MORE FISH FOR PANTHER CREEK
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NEW HATCHERY PROJECT ANNOUNCED 1-12-15 LMS

A new fish facility to expand the Salmon population in Panther Creek is in the process of being developed.

The news was announced during a January 12 meeting between the Lemhi County Commissioners, Salmon/Cobalt District Ranger Jay Winfield and North Fork District Ranger Ken Gebhardt.

Winfield said the Crystal Springs Hatchery is being proposed by the Shoshone Bannock Tribe. He said the project is in partnership with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and is actually more of an acclimation center than a hatchery. The goal of the facility, to be located in the vicinity of the old Cobalt town site, is to produce and introduce around 440,000 Salmon smolts into the Panther Creek watershed in an effort to increase spawning in the drainage and thereby increase harvest potential. The Shoshone Bannock Tribe has harvest rights on Panther Creek.

The acclimation site is to be on Forest Service land and include a fish weir that will be managed 24/7. The weir will capture the hatchery fish and allow all native fish to pass through.

The plan calls for the collected eggs and milt to be sent to the present Crystal Springs Hatchery for the fertilization and hatching process. The young fish will then be transported back to the Cobalt facility where they will be placed in large fiberglass, aerated tanks and acclimated to the Panther Creek Watershed system before being released.

The Salmon prefer and thrive in cold water. The selected fish release site at Dummy Creek is just north and west of the Cobalt work center and supplies one of the coldest water sources in the state of Idaho.

Winfield said several public meetings were held in the Spring of 2014 and none drew any attendance. He said the Forest Service is presently reviewing the Sho Ban Tribe/BPA National Environmental Policy Act portion of the project. He said one issue that has arisen is a discovery that the originally chosen delivery area on Panther Creek is a confirmed archeological site. It is felt that can be resolved by moving planned operations about 30 yards downstream.

Winfield said he is especially looking forward to the potential educational opportunities that will be offered by the proposed project.

The joint partnership making this happen includes the Forest Service, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the BPA plus additional involvement from the Blackbird Mine.

The current plan is to make the facility a seasonal one with an annual set up and take down process. The program will continue until the Salmon run is reestablished in the Panther Creek Drainage which is estimated to take several years.


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