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Thousands of spring Chinook smolts killed in NE Oregon fish tanker truck accident

Thousands of spring Chinook smolts were killed in Friday tanker truck crash, but many more fish did end up in the Imnaha River, ODFW says
ODFW, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Thousands of spring Chinook smolts were killed in Friday tanker truck crash, but many more fish did end up in the Imnaha River, ODFW says

LA GRANDE, Ore. (KTVZ) –  More than 25,000 spring Chinook smolts died in the crash of a fish tanker truck last Friday while transporting about 102,000 smolts for release in the Imnaha River, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday.

The ODFW employee who was driving the truck is safe but received minor injuries, the agency said.

The accident occurred on a sharp corner with the 53-foot truck rolling onto the passenger side, skidding on its side on the pavement, and then going over a rocky embankment causing it to roll onto its roof.

The accident occurred alongside Lookingglass Creek, a tributary of the Grande Ronde River. About 77,000 smolts made it into the creek when the tanker overturned, but 25,529 smolts died and their carcasses were recovered either in the tanker or on the streambank.

The Union County Sheriff's Office responded immediately and assisted with on-scene assessments and vehicle recovery operations. Small amounts of diesel fuel were quickly contained and did not result in a hazardous material spill response, ODFW said.

Lookingglass Hatchery raises spring Chinook as part of hydropower mitigation under the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan, for tribal and sport harvest, and to supplement the wild population on the Imnaha which is listed as Threatened.

ODFW also notified fishery co-managers, the Nez Perce Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, when the incident occurred.

NPT staff responded and provided additional assistance by helping to collect, count and scan dead fish for PIT tags (Passive Integrated Transponders). Information collected from PIT tags, including those that weren't released, will help ensure the best possible estimates of survival and future adult returns.

The smolts lost represent about 20 percent of the total that will be released into the Imnaha River this year. Fishery managers expect to see about 500-900 fewer adult fish returning in 2026 and 2027 due to the loss. The 77,000 fish that made it into Lookingglass Creek will likely return there and produce approximately 350-700 additional adults.

"We are thankful the ODFW employee driving the truck was not seriously injured, said Andrew Gibbs, ODFW fish hatchery coordinator for Eastern Oregon. "This should not impact our ability to collect future brood stock or maintain full production goals in the future."

Article Topic Follows: Wildlife

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