The Northwest Power and Conservation Council have given the green light to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation to proceed to the final design-and-construction phase for a new $37 million salmon hatchery immediately downstream from Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River. Construction of the Chief Joseph Hatchery is planned to begin in 2010.

“The Chief Joseph Hatchery will be an important tool in restoring salmon to the upper Columbia River watershed and providing new harvest opportunities for tribal and non-tribal fishers,” Council Chair Bill Booth said. “We are pleased to see this project moving ahead.”

The purpose of the hatchery is to assist in the conservation and recovery of summer/fall and spring Chinook salmon in the Okanagon River Basin and the Columbia River between the Okanagon River and Chief Joseph Dam. Eggs will be gathered from Okanagon River salmon and propagated at the hatchery, and the resulting juvenile fish will be released into six acclimation ponds that have access to the Okanagon River. Four of those ponds already exist, and the other two will be built. Salmon will also be released directly from the hatchery into the Columbia River. Over time, the hatchery production and outplanting should rebuild naturally spawning salmon runs and provide new opportunities for salmon harvest. The hatchery will produce up to 2.9 million smolts per year.

The hatchery will be financed by the Bonneville Power Administration through the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, which is designed to address the impacts of hydropower dams on fish and wildlife. Bonneville sells the electricity generated at Chief Joseph Dam and other federal dams in the Columbia River Basin.

The cost to Bonneville could be offset partially with funding provided by the three mid-Columbia public utility districts, Douglas, Chelan, and Grant, which operate a total of five dams on the Columbia downstream from Chief Joseph Dam. The public utilities have mitigation responsibilities as part of their federal dam-operating licenses, and by participating in the Chief Joseph Hatchery the utilities could meet some of their mitigation obligations.

The Chief Joseph Hatchery project has been in the Council’s program since 2001. Since then, the Colville Tribes have taken the project through the planning and initial-design phases and received favorable reviews from the Independent Scientific Review Panel, a group of 11 independent scientists that reviews all projects proposed for funding through the Council’s program. The new hatchery will be operated consistent with guidelines recommended by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group, a committee of scientists that recently completed a review of all salmon and steelhead hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin at the request of the U.S. Congress.