Issaquah Salmon Hatchery history is focus of 75th anniversary program
July 17, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
The iconic Issaquah Salmon Hatchery is celebrating 75 years, and to mark the occasion, the Issaquah History Museums is educating residents about the downtown facility — a lifesaver for countless salmon since the 1930s.
Conservationists and longtime Issaquah residents credit the hatchery for restoring the historic Issaquah Creek salmon runs after decades of logging and mining damaged the creek and surrounding watershed.
The program is among a series of events to commemorate the 1937 hatchery opening.
Jane Kuechle, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery executive director, plans to offer attendees a glimpse at the hatchery from throughout the decades.
“It’ll be a past, present, future kind of presentation,” said Laile Di Silvestro, Issaquah History Museums program coordinator.
In 1936, Works Progress Administration crews started to build the hatchery complex on a former city park and bandstand.
The hatchery opened the next year and, in the meantime, the public works projects completed by the Works Progress Administration offered jobs amid the Great Depression.
The original salmon stocks for the hatchery originated in the Green River. Early hatchery crews spawned chinook and coho salmon, plus steelhead.
If you go
Issaquah History Museums’ Issaquah Salmon Hatchery presentation
The hatchery concentrates chinook and coho nowadays, and serves a key role in a program to restore the dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon population.
In the 1970s, as the Issaquah Labor Day celebration morphed into the Salmon Days Festival, the hatchery served as a focal point during the festivities.
But state budget cuts in the early 1990s threatened the hatchery. FISH formed to preserve the facility as state officials eyed the hatchery for closure.
The nonprofit organization is dedicated to the preservation of the historic hatchery. Through educational programs in school classrooms and at the hatchery, FISH educates the community about the salmon lifecycle and inspires stewardship of the Puget Sound watershed.
FISH also salvaged the Salmon in the Classroom program for schools in the Issaquah School District after the state scuttled funding for the program amid 2010 budget cuts.
Nowadays, about 350,000 visitors trek to the hatchery each year for FISH-led tours and other activities.
The future for the hatchery includes plans to add boulder weirs to Issaquah Creek and demolish a dam upstream from the facility.
The aging dam blocks adult salmon attempting to migrate upstream to spawn. The fish, marooned on the structure, die in large numbers on a shelf-like apron each year.
In April, Gov. Chris Gregoire approved $4 million for the project. Construction could start as early as next spring.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.