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Hatchery upgrades get go-ahead

Douglas, Grant utilities agree on joint work at Wells

— The Douglas County Public Utility District has increased an engineering contract by about $2 million for the fourth phase of its Wells Hatchery modernization project.

The commissioners agreed April 29 to allocate a maximum of about $2.78 million to its contract with the Gig Harbor office of Nebraska-based HDR Inc., building upon the $693,000 contract signed for phase three of the project on Feb. 25.

“We did it that way so that if we’re happy with the work that this consultant is doing, we can go to the next phase, and if we like that we can go on to the next phase,” spokeswoman Meaghan Vibbert said.

Under phase four, the engineers will do final drawings and make a list of construction specifications, Vibbert said. Rehabilitation work plans will be drafted for the existing groundwater and domestic water supply systems.

Once the design work is complete, about one year from now, the utility will put the project out for bid and “choose the lowest responses that are most qualified,” she said.

Construction will be done in the fifth and final phase, and the modernization project as a whole should be complete by July 2014, Vibbert said.

Last month, the utility signed a new 40-year interlocal agreement with the Grant County Public Utility District to share the costs of the modernization project and future operations.

The Grant County utility will kick in 10 percent of the project’s estimated cost. Vibbert said it’s too early in the design process to make that estimate.

In return, Douglas County’s utility district will allow Grant to rear up to 110,000 steelhead smolts per year at the Wells Hatchery, according to Grant County agreement documents.

An agreement was already in place from 2004, but the utilities opted to create a new one partly because the number of fish required to be produced by the hatchery has been reduced, the new agreement said.

The Wells Hatchery was built in 1967 to mitigate the fish losses caused by the construction of Wells Dam. The hatchery produces about 3 million juvenile salmon each year — summer Chinook, steelhead and rainbow trout.

The modernization project is a condition of the utility’s new 50-year license for the Wells Hydroelectric Project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The utility first began seeking engineering services in 2011.

The first three phases included a master plan, which is nearly finished; assessing the ground and surface water systems and the condition of the hatchery’s infrastructure; a review of current hatchery and fish culture technology; preliminary conceptual design, and a new sturgeon rearing facility that’s scheduled to be completed next month, Vibbert said.

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