After a pump failure on Christmas, WDFW Kendall Creek Hatchery staff worked through the cold and snowy night to save nearly 4 million salmon and steelhead

Blizzard conditions as Fish Hatchery Specialist Kristofer Flowers responded to water pump failures at the Kendall Creek Hatchery late in the night on Christmas.

While power was now restored, the loss of pump №4 resulted in 2,000 gallons of water per minute no longer being provided to several rearing ponds and incubators for Chinook, coho, steelhead, and trout, putting millions of young fish at risk in the middle of a bitterly cold night on a holiday weekend.

Flowers worked quickly to redirect water from other pumps and rearing ponds; a challenge in the extremely cold conditions as several valves were frozen, buried under snow, or both. Eventually he was able to offset the loss of pump №4’s water flow, and after checking on incubation tanks, returned home around 2:30 a.m. Fellow Fish Hatchery Specialist Jesse Lee also offered backup around this time.

So much snow had fallen at the Kendall Creek Fish Hatchery by the morning of December 26, 2021 that even the Department’s plow-equipped F-450 became stuck. Flowers continued clearing the area with a tractor so that other hatchery staff could arrive to help respond to the water pump failure.

All told, the quick thinking and hard work of Flowers and the others protected nearly 4 million young salmonids — fish vital for future recreational, commercial, and tribal treaty fisheries, and important for species including Southern Resident killer whales.

“Kendall Creek Hatchery is still the best place to live and work, and we will survive,” Flowers said after his exceptional efforts through Christmas night and the following day. “I believe our salmon and steelhead deserve the efforts WDFW and co-managers have made so far, and look forward to what comes next.”

A baby Chinook salmon, known as fry, being processed by WDFW hatchery staff.

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.