, there can be an additional 1.2 million Chinook, as well as half a million coho salmon.

        While the valve replacement will solve the immediate problem, the whole system needs to be reworked. Replacing the 76 year old intake is a high priority, and is on a list of essential repairs the Bureau of Reclamation and hatchery agreed upon. Creating an independent intake for COIC is also critical, allowing them to operate independently of the hatchery. The COIC intake could also be moved farther downstream, leaving more water in Icicle Creek to benefit native fish.

        The Icicle Work Group, a consortium of state and federal agencies, local and regional entities, and non-profit groups, agrees that these changes are vital. They have been working together to solve long-term problems and find solutions that benefit wildlife and people. To learn more, visit the Chelan County Natural Resources website:; or the COIC website:

         The work on the valve, Steve said, “Helps these two entities, and the system’s failing. We’ve got a problem, we’re fixing it, and we hope to do the bigger projects later.” Dan Wilkinson of COIC said, “COIC appreciates the working relationship we have with the hatchery staff. We have a long history of working together, but it will be beneficial to both parties when the new system becomes a reality.”

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        2018 Winthrop Kids Fishing Day a Success

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        At the Methow Valley Kids Fishing Day, if you're under 14 and can hold a pole, you can fish!. Photo credit: Steve Sox/USFWS

        580 people enjoyed a fun-filled day focused on fishing at Winthrop National Fish Hatchery on June 9. This year’s event celebrated 75 years of raising fish at the hatchery to mitigate for the impact of Grand Coulee Dam.

        The annual Methow Valley Kids Fishing Day is in its 26th year. Partners from all over the region participate, offering activities for families ranging from fish-printing to fly-tying. When folks arrive, every child under age 14 is given a “passport.” They collect at least five stamps from the partner booths to earn the chance to fish at the hatchery’s pond, which is stocked with rainbow trout. Everything they need to fish is supplied, including friendly volunteer assistants.

        This year’s celebration included an inflatable salmon-shaped storytelling tent. Local library volunteer Michelle Casady stepped up when the scheduled storyteller had a family emergency, and read tales to the children inside the tent. Smokey the Bear was spotted roaming the grounds with a US Forest Service helper at his side. Local children in a fly-tying club taught their peers the fine art of imitating nature, while Methow Valley Fly-fishers club members helped people practice fly-casting.

        Ralph Kiona, a Yakama Nation member, has been attending the event for many years. He smokes fresh spring Chinook salmon from the hatchery in a custom-built smoker, and visitors can sample the delectable fish. Methow Recycles joined a few years ago and share a message of conservation. Methow Arts Alliance is a great supporter of the event. They manage a contest to generate student-designed artwork for posters and participant t-shirts, and run an art project tent. Volunteer hatchery hosts from Winthrop and Leavenworth hatcheries guided students through making their own fish prints from rubber models.

        The Bureau of Reclamation, which funds the hatchery, reveals how water works in a landscape using a Rolling Rivers cart. The Okanogan Conservation District and Trout Unlimited team up to explore the world of aquatic macroinvertebrates with children. Boating safety is emphasized by the Army Corps of Engineers.

        Beavers are a surprise star of the show. The Methow Beaver Project temporarily houses beavers in old hatchery ponds before moving them from low elevations (where they may run into trouble with humans) to high streams. This project uses beavers to bioengineer better habitat for wildlife—and especially for fish. Visitors to the event viewed live beavers swimming in their transitional housing ponds.

        The highlight for everyone is, of course, fishing. Some fish are tagged for extra prizes, so kids walk away with their own brand new fishing poles or tackle boxes. Hatchery staff and volunteers help bait hooks, net the catch, and clean the trout to take home and cook. This year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service Retirees Association provided a grant to help make the event extra-special. To all the organizations and individuals who helped make 2018 a success for the families who attended, many thanks!

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        William Gale Recognized for Work on Implementation Plan at Leavenworth Fisheries Complex

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        Roy Elicker, Assistant Regional Manager, presents a certificate of Excellence to Bill Gale. Photo credit: USFWS

        Earlier this month, William (Bill) Gale, a deputy project leader at the Mid-Columbia River Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Leavenworth, Washington, was presented a Certificate of Excellence in recognition of his dedicated and collaborative efforts on an important Implementation Plan (IP) for the Leavenworth Fisheries Complex.

        The Leavenworth Fisheries Complex (LFC) consists of the Leavenworth, Entiat, and Winthrop National Fish Hatcheries (hatcheries) and the Mid-Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO). The mission of the LFC is to mitigate for habitat loss due to the construction of Grand Coulee Dam, fulfill Tribal Trust responsibilities, and meet U.S. v Oregon Management Agreement production targets. The hatcheries produce 2 million Chinook salmon, 950,000 Coho salmon, and 200,000 steelhead. The FWCO conducts hatchery evaluation, native fish studies, and habitat restoration work.

        Although the hatcheries have successfully met their mission for over 78 years, much of their infrastructure has deteriorated and fallen apart during this time period. In 2015 and 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Bureau of Reclamation (BR) worked with the Yakama and Colville Tribes (Tribes) and the Icicle Work Group (IWG) to develop and complete a Planning Document that outlined specific repairs to fix the hatcheries.

        In the Fall of 2016, Robyn Thorson, RD for R1, and Lori Gray, RD, Northwest RD, BR, met with the Tribes and the IWG and promised that both agencies were committed to develop an Implementation Plan (IP) to map out a path forward to update the hatcheries to make sure the LFC continued to meet its mission well into the future.

        After the meeting, Roy Elicker, ARD, Fish and Aquatic Conservation Office (FAC), assigned Bill Gale to develop and write the IP. The IP outlines project priorities, project schedules, NEPA procedures, and funding strategies to repair and rehabilitate the hatcheries over the next ten years (2017-2027). The IP also helps fulfill regulatory requirements of the FWS and National Marine Fisheries Service’s Biological Opinions.

        Bill worked closely with biologists from LFC, FWCO, and FAC to write the IP. He also collaborated with various Federal, State, and Tribal partners to complete the IP. Ultimately, the Implementation Plan represents a true team effort and a significant accomplishment for the FWS and the BR. Well done, Bill!

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        Winthrop Kids Fishing Day June 9, 2018

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        Fishing is the highlight at the Winthrop Kids Fishing Day event. Photo credit: Heather Love/USFWS

        Join us at Winthrop National Fish Hatchery on Saturday June 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a free, fun, family event! This annual event has been running now over 25 years. This year we celebrate the hatchery's history. 75 years ago, the buildings were completed, although fish production was already in action.

        Many partners work together to make this event worthwhile. While fishing is the central draw, a host of other activities are offered. Learn to tie flies with local students as your teacher, or create a traditional gyotaku fish print. Explore the world of macroinvertebrates, and learn about the importance of boating safety and recycling. Play with a stream table to learn about hydrology, test your skill at casting with a fly rod, and sample delicious smoked salmon. It's all free!

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        Middle School Science Camp Premiers at LNFH

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        Twenty students from the Northcentral Washington area participated in Camp Biota. Photo credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS

        "There is not one kid here who is not engaged!" remarked Gayne Sanchez, watching 20 middle schoolers intently working on data sheets. The maintenance shop at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery was transformed into a temporary lab, where students were experimenting with spring Chinook fry in portable aquariums.

        Gayne was there to observe a pilot program, jointly delivered by the North Central Educational Services District (NCESD) and Leavenworth Fisheries Complex, called Camp Biota. Twenty Spanish-speaking migrant middle-schoolers who had moved at least once during the year and were struggling with low math and science test scores were selected for the program. At Camp Biota, they experienced hands-on education in science and leadership, often working directly with biologists and other natural resource professionals.

        Special programs for underserved students usually are held on the west side of the state, said Barbara Guzman, who first conceived the idea of a camp in 2016. She believes North Central Washington can serve its own students closer to home with high-quality, impactful programs. Barbara met Julia Pinnix, the other founder of the program, at a Team Naturaleza meeting in Wenatchee.  Team Naturaleza is a group of organizations, agencies, and individuals dedicated to promoting outdoor activities in natural settings to the multicultural community.

