Idaho Power’s New Sturgeon Hatchery Wins National Award

The National Hydropower Association recognized the company’s innovative approach to supporting native sturgeon populations by presenting the Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters Award for Recreational, Environmental & Historical Enhancement.

Idaho Power’s new white sturgeon conservation hatchery has received the 2021 Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters (OSAW) Award from the National Hydropower Association (NHA).

The hatchery, located at Niagara Springs south of Wendell, is the first of its kind in Idaho. It began fish production earlier this year.

The company’s goal is to add up to 2,500 juvenile sturgeon to the Snake River between Shoshone Falls and Brownlee Dam annually, boosting the population in areas without sufficient natural production. It is the fifth Idaho Power hatchery, joining four others that produce salmon and steelhead.

“This sturgeon conservation hatchery is the culmination of 30 years of research into white sturgeon reproduction and overall population health in the Snake River,” said Jim Chandler, Environmental Manager at Idaho Power.

Idaho Power has been monitoring native Snake River sturgeon for 30 years, working with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the aquaculture program at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.

The award from NHA, in the category of Recreational, Environmental & Historical Enhancement, commemorates Idaho Power’s longstanding commitment to supporting this prehistoric fish species.

“We are dedicated to good stewardship of the river, and we are confident that this hatchery will help to ensure these ancient fish continue to thrive here in southern Idaho,” Chandler said.

White sturgeon can grow over 10 feet long and weigh 300 pounds. Many live more than 80 years, and some 100-year-old sturgeon have been recorded.

Sturgeon begin their lives at Niagara Springs through a process called “repatriation” which is different from spawning methods used at most hatcheries. Rather than collecting eggs and fertilizing them from adult broodstock kept at the hatchery, Idaho Power biologists use specialized nets and underwater mats to collect fertilized sturgeon eggs from known spawning areas in the Snake River.

Those eggs are taken to the hatchery in the spring where they are tended to and reared by Idaho Department of Fish and Game staff for about 11 months. The juvenile sturgeon grow to approximately a foot long before they are released back into the Snake River the following spring.

This repatriation method more closely mimics the natural reproduction cycle of the sturgeon, ensuring a wide range of male-female pairs are represented in the hatchery. This helps to preserve the genetic diversity of the wild population.

“NHA is thrilled to present Idaho Power Company with the OSAW Award for Recreational, Environmental & Historical Enhancement,” said LeRoy Coleman, NHA Director of Communications. “Idaho Power’s repatriation approach to white sturgeon conservation is an exciting project that can re-introduce around 2,500 juvenile sturgeon annually back into the Snake River. The hydroelectric development along the Snake River has provided affordable, reliable, clean energy to the area, and with Idaho Power’s hatchery, the white sturgeon will be able to maintain their natural genetic diversity and healthy population counts.”

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