Construction of a $16.4 million project to renovate the Puyallup Fish Hatchery began this month after years of planning.
The project benefits the Puyallup River basin and Puget Sound, according to Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officials.
“This (project) is critical for us in terms of providing harvest opportunity up and down the coast of Washington, and as we have that conversation about orca and our commitments to addressing the issues surrounding Puget Sound and meeting the needs of orca,” WDFW regional director Larry Phillips said earlier this month.
Orcas in Puget Sound have been listed as endangered since 2005 and “essentially are starving, as their primary prey, the Chinook salmon, are dying off,” according to an article recently published by the New York Times.
Most of the ponds at the Puyallup hatchery were built in 1948 and are in poor condition, according to the 2017-2019 capital budget request by WDFW. They’ll be demolished, and four new round ponds for trout and 100-foot raceways for salmon will take their places.
“The new hatchery design meets the tribal request for increased Chinook, coho and steelhead production and allows for a reduced level of trout production to continue at this hatchery,” according to the request.
The project includes construction of an incubation room, rearing ponds, a pollution-abatement pond, bird exclusion features and various support buildings. The hatchery building itself, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, will be renovated on the inside but will receive only minor restoration on the outside, maintaining its historic look.
Once completed, the project will allow the hatchery to increase its anadromous fish production in the Puyallup River basin by 200,000 steelhead, 300,000 coho and 800,000 spring Chinook salmon, in addition to 50,000 rainbow trout. Currently, the facility’s main focus is the production of rainbow trout.
Elected officials and others gathered at the hatchery at 1416 14th St. SW in Puyallup to celebrate the groundbreaking on July 18.
“The hatchery served us well for a long time, but it’s exciting that all the folks here today have been successful at convincing those that make the decisions ... that this is a solid investment,” Phillips said. “This is going to help us meet our conservation objectives and also provide for recreational and commercial and tribal fisheries in the future.”
Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup and state Rep. Melanie Stambaugh, R-Puyallup, spoke at the ceremony and were thanked for helping secure the $16.4 million.
“I believe that this hatchery and the funding that will go toward improvements will leave a legacy,” Stambaugh said.
Stantec designed the project, and construction will be done by Prospect Construction. The work is expected to be finished in October 2019.
“It’s a celebration for life, it’s a celebration for ... thinking of the future, thinking of fish,” Puyallup Tribe of Indians Council Chairman Bill Sterud said. “This is our future, this is for the kids. They’re going to have salmon to see, salmon to catch.”