Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Creepy Tunnels and Haunted Towers

            When I first visited Dworshak two things immediately came to my mind.  First, I’d hate to be the guy who has to clean all those ponds!  Second, the infrastructure of this place is absolutely mind boggling.  In regard to my first thought, it turns out that I have the great pleasure of helping clean all those ponds *sigh*.  On the second, it turns out that the infrastructure is in fact mind boggling. 
There are tunnels and chambers everywhere housing wiring and water lines which riddle this place like the old windows screen saver, the one where the pipes fill the entire screen.  Some carry reservoir water, some river water, some domestic water, some heated water, some fire suppression.  And that’s the easy to follow lines (on second thought, no they aren’t, they are ridiculously hard to follow).  The out-going water lines go so many different directions to so many different destinations it could take my whole career to get a grasp on it all.
Mixed into this mishmash of pipes are the towers, an elaborate network designed to add oxygen to the system and remove undesirable gas through filtered cascades and vacuum pumps! 

In the spirit of Halloween, I ponder for you.  We’ve all heard the stories of workers buried in the works when the dams were constructed.  Could there be spirits in these towers, where the sound of water trickling can make the eeriest of noises; or in the tunnels surrounded by tons of concrete, deep underground?  Do fish have ghosts? Rumors tell of an ill-fated Norse venture up the Clearwater.  Some say their spirits walk here, lurking in the towers, poised to exact some deranged revenge on the unsuspecting.  Of course we can’t forget the hounds of the Clearwater, or the Ahsahka boogeyman *evil cackle*.
OK, I admit it.  I made the ghost stuff up.  But it doesn’t make tunnels deep in the ground, covered by spider webs and enhanced by dripping water and flickering light bulbs any less creepy.  And, at night, alone, near the towers and their strange water noises, one could actually believe they were haunted, even though they are not.  And with that last thought I say…
Happy Halloween!

Text and Photos by Jeremy Sommer

Monday, October 15, 2012

Clearwater River Chinook Salmon: Working Together for a Common Goal

A fish hatchery is always a busy place and obstacles are common. Clean water, obviously the main ingredient for successful fish culture, is constantly monitored for oxygen, nitrogen, and proper flow. But what happens when the water source that the hatchery depends on is compromised?

The answer: collaborate and adapt- quickly!

Clearwater State Fish Hatchery/IDFG
On August 15th the main water line from Dworshak Dam to Clearwater Hatchery was damaged. The water line needed to be shut down in order to investigate and repair the damage. Because of the location of the intake pipe and uncertainty to the extent of the damage a ROV (remotely operated vehicle) was sent down the face of the dam to assess the damage and determine if both the main and secondary water lines would need to be shut down.

Clearwater's pipeline runs down the right side of the dam.

This left Clearwater Hatchery, our neighbors across the river, in short water supply. Fortunately, only the main waterline was damaged and the secondary pipeline was intact. But without the main they would not have enough water to supply all their outdoor rearing ponds. It became clear that in order to save the fish Clearwater would need to find some water.

Since Dworshak National Fish Hatchery is right across the river from Clearwater it was the logical place for a solution.

Both hatcheries can share reservoir water, but most of Dworshak’s water comes from the North Fork Clearwater River, about a mile below the Dam. The river water comes with its share of problems- the biggest is IHNV, a virus that can be deadly to steelhead. This is why Clearwater uses disease free reservoir water as its sole water source. Pumping river water to Clearwater Hatchery was not an option, but moving their fish to Dworshak was. So it was decided that Clearwater Fish Hatchery would move all of their 2011 Spring Chinook salmon over to the Burrow’s ponds at Dworshak.
IDFG employees doing maintenance on the primary water intake

Planning and preparing for the fish move was tough and took a lot of teamwork. With help from the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Lower Snake River Compensation Program, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Army Corps of Engineers, we were able to prepare 25 Burrow’s ponds, improve our waste water system to accommodate the additional fish, and move 2.5 million juvenile Spring Chinook over in less than two weeks.

Clearwater spring Chinook salmon

A little over a month has gone by since the fish move and fish and staff are adjusting to the new routine. Clearwater’s Chinook will remain here until their release next spring. Now Clearwater can safely shutdown and repair their main waterline without losing any fish.

It is all about rearing healthy fish at our hatcheries and we are so glad that the quick action and cooperation between state, federal, and tribal agencies gave this story a happy ending.