BY BRIAN J. DAVIS , OFFICE OF CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS
NAVSUP FLEET LOGISTICS CENTER PUGET SOUND
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Lt. Cmdr. Scott McCarthy, far right, helps students carry coolers full of salmon hatchlings to the release point during a salmon release project at Manchester Fuel Depot Feb. 24 & 25. The Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Puget Sound Fuel Department staff, which operates the fuel depot, arranged access to the base so that students could release over 70,000 hatchlings into the environment to enhance the local salmon population.
The Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Puget Sound Fuel Department opened the gates of Manchester Fuel Depot to volunteers from a local high school to conduct a salmon release project Feb. 24 and 25.
Over a two-day period, students and faculty from Discovery Alternative High School in Port Orchard, Washington, along with representatives from the Port Orchard Rotary Club released 70,000 newly hatched salmon hatchlings, known as fry, into Beaver Creek, an estuary that runs through the Manchester Fuel Depot and flows into Puget Sound’s Clam Bay.
Beaver Creek was the subject of a superfund mitigation project initiated on Manchester Fuel Depot in 2003 with the goal of restoring the natural habitat and enhancing the migration of Pacific Northwest salmon species. The phased restoration project, intended to bring the waterway back to pre-World War II conditions, was declared completed in 2016. Organizers consider the Feb. 24 and 25 salmon release a continuation of the Beaver Creek Restoration Project.
“This salmon release continues the efforts of the Manchester Fuel Depot staff to enhance, restore, and improve the salmon population in Beaver Creek,” said Glenn E. Schmitt, deputy director of NAVSUP FLC Puget Sound Fuels Department. “This effort, in partnership with the South Kitsap Discovery Alternative High School and the Port Orchard Rotary Club, has allowed us to continue supporting the restoration of salmon runs in the Puget Sound.”
Beaver Creek was chosen as an alternative release site when the water way originally planned for the release was deemed unsuitable.
“We collaborated with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify an appropriate alternative local stream with compatible stock-related genetics into which we could enhance with our fry,” said Jerry Polley, a math and science teacher at Discovery Alternative High School. “It turned out to be Beaver Creek.”
According to volunteers, locations are chosen carefully, since the geographic area where they’re released will be “imprinted” on the fish as their birthplace. Once released into the wild, the hatchlings will make their way to the ocean, and eventually those that survive to adulthood will instinctively return to their place of birth, or in this case release point, to spawn.
According to Polley, the restored creek had been supporting runs of the same stocks of silver and chum salmon for years, so releasing the hatchlings to enhance the population there was a perfect fit.
“Our goal is for Beaver Creek to regain a maximum sustainable yield population of wild, naturally spawning, Coho and Chum,” said Polley. “Our hatchery work is intended to jump start this process because the native salmon populations and in many cases erased.”
Although only a part of Beaver Creek runs through the base, organizers decided that the best place to release the salmon fry was at a spot located on Manchester Fuel Depot.
“The Navy fuel depot property and adjacent EPA property allows a secure release point, with easy, safe access for spectators and students,” said Polley.
All of the students involved in the project were aware of the real-world importance of the project, and of the impact a successful salmon release can have on the future salmon population.
“We are doing this for the future ... to make sure the environment doesn’t completely deteriorate,” said volunteer Kaitynn Lawrence, a student at Discovery Alternative High School. “We’ve got to save the fish.”
The Port Orchard Rotary Club provided the Discovery Alternative High School student volunteers with chum salmon eggs obtained from a local hatchery. The students incubated and hatched the eggs, then raised and cared for the hatchlings up to the point where they were viable enough to release into the wild.
Getting the salmon to the release point involved a number of organizations. For several years the Port Orchard Rotary Club has been involved with a number of projects initiated to enhance the local salmon population. In 2010, the Rotary Club partnered with Discovery Alternative High School to establish a salmon incubation program that combines career technical education with community service and sustainable environmental design. The program has continued with grants from local businesses and support from the local school district as well as tribal governments in the area. Volunteers involved with the salmon release project also hope to continue the partnership with the U.S. Navy.
“We hope to continue our collaborative relationship with the Manchester Fuel Depot as long as it benefits all involved, especially the salmon,” said Polley.
The Manchester Fuel Depot is managed by the NAVSUP FLC Puget Sound Fuel Department. The fuel depot’s mission is to provide customers with top quality military specification fuel, lubricants, and additives used by land, sea, and air forces. The facility issues, manages, and receives bulk petroleum products and is tasked with ensuring compliance of product quality, inventory control, and environmental regulations. Manchester Fuel Depot provides fuels support for U.S. and allied forces throughout the Puget Sound region and the Pacific Rim.