The Chief Joseph Hatchery Program
The Program


The Chief Joseph Hatchery Program


A New Hatchery Operating Under Hatchery Reform Principles

    The Chief Joseph Hatchery (CJH) is the fourth hatchery obligated under the Grand Coulee Dam/Dry Falls project, originating in the 1940s. Leavenworth, Entiat, and Winthrop National Fish Hatcheries were built and operated as mitigation for salmon blockage at Grand Coulee Dam, but the fourth hatchery was not built and the obligation was nearly forgotten. Planning of the hatchery began in 2001, and it received its first broodstock in 2013. The Chief Joseph Hatchery’s science and operating programs and designs are structured under integrated recommendations from the Congressional Hatchery Reform Project and recommendations from the Hatchery Science Review Group since planning began. A science-based and adaptive management approach was institutionalized at the first Steering Committee meeting. The hatchery was also subject to review under the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s (NPCC’s) 3-Step Master Plan process and from the Independent Scientific Review Panel. Accordingly, the project has defined objectives, operations, data collection protocols and analytical and reporting processes that span fish culture and research activities. The primary objective of the Chief Joseph Hatchery (CJH) program is to meet trust obligations to the Colville Confederated Tribes for ceremony, subsistence, health and cultural purposes in a manner consistent with conservation of the natural fish populations. However, the CJH will also increase harvest opportunity for all anglers throughout the Columbia River, estuary, and Ocean.  Additionally, the Colville Tribes and other salmon co-managers have worked with the mid-Columbia Public Utility Districts to meet some of their hydro-system mitigation through hatchery production at CJH. These are being implemented in a manner that restores the abundance and life history characteristics of the historical Okanogan River population of naturally-spawning salmon.  At full program the facility will rear up to 2 million summer/fall Chinook and 900,000 spring Chinook.  The summer/fall Chinook program will have an integrated component for restoration and conservation purposes that meets high standards for natural origin fish composition on the spawning grounds.  If the natural population cannot support the integrated hatchery program in a given year, then hatchery production will be reduced or eliminated to minimize effects to the natural origin spawners. The segregated program will be a “stepping stone” program, striving to only use first generation returns from the integrated program and is targeted to provide increased harvest opportunity for all user groups. The Spring Chinook program will also have two components, a segregated program at CJH and a reintroduction program in the Okanogan River.  The segregated program will originate from unlisted Leavenworth stock spring Chinook.  The reintroduction program will utilize within-ESU origin spring Chinook from the Methow River under the ESA 10j “non-essential experimental” population designation. This is consistent with the Upper Columbia Spring Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan and the NPCC’s Fish and Wildlife Program, which included considerable input from regional stakeholders and regional experts. Research, monitoring and evaluation and data analysis is coupled with advanced hatchery fish culture, facilities and operational policies and are presented at an annual program review.  This practice has been underway since 2012, and will continue to guide the future actions and plans for the CJH program.

Chief Joseph Hatchery Juvenile Release Plan (2016-2020)

Table 1.  Historical smolt release numbers from the Similkameen Pond program (pre-CJH) compared to recent and anticipated future smolt releases from the Chief Joseph Hatchery Program (which includes the Similkameen Pond program.
  Adult Salmon Return Year Smolts Released (2-3 yrs previous)
Summer Chinook Spring Chinook
Pre-CJH 1993-2015 503,647  
2016 158,267  
Post-CJH 2017 1,364,552 711,513
2018 1,497,057 731,000
2019 1,462,500 900,000
2020 1,733,000 900,000
    Before CJH began operation in 2013, there was a PUD funded program operated by WDFW in the Similkameen River that released about 500,000 Summer Chinook smolts per year (Table 1).  Juvenile salmon survival studies conducted in by the PUD lead to large reductions in that program, which is demonstrated by the very small smolt release numbers that correspond to four year old adult salmon returns in 2016 (Table 1).
    The CJH began collecting broodstock in 2013 for releases of subyearlings in 2014 and yearlings in 2015 and quickly ramped up smolt release numbers to more than two million (including spring Chinook).  This is more than a 10-fold increase in hatchery production when compared to the ‘recalculated’ Similkameen Program (Table 1).  However, the 2013 fish will not return to the Upper Columbia as harvestable adults until they are four years old in 2017.   If ocean conditions remain favorable, the future outlook for harvestable hatchery Chinook is bright for the Upper Columbia in the long term.   Unfortunately, there will not be many hatchery fish returning to the Okanogan in 2016.  The wild returns are predicted to be fairly strong so broodstock collection and natural spawning escapement should be fine.  In 2016, recreational anglers may want to concentrate efforts in areas with higher proportions of hatchery fish such as below Wells Dam and Chelan Falls.    

Supporting Program Documents

CJH 2016-2020 Juvenile Release Plan (pdf)

The Kettle Falls Fishery: Part 2

The Kettle Falls Fishery: Part 1