US Army Corps of Engineers selects Yakama Nation in chinook salmon hatchery contract shift

Published on
September 15, 2023
Army Corps of Engineers selects Yakama Nation for chinook salmon release

UPDATE: This story has been updated with a clarification from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to award a contract to the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation for the annual release of nearly 2 million chinook salmon in the U.S. state of Washington.

The annual release is part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to mitigate the effects of two dams on the Columbia River, which NOAA Fisheries has determined jeopardize the continued existence of fish species listed under the U.S.  Endangered Species Act.

An Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson told SeafoodSource that the contract is a renewal of the government's agreement with Prosser Hatchery. According to the government, the only facility that can handle the move is the Prosser Hatchery, owned and operated by the Yakama Nation. Prosser Hatchery is located on the Yakima River, which feeds into the Columbia River. The tribes have been stocking the hatchery to help restore chinook salmon runs in the Yakima River Basin since the 1980s.

Under the plan, the Army Corps of Engineers will move 1.7 million upriver bright fall chinook juveniles from Little White Salmon Hatchery to Prosser Hatchery for acclimation and release every year. Another 210,000 yearling upriver bright fall chinook juveniles from Bonneville Hatchery will also be taken to Prosser Hatchery for acclimation and release.

In March, Washington estimated 272,400 fish would return to the upper Columbia River as part of the fall chinook run, an increase over the 254,880 that returned in 2022.

“We’re considering several options to improve the predictability of fall chinook fisheries and limit the in-season closures we've seen in the past several years,” WDFW Columbia River Fisheries Manager Ryan Lothrop said.

In May, the U.S. Department of Commerce allocated USD 3.8 million (EUR 3.5 million) in relief funding to Washington after it determined a fishery disaster took place in the 2019 Columbia River, Willapa Bay, and Puget Sound salmon fisheries.

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to issue a sole source contract to the Yakama Nation. Other contractors have until 27 September to submit capability statements to the government to challenge the sole source contract.

In December 2022, NOAA Fisheries recommended up to USD 4.8 million (EUR 4.5 million) over three years to remove fish barriers along the Yakima River. The first project would remove two dams on Snake Creek. A proposal to remove dams from Snake Creek and Columbia River was rejected by the federal government in 2020.

The second project would remove a causeway at the confluence of the Yakima and Columbia Rivers. The Army Corps of Engineers released a draft report in January considering options for addressing the issues caused by the causeway, which blocks the water flow and can stunt the efforts of salmon to continue upriver.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Victoria Ditkovsky

Associate Editor

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