Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Weather Outside Was Frightful!

There is an unwritten law that things will break during terrible weather, when you are short staffed, or on a Friday at 3:25.

Such was the case last Saturday when our weekend crew, Jeff and Nate, arrived to six inches of heavy snow. Now six inches of snow really doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but when you have 4 acres of overhead bird netting that needs to be shaken and far more snow to plow- in addition to taking care of 6 million fish- well, let’s just say the troops were called in. Good thing too. The problems didn’t end there.

Rob and Joe arrived and started on the snow while Jeff and Nate got on with their fish culture duties. While feeding the Chinook, Nate noticed the flow had almost stopped in one of the raceways. It was lucky raceway 13. Coincidence? I don’t think so….

This is not what you want to see...
This IS what you want to see
The flow had dropped from the usual 750 gpm (gallons per minute) to mere 100 gpm. Fortunately, the fish were doing okay. It was suspected that some of our water filtering media had broken up and gotten jammed in the valve. Usually you can break this media loose by opening and closing the valve. But this time that didn’t work.

The guys were able to install a backup pump to supply water from the adjacent raceway, pumping water from A14 to supplement the flow in A13. Both raceways had around 350 gpm each. Because of the low flows, both of these raceways off feed for the weekend. We would have to wait until Monday to take off the vacuum degasser and clear the blockage.
Help is on the way!

Alright, I know most of you can't sleep without knowing what happened on lucky raceway 13. The great news is that we got the valve cleared! It took some wrestling by our fantastic maintenance guys, Terry and Adam, to get the de-gasser off, but once that was removed, the plugged Koch rings were easy to pull out.
The culprits, plastic filter media, called Koch rings.

Surprisingly, there were only parts and pieces from about 3 Koch rings, which goes to show that it doesn't take much of a blockage to significantly restrict flows. Of course, a fair amount of moss also came out, which was likely packing the remaining space.

Great Work Team Dworshak!

Text by Angela Feldmann and Nate Wiese
Photos by Nate Wiese

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The next generation of Clearwater Chinook

The next generation of Chinook are on their way!!!!

In August we spawned adult Chinook. Their progeny have been quietly incubating in the dark, cold heath stacks here at Dworshak Fish Hatchery. Dark? Cold? I know, it doesn't sound all that pleasant, but if you are a salmon egg a nice 37 degree heath tray is a wonderful place to call home. You have oxygen rich water flowing around you at just the right volume, light is limited so eggs can develop properly, and there are NO PREDATORS! Easy living.

Our egg sorters count and separate live and dead eggs. 

After our initial egg counting, called enumeration, we hand pick any dead eggs from the incubation trays. This job is labor intensive, but it keeps fungus growth down and our eggs and rearing environment healthy. In a few short years, these tiny embryos will grow to be 10-20 pound adults.

Jeff is removing dead eggs from a heath tray. There are 5000 eggs in each tray! This year we have about 2.15 million Chinook eggs in incubation at Dworshak. The eggs are incubated in 37 degree water (F). It is chilly in the incubation room!

A tray full of healthy eggs is a beautiful sight!!!

Twins! The center egg has two embryos inside. They are probably conjoined at the yolk sack, and unfortunately they will not survive. The egg on the left is a healthy embryo. The egg on the right is an embryo that is not forming correctly; notice how tiny the eye spots are. The top egg is dead.

With good rearing and a little luck most of these tiny eggs will be released as smolts in the spring of 2015. After that they will have to fend for themselves, but some, hopefully many, will return as adults and we will start the process again. 

Photos and Text by Angela Feldmann

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dworshak Media Project: Making Dworshak "Greener"

At Dworshak Fisheries Complex  We Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!
I was walking around the facility the other day and thinking about how far Dworshak National Fisheries Complex has come in 6 years with regard to improving our environmental footprint.  In 2007 we kicked our Environmental Management Systems program into high gear.  Prior to that time we had been recycling toner cartridges from our printers, aluminum, and paper.  We had even started recycling our plastic soda and water bottles.  It was a good start!
Recently, however, we’ve had the opportunity to kick our efforts to a new level.  Probably the biggest recycling effort this facility has ever experienced occurred a few weeks ago.  Did you notice the big black pile of plastic “stuff” as you drove past us?  It was clearly visible from Riverside/Hwy 12 and several attentive people asked about it. Well, here’s the story!
A plastic Koch ring used for water treatment, USFWS
The big black “stuff” was actually plastic media called Koch rings (pronounced Coke). This media was used in reconditioning the water we used to raise fish. When the facility was constructed in 1969, it operated on a water reuse system.  In recent years the staff at Dworshak has been working with the Army Corps of Engineers to update the water treatment system.  Now the media is no longer needed.  It took 6 years before we were able to find a way to remove it AND recycle the plastic. Let me tell you it was no easy feat!
Roto-Rooter used a huge vacuum truck to the suck the media out of the filter beds. The hoses they used, and the men working on the project took a beating, but they accomplished the task in little over one month!
Roto-Rooter trucking media from filter beds, USFWS
Lewis Clark Recyclers, Inc. (LCRI) set up a cardboard bunker area for Roto-Rooter to dump the media in. When the bunker area was full, they brought in a roll-off truck with two containers to transport approximately 60 to 80 yards - think football field - of material each trip.  All the material was loaded into the container using a front-end loader.  Then the media was taken to Lewiston.  Another containment bunker was constructed around a large baler.  The media was then dumped out of the transport container into the baler.
Media staging and loading at Dworshak Fish Hatchery, USFWS
Koch rings bailed and ready to go! LCRI
By this time the material had been handled at least twice and it was becoming brittle, so once it was on the conveyor it was in smaller pieces which made baling difficult.  A typical bale must have a minimum of 5 wires holding it together, this product had between 10 and 15 bands holding it together.
After the first load shipped and was received by Denton Plastics in Portland, Oregon. The processor asked for the bales to be shrink wrapped so they could unload it from the truck more efficiently. It must have been a messy job without the shrink wrap!! 

