Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery confirmed that they did not lose a single fish during the flood two weeks ago.
John “JJ” Swennumson, a specialist at the hatchery said that while there was a decent amount of mud and sand, not much damage was brought to the facility itself. The hatchery is the most visited of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hatcheries, according to its website. Swennumson said staff has been in “cleanup mode” since the phase four flooding began on Feb. 6.
“We anticipate cleanup will take months,” Swennumson said in an email. “Even before the flood occurred, there was a large accumulation of sand and debris in the ponds and raceways from previous, yet lesser storms. So, after this past storm, we’re in a very difficult situation.”
He said a lack of time and people impacts the Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery’s (FISH) ability to clean and care for the hatchery.
“We’re already shorthanded many days, so an event such as this only magnifies the lack of experienced help and hours in the day to complete tasks even with help,” Swennumson said.
The cleanup consists of vacuuming the several tons of sand from the salmon’s raceways. Staff are also using high pressure fire hoses to blast mud from the structures, sidewalks and roads of the facility, according to Swennumson.
“The fish and structure of the facility made it through relatively undamaged, other than a small piece of fence at our upper intake structure. However, we have piles of sand in each raceway that need to be removed,” Swennumson said. “Some ponds and or raceways have so much sand in them that the flow of water was being impeded. We were able to remove enough to keep water flowing, and oxygenated water to the fish.”
Other staff members at FISH told Swennumson that this flood was slightly worse than the last flood of this nature in 2009.
Previous coverage from the Reporter has highlighted the at-risk nature of salmon in Issaquah, due to climate change. In a January 2019 article from the Reporter, it was noted that In Lake Sammamish about 100 kokanee returned to spawn in 2019, significantly higher than the 19 seen in 2018, but still much lower than levels that would indicate a healthy population.
The article reported that Kokanee, a freshwater variety of sockeye, have roughly three-year reproductive cycles, and some 230,000 kokanee fry entered the lake in 2016. Of the multitude that went into the lake, only about 100 returned, in line with the county’s worst-case scenarios.