Landslide damage forces Juneau salmon hatchery to destroy fish

A facility at a dock
Thousands of chum salmon return to DIPAC’s Macaulay facility where they were released four to five years ago. (Lisa Phu/KTOO)

One of the largest salmon hatcheries in the state was forced to destroy thousands of fish on Wednesday after a landslide damaged the pipeline that supplies its water. 

The Macaulay Salmon Hatchery in Juneau is run by Douglas Island Pink and Chum, Inc., known locally as DIPAC. Its water comes from Salmon Creek Reservoir, and it shares a water supply pipeline with Alaska Electric Light & Power’s plant.

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Heavy rain triggered slides on the Salmon Creek Trail on Wednesday, leaving debris that made it difficult to access the reservoir. It will take some time to access and repair the pipeline.

Without a fresh water source, the hatchery’s staff had to make a tough decision with their remaining water: which fish to let go.

An aerial photograph shows damage along the pipeline below Salmon Creek Reservoir. (Alaska Electric Light & Power)

They destroyed all the young chinook salmon and rainbow trout that would have been released in spring 2021, and most of the young coho salmon, too. 

The rest of the facility’s fish stock is stable for now. The hatchery is working with AEL&P to secure a backup water supply until the pipeline is back on line. 

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The Salmon Creek Trail remains closed while AEL&P makes repairs. 

The hatchery has been operating in its current location since 1990, according to its website. It’s permitted to raise 135 million chum, 1.5 million coho, 1 million chinook and 50,000 rainbow trout. It can hold up to 300 million eggs and is one of the eight largest salmon hatcheries in Alaska.