        Julia manages the Information and Education program for Leavenworth Fisheries Complex. The Complex includes hatcheries in Leavenworth, Entiat, and Winthrop, and the Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office (MCFWCO). Julia said her goal is to see local students join the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) one day. “I want these students to grow up and take my job,” she said.

        Most efforts by the USFWS to recruit diverse employees start in college, Julia said, and she thinks that’s too late. “Research says you can’t start too early to get students interested in science.” She hopes that by inspiring students in middle school to love science, it will push them to take science classes in high school, and that interest may carry them into college.

        The NCESD provided the bulk of the funding for the pilot project. Students stayed at the YMCA Camp at Lake Wenatchee, where snow still covered much of the ground. Wood stoves in the cabins and extra sleeping bags helped stave off the cold. For many of the students, this was their first camping experience. Chaperones helped them adjust to their new surroundings.

        On all but one day, the group took a bus to the hatchery, where they plunged (sometimes literally) into learning. Waders were a key piece of equipment, allowing them to collect eDNA samples, search for salmon carcasses, and learn about stream flow. They dissected salmon, experimented with aquatic habitats, tested water quality in multiple locations, collected and identified macroinvertebrates, and built models of salmon-friendly culverts.

        Nineteen instructors led the activities, including Chris Montero, a native of Costa Rica, who delivered his sessions in Spanish, making the kids laugh when he used Mexican slang. Chris works for Wolf Haven International, based in Tenino, Washington. He introduced the students to terms like “conservation” and “keystone species.”

        Vocabulary was a big part of camp, said Julia. Marjie Lodwick, the Education Ranger for the Complex, compiled a list of key terms in English, and Chris translated them into Spanish. Barbara brought in Kate Lindholm, an NCESD trainer, who taught a core group of instructors techniques for teaching vocabulary.

        “One student has been in the U.S. for less than a year, and he had no trouble using these words,” Julia said, noting that he paid close attention when the words were being introduced and illustrated.

        The stories of salmon and monarch butterflies resonated with students. “They move to find better resources not for themselves but for their children, like our parents did,” said one student during a group presentation on the last evening of camp.

        “At Camp Biota,” said Marjie, “you take students who, for whatever reason, are not testing well in math and science and you give them the opportunity to actually do the science in the field with a low student to teacher ratio and lower the language barrier so they can access the concepts of science, and they do amazingly well.”

        Games are an important way for middleschoolers to learn. Several games were designed for camp, like Hula Hoops for Habitat and the Monarch Migration Hop. Seth Wendzel of the WSU Extension Office led students in half a day of leadership games that helped bond the students, drawn from all over the region, into a cohesive group.

        Friends of Northwest Hatcheries paid mileage and stipends for three instructors, including Chelsea Trout of Okanogan Conservation District, and Kathleen Ferguson, a retired high school science teacher from Okanogan. Other instructors came from organizations like Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, the Bureau of Land Management, and Cascadia Conservation District. Cascadia used a Bureau of Reclamation (BoR) purchased Rolling Rivers cart to teach how water moves through the landscape. The BoR also sent two instructors from Grand Coulee Dam to talk about alternative energy and hydrology. Trout Unlimited volunteer and retired school administrator Mike Wyant helped coach students in water-based activities.

        A cadre of biologists from the MCFWCO led students through lessons they created based on their own work. Katy Pfannenstein, a biological science technician for the MCFWCO, put PIT tags and coded wire tags into model salmon and scattered them on a river bar for students to find. They used detectors to locate the tags, and learned how scientists like Katy collect data in the field and how they use it to understand salmon better. Kuba Bednarek, also a biotech for the MCFWCO, guided students through the process of collecting eDNA: environmental DNA shed into the stream by fish and other animals. Barb KellyRingel handed students radiotelemetry equipment and helped them track tags hidden in the woods. Biologists from the USFWS Central Washington Field Office in Wenatchee assisted.

        “This program could not possibly have happened if so many generous people had not been willing to step up and join in,” Julia said.

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        Snow Lake Water Control Valve Replacement Delayed

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        The Snow Lake valve in action in 1967. Photo credit: USFWS

        The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) released an Environmental Assessment (EA) on December 21, 2017, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, for the proposed replacement of the existing Upper Snow Lake tunnel water release control valve with a new valve. The water control structure is located on land owned by the Service surrounded by the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area in Chelan County, Washington.

        The actions described in the EA were to occur in fall 2018. However, to allow for additional time to evaluate the project, construction is anticipated to take place no earlier than fall 2019.

        Questions on the project may be directed to Mr. Stephen Kolk, Wenatchee/Entiat Sub-basin liaison, at 509-667-8494. The EA is available at

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        Groundwater Project Under Way at Entiat National Fish Hatchery

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        Construction began in January 2018. Photo credit: Jimmie Daves/USFWS

        Jan. 25, 2018: The Bureau of Reclamation has started a project to revolutionize Entiat NFH's groundwater supply. Installation of an infiltration gallery could increase the hatchery's water resources from 1,500 gallons per minute (gpm) to perhaps 5,000 gpm.

        An infiltration gallery is essentially a horizontal well, broad rather than deep. According to Craig Chisam, manager of Entiat NFH, the gallery will be drawing from just twenty feet below the surface. "This shallow aquifer is recharged by the river," he said. The shallow depth means impact on neighboring landowner’s wells should be little to nil.

        What are the advantages? For starters, groundwater is much cleaner than river water, which means healthier fish in the hatchery's raceways. Another advantage is simply quantity. "We don't have enough water to use all of our raceways," said Craig. With additional water, the hatchery's production of summer Chinook salmon could increase.

        Having enough water for all the raceways also means simplifying tasks like marking and tagging fish. Instead of having to move the fish twice during the year, they can be moved once-- and the less fish are handled, the less stress they experience.

        Groundwater at the hatchery is typically 48-50 degrees F. This warmer water can be used to temper the incoming river water in winter, reducing problems with ice in the pipes. And if something does happen to the river water intake system, there is only enough groundwater now to keep the fish alive for about an hour. The new gallery should provide enough water to keep all the fish alive in an emergency for much longer.

        The infiltration gallery project was suggested in 1991. Instead, two more wells were drilled, both of which underperform. "This project is the first major infrastructure change here since the current raceways were built in 1978," said Craig. "It is really exciting for us.

        Although the US Fish and Wildlife Service operates Entiat National Fish Hatchery, it was built (along with hatcheries in Winthrop and Leavenworth) by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) as mitigation for construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. BOR continues to fund operation for the three hatcheries, including large-scale projects like the infiltration gallery.

        In January 2018, sixteen temporary wells and three settling tanks were put in place to dewater the construction area. The hatchery’s Red Willow Trail is closed for safety until the major digging is complete. The project is expected to be finished in August.

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        Reclamation Seeks Comments on Snow Lake Water Control Structure Draft Environmental Assessment

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        This photo of the Snow Lake outlet was taken in 1941.

        Oct. 11, 2017: The Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are seeking comments on a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed removal and replacement of the existing Upper Snow Lake tunnel water discharge control valve with a new valve. The water control structure is located on land owned by USFWS surrounded by the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area in Chelan County, Washington.

        The existing valve has exceeded its expected 10-year service life and cannot meet the 80 cubic feet per second discharge capacity needed required by the Icicle and Peshastin irrigation districts and Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in the late summer, when cool, high-quality water is necessary for fish production. Reclamation and the USFWS have prepared this draft EA to evaluate the environmental impacts of removing and replacing the valve, including the means to transport materials, equipment, supplies, and contract personnel to the remote location.

        The draft EA analyzes three actions: two Proposed Action Alternatives (implementing the project as described above) and a No Action Alternative (non-implementation). Reclamation and USFWS are co-lead agencies for the draft EA and have prepared it in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

        The draft EA is available at Please send written comments to Mr. Stephen Kolk, Wenatchee Subbasin liaison, Bureau of Reclamation, 301 Yakima Street, room 319, Wenatchee, WA 98801-2966 or via email at no later than Oct. 17, 2017.

