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Power loss in Oregon hatchery spells problems for fish

Chinook Salmon
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Chinook Salmon

About a million Chinook Salmon could be released at a smaller than normal size next year. That’s after a power outage at Cole Rivers fish hatchery in Jackson County means that there are no warm incubation tanks for the winter.

Without warm water, species like Chinook salmon, steelhead, and rainbow trout will not grow as big as usual this winter.

Normally, the hatchery heats the water from October through April. But in April of this year, a cable that connected the hatchery to the Lost Creek dam broke. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tried to fix the mile-long, 50-year-old cable but it was too badly damaged.

Darren Gallion is with the Army Corps of Engineers. He says that releasing the fish when they're smaller could have long-term consequences.

“We’re unsure of exactly what the effects will be,” says Gallion. “We anticipate, potentially lower survival due to smaller size. There could be some predation issues there.”

The hatchery is looking into holding the fish longer to give them more time to grow. The Army Corps is expecting to find a solution to return power to the hatchery by next year, potentially connecting with the utility company Pacific Power.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.