Operated by the Curry Anadramous Fishermens Association, the Indian Creek STEP hatchery rears and releases close to one hundred thousand fall Chinook. Three aluminum raceways are supplied water from Indian Creek though an HDPE pipeline by gravity feed from two hundred feet up the creek. Volunteers operate the hatchery feeding the fry until the water level begins to drop in early summer, at which time the fry are trucked down to a floating net pen in the estuary of the Rogue River. The fry are challenged and frequently are undersized at release.
Redd Zone staff visited the facility in 2008 and suggested oxygen supplementation to overcome the warm water and low flows. This would emulate a larger project successfully completed at the Gnat Creek Hatchery near Astoria, Oregon where spring Chinook had to be trucked to estuary net pens too early for ideal health conditions.
The volunteers at Indian Creek liked the idea and less than a year later armed with a grant from Oregon Restoration and Enhancement Board, three Low Head Oxygen (LHO) units were installed with oxygen separators to provide a hyper- oxygenated environment for the fry and pre-smolts. The 2010 year class was still trucked to the estuary, but they were much larger and far healthier than any group from that facility according to John Weber, STEP biologist that oversees the project.
This project is one of potentially dozens of applications for hatcheries that could benefit from enhanced oxygen for fish rearing.
Adequate oxygen is critical for proper immune system function and ameliorates for many stressors that diminish immune system challenges. It is inexpensive and easy to apply to a variety of rearing units and can be installed quickly at most facilities.