        If you have any questions about this project, please contact Mr. Kolk at 509-667-8494. To learn about the history of the Snow Lakes valve, read more on our website.

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        Fish Rescued from Fire Safe at Leavenworth NFH

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        This Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife image shows the Eagle Creek fire burning near Cascade Hatchery. Photo credit: Nick Koston, Pathways Intern/USFWS.

        Sept. 19, 2017: In August 2015, Yakama Nation Fisheries helped rescue Leavenworth Chinook salmon from high summer heat. Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery was able to return the favor this week, as coho salmon from Cascade Salmon Hatchery were brought here to safe haven from the Eagle Creek fire in Oregon.

        Workers at Cascade Salmon Hatchery were evacuated during the fire. Flames burned all the underbrush upstream near the water intake, creating conditions so ripe for mudslides that not even firefighters were allowed in the ravine. With rain predicted for Sunday, Sept. 17, rescuers had to act fast. Dubbed the "Liberation Team," two large tankers from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife worked with Department of Transportation officials in both Oregon and Washington, rushing a million fish out of danger.

        Working with the departments of transportation in two states, which opened the highways to the tankers, 665,000 Yakama Nation coho were transported to Willard National Fish Hatchery on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge and 310,000 traveled up to Leavenworth NFH. The Leavenworth fish would normally arrive in February for a short stay to acclimate before release into Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River. Instead, they will overwinter here. Coho managed by the Nez Perce and Umatilla were also housed at Cascade, and were rapidly moved to Leaburg Fish Hatchery on the McKenzie River.

        As rain returns to the Pacific Northwest, ash will be swept into the water at Cascade Hatchery, raisinging pH levels. Fish thrive in neutral pH, and suffer when water pH alters. With all the fish safely removed, staff can concentrate on cleaning up once they’re allowed to return.

        Greg Wolfe, Upper Columbia Hatchery Complex Manager for Yakama Nation Fisheries, said, "Hats off to Oregon and hats off to the Liberation Team. They are very dedicated." Thanks to the efforts of many partners, these coho found safe haven.

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        First Youth Hunting and Fishing Event a Success

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        Leavenworth Fisheries Complex's Education Ranger Marjie Lodwick is joined by volunteer Julie Ruebush at the East Wenatchee Gun Club for a new event.

        Leavenworth Fisheries Complex (LFC) joined other local organizations on September 16 at the first Northcentral Washington Youth Hunting and Fishing event, hosted at the East Wenatchee Gun Club.

        In 2017, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife brought their annual Youth Hunting and Fishing Day event to East Wenatchee. The event rotates location each year. Wenatchee Sportsman’s Association (WSA) Vice President Keith Boyd said, "We really wanted to keep this going here."

        LFC partnered with Cascadia Conservation District and Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, setting up three adjoining booths. 273 children and 209 adults attended. "I’m pretty sure every one of those kids went through our booth!" said Marjie Lodwick, Education Ranger for LFC. The three organizations provided US Fish and Wildlife Service coloring books, showed children how to assemble a salmon lifecycle bracelet, challenged people to learn fish anatomy with large-scale puzzles, and taught them about local wildlife using furs, tracks, and skulls.

        WSA hoped for 200 attendees, and was pleased to see strong interest from the community. Kids were able to use .22 rifles, shoot skeet, and try out archery. LFC volunteer Julie Ruebush described her son’s experience with shooting a rifle for the first time. "He wants to keep going,”"she said. "It’s so great to see how excited he is now."

        "This is a great event," said LFC Information and Education Manager Julia Pinnix. "I hope the Sportsman’s Association does it again next year."

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        Filtering for Lamprey Reveals New View of Rivers

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        AmeriCorps contractor Andrew Thai assisted biologists from the Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office in collecting eDNA samples from local rivers.

        Low cost, simple, and long-lasting: this is the appeal of a new technique for revealing the presence of lamprey and other hard-to-find fish in our rivers. Katy Pfannenstein of the Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office (MCFWCO) described how collecting eDNA works.

        One person holds the end of a hose in the river where the sample is being taken. A portable pump draws water up and into a five liter collection container. The water is run through a round filter a little smaller than the size of the mouth of a coffee mug. The filter paper is put into a baggie with dessicant and shipped to the National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where it is frozen. The lab amplifies the DNA in the sample, tests to see if DNA from the species of interest is present, and sends the results back. The cost is just $85.

        DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid, the code that programs living cells to grow, reproduce, and behave in certain ways. DNA is the blueprint of our selves. And DNA is distinctive from one species to another.

        We all shed cells containing our DNA every day: loose hair and bits of skin, for example. This materials is called environmental DNA (eDNA). Filtering river water captures the shed cells from fish, allowing researchers to see whether certain species are present.

        "Aquatic eDNA sampling is a relatively new technique. Depending on your questions, it works really well," said Ann Grote of MCFWCO. eDNA sampling is accurate, and time- and cost-effective for looking at species presence. One field crew can collect up to ten samples in one day. The samples can be archived and re-sampled at later dates. And the filters collect everything: while one study might be looking for Pacific lamprey, another researcher might want to check for bull trout; and the same sample can serve both. The data are very shareable, which reduces duplicate effort. A person can check to see if any samples were taken from Icicle Creek, for instance, before going out to collect new samples.

        But there are real limitations. eDNA sampling is very powerful at detecting DNA, but it doesn't tell you about the source of that DNA. Is the DNA produced by live fish or dead fish? Did it originate in the study system, or did it come from another water source and "hitchhike" over on a dirty boat or a pair of angler's waders?

        eDNA also can't distinguish between abundance and biomass. "Is the sample from three really big fish, or from 10,000 tiny ones? We can't tell," Ann said. To answer these kinds of questions, it helps to pair eDNA sampling with more traditional fish survey methods, like snorkeling (swimming in the river to identify and count the fish) or using seines or nets to capture them.

        The MCFWCO first started using eDNA in its research in June 2016, in conjunction with the release of lamprey into the Wenatchee River earlier that spring by Yakama Nation Fisheries (YNF). Ralph Lampman, a Lamprey Research Biologist with YNF, aims to restore lamprey to their native range. Historically, lamprey were found all the way up the Wenatchee River to Lake Wenatchee. However in recent years, Pacific lamprey have been absent from the upper Wenatchee River. Electrofishing surveys by the MCFWCO in 2010, 2012, and 2015 detected no lamprey between Tumwater Dam and Lake Wenatchee.

        MCFWCO eDNA surveys in June 2016 did, in fact, detect Pacific lamprey DNA following the YNF releases months earlier. But later results from September after another release in August 2016 were less clear. Perhaps, said Ann, the best samples are obtained after spawning, which is typically a summer event. At that time, lamprey are expelling eggs and sperm, and dying after spawning. Lots of genetic material is released. This fall, the MCFWCO will compare electrofishing and eDNA from the same sites to see if the results corroborate one another. Check out their work so far here:

        What we don't know about lampreys outweighs what we do. It was thought only one species of lamprey (Pacific lamprey or Entosphenus tridentatus) was found in the Mid-Columbia region. But juvenile lamprey recently collected by Ralph in the Methow, Entiat, and Wenatchee rivers revealed the presence of Lampetra, a different genus of lamprey. The MCFWCO is currently partnering with the National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation to develop an eDNA test for Lampetra species.

        None of these lampreys are closely related to the sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus, that has invaded the Great Lakes. This is the lamprey most Americans know, and they are often aware of its negative impact on fish and fishing in that area. But the lampreys found in Washington State belong here, and in many cases, are beneficial. Young lampreys are like earthworms, rooting through river sediment and consuming bacteria. They may prove valuable in removing excess phosphorous from streams. And adult Pacific lamprey are a highly valued food for many Native Americans.

