Power outage kills 250,000 salmon

DEC hatchery says replacements coming from Vermont, should not affect overall stocking

About 250,000 landlocked salmon fry, larger than the ones seen here, were killed when a power outage affected the DEC’s Adirondack Hatchery in Lake Clear in early May. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

LAKE CLEAR — A severe wind storm at the beginning of May decimated one age of fish at the state’s Adirondack Fish Hatchery, but staff say some replacements have already been obtained and others may be forthcoming.

According to a press release from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the storm knocked out power to the facility on Fish Hatchery Road in Lake Clear. Emergency generators worked properly, but a failed transfer switch cut the power to water wells. With no flow from the wells, the DEC estimated that of 296,000 landlocked salmon fry, only about 41,000 survived.

DEC stocked 230,000 landlocked salmon this year. More than that were lost with the power failure.

The die-off affected only one age of fish in the hatchery. DEC said Monday it should only affect stocking next year and that measures are being taken to mitigate the loss.

“The Adirondack Hatchery is the only Atlantic salmon hatchery in the state so there is no other source of Atlantic salmon in the DEC hatchery system,” the DEC said in an email. “We have reached out to other states and federal hatcheries and they have been able to supply us with some fish to replace lost stock. 

“Vermont’s Bald Hill Hatchery has provided 12,400 fry and 12,470 yearling salmon and the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery in Pittsford, VT may be able to provide 20,000 fry.”

The department said the fish that died were about 2.5 inches long, while stocked fish are typically at least 6 inches in length.

The hatchery also raises round whitefish, but those were in a large enough tank that the outage had no effect.

The DEC operates 12 hatcheries around the state. A department spokesman said landlocked salmon from the Lake Clear facility are stocked not just in the Adirondacks but in every DEC region except Region 9, in Western New York. That includes stocking in Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes, as well as other lakes and rivers around the state.

“It’s going to have an effect, but we try to keep this in context over the long haul,” Steve Hurst, DEC fisheries bureau chief, said over the phone. “We don’t diminish missing the importance of having that year class, [but] we have other year classes out there that people will be able to fish.”

The DEC said in an email that the issue had been resolved and that the manufacturer of the generator provided suggestions to prevent future problems. The spokesman also said lessons learned from the Adirondack Fish Hatchery will be applied to other DEC hatcheries as well.