Despite the unprecedented wildfires and evacuation of six ODFW-managed fish hatcheries, millions of fish at these facilities remain alive with hatchery staff returning as they are able to care for fish and even spawn spring Chinook during a critical time in their life cycle.
Most importantly, no lives were lost among ODFW hatchery staff and their families who had to evacuate. Unfortunately, some critical infrastructure and fish were lost, with Rock Creek Hatchery on the North Umpqua River sustaining the most severe damage followed by Klamath, Leaburg, and Minto.
With the permission of authorities managing fires, some ODFW staff have been returning periodically to even Level 3 evacuation areas on a limited basis to keep fish at the hatchery alive (by assuring that water is flowing, feeding fish, controlling debris, fueling generators, etc.) and to perform other critical tasks such as spawning spring Chinook.The Salmon River Hatchery in Otis was also evacuated due to the Echo Mountain fire and still has no power, but the generator is working and there does not appear to be fish loss. Hatchery staff continue to access the facility during the daytime to ensure fish are kept alive.
Other fish hatcheries have been at Level 1 or 2 Evacuation status in recent days including Cole Rivers, Dexter, Oak Springs, Roaring River, Sandy, South Santiam/Foster and Wizard Falls as well as the Clackamas regional office. Staff are moving equipment offsite and have developed contingency plans for fish holding or release if Evacuation Levels move to Level 3.
“On behalf of the Department I would like to say thank you to all the firefighters and those volunteer on the front lines. We are very aware that the damage at several of our hatcheries would have been much more extensive without them,” continued Hurn. “Also, I’d like to say thank you to Oregon’s law enforcement, cities, counties and other community services for the relief they are providing. It is heartening to see these small forested communities rally together in the face of such devastation.”