The Methow Hatchery is dedicated to the enhancement of natural production of spring Chinook salmon in the Methow basin. Douglas County PUD completed construction of new hatchery facilities near Winthrop, Washington in 1992. The Methow Spring Chinook Hatchery facilities include adult broodstock collection sites, a state of the art spring Chinook production hatchery, and juvenile acclimation ponds. The goal of the PUD, the fisheries agencies and tribes is to rebuild naturally spawning salmon in the Methow watershed.
The hatchery building and other structures were designed specifically to be compatible with the unique character of the Methow Valley. An Early West theme was adopted with raceways having Conestoga wagon-style covers to protect the fish from predation by birds. The coverings also shield fish from human disturbances and provide shade for the developing juveniles.
Broodstock are collected from the upper Methow and Twisp Rivers and maintained in isolation from each other in separate production areas. The program emphasizes naturally spawned broodstock. Separate incubation rooms are provided for eggs taken from each tributary to prevent the transfer of pathogens between stocks. In addition, incubating eggs are quarantined and screened for pathogens prior to hatching. Prior to release and downstream migration, the yearling fish are moved to acclimation ponds on the streams where their parents were collected.
The Methow Spring Chinook Hatchery is capable of rearing 550,000 juvenile spring Chinook salmon annually. In 2012 the spring Chinook program was adjusted to account for improvements in fish survival at the Wells Hydroelectric Project and to account for more accurate estimates of the number of juvenile fish passing through the Project. Currently the Methow Hatchery produces 164,000 juvenile spring Chinook for the Methow basin. The hatchery is operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with funding provided by Douglas PUD and Grant PUD.
The Wells Hatchery is dedicated to the production of steelhead and summer Chinook for enhancement of natural production and to provide harvest opportunities, white sturgeon for a restoration program, and trout, kokanee and land locked Chinook to provide recreational fishing opportunities in regional waters. Wells Hatchery was constructed by Douglas PUD in 1967 and is adjacent to the Wells Hydroelectric Project.
In 2012 the Douglas PUD steelhead program was adjusted to account for improvements in survival at the Wells Hydroelectric Project and to account for more accurate estimates of the number of juvenile fish passing through the Project, resulting in 8,000 steelhead to be produced to achieve no net impact (NNI). Currently, annual production at the Wells Fish Hatchery includes 408,000 yearling ESA-listed summer steelhead, 804,000 yearling and sub-yearling summer Chinook, 5,000 juvenile white sturgeon, and 20,000 pounds of trout, kokanee and land locked Chinook. The programs include steelhead conservation programs for Omak Creek and the Twisp River , and two safety-net steelhead programs that take place in the Methow and Okanogan rivers to provide additional steelhead returning adults for harvest or conservation purposes. A fifth safety-net steelhead program is operated in the Columbia River downstream of Wells Dam. This program provides fish for harvest and conservation purposes.
The summer Chinook program augments the important upper Columbia population of summer Chinook and provides substantial ocean and in-river harvest opportunities. The white sturgeon program is focused on enhancing the sturgeon population in the Columbia River upstream of Wells Dam, and the trout, kokanee and land locked Chinook programs provides excellent angling opportunities in numerous central Washington waters.
Adult summer Chinook are collected for broodstock in July, August and September. During these months adult Chinook can be seen in the hatchery holding ponds. Juvenile summer Chinook are released from the hatchery in April and May. Adult steelhead are collected for broodstock in the fall and spring, and yearlings are released in the Twisp, Methow, Okanogan, and Columbia rivers as well as into Omak Creek in April and May. Juvenile sturgeon are released into the Wells Reservoir in late spring.
The Wells Hatchery was built and funded by the Douglas County PUD. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife operates the hatchery with funding provided by Douglas PUD and Grant PUD. Grant PUD is funding the steelhead programs in the Okanogan Basin and Douglas PUD is funding the steelhead programs in the Methow Basin and Columbia River below Wells Dam.
The Wells Hydroelectric Project wildlife mitigation program is funded by the Douglas County PUD and administered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Wells Wildlife Area consists of six Habitat Management Units with a combined area of over 8,200 acres. Douglas PUD purchased 5,755 acres of land for the program and gave WDFW title to the land. Additional land is managed by leases or easements. Development of wildlife habitat and provisions for public wildlife-oriented recreation are features of this program. Douglas PUD's ongoing habitat projects on District owned land include fencing to exclude livestock from riparian areas, shoreline erosion control, new riparian shrub plantings and habitat restoration on disturbed areas.