Leavenworth Legacy

Springtime Shows Transformation in Progress at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery

How modernizing an historic hatchery helps create future generations of fish

By Julia Pinnix, Visitor Services Manager, Leavenworth Fisheries Complex

Back to the future: The photo on the left shows a the ponds in front of Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in use in 1947. The photo on the right shows the ponds, no longer in use, before they were torn out to make room at the end of 2020.

Three projects at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery are transforming the landscape in 2021. Visitors using the grounds are restricted to a safety corridor. But the projects are building benefits for fish, wildlife, and people. “We’re making a better future for the community,” said Mat Maxey, Hatchery Manager.

One project began in November 2020 when ponds dating back to 1940 were torn out to make way for a pilot project. A Partial Re-use Aquaculture System (PRAS) is scheduled to be completed by June. The system allows water to be filtered, chilled, and re-used in circular tanks for raising fish. This saves water, allowing the hatchery to leave more in Icicle Creek to benefit wild fish. The project also includes a solid waste capture system to help reduce the amount of phosphorous in water sent back to the river, which is closely regulated by the state.

Photo: Construction safety route map

100,000 spring Chinook salmon will be placed in the new tanks as soon as they are operational. If the pilot project works well over the next few years, the remaining old ponds will be torn out and replaced with a full build-out of the PRAS. Hopes are high at the hatchery.

To power the project, Chelan Public Utility District will lay a new line from East Leavenworth Road, a second project that will ultimately benefit both the hatchery and the PUD. While the new power will only be used for the PRAS project at first, eventually it will be tapped to power the entire hatchery, allowing the old power line that runs from Icicle Road to be retired. Updating the power lines, transformers, and switching gear is costly, but new electrical equipment is safer and more efficient.

A family of 5 stands on the banks of Icicle Creek, dressed in water gear and life jackets.
Photo: Leavenworth Hatchery is a popular place for visitors to connect with nature. This family is ready to take advantage of the hatchery’s boat launch onto Icicle Creek. Credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS

The third project will rework the property between East Leavenworth Road and the hatchery production area (the North 40) to benefit wildlife and visitors. The hatchery plans to “make this area a bigger part of our greenspace,” said Maxey. “Right now, it is not a pleasing place to walk.” There are five miles of trail winding through forest and alongside Icicle Creek on a substantial part of the 180 acres managed by the hatchery. But the North 40 is mostly tree-less, flat, and gouged by vehicles that cut across the gravelly ground. Over the course of two months, a youth conservation crew led by the American Conservation Experience will lay irrigation line, plant trees and native grass, set up fences, delineate parking areas, and build a trail.

Visitors must not enter the construction zone, but a safe corridor is provided from the boat launch along Icicle Creek to reach the hatchery and its trail system. We ask that the public follow posted signs to allow construction equipment to work safely. We look forward to inviting visitors to enjoy the North 40 later in 2021.



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USFWS Columbia Pacific Northwest Region

USFWS Columbia Pacific Northwest Region

Conservation stories from one of the world’s most ecologically diverse regions.