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Fish Looking Down

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Lamprey at Wanapum Days, Oct. 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

Lamprey a Hit at Wanapum Days

    Ponds under construction

    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:
    https://www.fws.gov/leavenworthfisheriescomplex/MidColumbiaFWCO/ProgNativeFish.cfm
    and here:
    https://www.fws.gov/pacificlamprey/mainpage.cfm
    and here:
    https://www.fws.gov/leavenworthfisheriescomplex/What'sHappening.cfm#eDNA

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    Groundwater Project Nearly Complete at Entiat National Fish Hatchery

    Ponds under construction

    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

      Ponds under construction

      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

        Ponds under construction

        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: http://www.co.chelan.wa.us/natural-resources/pages/icicle-work-group?parent=Planning; or the COIC website: http://www.coic.us/home.html.

         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

        Ponds under construction

        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

        Ponds under construction

        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

        Ponds under construction

        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

        Ponds under construction

        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

        Ponds under construction

        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 https://www.usbr.gov/pn/programs/ea/wash/snowlake/index.html.

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        Groundwater Project Under Way at Entiat National Fish Hatchery

        Ponds under construction

        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

        Ponds under construction

        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 https://www.usbr.gov/pn/programs/ea/wash/snowlake/index.html. 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 BOR-PNR-SnowLakeEA@usbr.gov 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

        Ponds under construction

        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

        Ponds under construction

        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: https://www.fws.gov/leavenworthfisheriescomplex/MidColumbiaFWCO/reports.html#lamprey.

        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: https://www.fs.fed.us/rmrs/science-spotlights/detection-and-range-delineation-bull-trout-using-environmental-dna.

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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: https://www.fws.gov/leavenworthfisheriescomplex/EntiatNFH/IndexENFH.cfm. To learn more about the listing of spring Chinook salmon in the upper Columbia River, visit this National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website: http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/salmon_steelhead/salmon_and_steelhead_listings/chinook/upper_columbia_river_spring_run/upper_columbia_river_spring_run_chinook.html

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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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmFY_QvtmD4.

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        Team Naturaleza Given Award from Bureau of Land Management

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        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, dpriebe@blm.gov; Susan Thomas, Forest Partnership Coordinator, Okanogan-Wenatchee NF, 509-664-9222, slthomas@fs.fed.us; Norma Gallegos, 509-860-0323, normagallegos88@gmail.com; Julia Pinnix, Information and Education Manager, Leavenworth Fisheries Complex, 509-548-2916, julia_pinnix@fws.gov.

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        Free Snowshoe Tours Start Again at Leavenworth NFH

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        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. You may download our snowshoe tour flyer also.

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        Article Describes Restoration Project, and Role of Beavers

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        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

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        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 (https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/), and leads the Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) with over 49 national, state, and local partners (http://monarchjointventure.org/about-us/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

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        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

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        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: media@salmonfest.org; 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

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        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: http://bit.ly/LeavenworthAAVol1 (volume 1) and http://bit.ly/LeavenworthAAVol2 (volume 2).

        Email: Comments may be emailed to: Amanda_Smith@fws.gov

        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 www.community.appl.org. 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

          Whitespot

          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

          Whitespot

          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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