The Warrenton High School had a flourishing fisheries program for many years but due to budget cuts the classes and hatchery operation were removed from the curriculum shortly after the new millennium. A vigorous community effort was coordinated to re-kindle the program and a non-profit corporation was formed to insure the STEP educational program would never again be cut. One serious problem existed after the new program and new hatchery were on line. Water quality in the Skipanon slough was atrocious. Suspended solids and disease vectors from the marine influence combined to be nearly 100% lethal for the fish grown by the students. If not by mechanical means, diseases managed to wipe out most of the production in most years.
Addressing Water Quality
Consultation with Redd Zone staff resulted in a plan to improve water quality through filtration, depuration and oxygen supplementation. This project sought to bring the project up to a standard commensurate with state hatchery standards.
An existing but unused fish ladder was turned into a five thousand gallon reservoir that would allow for multi-phase filtration and ultimately nearly 100% re-cycling ability. Primary water supply would be from tapping the drains from the hatchery and highschool gymnasium roofs. Make up water would be from a shallow well and/or from the Skipanon Slough. In an emergency even municipal water could be used if properly filtered for chlorine. Unfortunately the well water was a source of high levels of iron bacteria, which was unacceptable for use in the system. Three sand filters, one UV sterilizer, and LHO and O2 separator and a packed column were installed to provide clear water that was disease free and high in oxygen.
This facility up-grade funded by a grant from the Oregon Restoration and Enhancement Board was completed in the summer of 2010 and results are already being noted. Mortalities in eggs and fry have been dramatically reduced and fry health is exceptional. Students are learning new ways to solve fish cultural problems including the water system and the use of a deep matrix incubator that is superior to try incubators in producing quality swim-up fry.