Building for a new salmon hatchery is well-underway and ahead of schedule for Idaho Fish and Game and its efforts to restore an entire species of Sockeye Salmon that has been on the endangered species list since the early '90s.
A once-abandoned fish hatchery in a field between Aberdeen and Blackfoot is now becoming a new home for millions of incoming Snake River sockeye salmon. This is all in part due to Doug Engemann who is heading this project, which is said to be one of Fish and Game's largest species recovery actions.
"We're moving past the genetic conservation component of the program into a bonafide stock rebuilding, stock recovery program," Fish and Game's Hatchery Manager Doug Engemann said.
The Springfield Fish Hatchery is a $13.5 million project funded by the Bonneville Power Administration after it proposed to purchase the 73-acre land space the hatchery sits upon, rich in natural resources to help sustain the growth of spawning the fish.
"To keep those fish from going extinct, we needed to keep that existing gene pool, maintain it, and minimize inbreeding using state-of-the-art genetic tools," Engemann said.
All of the work done to sustain the genetics of these salmon is done at the Eagle Fish Hatchery, where they will release about 250,000 sockeye eggs to the Springfield Hatchery for the first time come December. Engemann said the hatchery will eventually hold one million sockeye at one time.
Construction crews have been working since they broke ground in July, and Engemann said the project is ahead of schedule, estimating a 50-percent completion. Although the hatchery is not expected to be officially completed by November, project managers say the grand opening will be held in September.
But with plenty of work left to do, Engemann said he is just ecstatic for this rare opportunity to be able to help restore one endangered species back into the wild.
"We're going to have sockeye eggs – 250,000 sockeye eggs. And then a million from that point forward, assuming the brute stock is there to provide it. I just can't ask for anything more," Engemann said.
Once the fish are ready for release, the hatchery will turn them out into the Redfish Lake and the Stanley Basin where they will make the 900-mile voyage into the Pacific Ocean.
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