Salmon season is upon us, and two tribal hatcheries opening this week are testaments to restoration efforts.
A First Salmon ceremony on the morning of June 20 launched the new, state-of-the-art Chief Joseph Hatchery on the Colville Reservation. A ribbon cutting followed, and the fish season was on.
“[This] is a cause for celebration for the tribe and serves as a testament to the important and meaningful work that can be accomplished when federal, tribal and state entities come together for the common purpose of restoring our Columbia River,” Tribal chairman John Sirois said in a statement before the opening.
The $50 million hatchery is a collaborative project involving numerous agencies in addition to the Colville Confederated Tribes. It is built on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property near Chief Joseph Dam at the juncture of the Okanogan River with the Columbia River and within the boundaries of the Colville Reservation. The hatchery will be managed by the Colville Confederated Tribes.
The facility will include 40 raceways, three rearing ponds and three acclimation ponds with the ability to release up to 2.9 million chinook salmon. It will help rebuild naturally spawning salmon runs that were affected by construction of dams in the Columbia River basin, runs with great historical significance to various tribes.
Sirois, also chairman of the Colville Business Council, spoke at the opening, as did representatives from such collaborating agencies as the Bonneville Power Administration, NW Power & Conservation Council, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Grant County PUD.
Elsewhere on the Columbia River, the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama tribes began commercial sales from their summer fishery on June 17, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission announced.
“This is the first significant commercial fishery of 2013,” the commission said in a media release. “Pre-season forecasts estimate 73,500 summer chinook and 180,500 sockeye. Depending on the actual run sizes, Indian fishers may harvest approximately 20,000 summer chinook and 12,000 sockeye, most of which will be sold commercially.”