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KAMAS — Biologists are concerned about a sinkhole that was discovered recently near a creek that flows past the Kamas State Fish Hatchery.
The Division is safeguarding the Kamas State Fish Hatchery to keep whirling disease from entering it in the future.
Photo by Ted Hallows
"Whirling disease has been detected in the creek above the hatchery," says Walt Donaldson, Aquatic Section chief for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "We don't think whirling disease made it into the hatchery. But we're not taking any chances."
The sinkhole developed recently on the bank of Beaver Creek. The hatchery does not receive any water directly from the creek. (Water for the hatchery comes from several springs in the area.) However, biologists are concerned that water that entered the sinkhole may have mixed with water in the aquifer that feeds the hatchery springs.
Whirling disease — a disease that doesn't affect people but can be fatal to fish — found in Beaver Creek in the 1990s in a stretch below the hatchery. The sinkhole, which workers from a local irrigation company have since blocked off, is about three-quarters of a mile above the hatchery.
After the sinkhole was discovered, biologists sampled trout from the hatchery. They also sampled trout from a section of the creek that's above the hatchery and sinkhole.
Fortunately, none of the fish sampled in the hatchery had whirling disease (WD). But two of the 30 trout from the creek had the disease.
Donaldson says that's not surprising, since fish with WD have moved to various parts of the creek over the past 15 years.
Donaldson says all of the Division's hatcheries are tested routinely for disease.
Not taking chances
Division biologists were happy to hear that the fish in the hatchery did not test positive for whirling disease. But they're still not taking any chances:
Donaldson says the Kamas hatchery will not produce fish again until late 2011 or early 2012. Fortunately, the Division's refurbished Springville State Fish Hatchery will take up some of the fish-production slack. (The Springville hatchery was closed in 2007 after WD was confirmed in the hatchery.)
Donaldson says the installation of a UV-filtration device is nearing completion at the Springville hatchery. "We're hoping the hatchery will be producing fish again soon, maybe as early as November," he says.
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