        Like salmon, Pacific lamprey migrate out to sea to spend a few years before re-entering fresh water to spawn. Pacific lamprey have disappeared from much of their historic range. This may be a result of dams blocking or delaying the adult spawning migrations. Pacific lamprey are poor swimmers: because they don't have jaws, they use their mouths, or "oral disks," to anchor themselves when swimming in swift currents. Their swimming and attachment style means that Pacific lamprey cannot easily make their way up many fish ladders that were designed for salmon.

        There's not much money available for lamprey research. Lamprey are not as charismatic or as economically significant as salmon. But for the Native Americans of the region, they are culturally vital, as well as being an integral part of a fully functional ecosystem. Ralph has partnered with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville to expand lamprey releases and research into the Okanogan River. In August of this year, the first lamprey will be released above Wells Dam.

        MCFWCO rushed to get baseline eDNA samples in the Okanogan before the release. They will also pre- and post-test for eDNA in Icicle Creek, where Ralph will release lamprey in early September. In the last 5-6 years, electrofishing surveys have not turned up any lamprey in Icicle Creek, but Ann said there is excellent spawning and rearing habitat there. Because they are mostly nocturnal, lamprey are less likely to be disrupted by human use pressures occurring in the river, where tubing and paddleboarding is popular.

        What is completely clear is that eDNA is a useful tool that will increasingly help answer questions about lampreys and many other species. The MCFWCO is using eDNA in a collaborative study of bull trout, led by the Rocky Mountain Research Station under the Department of Agriculture. Learn more about that study here:

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        Saving One Fish Run at a Time

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        Jeff Thomas fishes for bull trout at the base of Clear Creek Dam, hoping to catch and move them around the dam.

        August 14, 2017: Oregon Public Broadcasting published this article by Courtney Flatt on their website...

        A chilly pool of water forms at the base of Clear Creek dam in Washington’s Cascade mountains. Somewhere, hiding in the depths of the water, are several bull trout. They’ve migrated up this creek and are hoping to make it to cooler waters at higher elevations.

        But they're out of luck.

        “They’re just stuck down here,” said Jeff Thomas, a fish biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

        In their way is a big slab of concrete, a dam built in 1914. Its reservoir, Clear Lake, is a recreation area where kids with disabilities or terminal illnesses can spend carefree summer days.

        Thomas has worked to help these threatened fish for nearly two decades. He’s spent hundreds of hours here...

        Read the rest of the article at this link...

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        Anglers Welcome at Entiat National Fish Hatchery

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        Anglers are welcome to fish the Entiat River from the hatchery grounds.

        July 21, 2017: Thanks to requests made by local residents in the Entiat River valley, anglers may now fish for summer Chinook salmon right from the grounds of Entiat National Fish Hatchery. It’s an exciting time for hatchery manager Craig Chisam.

        "Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has directed us to provide more fishing and hunting on public land,” said Craig, “and we’re doing that. We will do everything we can to accommodate it."

        Summer Chinook have been raised at the hatchery since 2009, replacing spring Chinook that had been raised since 1974. Spring Chinook in the upper Columbia River were listed as endangered in 2005, and the hatchery didn’t want to raise a competing stock. Summer Chinooks are not endangered. It’s not the first time Entiat has raised summer Chinook: those were the target from 1941 to 1965.

        The current run of summers is the second full return since the hatchery began its program in 2009. More than 3,000 are expected to swim upriver.

        "One local comes back from Hawai’i every year just to catch our fish," said Craig. Anglers are out on the river every day right now, from early in the morning until late in the evening. Those salmon that get past the anglers jump up a short fish ladder to the holding ponds at the hatchery, where they will be held until spawning in early October. Any numbers beyond what are needed for the hatchery are surplused to tribes.

        Read more about Entiat National Fish Hatchery on the website: To learn more about the listing of spring Chinook salmon in the upper Columbia River, visit this National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website:

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        Icicle Creek Opens for Fishing

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        Although run predictions were dire, fishing for Chinook is opening on Icicle Creek.

        June 23, 2017: The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife is opening Icicle Creek (called Icicle River on their website) to spring Chinook fishing June 24-July 31. Please check their website for more information.

        It is WDFW that sets fishing regulations. The announcement states that fishing will be open :from the closure signs located 800 feet upstream of the mouth of the river to 500 feet downstream from the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam;" and "from the shoreline markers where Cyo Road intersects the Icicle River at the Sleeping Lady Resort to the Icicle Peshastin Irrigation Footbridge (approximately 750 feet upstream from the Snow Lakes trailhead parking area)." Two hatchery Chinook of at least 12 inches is the daily limit.

        Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery needs at least 850 adult salmon, half female, half male, to be able to produce 1.2 million salmon each year. That number was reached this week, allowing fishing by the public to begin. The Yakama and Colville tribes voluntarily abstained from fishing also until the hatchery received the fish it needed. This cooperative effort between tribes and state and federal agencies helps ensure there will be salmon is future years for everyone to enjoy.

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        Annual Free Event Promotes Fishing

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        Children under age 14 can catch trout at a family-friendly event.

        June 5, 2017: Families are welcome at Winthrop National Fish Hatchery, especially during the annual Kids Fishing Day event, this year on Saturday June 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Enjoy booths featuring hands-on activities and demonstrations, from fly-casting to smoking (and eating!) salmon. Don't have a fishing pole? Don't worry! Equipment is provided, and lots of volunteers are on hand to help. Catch a tagged fish and win a prize-- and fish will be cleaned to take home or to camp for dinner. Directions to the hatchery are here...

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        Hatchery Visits are Pathway to Learning

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        Park Ranger Marjie Lodwick leads Entiat students into a pond.

        June 5, 2017: A visit to a hatchery can be more than just a look at fish! With a little advance planning, groups can experience personalized educational programs.

        Julia Pinnix is the Information and Education (I&E) Manager for Leavenworth Fisheries Complex. The Complex is formed of three hatcheries and a conservation office, strung across 115 miles. Park Ranger Marjie Lodwick is the other employee of the I&E program. These two women work hard to reach out to the public. One of the ways they connect is through on-site programs, tailored to each group.

        For example, on May 31, a group from Marysville Cooperative Education Partnership (MCEP) brought 50 fifth graders and 20 parent-chaperones to the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. Small groups of students went on hatchery tours, learned about salmon anatomy, and participated in a special Leave No Trace presentation. Then the whole group played an active run-and-tag game that revealed the challenges of migration for salmon.

        Marjie scheduled the Leave No Trace trainers through a partnership with Team Naturaleza, a group of people, agencies, and organizations dedicated to making multi-cultural connections to nature. Americorps contractor Andrew Thai led the tours, sharing his personal experience with fish production at the hatchery; while Marjie and Julia worked together at the fish anatomy station.

        This kind of cooperative approach is typical for programs at the Complex. With a permanent staff of two, the I&E program relies on partners and volunteers to accomplish goals.

        The Entiat Outdoor Skills Program (EOS) is another example. Conceived by Hatchery Manager Craig Chisam as a solution to overwhelming crowds at public fishing events, EOS is a partnership with Entiat School. In its first few years, grades 1-8 all came to the hatchery, each grade on a separate day. This year, four grades participated.

        Each grade divides into three smaller groups and rotates between three stations: fishing, archery, and ecology. Craig leads the archery station, along with volunteers he has trained as certified instructors. Craig’s employee, Jason Reeves, works with volunteers from Trout Unlimited and Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group to help students catch and clean trout to take home to their families. And I&E staff and volunteers lead the ecology station, helping participants don waders and explore a constructed wetland. Biologists from the Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office often help out.

        High-quality, hands-on, and on-site: these are the criteria the I&E program apply when creating customized programs. Partnership and volunteers are critical to success. With help from many willing sources, even a staff of two can accomplish a lot. As of the end of May, the Complex I&E staff has provided 55 programs for 860 people—something they couldn’t do alone.

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        Partnership Provides Bilingual Education

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        Partners gather for an educational program at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery.

        March 14, 2017: Seventy-two fifth graders from Wenatchee’s Lewis and Clark Elementary School had a memorable, and bilingual, experience at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, thanks to a remarkable partnership with Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office (MCFWCO), Wenatchee River Institute (WRI), Team Naturaleza, and the hatchery.