LCRI shipped 6 loads of media to Portland, that’s little more than 200 bales and a total weight of approximately 200,000 pounds!

A load of bailed and wrapped Koch rings, LCRI

Workers at Denton Plastics ground up the material.
Ground up Koch rings, Denton Plastics
Using an extrusion process, it was mixed with a Polypropylene material and formed into little plastic pellets.
Pellets produces by Denton Plastics
The little pellets will now be sold and made into new products, such as flower pots.
I think it’s a pretty cool story.  It amazes me how hard work, creativity, and technology can turn a huge pile of one hatchery’s   “trash” into a gardener’s treasure!

By Shanna Saldecke (LCRI), Eric Fischer (Denton Plastics), Jill Olson (FWS), and Angela Feldmann (FWS)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Chinook Brood-Stock from the Clearwater River

You never know exactly what kind of fish returns you will see from year to year. Biologists make predictions based on hatchery releases and PIT tags recorded by outgoing smolts and in coming adults. This year’s run predictions were lower than average and once the Chinook started showing up at Bonniville Dam on the Lower Columbia River, the season was shaping up to be heavy on jacks (one ocean year males) marginal for the big adults we all like to catch, and the Hatcheries need for brood-stock. 

Greg Moses holds up a decent Chinook that will be used for brood-stock at Dworshak. Note the many jacks on the sorting table

Because of the lower than average returns the adult Chinook angling season was cut short on the Clearwater River; Jack fishing was pretty good though.

Jack Chinook salmon
The normal early season for Steelhead, catch and release on the North Fork Clearwater River, that opened July 1 will close early, midnight July 26th. The closure is due to the high numbers of Chinook in the North Fork that are needed for Brood-stock by Dworshak Fish Hatchery and Clearwater Fish Hatchery. 

Idaho Department of Fish and Game issued this News Release July 24th:

North Fork Clearwater Steelhead Catch-and-Release Closed
The catch-and-release fishery for steelhead in the North Fork Clearwater River downstream from the Dworshak Dam will close from midnight July 26 through midnight August 31.
Significant numbers of adult Chinook salmon in the North Fork that are required for brood stock are being caught and released by steelhead anglers. All adult Chinook now in the North Fork downstream of the hatchery trap will be needed to meet the brood-stock goal.
Dworshak Hatchery is behind schedule in acquiring Chinook brood stock, and catch-and-release related Chinook mortalities could contribute to a brood-stock shortfall.
The trapping period for spring Chinook at Dworshak will continue until the end of August.
The fall catch-and-release season on the North Fork Clearwater River will resume September 1 and remain open through October 14.
If you have questions or comments you can contact Idaho Fish and Game 208-334-3746.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Clearwater Region Chinook Salmon Update (6/26/13)

This is a message from IDF&G Regional Fisheries Manager, Joe DuPont:

Hi everybody, this is the Clearwater Region Chinook Salmon update for the week of June 17-23. 

We have decided to close down the Chinook salmon fishery on the Little Salmon.   The final harvest numbers are shown in the tables below.  As you will notice there are still fish on our harvest share, but at this point our main concern is to make brood stock needs.  We still have around 500 more adults we need to collect so we want to be on the safe side and help insure we get the fish we need.   

The Hells Canyon salmon fishery will remain open 7 days a week until further notice.  The fishing was extremely slow there last week as only 2 adults were caught.    

I know this season was not the same as we have experienced the last few years and at times seemed/was confusing and unfair.  I think, despite these issues, we should not forget that at times we experienced some incredible fishing as we documented some of the higher catch rates we have seen for some time.  Unfortunately, when we have these types of catch rates, the fishery can’t last long when the run is down.  Several people have asked me if we could meet and talk about this fishery while issues are fresh in their minds.  I think this is a great idea, and as such, would like to invite anybody who can make it to the Clearwater Hatchery near Orofino on July 18 at 6:00 PM to talk about this year’s Chinook salmon management in the Clearwater Region.  I want to make it clear that at this meeting we will not make any decisions.  This will just be an opportunity to brainstorm ideas, ask questions, and get a better feel for why we managed the Chinook season the way we did.  We will summarize what we discuss at this meeting and present it in a future e-mail as well as at the public meetings next winter where others can comment on any ideas that came forward.  For those of you who can’t make it to this meeting, you can always send (e-mail/call) me your ideas and thoughts, and I will summarize them as well for the next winters public meetings.  I hope to see some of you at this meeting.

This will about wrap it up for my weekly spring Chinook salmon updates.  Probably the only other update I will provide is when we decide to close down the Hells Canyon spring Chinook fishery.

Stay tuned for updates on other fisheries or interesting work we are up to.
Joe DuPont
Clearwater Region Fishery Manager
Idaho Department of Fish and Game