February 22, 2017 — On Friday, the staff at the Feather River Fish Hatchery, just downstream from the stricken Oroville Dam, took stock of their losses, gave thanks for their victories and girded for a long, hard recovery after being inundated with debris-laden water the color of chocolate milk.
A few thousand Chinook salmon fry didn’t make it. But millions of others survived, as did 1 million federally endangered steelhead trout eggs.
The dirty water had been spewed from a jagged crater in the dam’s main, concrete-lined spillway discovered after California Department of Water Resources officials increased releases of reservoir water a week ago to offset inflows of rainfall. By the time they halted the releases to inspect the damage, the Feather River below had been transformed into a torrent of fouled river water.
“Our hatchery, which rears salmon and steelhead, draws all of its water from the river,” said facility manager Anna Kastner, 52, wincing at the memory. “Suddenly, it was awash in liquid mud.”