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Federal Fish Managers Brace For Another Warm Year In The Northwest

Columbia River sockeye salmon

The summer’s early snowmelt, record temperatures and drought in the Northwest killed young hatchery fish and adult fish returning to spawn. And federal experts are expecting 2016 to be even worse for fish.

Seventy U.S. Fish & Wildlife managers passed around a microphone this week in a hotel conference room. They told scary stories about warm Northwest water. The Columbia River heated up this summer, and nearly the entire run of returning sockeye was lost.

Susan Gutenberger is a federal Fish & Wildlife manager. She said the salmon went up tributaries -- and still died.

“There were hundreds of them,” she said. “And then of course they had fungus but they also had a couple of other problems.”

Several Northwest federal fish hatcheries lost fish to disease or had to evacuate fish to other facilities. Fish experts hope for deep snowpack and predict a need to redesign hatcheries for warmer weather.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.