Editor’s note: The state revised the numbers of fished killed in this incident on Friday. Click here to read the latest story.
As many as 300,000 baby salmon died Wednesday inside the temporary holding ponds they’d been staying in since the Oroville Dam crisis in early February.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Thursday that the fall-run Chinook died when water flowing to the fish stopped. State officials blamed a faulty wire for switching off a pump at the Thermalito hatchery.
Electricians quickly repaired the problems, and were able to save the remainder of the 2 million fish at the facility, state officials said.
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In February, during the spillway crisis at Oroville Dam, state biologists frantically moved millions of baby fish from the main Feather River Hatchery below the dam to the small hatchery facility in Thermalito, a few miles away.
The move was necessary because the Feather River below the broken spillway turned brown with silt and threatened to overwhelm the main hatchery and kill the fish.
State officials say the fish that survived Wednesday’s pump failure will stay at the Thermalito facility until they get big enough to be released into the Feather River.
Releases are ongoing this week and will continue over the next month.
The Feather River Hatchery is critical to the state’s commercial and recreational fishing seasons. Each year, the hatchery releases 7 million baby salmon into the Central Valley’s waterways.
Last March, state officials estimated that fish raised in the Feather River accounted for 63 percent and 76 percent of the state’s recreational and commercial ocean catches, respectively.