Before the month is out, construction is expected to begin on the long-planned fish hatchery on Penticton Indian Band lands, helping to once again bring salmon to the lakes and rivers of the Okanagan and Similkameen.
“I got word from our Okanagan Nation Fisheries Department that we are starting construction July 18,” said PIB Chief Jonathan Kruger.
The construction phase is expected to be complete in the fall, with the hatchery becoming fully operational in 2014.
Long ago, Sylix tales tell, it was Coyote who first brought salmon to the rivers and peoples of the area.
It’s a legend that Penticton has a special place in, for the hill between Highway 97 and the lake, rising above Wright’s Beach, is Citws Sen’klip, Coyote’s House, which he built on the shores of Skaha Lake as a resting place after bringing the salmon.
“It’s a great metaphor. I think it was meant to be,” said Kruger.
“It definitely warms our hearts to have the fish hatchery here in Penticton.
We have done studies and this is the best location for the salmon to come back.”
Kruger said that the work of the hatchery is a serious responsibility and they are going to make sure everything is done properly.
The hatchery is a joint project of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, power utilities in Washington State and the PIB.
By the time it is in operation, Kruger said it will have been seven years of planning and negotiating.
“Overall it’s been very challenging and I am just grateful that it is finally becoming a reality,” said Kruger. “Our numbers are going to be down in four years because we couldn’t do brood stock this year, there is no room in the other hatchery.
“I am a little sad that the numbers are going to be down, but at the same time our numbers have been up for so many years.”