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Power Council Gets Update on
New Idaho Sockeye Hatchery

by Bill Rudolph
NW Fishletter, March 29, 2011

"... should incorporate a thorough analysis to evaluate whether or not the ultimate goal
of a self-sustaining natural population of sockeye salmon is reasonably possible."

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is on track to construct a new hatchery for producing 500,000 to 1,000,000 sockeye smolts a year, department biologist Paul Kline told the Northwest Power and Conservation Council at its meeting in Boise earlier this month. The hatchery is part of the long-term plan to recover ESA-listed sockeye in the high country of the Stanley Basin.

Years of a captive broodstock program seem to be paying off since 1992, when only one sockeye returned to Redfish Lake, dubbed appropriately Lonesome Larry. His DNA was preserved for future generations.

BPA will be footing the bill, part of the agreement with Idaho known as the Fish Accords, developed between the power marketing agency and various states and tribes in the Columbia Basin. BPA has already bought the facility--an old trout farm--for $4.75 million.

The projected funding for construction of the hatchery in the agreement was another $8.5 million. But Kline's figures have estimated the cost at nearly $13.6 million.

"Remember," said one of his PowerPoint slides, "costing is very preliminary and includes plus or minus 25 percent contingency factor." He presented the information at the Power and Conservation Council's March 8 meeting in Boise.

IDFG estimated that annual operations and maintenance at the Springfield, Idaho facility would cost another $770,000 a year, along with $287,000 in annual monitoring and evaluation.

The next step is the Council approval vote at its April meeting, with construction slated to begin in the spring of 2012, and the first adult sockeye returning in 2017.

Kline said average abundance objectives for the second phase of the project--re-colonization--are 522 natural-origin adult returns, with 1,150 hatchery-origin adults to meet broodstock needs and 3,312 hatchery-origin adults to meet escapement objectives at Redfish Lake. More hatchery-origin adults would be needed to continue the recovery program at neighboring Pettit Lake when total returns to the hatchery are above 3,800 fish.

The captive broodstock phase of the project has been improving steadily in recent years, with estimated adult returns to Redfish Lake from smolt releases climbing from 186 fish in 2000, to 307 fish in 2008, 790 fish in 2009, and 628 in 2010. During that time, naturally produced sockeye returning to the lake have increased from 10 fish in 2000 to 120 fish in 2010.

In response to a Council member's question, Kline was reported to have acknowledged that it was still not a sure bet that Redfish Lake could support as many sockeye as the third phase of the program was shooting for, an average of 1,122 natural-origin adult returns.

The independent science panel that judges the scientific merit of F&W proposals gave the IDFG sockeye hatchery qualified approval in a February review, but it still has several questions about the program.

The panel said the proposal may provide "extra resilience to extirpation" for the sockeye stock, "but it will still be necessary to provide substantial improvements in lake productivity (smolts per spawner) and/or migration corridor survival to achieve a self-sustaining natural population."

Since that is the delisting goal for the ESA, the panel said the master plan "should incorporate a thorough analysis to evaluate whether or not the ultimate goal of a self-sustaining natural population of sockeye salmon (along with some limited harvest) is reasonably possible."

Related Pages:
Conservation Best Served Minimizing Wild/Hatchery Interactions by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 3/25/11

Bill Rudolph
Power Council Gets Update on New Idaho Sockeye Hatchery
NW Fishletter, March 29, 2011

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