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Seattle City Light’s New Native Salmonid Conservation Facility: A Commitment to Environmental Stewardship

Seattle City Light recently celebrated the opening of our new Native Salmonid Conservation Facility (NSCF) in Usk, Washington, on May 29. A ribbon-cutting event marked this significant milestone in conservation efforts, with more than 60 guests and remarks from the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Seattle City Light.

This state-of-the-art facility represents a major step forward in the conservation of native species in the region. What’s more, it reflects the collaborative efforts of many partnerships in the region that helped make this facility possible.

A significant achievement in fish conservation

Located amid a serene, forested landscape, the NSCF embodies a steadfast commitment to sustainable environmental practices and the conservation of precious natural resources.

The nearly $27 million facility aims to establish self-sustaining fish populations in the Pend Oreille River Watershed. This initiative is part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing requirements for Seattle City Light’s Boundary Hydroelectric Project.

The facility will house fish from various tributaries in the region, keeping them in separate holding containers based on their geographic origins to preserve the unique traits of each population.

“This facility is a testament to Seattle City Light’s ongoing commitment to supporting the local habitats and waterways in the areas around our hydroelectric facilities,” said Mike Haynes, Chief Operating Officer at Seattle City Light.

A collaborative effort

The facility represents a significant collaboration between Seattle City Light, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other partners. These partnerships were instrumental in forming the agreements for the FERC relicensing conditions and demonstrate a shared commitment to conservation and environmental stewardship.

Mitch Combs, Seattle City Light’s Native Salmonid Conservation Facility Supervisor, emceed the event and opened with welcoming remarks before introducing the speakers.

“Relationships are what makes this all work. The relationships we have between the different agencies, the tribes, the PUDs, and the stakeholders are really what makes this all come together on a day like this, so thank you,” Combs said.

Chris Donley, the Region 1 Fish Program Manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, followed Mitch’s introduction. He emphasized the significance of the facility for local fish populations.

“In a time and place where we see native fish disappearing at rapid rates because of climate change and habitat destruction, for us to have a place where we have a stop gap, and we’re making progress in the right direction for native fish is really something that’s unforgettable,Donley said.

Next, Joe Maroney, the Director of Fishery and Water Resources for the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, shared insights into the tribe’s involvement and the importance of collaboration in ensuring the success of conservation projects.

“I’ve had many folks ask how we were able to do this with so many different interests between state agencies, federal agencies, the tribe, and the utilities. Really what it boils down to is that you have to coordinate, and you have to work together,” Maroney said.

Finally, Mike Haynes, Seattle City Light’s Chief Operating Officer, spoke about the broader impacts of the facility and City Light’s ongoing commitment to supporting local habitats and waterways.

“This conservation facility will play a crucial role in the revival of native trout populations in the Pend Oreille River region. By rescuing trout from local streams and nurturing them using advanced aquaculture techniques, we’re doing more than just releasing fish – we’re bringing propagated wild trout of various sizes back to their native environments with a better chance of survival.”

Mike highlighted previous conservation efforts, such as the removal of Mill Pond Dam and the management of invasive species in Sullivan Creek, which reconnected 46 miles of stream habitat to the Pend Oreille River.

“The partnerships we’ve built through this work are invaluable. Together, we’re making a significant impact on the preservation of our natural resources,” he said.

The event concluded with a sense of optimism and shared purpose, as attendees celebrated the opening of a facility that promises to make a lasting positive impact on the region’s aquatic ecosystems.

A shared vision for a sustainable future

Each speaker highlighted the collaborative spirit and shared commitment to environmental stewardship that drove the project forward. The opening of the NSCF is a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to revitalize local ecosystems and support native fish populations. It underscores the importance of collaborative efforts between Seattle City Light and our partners across the state.

The NSCF is more than just a fish hatchery. It’s an example of what can be achieved when organizations come together with a common goal: to preserve and protect the natural world for generations to come.

Interested in learning more about the facility? We made this short document for a self-guided tour. Also, this loop video shows more details of the facility’s construction and other Seattle City Light efforts in the region: