The rush to save baby salmon in Oroville

The Feather River fish hatchery has called for help to relocate baby salmon who are being impacted due to the spillway. (Feb. 10, 2017)

It’s all hands on deck at the Feather River Fish Hatchery.

Floodwaters released from Oroville Dam are sending lethal doses of dirt and silt into the baby fish ponds. An emergency evacuation of millions of fish is under way.

"We called in all resources. Everyone that can be is here." said Andrew Hughan, spokesperson for California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Silt, sand and mud ripped from the banks of the Feather River have turned the waters into a suffocating brown soup. The sediment filled waters have found its way into the Feather River Hatchery contaminating one of California's largest stock pile of baby salmon.

"This is a huge deal! Feather River Hatchery contains about 30 percent of the Chinook salmon in the state." said Hughan.

More than eight million baby fish must be evacuated before the dirt suffocates them. A fish relocation of this magnitude has never been performed in a flood situation. With the water visibility at zero, the Department of Fish and Wildlife have to remove the babies one net full at a time.

An emergency holding pond filled with fresh ground water is a 5-mile drive from the hatchery.

"Four little race ways are going to be the life boat for these fish." said Hughan.

The emergency holding ponds are about a quarter the size of the hatchery. Its crowded but the water is much cleaner.

"People may think that they are just fish, but just one of these fish may be someone’s trophy catch," said Hughan. "So, I think what we are doing here is important. It's what government does best when they have focus and its money well spent."

Copyright 2017 KXTV


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