        Lewis and Clark serves grades K-5 in a multicultural environment. Many students are Spanish-speakers, and some are new to English. The entire 5th grade came to Leavenworth, where every student went snowshoeing, toured the hatchery, practiced archery, and learned about wildlife, guided by a team of biologists, educators, and translators.

        The Information and Education (I&E) staff at the hatchery includes just two employees, serving a complex that includes two other hatcheries and MCFWCO. Handling a group of 72 students is a huge challenge. Rather than say no to a requested visit, Park Ranger Marjie Lodwick called in partners to help. She drew from MCFWCO, WRI, and Team Naturaleza.

        Biologists from MCFWCO have been helping throughout the winter with public snowshoe tours. Winter is a slow time for biology fieldwork, and the extra hours with I&E help keep staff employed. "It’s fabulous for visitors," said I&E Manager Julia Pinnix. "They get to go on a tour with a biologist and hear about their work."

        As part of an effort to build partnerships with other educational organizations, Julia trained staff from WRI as certified archery instructors last year, offering them the use of the hatchery’s archery equipment for WRI’s own programs in return for help at events.

        The hatchery is also a member of Team Naturaleza, a partnership with multiple agencies, organizations, and individuals. The goal of the partners is to invite Spanish-speakers into the outdoors. Denise Monge, a Costa Rican native, was recently hired as an intern for Team Naturaleza. Denise recruited two Spanish-speakers to help with the school program.

        Leaning on the partnerships the hatchery has been cultivating, Marjie pulled in two volunteers from WRI and six MCFWCO biologists, including Greg Fraser, fluent in Spanish from his service with Peace Corps in Nicaragua. Matched with Denise’s recruits, there were enough instructors to break the students into four groups, each with a translator. Each group rotated from one activity to another in a carefully planned schedule.

        Marjie related watching a bilingual hatchery tour in progress. All the students listened when English was spoken. But when Denise translated the information, suddenly hands shot up and polite listeners turned into engaged learners.

        Out on the snowshoe trail, there was a boy recently moved from Mexico. When biologist Greg began translating, the boy hung back to the end of the line so he could be near Greg. He stuck by him during the whole walk, looking up at him with wide-eyed admiration. Seeing a person in a Service uniform speaking Spanish fluently made an impression that student won’t forget.

        Tracie Sleeper of Lewis & Clark Elementary said, "From a teacher perspective, we did not see any area of weakness. How engaged the instructors and students all were! They did an amazing job holding the students’ attention and keeping them motivated to learn. The organizations involved were awesome, and we would be honored to do it again. All 10’s in our opinion."

        "Without our partners, and without Marjie’s high quality hard work, this program could not have happened,” said Julia. “We’ve been working to build our relationships with partners, and this kind of event is the payoff. Everybody wins."

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        Icy Disaster Averted at Entiat National Fish Hatchery

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        Ice blocks the frozen intake pipe, jammed by river ice, at Entiat National Fish Hatchery.

        December 21, 2016: Entiat National Fish Hatchery fought to keep fish alive Sunday December 18 when ice flowing down Entiat River jammed the intake and pipes. The crew spent a grueling 5 1/2 hours fighting the flow and saving the 460,000 fish in the raceways, which were without flow for quite some time.

        Hatchery Manager Craig Chisam described the emergency: "Our intake rack, vault, and 1,000 foot delivery line, along with the 800 foot by-pass line (where the ice has to go), were completely clogged with ice. After a couple hours, we restored enough flow to the raceways to allow us to reconfigure to a re-use scenario and keep fish alive. As we continued to fight the remaining ice clogs in our lines, the 36-inch main intake line suddenly freed up, sending massive amounts of ice and water to the screen chamber and instantly filling the building with ice with about a foot of water pouring out of the building and down our roads.

        "At the same time, the massive amount of water that came with the ice overflowed our sand-settling basin and sent its water down our roads as well. As a result, the 800-foot bypass line became clogged with ice again. We were forced to turn off our surface water delivery line, which left the raceways with no flow as we dealt with the problem. Much time was spent melting the ice with warm groundwater and freeing up the clogged line in order to restore adequate flow to the raceways."

        Craig describes his crew as “sore, beaten, and battered but thankfully safe in the end.” The problem may have started with an ice dam in Entiat River collapsing, sending massive amounts of ice and debris downstream. Entiat resident John Craven, whose home is close to the hatchery, captured footage of an ice flood on Friday December 16. His video is posted on YouTube:

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        Team Naturaleza Given Award from Bureau of Land Management

        Ponds under construction

        Team Naturaleza Intern Jairo Alpire leads a group at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in summer 2016.

        December 6, 2016: A Wenatchee-area coalition that is using innovative ways to engage Latino communities in natural science education has received a Bureau of Land Management 2016 Diversity and Inclusion Award.

        Ron Dunton, Acting Director for BLM's Oregon/Washington State Region, recognized the efforts of Team Naturelaza, a partnership between public agencies, individuals, and organizations that encourages Spanish-speakers to recreate outdoors on public lands and enjoy informal natural science education.

        Diane Priebe, a BLM employee based in Wenatchee, nominated Team Naturaleza for the award. The agency is focusing efforts to develop a culture of diversity and inclusiveness that authentically engages interested individuals and communities in achieving common goals.

        "We provide an environment where employees of all backgrounds can realize their aspirations," Priebe said. "The Team Naturaleza partnership is a perfect example of working towards this goal, embracing other cultures and breaking down barriers to getting people outside."

        In 2016, Team Naturaleza worked with the Environment for the Americas, using Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest funding and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Directorate Fellows Assistant Program to hire two interns, Jairo Alpire and Ellie DeMarse.

        Alpire and DeMarse helped organize and support Spanish-language events and activities and participated in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's National Hunting and Fishing Day in Wenatchee. At least 30% of Wenatchee's population speaks Spanish. A native Spanish speaker, Alpire sent personal invitations to members of the Spanish-speaking community, boosting attendance at Team Naturaleza events.

        Although the summer interns have moved on to college and other work, Team Naturaleza continues to focus on outreach events for Central Washington Latino residents. Special programs like snowshoeing are planned for Latino groups this winter.

        For more information about Team Naturaleza, please contact one of the following members: Diane Priebe, Outdoor Recreation Planner, Bureau of Land Management, 509-665-2131,; Susan Thomas, Forest Partnership Coordinator, Okanogan-Wenatchee NF, 509-664-9222,; Norma Gallegos, 509-860-0323,; Julia Pinnix, Information and Education Manager, Leavenworth Fisheries Complex, 509-548-2916,

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        Free Snowshoe Tours Start Again at Leavenworth NFH

        Ponds under construction

        Free guided snowshoe tours are available December to February.

        November 1, 2016: Beginning in December (snow permitting), free guided snowshoe tours will begin at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. Winter in Leavenworth is a great time to visit the hatchery! Juvenile fish are on station all year. A visit can include a look at hatchery operations, as well as a guided tour on the Icicle Creek Nature Trail.

        The grounds are open to visitors every day. The visitor center is usually open after 7:30 a.m., closed by 4 p.m., although staff may only be present for limited times. Guided snowshoe tours are available on specific days, and space must be reserved by calling 509-548-7641.

        In December, tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; on Friday the 9th and 16th at 1 p.m.; on Friday the 16th and 23rd at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; and Dec. 27-31 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Please note that no tours are offered Dec. 25 or 26.

        In January, tours are available Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; and on Friday the 6th, 13th, and 20th at 1 p.m.

        In February, tours are available Saturdays and Sundays through the 19th, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

        For more information, please call 509-548-7641.

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        Article Describes Restoration Project, and Role of Beavers

        Ponds under construction

        Beaver dam analogues mimic the structure and function of natural beaver dams, slowing the water down and backing it up.

        October 12, 2016:Julie Ashmore of Okanogan Valley's Gazette-Tribune published an article October 3 on collaborative wetland restoration. The Triple Creek Beaver Dam Analogues project is one our own Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office has been working on! Read more on our website, download a pdf, or visit the Gazette-Tribune's website...

