Darigold donates water for Lake Sammamish kokanee

November 6, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Darigold joined the effort in recent weeks to preserve dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery announced Oct. 26.

The downtown Issaquah dairy is donating water from a well to the Lower Issaquah Valley Aquifer for the hatchery to use in the ongoing effort to restore kokanee. The contribution from Darigold should save the hatchery about $50,000 over the program’s anticipated lifespan through 2021.

Experts said the Darigold water is ideal for kokanee due to consistent quality and temperature. Using the water allows hatchery teams to prevent the fish from imprinting on Issaquah Creek water, and instead allows fry to imprint on Ebright, Laughing Jacobs and Lewis creeks.

Hatchery workers adjust the water temperature to alter the otolith — a tiny bone inside the ear — to later determine if mature fish came from the supplementation program.

In the program, experts deploy along creek banks throughout the season to collect fish in creeks near the lake and spawn the salmon at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. Then, hatchery employees and FISH members spawn the fish and tend to the eggs until tiny fry can be released into local creeks.

The kokanee program includes the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, King County and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The local Trout Unlimited chapter is another important participant in the effort.

In recent years, the number of salmon in the late-fall and early-winter kokanee run has dwindled to fewer than 1,000 in some seasons. The fish return to only a handful of creeks — Ebright, Laughing Jacobs and Lewis — to spawn.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials declined last year to list the species as endangered. The agency determined the Lake Sammamish kokanee population did not meet the definition of a “listable entity” under the “distinct population segment” policy.

The once-abundant kokanee declined in recent decades, perhaps due to construction near creeks, increased predators, disease or changes in water quality.

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