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11/28/2012 12:42:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Scientists want cash for fish study

By Michelle Lovato Chelan Mirror

A group of scientists asked PUD commissioners for $375,000 to study the life cycle of the Chinook Salmon at Chelan Falls Fish Hatchery and the Dryden acclimation ponds, at the Chelan County PUD Commission meeting Nov. 19.

The three-year-long study, requested by the Chelan PUD and proposed by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, is intended to "develop biologically-based growth regimes and size targets for mid-Columbia River hatchery summer Chinook salmon reared at Dryden and Chelan Falls acclimation ponds."

Scientists will determine proper salmon "loading densities" at the Dryden ponds, research growth regimes and help out future planning efforts at the hatchery.

Chelan County PUD Senior Fish Biologist Josh Murauskas said that knowing how many fish of a specific weight in the same volume of water at one time is important because increasing evidence shows that when hatchery smolts are significantly bigger than wild fish, it affects survival and growth.

"If hatchery smolts are healthier and have greater survival rates, that increases the likelihood that the adult salmon return as older and larger fish, which is great for both fisherman and conservation," Murauskas said. "That's why Chelan PUD is seeking an expert, science-based opinion on size targets for the summer Chinook hatchery program."

The proposed study by experts at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) in Seattle will research various factors affecting the current size target of 10 fish per pound for the PUD's summer Chinook salmon, he said.

Dryden and Chelan Falls are both "acclimation" facilities, which means they are rearing ponds where hatchery fish are raised to "imprint" on the local water so they will return there as adults.

"Chelan PUD has the annual responsibility under agreements with state and federal agencies and tribes (our Habitat Conservation Programs) to raise 318,000 summer Chinook at Dryden to return to the Wenatchee River as adults and 576,000 summer Chinook at Chelan Falls to return up the Columbia to the Chelan River," Murauskas said.

PUD staff members said NOAA and NWFSC firm was best qualified to perform the PUD-required study.

The study costs will be shared by the Chelan County and Grant County PUDs.

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