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        Award for Pollinator Garden Given to Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery

        Ponds under construction

        Americorps volunteer Heather Love, Master Gardener Don Morse, and Information and Education Manager Julia Pinnix display the award in the garden.

        August, 2016:Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery (LNFH) works not just for fish, but for insects, too. The hatchery's new pollinator garden has drawn national recognition with an award from the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC).

        Pollinator Roadways is a new NAPPC initiative to recognize pollinator-friendly roadside practices. The 2,400 square foot pollinator garden at LNFH adjoins the parking lot in front of the main hatchery building. All the plants are native species, chosen to bloom at different times and provide nectar to butterflies, bees, and other pollinators throughout the summer. More than 200 milkweed plants target support for monarch butterflies.

        The US Fish and Wildlife Service has a mission to Save the Monarch (, and leads the Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) with over 49 national, state, and local partners ( MJV is a partnership of federal and state agencies, non- governmental organizations, and academic programs working together to support and coordinate efforts to protect monarch migration across the lower 48 United States. Local residents in the Leavenworth area remember seeing monarchs decades ago; but eradication of milkweed to protect cattle means the butterflies have disappeared.

        The goal of the garden at LNFH is to promote pollinator and monarch butterfly habitat while educating students and the public about their importance, and about the wider habitat and wildlife goals of the Service. Thousands of visitors come to the hatchery each year, and the garden is in a prominent location. Washington State University Extension office supports the Chelan-Douglas County Master Gardener Program; and Leavenworth members have joined LNFH in a partnership to care for the garden and provide interpretation to visitors.

        Without the efforts of Heather Love, a volunteer in the VetsWork Americorps program through Mt. Adams Institute, the pollinator garden would not be a reality. She mobilized volunteers for planting parties, sod-cutting, and pathway installation; selected and cared for all the plants; and worked with Master Gardeners to establish the pollinator garden as an approved site for their volunteers. "We are proud of what Heather has accomplished here," said Information and Education Manager Julia Pinnix. "The garden is already a centerpiece of our tours."

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        Boat Launch Closed at Leavenworth NFH

        Ponds under construction

        Water sports are popular in the Leavenworth area, but low water in Icicle Creek closes the boat launch at the hatchery.

        July, 2016:The low-water time of summer is now here, and Hatchery Manager Dave Carie will close the boat launch at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery to further use after July 31. As long as water levels remain high, the public is welcome to use the launch. But once the depth of the river drops too low, the launch is closed. This protects the redds (nests) of spawning salmon in Icicle Creek.

        Commercial use of the boat launch is restricted year-round. Only holders of a current, approved permit may operate from the boat launch during periods of high water. The permit system was begun in 2011, in response to concerns from local landowners, commercial guides and outfitters, and hatchery staff. As use of the boat launch increased, problems with care and maintenance of the site increased, too. Downstream landowners were upset when users accessing the river from the hatchery became careless trespassers trampling vegetation, littering, and leaving behind human waste.

        A permit system was installed to help control and reduce some of the impact at the launch, and perhaps also reduce trouble downstream. In June 2016, a group of operators met at the hatchery to discuss changes and updates to the system. Commercial companies may contact Information and Education Manager Julia Pinnix to learn more about the permitting system. 

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        Scholarship Awarded from Salmon Fest

        Ponds under construction

        Alexis Rodriguez-Pantaleon is the winner of the 2016 Nancy Duree Natural Resource Scholarship..

        June, 2016: The Wenatchee River Salmon Festival is proud to announce that Alexis Rodriguez-Pantaleon is the winner of the 2016 Nancy Duree Natural Resource Scholarship.  The $1500 scholarship is awarded to an outstanding North Central Washington graduating high school senior who is continuing their education in a natural resource field at an accredited college or university.

        Rodriguez-Pantaleon is the son of Juana Pantaleon and Zenon Rodriguez of Wenatchee, Washington. He is a graduating senior from Wenatchee High School and will be attending the University of Washington and pursuing a degree in Wildlife Biology and Environmental Education.

        Rodriguez-Pantaleon faced some serious competition from a large field of superior candidates, but his outstanding academic record, demonstrated community involvement, references, and personal essay were determining factors in his selection. Alexis has a very bright future, and his intelligence and dedication to better our community was well demonstrated in his essay when he said, “There are not enough services providing students with opportunities to explore the land, animals, and the community around them. I plan to change that.”

        The Nancy Duree Natural Resource Scholarship was created in honor of Nancy Duree, a Wenatchee River Salmon Festival Core Team member devoted to the educational mission of the festival and an active participant in the festival from its inception in 1991. Nancy was a strong believer in promoting the value of higher education and was passionate about conserving and connecting people with the outdoors.

        One of the core values of the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival is providing high quality natural resource education to our communities. To foster this belief we “pay it forward” by investing in local students who have a passion for natural resources and want to further their education in this field.

        The Wenatchee River Salmon Festival is a family friendly, national award winning festival held at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. This year’s All Family Day is September 17th, from 10am to 5pm.

        The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, Chelan County PUD, Friends of Northwest Hatcheries and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation host the festival. Contact Susan C. Peterson for more information:; 509-630-1066.

        Salmon Festival is a proud recipient of the “2016 Partnership Award for Public Lands Partners.” Back to top...

        Federal Agencies Seeking Public Comment

        Ponds under construction

        Fish ponds under construction at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in 1940.

        April 2, 2016: In a collaborative effort to improve aging infrastructure and benefit the Northwest's vital salmon and steelhead resources, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) publically released a report outlining alternative options for fish production and facilities at the Leavenworth Fisheries Complex (Complex) in Central Washington State. .

        The Complex serves the Columbia River Basin and encompasses Leavenworth, Entiat, and Winthrop National Fish Hatcheries, as well as the Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office. Constructed between 1939 and 1942, the hatcheries of the Complex were established to mitigate salmon population impacts of Grand Coulee Dam, and provide tribal, sport, and commercial harvest opportunity.

        The federal facilities currently produce and release around two million Chinook salmon, one million coho salmon, and two hundred thousand steelhead in support of the U.S. v. Oregon agreement and Columbia River Fisheries Management Plan.

        In 2011, the Service and Reclamation jointly assessed the condition of the nearly 75 year-old Complex facilities and prioritized infrastructure improvements to meet safety, health, and environmental compliance requirements. From 2013 to2015, independent reviewer McMillen Jacobs Associates conducted the analysis of the facilities.

        This project conducted an alternatives analysis for the Complex to best meet fish production needs and full use of available water. The alternatives consist of repairing and/or upgrading existing facilities and infrastructure at existing sites, construction of new facilities and infrastructure at existing or new sites, and/or a combination of the two.

        Leavenworth Fisheries Complex plays an important cultural, recreational, and economic role in the Northwest by producing the next generation of fish for the next generation of people. The independent analysis of McMillen Jacobs Associates, along with input from Tribes, stakeholders, and the public, will help develop a five to ten year master plan to update the hatcheries to ensure mitigation obligations and production and harvest goals are met well into the future.

        To request further information or submit written comments, please use one of the following methods, and note that your information request or comments are in reference to the "Leavenworth Alternatives Analysis."

        Internet: You may view the report online here: (volume 1) and (volume 2).

        Email: Comments may be emailed to:

        U.S. mail: ATTN: Amanda Smith, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 NE 11th AVE., Portland, OR. 97232

        In-person drop-off, viewing, or pickup: Please call Dave Irving at 509-548-2912 to make an appointment (necessary for viewing or picking up documents only) during normal business hours at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, 12790 Fish Hatchery Rd, Leavenworth, WA, 98826.

        Written comments must be received on or before the close of the public review and comment period on May 6, 2016.

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        Friends, Hatchery Recognized with Public Lands Alliance Award

        Collecting broodstock

        Students learn to identify fish at Wenatchee River Salmon Festival.

