Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Hard Work Averts Flood Disaster at Hatchery

November 18, 2015


Julia Pinnix, Information and Education Manager, 509-548-2915,

High water levels during rain storms threatened the facilities and fish at Leavenworth NFH.

High water levels during rain storms threatened the facilities and fish at Leavenworth NFH. Credit: USFWS

Leavenworth, Wash.—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 an inch and a half inches of rain fell on snow and caused 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 the repairs that 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.”

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