A severe storm Friday, May 4, cut power to the Adirondack Fish Hatchery at Lake Clear, east of Saranac Lake, killing most of the salmon stock.
Power lines to the hatchery were downed during the storm according to DEC, causing the facility’s backup generator to activate. When power was restored from the grid, it caused the backup generator to go off-line, and a transfer switch failed. That failure prevented the flow of well water into the raceways, depriving the salmon of oxygenated water.
The New York State Conservation Council estimates more than 85% of the salmon that remained in the raceways following the spring stocking operations were lost – or more than 250,000 fish.
A statement from DEC said that the transfer switch is being repaired and DEC is actively identifying options for installing new, more modern monitoring and alarm systems to prevent events like these in the future. The Bureau of Fisheries is working to secure surplus landlocked salmon fry from other northeast states and federal fish hatcheries to help offset the losses.
While the salmon losses are not expected to impact the 2018 stocking program, there is expected to be a significant decrease in 2019. “The result of this event is a significant decrease in the number of landlocked salmon that will be stocked in New York in 2019,” a DEC announcement issued May 18th said. “DEC has stocked its full compliment of 230,000 spring yearling fish this year. Although unfortunate and significant, the quality of fishing in most of the 41 waters stocked will not be diminished appreciably. In a given body of water, anglers typically catch landlocked salmon 2 to 4 years old, so angler success is not likely to be impacted for several years. Landlocked salmon represent just one piece of New York’s vast coldwater species fishing portfolio, and in larger waters are usually stocked alongside other salmonids such as rainbow trout and brown trout, which provide a similar angling experience.”
“A major issue that needs to be addressed is the lag between the time the outage occurred on May 4th and the official announcement from the Department that was released on May 18th,” a Conservation Council press release said. “Why was a loss of this magnitude kept under wraps for nearly two full weeks?”
“It is woefully evident that there needs to be improved communication between the Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Conservation Council,” Council President Chuck Parker said in the statement sent to the press. “We should be acting as partners, a difficult goal to achieve in view of the struggle we have getting information that is important to our membership. We are stakeholders; our license fees in large measure help operate the hatchery system and support other fish and wildlife programs.”