Part 1 in a series

NASELLE — A promising future is under construction at the Naselle Fish Hatchery.

The initial part of a three-phase overhaul at the facility is expected to reach the finish line later this week with completion of new sediment ponds.

“It’s the first major rebuild,” said Naselle Fish Hatchery Specialist John Larson as he observed construction on Nov. 9. “On Thursday [Nov. 12] we’re supposed to do tie-ins where all of our water is flowing here. We’re getting close to phase 1 being finalized.”

Long-needed work

The ambitious Naselle Hatchery rebuild started around June, Larson said. It was the beginning of things to come for the aging hatchery first constructed in 1979. The new upgrades will allow the facility to operate more efficiently while fixing the problems that have plagued it in the past.

“The new facility will have more available rearing space,” he said. “We’ll be able to spread the fish out throughout the summer and give them less stress which should help them with disease issues with the warm water we’ve experienced here on the Naselle.”

Battling warm-water issues during the summer months has been an on-going problem.

“Below 60 degrees is ideal,” Larson said. We’ve been experiencing highs in the upper 70s and low-water temps in the mid-60s, which is less than ideal.”

Fluctuating water temperatures impact species differently.

“The coho and steelhead were impacted most because they’re here all summer,” he said. “They’re in the hatchery about 18 months. The Chinook and the chum are just here a short time, so they don’t struggle with the water temps. The Chinook struggle with it when they return.”

Let there be water

Harnessing water from nearby Crusher Creek and the Naselle River is essential for the hatchery, and the addition of new sediment settling ponds will provide water with less sediment and a better overall environment for raising salmon.

“We didn’t used to have the ability to settle river water,” Larson said. “Coming into the pump house it went into the old distribution box before being fed out to the ponds. With the rebuild before we put it into the distribution box, we can run it through a settling pond, thus settling a lot of heavy material before it gets into the pond. It will decrease the load on vacuuming and dirty water flowing to the fish. We can also then muck it out of there during the clean time with a tractor, which is a whole lot better than vacuuming all of the sediment out.”

A new pipeline will pull about the same amount of water.

“We don’t want to exceed our water right of 15 CFS (Cubic feet per second) and 50 CFF from the Naselle,” Larson said.

From ponds to raceways

The current half-acre rectangle-shaped ponds will be replaced with more efficient and contemporary ‘raceways,’ Larson said.

Over the years, soil settling and shifting has caused the aging half-acre ponds to sag in spots and split at some seams. Dead spots were throughout, all issues that will be addressed with the new raceway design.

“In the new facility, we’ll replace the three half-acre ponds with smaller 10x100 raceways. We’ll have 30 10x100 raceways and four 20x200 raceways,” Larson said.

“We’ll have more usable rearing space,” he said. “They’re narrow and straight, so that way the water flows through them better. The problem with the half-acres is there are a lot of dead spots. It was the technology of the late 70s.”

The new ponds are anticipated to help reduce a bacterial disease that has decimated that hatchery.

“One of our big struggles in our big ponds is botulism. In the 10x100’s we shouldn’t have that problem,” he said. “We’ll be able to keep the fish healthier which should improve our return.”

Having more space for fish in the summer will reduce stress and produce a stronger overall stock, Larson said.

“I’m most excited about producing a higher-quality fish that has an even higher survival rate. If we can have less problems in the summer, I think we can produce a better product with better returns,” he said.

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