        March 9, 2016: Friends of Northwest Hatcheries and the Leavenworth Fisheries Complex received a Public Lands Partner Award for 25 years of bringing the community together with the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival. The Public Lands Alliance presented the award at their annual convention March 9.

        The Public Lands Partner Award celebrates the best in public lands partnerships, recognizing individuals, organizations, publications, products, programs, and services that embody leading edge achievements in the preservation of public lands and the enrichment of visitors.

        Held each fall to celebrate the return of the salmon to the Wenatchee River, the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival is a three day natural resource education event. "The event has always been about partnership," says founder Corky Broaddus. In addition to the Friends and the Complex, Wenatchee National Forest, Chelan County Public Utility District, Chamber of Commerce of Leavenworth, Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers, Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Chelan County Natural Resource Department, Cascadia Conservation District, Bonneville Power Administration, and many others all provide support to Salmon Fest.

        Two of the three days of the Fest are devoted to bringing in elementary school students for hands-on education. One of the most popular activities is Kids in the Creek, modeled after a program of the same name for high school students. Another popular stop is the giant mobile aquarium, where students can learn to identify fish. All the activities are run by partners and volunteers. The grounds are opened on the third day to the public. "We directly reach 7000-10,000 people per year in just three days, and this does not include teacher workshops, scholarships, poster contest, and other activities associated with the festival over the course of each year," said Susan Peterson of the Wenatchee River Ranger District, U.S. Forest Service. During the 25th anniversary of the festival, also the 75th anniversary of the Complex, school attendance was the highest ever.

        "The quality of this year's nominations and submissions [for the award] was outstanding," said Public Lands Alliance Executive Director Dan Puskar. "They so clearly demonstrate the vitality and passion in today's public lands partnerships and deserve recognition for being truly innovative, creative as well as collaborative."

        The Friends continue to manage the event, and the Complex to host it, with both looking forward to building on the success of 2015. "Natural resource education is vital," says Julia Pinnix, Information and Education Manager for the Complex. "The enthusiasm we see from the public and the schools, and the volunteers who come back year after year, tell us we’re doing the right thing here."

        The Public Lands Alliance, formerly known as the Association of Partners for Public Lands, works to build and elevate effective nonprofit organizations and exceptional public-nonprofit partnerships for the benefit of public lands and their users. For more information, visit Back to top...

        Anglers in Winthrop Help Collect Broodstock

        Collecting broodstock

        Collecting steelhead broodstock in the Methow River.

        February, 2016: Winthrop National Fish Hatchery raises steelhead to boost tribal and recreational fishing opportunities and to support recovery. Beginning in late February, volunteers accompanied by uniformed staff can be seen fishing near Winthrop, collecting broodstock to support the local hatchery program.

        Since 2008, the Hatchery has been developing a local hatchery steelhead stock by capturing steelhead near Winthrop. The purpose of the program is to continue to produce steelhead for recovery and fishing opportunities while reducing genetic risks to the naturally-spawning population in the upper Methow sub-basin. A more locally-adapted steelhead stock could be important on the spawning grounds during years of low natural-origin returns to the basin.

        Continuing through early May, fisheries employees and selected volunteers will catch adult steelhead by hook and line within a few miles of Winthrop. Angling provides a cost-effective method that allows the program to target only local, upper Methow River fish. For the past several years, angling has proven to be an effective tool to allow the hatchery to meet its goals while avoiding unpopular, less environmentally friendly alternatives such as constructing a fish collection weir across the river.

        The hatchery needs a total of approximately 160 adult steelhead (hatchery and wild) for broodstock, research, and stock management purposes. This annual collection effort produces an annual release goal of up to 200,000 steelhead smolts released to the Methow River at Winthrop each spring.

        An additional benefit is that most wild female steelhead used for the program at Winthrop NFH are live-spawned and transferred to the Yakama Nation's kelt reconditioning program, which allows the fish to recover and be returned to the Methow River to hopefully spawn again in the river the following year.

        The Winthrop National Fish Hatchery is part of the Leavenworth Fisheries Complex. It began operations in 1941 to mitigate for the loss of salmon and steelhead habitat associated with the construction and operation of Grand Coulee Dam. If you have questions, please call Chris Pasley at 996-2424 or Michael Humling at 996-2204. Back to top...

        Hatchery Receives Outdoor Education Grant

        Cascade Discovery School

        Cascade Discovery School is on the grounds of Leavenworth NFH.

        February 19, 2016: Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery became the first hatchery in the country to sign on as an outdoor education site through Hands on the Land (HOL). HOL is a national network of field classrooms and agency resources to connect people with public lands and waterways. The hatchery was also awarded a grant to support a new education program, the Archeology of Fishing, for an on-site high school.

        The hatchery is a National Landmark, and 2016 is the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. Information and Education Manager Julia Pinnix looked for a way to celebrate this anniversary, and worked out a plan with the Cascade Discovery Program, located on the grounds of the hatchery. The high school program is a partnership with Cascade School District and the USFWS, offering hands-on, science-based experiences for the students.

        The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) provides mini-grants to HOL sites, in support of field-based educational programs. The hatchery became a HOL site and successfully competed for a grant to bring the archeology program to life.

        “We have an amazing educational opportunity to share the rich history of the Pacific Northwest and this community in particular through a great experiential education project,” said Travis Blue, lead teacher for the Discovery Program. During the program, led by a local archeologist, students will learn about and create models of traditional tools used for fishing and other subsistence activities. They will excavate a mock dig, applying the techniques and principles of archeology while learning to “read” the history of fishing in their finds. Back to top...

        Hard Work Averts Flood Disaster at Hatchery

        Flood damage

        Flood damage at fish ladder on Icicle Creek.

        November 18, 2015: Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery employees worked all night to cope with Icicle Creek floodwaters and debris-plugged water intakes to save 1.2 million fingerling salmon. “The last flood this bad was 2005,” said Travis Collier, Assistant Hatchery Manager. Nearly 2.34 inches of rain fell, melting recently fallen snow and causing floodwaters to rise above 11,000 cubic feet per second.

        The hatchery faced two primary problems: the volume of water, and the debris it carried. A control structure was built upstream of a diversion channel in 1939to control flood water. One of its two gates was lowered last night to direct water into the diversion channel. Water in the natural channel still rose over the bridge upstream from where the two channels rejoin. “We don't know exactly how much water came through because it washed out the gauging station,” said Travis.

        Logs were swept downstream, slamming into the bridge at the spillway, breaking through the fence, and damaging the fish ladder. Tribal fishing platforms were destroyed. Debris was an even greater problem at the water intake for the hatchery, located several miles up Icicle Creek Road. There, the intake was completely clogged, and water rose inside the building. Travis described the hazardous work of climbing down into the flooded structure to drag out branches in an urgent bid to get water moving again in the system.

        Water from the intake is piped first to a settling chamber. Because the intake was blocked, the settling chamber was completely dry, said Travis. Normal water flow in a 10 x 100 foot raceway is 900 gallons per minute. For an hour, no water was coming from the river at all. Hatchery workers switched on every well and re-used w water was available to keep water in the raceways where spring Chinook salmon are raised.

        Their efforts succeeded, but the hard work continues. Once the blockage was cleared the water coming into the hatchery was loaded with silt, Five inches of mud now fills every raceway and must be cleaned out now that the flood is subsiding. Exhausted employees continue to clear debris this morning, assessing what repairs will be needed.

        Their hard work paid off: the salmon they have raised through drought and flood are alive today, still on schedule to be released in April, meeting the hatchery’s mission of mitigating for the impact of Grand Coulee Dam. Leavenworth Fisheries Complex Manager Dave Irving said, “Without their dedicated service, we’d have lost all the fish and had severe damage to the infrastructure. I appreciate their hard work under hazardous conditions. They have a real passion for fulfilling our mission.” Back to top...

        Clean-Up of Hatchery Site Complete

      Gun club in 1976

      The gun club at Leavenworth NFH in 1976.

