Battling “water the color of chocolate milk,” staff and volunteers at the famed Feather River Fish Hatchery in California did their part to save as many Chinook salmon fry and federally endangered steelhead trout eggs as they could.
Hatchery manager Anna Kastner said, “Our hatchery, which rears salmon and steelhead, draws all of its water from the river. Suddenly, it was awash in liquid mud.”
Since rains began showing the unattended problems around the Oroville Dam responses from the California Department of Water Resources, which operates the tallest dam in the nation, have been to say the least less than satisfactory.
“The agency wondered if letting our fish go in the river would increase their chances of survival. Instead, we marshaled an army of volunteers and put our heads together with one goal in mind: saving the fish.”
And save the fish they did!
One of the first orders of business was to transport some six million Chinook salmon fry to another facility 10 miles away.
Maybe their biggest fear was the possibility of losing a best-ever crop of steelhead eggs harvested earlier in the year.
A plan was needed and between staffers, state fish pathologists, and veterinary minds one was gotten. Kastner recalled:
“Over the next two days, a group of very clever team members rigged together a mechanism to dechlorinate water from garden hoses. But that wasn’t sufficient to meet our needs — and time was running out. So, they next devised a larger aeration and filtration system and connected it to a fire hydrant on the property.”
All in all an amazing feat considering the circumstances, and all coordinated by the desire to keep California’s fisheries system intact. Everyone has a job in this world, and these folks did their’s more than well!
Now maybe a nice reward is in order. Hey California: how about a lifetime fishing license for these hard working and dedicated people? It would be a small price to pay for what was saved.