Colville tribes to get new salmon hatchery

Near Bridgeport, Washington 8-09

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation plan to break ground next spring on a $41 million hatchery to boost salmon runs on the Upper Columbia River.

The Bonneville Power Administration will pay for the Chief Joseph Hatchery as compensation for the construction of Grand Coulee Dam, which cut off salmon runs to the upper third of the Columbia Basin.

“Everybody wants salmon,” Joe Peone, fish and wildlife director for the Colville told the Spokesman-Review. “The salmon have cultural significance for the tribes, but they’re also an icon for the Northwest.”

The Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Council approved money for construction of the hatchery in May.

Tribal officials say the hatchery will help the tribes retain their heritage by increasing the number of fish for subsistence and ceremonial use. It will also support nonnative sport fishing in the nearby towns of Bridgeport and Brewster.

 

Scheduled to open in 2012, the hatchery will release nearly 3 million chinook smolts each year.

Peone says he hope to see the tribes’ annual salmon catch increase to 10,000 or 20,000 fish. The annual take has averaged only 1,800 fish in recent years.

When the Grand Coulee Dam was built in 1941, it was built without fish ladders. The dam also flooded Kettle Falls, where one of the Northwest’s most prolific salmon fisheries had flourished for thousands of years.

“Through our oral traditions, we are taught that we’ve always been there and always fished there,” said Mike Finley, chairman of the Confederated Colville Tribes’ governing council.

To compensate for the lost salmon, the federal government pledged to build four hatcheries, but only three were constructed.

About a decade ago, Peone came across documents mentioning the fourth hatchery. He led an effort to get one built on the Colville Reservation just below Chief Joseph Dam. The area is as far north as salmon can swim up the mainstream Columbia.

The hatchery will use native brood stock from the Okanogan River, so fish are genetically adapted to the area. The Colville tribes have also been working on ways to prevent hatchery fish from interbreeding with wild fish and diluting native stocks.

The hatchery “is good for everybody,” said J.D. Smith, who organizes the annual Budweiser-Lowrance King Salmon Derby in Brewster. “Brewster really thrives on the salmon season.”

 

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