White Sulphur Springs: One Year after the Flood

As June 23 approaches, staff at White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery can’t help but remember the deadly floodwaters that devastated the local community and fish hatchery on this date last year.  The 1-in-1,000 year storm caused $1.7 million in damages to the state-of-the-art aquatic resource center, killing or contaminating 45,000 rainbow trout and forcing fish biologist Tyler Hern to climb a tree to escape the water.  Things couldn’t get much worse, but in the days following the harrowing storm, the community banded together and began the long journey of rebuilding.

Repairs began in the fall to tackle damaged insulation, mechanical and electrical systems, and nearby roads, bridges, trails, and fences. The Wades Creek deposited two feet of debris and sediment in the broodstock facility and the hatch house’s raceways were also filled with sediment. A year later, White Sulphur Springs has almost completely recovered. The bulk of reconstruction will be completed by the end of this month and trout production and egg shipments are expected to resume in full capacity in fall of 2018.

In addition to trout, White Sulphur Springs works to recover endangered species of freshwater mussels and crayfish. These critters are vital to restore the health of the rivers and surrounding ecosystems. Although all nine species of endangered or imperiled mussels survived the flood, most were returned to the Ohio River due to damaged culture systems. Full production for freshwater mussels and crayfish will resume this spring.

During reconstruction, the U.S.  Fish and Wildlife Service worked with other hatcheries in the National Broodstock Program to meet demands for the 9.2 million trout eggs needed to supply 26 federal, state and tribal hatcheries in 16 states. These eggs support recreational fishing programs across the country. In September, White Sulphur Springs received disease free eggs from Erwin National Hatchery in Erwin, TN to replenish the first strain of broodstock trout that were lost during the flood. This year, additional shipments have helped White Sulphur Springs build towards full capacity.

Together with support from the strongly knit community, White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery is back up on their feet. Many volunteers and community members aided in the hatchery’s recovery and to celebrate the progress, the hatchery is planning to hold an open-house event on Saturday, June 24. For more updates, visit the White Sulphur Springs NFH Facebook page.

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