On June 21, 2004 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Wells Hydroelectric Project. The HCP commits Douglas PUD to a 50-year program to ensure the Wells Project has “no net impact” on salmon and steelhead. The no-net-impact goal means the project will be virtually invisible to salmon and steelhead migrating past the dams. This is accomplished through a combination of project survival enhancements, off-site hatchery programs and habitat restoration work in the Mid-Columbia tributary streams. The agreement guarantees continued generation of affordable power for the continued long-term benefit of Northwest citizens.
Dedicated to the enhancement of natural production of spring Chinook salmon in the Methow basin, Douglas County PUD in 1992 completed construction of new hatchery facilities near Winthrop, Washington. The Methow Spring Chinook Hatchery facilities include adult broodstock collection sites and juvenile acclimation ponds. The goal of the PUD, the fisheries agencies and tribes is to rebuild naturally spawning salmon in the Methow watershed.
Broodstock is collected from the upper Methow, Twisp and Chewuch Rivers and isolated from each other in separate production areas. The program emphasizes naturally spawned broodstock. Separate incubation rooms are provided for eggs taken from each tributary to prevent the transfer of pathogens between stocks. In addition, screening for viruses prior to hatching is achieved by quarantining the incubating eggs. Prior to downstream migration, the yearling fish are moved to acclimation ponds on the streams where their parents were collected.
The hatchery building and other structures were designed specifically to be compatible with the unique character of the Methow Valley. An Early West theme was adopted with raceways having conestoga-style covers to protect the fish from predation by birds. The coverings shield fish from human disturbances and provide shade for the developing juveniles.
The Methow Spring Chinook Hatchery is capable of rearing 550,000 spring Chinook salmon annually; up to 183,000 for each of the three acclimation ponds. The hatchery is operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with funding provided by Douglas PUD and the Wells Project Power Purchasers. The approximate capital cost of the hatchery was $10 million, and the annual operating costs exceed $1,241,000.
The fish hatchery facilities at Wells Dam were built and are funded by the Douglas County PUD. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the operating agency. Approximately 1,300,000 juvenile salmon and steelhead are released annually in the Columbia River and tributaries above Wells Dam. Total operating costs exceed $1,135,000 annually. The Wells Hatchery is dedicated to the enhancement of the important summer Chinook salmon stocks. Adult summer Chinook are collected for broodstock in July, August and September. During these months adult Chinook can be seen in the hatchery holding ponds. Juvenile summer Chinook are released from the hatchery in April, May and June. The Wells steelhead program is one of many outstanding hatchery programs funded by the District. Annually this program releases 350,000 juvenile steelhead into the tributaries above Wells Dam.
The Wells Hydroelectric Project wildlife mitigation program is funded by the Douglas County PUD and administered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Wells Wildlife Area consists of six Habitat Management Units with a combined area of over 8,200 acres. Douglas PUD purchased 5,755 acres of land for the program and gave WDFW title to the land. Additional land is managed by leases or easements. Development of wildlife habitat and provisions for public wildlife-oriented recreation are features of this program. Douglas PUD's ongoing habitat projects on District owned land include fencing to exclude livestock from riparian areas, shoreline erosion control, new riparian shrub plantings and habitat restoration on disturbed areas.
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