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Clogged intake pipe kills 400,000 spring chinook at Rock Creek Hatchery

ROSEBURG — A fish carcass clogged an intake pipe at Rock Creek Hatchery, shutting off the flow of water to a raceway, killing 400,000 spring chinook pre-smolts, according to a news release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The fish were to have been released directly from the hatchery into the North Umpqua River next spring.

Dan Meyer, Rock Creek Hatchery manager, said the water flow didn’t drop low enough to trigger an alarm, the release said.

An employee discovered the problem within an hour, but with the water temperature in the raceway at about 68 degrees and no fresh water coming in, it was too late to salvage any live fish, ODFW said.

“We have a new intake and a new emergency valve we can open. If power to the screens is out, water to the hatchery is severed, and the emergency valve will get water to fish. It was opened for short time during a power outage a few months ago when the emergency generator failed, and we think the carcass may have gotten into the water line then,” Meyer said.

Anglers will see the impact of the fish kill predominately in the 2018 returns and to some degree 2017 and 2019, ODFW said.

The agency is looking at possible options for this fishery, and hatchery staff are refining the new alarm system testing and protocol, the release said.