Gulkana Hatchery Survives Flood, Faces Major Work

A state-owned fish hatchery that contributes thousands of
sockeye salmon annually to the famed Copper River salmon fishery survived
recent flooding of the East Fork Gulkana River that swept millions of yards of
material away.  That rock and gravel are
critical not only to the Gulkana Hatchery, which is leased to and managed by
the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp., but to the Richardson Highway, the
access road to the hatchery.

Hatchery manager Gary Martinek, a former Alaska Department
of Fish and Game employee who has been with the hatchery since 1980, says the
hatchery will recovery, but it will be different.  Meanwhile, says Martinek, it’s a matter of
rolling with the punches, and getting a plan and permits in place for site
restoration, to include repair of damage to the hatchery and the road.

Last week Martinek was busy working with a salmon
restoration hydrologist from Washington State, who assessed the damage and is
now writing a report. PWSAC officials are working with the Alaska Department of
Fish and Game and the Alaska Department of Transportation to get permits
completed and approved so the restoration work can begin.

The flooding in June came as a result of a very high
snowfall, late snow in April and May, coupled with very cold temperatures that
deepened snow packs, and then very warm spring temperatures that brought rapid

In part because of extensive growth of willow and alder over
the past two decades that have encroached on the river, the East Fork Gulkana
River redirected itself, and Martinek said that one of the hydrologist’s
suggestions was that the river be redirected back to its old route by removing
much of the vegetation growth.

Meanwhile, Martinek said hatchery workers are moving quickly
to get incubators cleaned on time for the season’s first egg take, and that
he’s optimistic that the necessary work will be completed.