      November 9, 2015: Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery is done with a clean-up project that will expand public use of the site. A shooting range operated on hatchery grounds from 1946-1999, resulting in an accumulation of lead shot. The old clay targets contained a binder that is also poisonous. A project to remove the toxins and restore the site started in late August 2015.

      Oneida Total Integrated Enterprises (OTIE) worked closely with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff to complete the work. Soil samples were taken regularly and sent to an independent lab for testing. Once the top layers of soil were removed and the lab tests came back clean, OTIE restored the grounds to the original grade, using soil dug from an on-site borrow pit.

      The soil was hydroseeded using a blend of native grasses gathered from this region and approved by the Service. Jute netting and fiber mesh was laid down to help stabilize the soil and hold the seeds in place until they sprout in spring.

      OTIE will monitor the site for erosion until December, but as the site is flat, no issues are expected. Once the grasses have re-established, the site can be re-opened for a wider range of public uses. Plans for planting a monarch butterfly and pollinator garden with the help of students are underway.

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        Summer Challenges Spur Innovative Solutions

        Bladder dam

        Temporary bladder dam shortly after installation.

        August 17, 2015: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are trying new techniques to combat challenges presented by unprecedented high temperatures and low water flow. "We got into an emergency situation when our fish got sick," said Dave Irving, manager of the Leavenworth Fisheries Complex, describing a rescue operation that began July 31 to save the hatchery's fingerling Chinook salmon. "We've got to do something to solve the water problem." Working with multiple partners, Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery launched an experimental project to recharge groundwater wells.

        The plan was to pump water exiting the hatchery up to a dry channel, where water could percolate into hatchery wells. Initially conceived by hatchery staff and supported by the Icicle Creek Workgroup, the pumpback is an innovative way to deliver cool, clean water to the fish. The Workgroup is comprised of a diverse set of stakeholders representing local, state, and federal agencies, tribes, irrigation and agricultural interests, and environmental organizations which co-convened to find collaborative solutions for water management within the Icicle Creek Watershed.

        The hatchery draws surface water from Icicle Creek and groundwater from wells. As surface water temperatures increase in summer, cooler groundwater is mixed in; but because of sustained high temperatures and low water levels, there is not enough groundwater to keep the fingerling salmon cool enough for good health.

        Water leaves the hatchery via the fish ladder. In the lower section of the fish ladder, a pump was installed on August 3 to carry the effluent water up into the hatchery channel. The channel was created in 1939 to help control water flow in Icicle Creek and is typically dry in summer. When water is present, it percolates down from the channel, filtered and cooled by the soil, and re-enters the groundwater.

        Contractor Belsaas and Smith installed a temporary pump to bring hatchery effluent water into the channel, and well levels began to respond right away. Installation of a bladder dam on August 18 will form a deeper reservoir and increase downward pressure, helping more water fill the wells. The water also percolates back out through groundwater seeps into Icicle Creek, providing healthier water for healthier fish.

        The hatchery plans to continue the experiment, monitoring and collecting data through the end of September. "This is a proof-of-concept project," says Steve Croci, the Complex's deputy manager. If the pumpback project continues to deliver promising results, it could become a permanent solution for the hatchery.

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          Leavenworth Fisheries Complex Battles Heat, Saves Salmon with Partnership and Science


          Fingerlings heavily infected with whitespot.

          August 5, 2015: Efforts to rescue salmon fingerlings are already starting to pay off, said Dave Carie, hatchery manager at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. High water temperatures and low water volume have proved lethal to fish throughout the Pacific Northwest this summer. When disease outbreaks among some of Leavenworth's spring Chinook salmon signaled danger, action had to be taken quickly.

          "When temperatures get high, the salmon's immune systems don't work very well, and they succumb to common diseases and parasites," said Andy Goodwin, USFWS regional fish health program manager. Staff from the USFWS Olympia Fish Health Center and the Mid-Columbia River Fishery Resource Office joined hatchery staff and partners in problem-solving. Much of the hatchery's water comes from Icicle Creek, normally kept cooler by releasing water from Snow and Nada lakes in the nearby mountains. This year’s sustained hot weather, however, has increased both the water temperature and the number of parasites found in the water.

          As a result, 160,000 fingerlings were found to be very sick. USFWS Assistant Regional Director of Fisheries Roy Elicker explained that releasing "sick and weakened fish into the stream" did not seem appropriate for the Service. "We had a tough decision to make and we had to think of the remaining healthy fish." Sick fish were humanely euthanized and another 250,000 of the healthiest fingerlings were trucked to cooler waters at the Colville Tribes Chief Joseph Hatchery in Bridgeport, Washington, where they will be cared for until cooler weather returns in the fall.

          Challenging circumstances called for additional help and Tribal, State, and staff from nearby facilities were quick to respond. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife moved swiftly to expedite the fish transfer permit. The Yakama Nation brought two tanker trucks to carry fish to the Chief Joseph Hatchery. Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery loaned an additional large tanker.

          It took two days to ferry the fingerlings to their new, temporary home. "It was crucial to the lives of these fish that we came together-- the Tribes, the State, and our crews from Little White -- to preserve our common goal of ensuring future fishing and harvest opportunities," said Dave Irving, USFWS Leavenworth Fisheries Complex manager.

          The remaining one million fingerlings have better living conditions at Leavenworth now that they have more room and water. "Mortality rates continue to decline," said Carie. "The fish are responding well to the actions we have taken, and we are confident that we made the best decision for the health of these fish in this circumstance."

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          Winthrop NFH: Steelhead and Beavers Forge Common Cause


          Hatchery Manager Chris Pasley collects steelhead broodstock with NOAA personnel.

          June 2015:Wild beavers and steelhead occupy the raceways at Winthrop National Fish Hatchery, both part of a long-term, cooperative effort to improve local watersheds and conserve fish.

          Leavenworth, Entiat, and Winthrop hatcheries were all created in response to the construction of Grand Coulee Dam, to mitigate for the impact of the dam on migratory fish. When fish culture operations began at Winthrop NFH in 1942, steelhead, sockeye salmon, and spring Chinook salmon were the primary species identified for the site. The first steelhead used were trapped at Rock Island Dam, 147 miles downstream of Winthrop. The fish present now are raised from wild broodstock captured in the Methow River itself.

          The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is a partner for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in boosting wild steelhead populations. As Assistant Hatchery Manager Bob Gerwig explained, raising steelhead must be done carefully so the fish produced behave like their wild ancestors. Fish fed too much or too often can lose the urge to migrate, competing with wild steelhead juveniles for space and food.

          Earlier programs raised and released fish within one year, resulting in too many fish that failed to migrate. The current method keeps fish on station for two years, providing a chance for smaller juveniles to achieve enough growth to become smolts and migrate to the ocean. A volitional release method is also used, separating fish ready to migrate from those that are more inclined to stay put.

          Steelhead typically spend one or two years in salt water before returning to spawn. Unlike salmon, some steelhead can survive to spawn again, although in low numbers: fewer than 3%. From Winthrop, fish must get past 9 major dams, which greatly lowers the chance that any of the 3% will return again.

          To give the fish a better chance, the Yakama Nation collects live spawned wild female steelhead during spawning operations at and places them in a reconditioning facility at the hatchery. The females are kept in circular tanks, fed krill and specialized fish feed, and released again in October to join the subsequent spawning population.

          In some raceways, small houses on stilts are occupied by beavers. The Methow Beaver Project has many partners: WDFW, the U.S. Forest Service, the Okanogan Conservation District, the Yakama Nation, the Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office, and, of course, the hatchery. All hope to see beavers returned to formerly occupied habitat in higher-elevation areas, where their dam-building activity will help trap water for slower summer release, create aquatic habitat for a variety of plants and wildlife, improve water quality, and enhance conditions for steelhead and other fish. The program is meeting with success.

          Hatchery Manager Chris Pasley points out that all the hatchery programs are cooperative and reach beyond just raising fish. Success is measured in more than numbers of fish released, but in high survival rates and a reduction in ecological risks to natural fish populations in the Methow River, for example.

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      Last Updated: October 9, 2014
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