Snake River Sockeye Hatchery Opensby Staff
BPA Journal, October 2013
Two decades after a single male sockeye salmon dubbed Lonesome Larry returned to Idaho's Redfish Lake, the plight of the sockeye is becoming a distant memory, thanks in part to the new Springfield Fish Hatchery.
More than 140 people gathered to watch the dedication of the $13.5 million hatchery in September. Funded by BPA ratepayers, the facility will produce up to 1 million Snake River sockeye smolts each year and help BPA meet part of its obligation to mitigate the impact of federal hydropower dams on salmon and steelhead in the lower Columbia and Snake rivers.
The 73-acre facility will be operated by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. It is the next step in re-establishing a natural population of the iconic species.
"The story of the Snake River sockeye is one of perseverance. Their numbers were once so depressed by harvest, predation, habitat loss and dams that many in the scientific community declared them functionally extinct," said Lorri Bodi, vice president of BPA's Environment, Fish and Wildlife organization. "But these fish are survivors, and the state of Idaho, BPA, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and others weren't willing to give up on improving conditions for these fish. The Springfield Hatchery is just one piece of a larger effort that has proven successful in bringing back the Snake River sockeye."
The fish were listed as an endangered species in November 1991. In May of that year, the Snake River Sockeye Captive Broodstock Program was established by Idaho Department of Fish and Game, BPA, NOAA Fisheries, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The broodstock program sought to preserve the genetic diversity of the species and prevent its extinction.
In 1992, Lonesome Larry was the only male sockeye to return from the ocean to Idaho's Stanley Basin. In 1995 and again in 1997, no adult sockeye returned to the basin. But by 2010, the return reached 1,336, a number not seen since the 1950s.
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