After releasing around 10,000 coho salmon fry into an unnamed tributary of Salmon Creek, property owner Jim Orander says he’ll be lucky if he sees five come back three years from now. But that’s the point.
On March 24, Jim and his wife, Barbara, welcomed 45 fourth-grade students from Hockinson Intermediate School to help release the 60-day-old fry. Their ultimate goal is to raise awareness of the salmon’s environment, life cycle and the immense odds stacked against them.
The Oranders and students are participants of the Salmon in the Classroom program, which sends salmon eggs to local schools and property owners in late winter. After raising the eggs for 60 to 90 days, the fish are released into streams to start their voyage to the Pacific Ocean.
Class teacher Renee Fern said her class has participated for the last six years. Their specialized salmon tank now sits in a hallway instead of in the classroom — partly because it is loud, and partly because it gives more students a chance to observe the developing fish.
“What they (the students) learn and know about, they’ll appreciate,” Fern said. “What they appreciate, they’re more likely to protect.”
The program, founded by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in 1991, is managed by Columbia Springs and funded by Clark Public Utilities.
Laura Nappi, from Columbia Springs, hosted a station where students learned about invertebrates living in the streams. The Clark Public Utilities team taught students a “salmon life cycle game” to show the numerous challenges the fish must go through to return to their spawning grounds.
Although the program serves as an educational experience for students, Orander has ulterior motives.
“I’m not a tree-hugger by any means, but I would like the see the fish return to my creek,” Orander said.