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Construction Begins On New $16 Million Yakama Nation Coho Supplementation Hatchery
Posted on Thursday, August 30, 2018 (PST)

Less than a month after a scientific review of its coho salmon master plan, the Yakama Nation broke ground on the Melvin R. Sampson Hatchery last week, which will eventually produce up to 700,000 coho smolts each year for release into the Yakima River.


Construction will be completed within 12 to 15 months.


The new hatchery, named after the Yakama Nation tribal elder, former tribal chairman and program director for the Yakama Nation Fisheries, is being built at a cost of $16 million using funds from the original Columbia Basin Fish Accords, according to Mark Johnston, a research scientist with the Yakama Nation Fisheries.


The Accords, which expire at the end of September and have not been renewed, are funded by the Bonneville Power Administration. They will also pay for operation and maintenance at the project once it is finished.


The 10-year Accords (\) were signed in 2009 by BPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and three of the four lower Columbia River tribes – the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon,


The Yakama Nation celebrated construction of the Melvin R. Sampson Hatchery facility with a groundbreaking Aug. 22 in Ellensburg, Wash. Standing by were tribal members as well as Bonneville Power Administration deputy administrator Dan James.


“Bonneville believes in this project in part because it truly represents an important expression of sovereignty of the Yakama People and that is your fishing rights,” he said, according to an Aug. 27 article in Ellensburg’s Daily Record newspaper. “We are proud to stand with you and move forward on this project.”


James said BPA was proud to have been able to help the tribe work through the process of approval for the project.


“That is a herculean effort for those of you who understand how hard it is to actually build something that’s important,” he said. “We truly understand that this was a partnership and will continue to be as we move forward. We look forward to being here when this opens.”


In responding to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and the Independent Scientific Review Panel, the panel of scientists that had reviewed the Nation’s master plan for the facility, it said that there are actually two coho programs. One is a lower Yakima segregated program with a primary objective of contributing fish to harvest, and the other is an upper Yakima integrated program, or supplementation program, with dual objectives of contributing to harvest as well as to natural stock restoration in the upper watersheds.


(See CBB, August 10, 2018, “Scientists Review Yakama Nation Master Plan For Coho Salmon Reintroduction, Supplementation,”


The segregated coho program will continue to be operated at Prosser Hatchery and have an on-station smolt release goal of 500,000 fish, the Nation said in its response to the Council. The integrated coho program will be operated at the new Melvin R. Sampson Hatchery.


The Sampson hatchery is a supplementation hatchery, Johnston said. There are coho in the Yakima River now.


“The Yakama Nation started reintroduction in early 90's with out-of-basin coho,” he said. “The Yakama Nation will now go with in-basin fish returning from those earlier releases and eventually move to wild fish for broodstock once a large enough wild escapement is established. This will leave all hatchery fish (one generation) to spawn in the wild, which their offspring would be considered wild.”


According to the master plan, this would be phase 3 of the integrated program. Phase 3’s objectives are to increase the number of coho spawning naturally in upper watershed tributaries and to increase the proportion of natural-origin returns used for broodstock, a phase that the Yakama Nation expects to last about six years (two generations), which will allow substantial colonization of tributaries and increase 3 natural-origin returns.


Phase 4 of the program will use 100 percent natural-origin fish in the broodstock while hatchery-origin spawners (most of which will be from localized parr releases) should demonstrate increasing local adaptation, the master plan says.


Beginning in Phase 4, all escaping fish will be allowed to return to the spawning grounds, as a major objective of this program is natural stock restoration, and all returning fish will either be the progeny of fish that spawned in the wild, or crosses of natural-origin fish at the MRS Hatchery, the master plan says.


Early on all of the Kittitas Valley was irrigated by flood irrigating, which required check structures in the streams to get the water up to the fields, Johnston explained. That prevented fish from getting to streams to spawn.


“Now, over a third of the valley is on sprinkler systems which allows the check structure to be removed and this allows coho back into those streams/their historic range,” he said.


Returning adult coho salmon will be collected at the base of Roza Dam on the Yakima River and trucked to the hatchery. Johnston described the Yakima River as historically one of the largest salmon producers outside of the Snake River.


Fish bypass and top spill will help migrating juveniles find their way downstream, he said.


The Yakama Nation purchased the 70-acre plot of land where it is building the hatchery in 2005. The hatchery itself will occupy about one acre. The remaining land will be restored to native riparian habitat.


Also see:


--CBB, August 17, 2018, “Report Summarizes Tribes’ Work, Results From 10 Years Of Columbia River Fish Accords,”


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