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Fish tanker truck accident results in loss of some spring Chinook smolts

April 2, 2024

LA GRANDE, Ore. – On March 29 near Lookingglass Hatchery in northeast Oregon, a fish tanker truck was involved in an accident while transporting approximately 102,000 spring Chinook smolts for release in the Imnaha River.

The ODFW employee who was driving the truck is safe but received minor injuries. The accident occurred on a sharp corner with the 53-foot truck rolling onto the passenger side, skidding on its side on the pavement, and then going over a rocky embankment causing it to roll onto its roof.

The accident occurred alongside Lookingglass Creek, a tributary of the Grande Ronde River. About 77,000 smolts made it into the creek when the tanker overturned but 25,529 smolts died and their carcasses were recovered either in the tanker or on the streambank.

The Union County Sheriff's department responded immediately and assisted with on-scene assessments and vehicle recovery operations. Small amounts of diesel fuel were quickly contained and did not result in a hazardous material spill response.

Lookingglass Hatchery raises spring Chinook as part of hydropower mitigation under the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan, for tribal and sport harvest, and to supplement the wild population on the Imnaha which is listed as Threatened.

ODFW also notified fishery co-managers, the Nez Perce Tribe (NPT), and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) when the incident occurred. NPT staff responded and provided additional assistance by helping to collect, count and scan dead fish for PIT tags (Passive Integrated Transponders). Information collected from PIT tags, including those that weren't released, will help ensure the best possible estimates of survival and future adult returns.

The smolts lost represent about 20 percent of the total that will be released into the Imnaha River this year. Fishery managers expect to see about 500-900 fewer adult fish returning in 2026 and 2027 due to the loss. The 77,000 fish that made it into Lookingglass Creek will likely return there and produce approximately 350-700 additional adults.

"We are thankful the ODFW employee driving the truck was not seriously injured, said Andrew Gibbs, ODFW fish hatchery coordinator for Eastern Oregon. "This should not impact our ability to collect future brood stock or maintain full production goals in the future."
Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Photo credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Photo credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife


Contact: Michelle Dennehy, 503-931-2748,
Andrew Gibbs, 541-786-3114,
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