ITD efforts help salmon return to the Lochsa River
The north-central Idaho crew along the Lochsa River continues to clear out routes, such as Elk Summit Road near Powell, critical to the management of fish populations in the area.
Tony Folsom, a fish hatchery manager with Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG), said Elk Summit Road provides access to ponds used to ensure the Lochsa River continues to be home to salmon for generations to come.
“The dams downriver have cut down on salmon runs,” said Folsom, who runs the Clearwater Fish Hatchery in Orofino. “We’re a mitigation hatchery.”
ITD clears out the road in late February so that biologists can use the facility and ponds to capture and release salmon. In March, young salmon ready to journey to the ocean, known as smolts, are transported via truck from the hatchery in Orofino and then temporarily stored in the juvenile pond, Folsom said.
“Smolts are held in the juvenile pond for five to six hours so that they imprint on the water source and chemistry before they are released,” Folsom said.
Folsom said allowing time for the fish to imprint means that when they travel back from the ocean, the salmon will return to this area. IDFG also has a weir (a small, low dame that creates a physical barrier to the water flow) in the same location to capture fish ready to spawn so that eggs may be harvested and raised in Orofino, beginning the cycle anew.
Every year, IDFG releases 600,000 salmon from this pond alone, Folsom said.
Foreman Mark Schuster said ITD has plowed out this road since the facility was first built in the 1990s. This year between storms, several Transportation Techs tag-teamed snow removal and found snow up to five feet deep in some spots.
Pictured, left to right: Eric Nelson, Ron Moss, Kevin Allen, Jon Kleppel.
“This is another example of the importance of roadways in Idaho and their maintenance, especially in a state that values fishing,” Schuster said.