State finds replacements for suffocated hatchery coho

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SKAMOKAWA, Wash. — State fishery managers have replaced more than two-thirds of the 600,000 coho salmon fry lost in early January when a water supply line failed in a heavy rain storm at Grays River Hatchery in Wahkiakum County.

Cindy LeFleur, regional fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said 90,000 excess coho eggs have been received from Cascade Hatchery, operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife near Bonneville Dam.

Those coho add to the 351,000 coho eggs from Eagle Creek Hatchery, operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Estacada, Ore.

Jim Scott, an assistant director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said he is optimistic the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can supply enough additional coho eggs or fry to replace all the fish lost in the water-line failure.

A supply line that runs water to the hatchery from a nearby creek was damaged on Jan. 9 and the alarm system designed to alert hatchery staff failed, suffocating the fish due to lack of water.

Scott said Grays River Hatchery was built in 1960 and often has problems during high water.

LeFleur said the coho eggs will be transferred eventually to net pens in Deep River and released as smolts in 2016.

The hatchery also rears chinook, chum and winter steelhead, none of which were affected by the water line failure, she said.