The Nisqually Tribe is turning an old municipal water supply into a rearing pond for hatchery chinook.

This spring the tribe reared and released 500,000 hatchery chinook salmon from a pond that had been part of the McAllister Springs facility, where the city of Olympia got its water from the 1950s until about a year ago when it converted to wells.

“Releasing fish at McAllister will revive a popular tribal and sports fishery that we lost 10 years ago,” said David Troutt, natural resources director for the tribe. “Because we’re at the bottom of Puget Sound, fishermen from here all the way to Alaska will benefit from this operation.” Just over a year ago, the city converted its McAllister Springs water source into a series of nearby wellfields. The springs facility required extensive upgrades and it was easier to convert to wells tapping the same source.

“The pond is a convenient place for us to rear chinook before they’re released into the creek itself,” Troutt said.

All of the chinook released at McAllister will have their adipose fins clipped so they can be identified as hatchery fish when harvested. They will also be fitted with a unique coded-wire tag so fisheries managers can estimate the run’s survival when they return as adults.

The chinook were reared at the tribe’s Clear Creek hatchery before they were trucked to the springs.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife operated a hatchery on lower McAllister Creek until 2001. That facility was closed because of budget cuts and persistent disease problems.

“The setup we’ll be using at McAllister will be different than what the state had going on lower in the system,” Troutt said. “The old state facility was too close to tidal influence, so they had a hard time keeping new water in the system, making it harder to keep fish healthy.”

He added, “Everyone – from sport fishermen on the bank to non-tribal commercial and tribal fishermen – will benefit from hatchery fish at McAllister.”