Tribes celebrate opening of $50M fish hatchery


The Spokesman-Review

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation will celebrate the opening of a $50 million salmon hatchery Thursday on the Columbia River.

The Chief Joseph Hatchery will raise chinook salmon for subsistence tribal fishing and non-native sport fishing in the nearby towns of Bridgeport and Brewster. The hatchery is adjacent to Chief Joseph Dam, which is as far north as salmon can swim up the main stem Columbia.

Each year, the hatchery will release up to 2.9 million salmon smolts, which will swim 500 miles downstream to the ocean. A certain percentage will return as adult fish that can be harvested.

John Sirois, chairman of the Colville Tribes, hailed the hatchery as a testimony to the “meaningful work” that can occur when federal, tribal and state governments cooperate on river restoration. In 2008, federal agencies responsible for salmon in the Columbia Basin signed agreements with the tribes and the states, pledging greater cooperation as well as additional funding for salmon projects over 10 years. The completed hatchery is due in part to that accord.

The hatchery will help mitigate for the construction of Grand Coulee Dam, which was built without fish ladders. When the dam opened in 1941, it cut off salmon runs to the upper third of the Columbia Basin. Grand Coulee also flooded Kettle Falls, where one of the Northwest’s most prolific salmon fisheries had flourished for 10,000 years.

The hatchery is located on State Park Golf Course Road east of State Route 17.