Council Approves Funding for Hatcheries and Fish Screens

Drum fish screens

At its May meeting, the Council approved maintenance funding for a select number of hatcheries and fish screens that are part of its Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. The funding for FY 2022 addresses non-routine maintenance at the Lake Roosevelt, Umatilla, and Eagle hatcheries, and fish screens in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

Fish screens are a critical investment for the Council’s program—there are over 1,000 screens from 18 projects across the region. The screens prevent fish from being stranded in irrigation ditches, channels, or canals when water is diverted or pumped from rivers and streams. But proper maintenance is critical to ensuring they function as intended. A key aspect to this is developing relationships with landowners.

In the Upper Salmon River Basin, “Almost 100 percent of Chinook salmon spawn on private property,” said Paddy Murphy, program coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Anadromous Fish Screen, Passage, and Habitat Program.

“A big step in getting an easement to install and maintain screens is to connect the project to farm improvements,” noted Murphy.

Tending fish screens

How many fish are saved? According to studies of bull trout in the Lemhi, entrainment rates—the percentage of fish lost from diversions—went from almost 96 percent in 2018 down to 53 percent in 2020.

“Bang for the buck, fish screens are a worthwhile investment,” said Murphy.