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Water-saving effort seems to help hatchery fish, too

Chelan County PUD
News Release
11/22/2010

Fish and Wildlife staff told Chelan County PUD commissioners Monday that an effort to save water at PUD hatcheries also seems to be producing juvenile salmon and steelhead that appear stronger and travel faster to the ocean once they are ready.

Instead of building long, rectangular or oval tanks out of concrete, hatchery managers have turned to circular tanks of fiberglass, with a constant recirculating water flow. The circular current helps dispose of waste more efficiently at a central drain, and the system requires only about one-eighth the water of a standard hatchery raceway. With fish swimming against the circular current, the system seems to be producing fish that are stronger and make it downstream to McNary Dam on the Columbia in 16 days instead of the usual 22 days. Shorter travel time to the ocean means less chance that small fish will run into predators along the way – and therefore have better survival all the way to the ocean.

While cautioning that results only cover one year of testing so far, Fish and Wildlife staff said the preliminary findings are creating a lot of interest in fishery management circles. The PUD is required to produce hatchery fish as part of its “no-net-impact” requirement in Habitat Conservation Plans for Rocky Reach and Rock Island dams. The PUD is trying to develop new facilities so it can move away from using the antiquated Eastbank Hatchery facilities on Turtle Rock Island just north of Rocky Reach Dam in the Columbia River.

The new circular water reuse system is in place for steelhead rearing at the PUD’s Chiwawa hatchery, and it is also being used for summer Chinook at Eastbank.

 “We can raise a high-quality fish,” said Joe Miller, PUD hatchery program manager. He said further studies would continue tracking the system to see if the early successes continue.

In other action, commissioners:

  • Passed a motion to purchase new insurance against business interruption that might come from mechanical breakdown of turbines and generators at the PUD’s three hydro projects. Total cost will be $36,217 for the rest of the policy year which extends into May 2011.

  • Heard background on the need for acquiring a line of credit to maintain financial liquidity targets. A proposal will be presented for board action next week as part of changes designed to meet new financial policies adopted earlier this year through long-term strategic planning.

  • Canceled the Dec. 27 board meeting.

***

The next regular commission meeting is at 1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 29, in the PUD boardroom at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.
Most PUD commission meetings are recorded, and a link to the audio is available on the PUD’s home page at
www.chelanpud.org.

Steve Lachowicz
Communications director
509-661-4639, direct line
509-679-0148, cell
steve.lachowicz@chelanpud.org

Link to board meeting.