OLYMPIA – Flooding from recent record rainfall caused an estimated $1 million damage to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) fish hatcheries and other facilities in 13 western Washington counties.
Besides extensive damage to buildings and equipment, heavy rains and resulting floods washed away fish weirs and inundated holding and rearing ponds at some hatcheries, releasing juvenile and adult fish.
Flooding also could have affected wild fish populations, fish managers say. Raging waters scoured river channels and likely destroyed salmon eggs. In addition, juvenile salmon rearing in those streams could have been killed. Biologists say they cannot gauge the flood’s full effect on natural-spawning runs until adult fish return in several years.
Among the hardest hit facilities was the Voights Creek hatchery in Pierce County. At one point during the storm, there was 2 feet of water in the hatchery buildings and the facility lost an undetermined number of coho salmon and steelhead, said John Kerwin, WDFW hatcheries division manager. The hatchery’s pumps and emergency generator were also damaged during the flood.
“The storm damaged hatchery facilities in a variety of ways,” Kerwin said. “Floodwaters damaged buildings, washed away gear, ruined equipment, caused erosion and allowed significant numbers of fish to escape.”
Flood damage also left public safety hazards at some WDFW facilities. At the Granite Falls fishway on the Stillaguamish River, high waters tore away a portion of an access road, curbs, walkways, grates and safety railings. In addition, part of a road, safety railings and walkways were washed away at the Sunset Falls fishway on the south fork of the Skykomish River.
“The full impact of the recent weather on hatcheries will not be known until later this week because high water levels have prevented staff from making complete assessments of the damage,” Kerwin said.
Even before the recent floods, heavy fall stream flows carrying large loads of debris also clogged some hatchery water intakes, leading to the loss of thousands of coho at the Issaquah Hatchery.
Other hatchery facilities hit hard during the recent storm include:
- Elochoman Hatchery in Wahkiakum County: Floods left damage to the fish ladder and associated facilities.
- Washougal Hatchery in Skamania County: The lower portion of the fish ladder was damaged.
- North Toutle Hatchery in Cowlitz County: Damage requires replacing and repairing railings and walkways, clearing a culvert and cleanup.
- Cedar River Hatchery in King County: Heavy water flows left damage to the fish weir and associated fish traps.