RIVERDALE A reliable and secure water supply is vital to the successful operation of the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery, but temporary pumps and waterlines have been in use at the federal facility since 2011.
That was the year high water on Lake Sakakawea resulted in the washing out of the holding pond below the Garrison Dam spillway, leaving a key hatchery water intake high and dry.
This week workers were finishing up the testing of a new water supply pipeline for the hatchery. The new pipeline will allow the hatchery to do away with temporary pumps that have been in use since 2011. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department came to the rescue of the hatchery by supplying the large pumps to carry water to outdoor ponds where millions of young fish are raised each year.
Work continued earlier this week on a new pipeline to deliver water at the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery. The hatchery lost a key supply line during high water at Lake Sakakawea in 2011.
"This is a way to maintain a constant water supply, especially to solve the water issues for our east ponds," said Rob Holm, hatchery manager. "For most of our production it is pretty critical."
The hatchery has 40 ponds located in its east unit. The new pipeline draws Missouri River water from below the Garrison Dam spillway but has a much deeper intake than the previous pipeline. The water is also much warmer than water taken from the hatchery's additional source of water from the lower level of Lake Sakakawea. Lake Sakakawea water is often very cool, sometimes in the low 30 degree range, as compared to Missouri River water at the supply point which can peak as high as 70 degrees.
"We save money on heating water," said Holm. "Another problem was solved because our outdoor ponds were never warm enough. Warmer water was appealing to get fish up and swimming. Now we have secured both sides of the hatchery with a good water source."
Young fish grow quicker in warm water than cold, making for larger fish at release dates. Water from the spillway area also contains a significantly higher amount of zoo plankton than Lake Sakakawea water which means better survival of young fish. Additionally, says Holm, the new pipeline can be secured should future issues arise with aquatic nuisance species.
"We needed to find a secure source of water," explained Holm. "By bringing water from the spillway we can put a gravel filter over the intake and provide a secure water source as far as ANS is concerned. There was a huge cost going into it, about a half-million dollars, but over the long haul we have a secure water supply. I think it was a good investment."
Game and Fish contracted for the new intake system. The Corps of Engineers helped with money for mitigation costs which is calculated as the price of fish stocked into reservoirs. The new water source is expected to be used very soon.
"The pipeline was pressure tested Wednesday night and was full of water Thursday," said Holm.