A $13.5 million fish hatchery near the American Falls Reservoir in Eastern Idaho is scheduled to open Friday, Sept. 6, according to the Twin Falls Times-News
. Idaho fish biologists hope it will help restore the population of endangered sockeye salmon.
The Springfield Hatchery comes after two decades of efforts by state, tribal and federal fisheries experts to prevent the extinction of the fish. Friday’s opening will include a formal dedication of the facility.
Biologists project the hatchery will be capable of producing 1 million juvenile sockeye every year. The fish will then be released into the lakes of the Sawtooth Valley in Central Idaho.
The first batch of sockeye smolts is slated for release by 2015. Biologists hope to see 10,000 sockeye return to Idaho rivers and spawning areas by 2019. This means more fish can be allotted to fishermen. If 10,000 fish return, anglers could possibly be allowed to catch up to 5,000 “surplus” fish in the Sawtooth lakes and rivers.
Fish biologists intend to take their time with the recovery, to prevent weakened genetics from inbreeding.
In the late 1800s, so many thousands of fish returned to Redfish Lake every year that a cannery was proposed—a stark difference from the sole sockeye salmon to return in 1992, dubbed Lonesome Larry. Dams built along the river system have caused those numbers to plummet over the past 40 years.
To date this year 185 fish have returned with about a month of migration left.