Wednesday, November 10, 2010

1,000 steelhead die on Clearwater

Maintenance snafu kills hatchery, wild fish

Express Staff Writer

About 1,000 steelhead trout died at the Dworshak Dam on the North Fork of the Clearwater River in northern Idaho on Wednesday and Thursday after being trapped by a routine maintenance project.

The trapped steelhead were discovered around noon Wednesday when a generator was taken out of service and its draft tube drained to allow access for routine maintenance. According to Army Corps of Engineers officials, staff immediately reacted in an attempt to save the fish that were still alive.

Crews managed to save about 511 fish. The majority of the 1,000 steelhead that died were of hatchery origin, but some were wild steelhead protected under federal law.

The dead fish were donated to the Idaho Correctional Institution in Orofino and to local food banks, which provided three workers to help filet and store them for future consumption. Neither the public nor Army Corps employees will receive any of the fish for their own use.

Ed Mitchell, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the incident was unlikely to affect next year's steelhead runs.

As most of the fish were hatchery fish, it is also unlikely that it will impact overall wild steelhead recovery, he said.

The accident comes on the heels of a decision in September to kill tens of thousands of steelhead that had contracted a virus at the Dworshak hatchery.

Katherine Wutz:

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