Local News

Quake’s landslides disturb lake, cause problems for hatcheries

Two hatcheries on the eastern side of Baranof Island are dealing with damage from Friday’s earthquake off the coast of Southeast Alaska.

The 7.5-magnitude temblor is believed to be responsible for a landslide into Betty Lake. Juneau-based Armstrong-Keta raises four species of salmon at a hatchery in nearby Port Armstrong. Betty Lake, and the adjacent Jetty Lake, are the two sources of water for the hatchery.

Bart Watson is general manager of Armstrong-Keta. He believes a wave caused by the landslide, and the trees and other debris it was carrying, damaged intake pipes in Betty Lake and destroyed two skiffs.

“The big challenge is going to be figuring out how to deal with all these floating logs in the lake,” he said. “We haven’t really pinned down our plan of attack yet.”

Watson says the big challenge at the moment is finding a new skiff. It would have to be taken down to Port Armstrong on a larger boat and then airlifted into the lake. He said he spent the better part of Thursday hunting for a Jon boat or skiff in Sitka he could buy.

The hatchery employs seven people year-round, plus temporary workers. Watson says they’ve been busy.

“We have a terrific crew down there. They’ve been amazing in their dedication and quick response,” Watson said. “They don’t think about counting hours or complaining about the conditions or whatever. I feel very lucky with the quality of the staff. Right now I’m trying to do the support work from town to line up the helicopter and boats and cables and so on.”

Further north, the earthquake is believed to have caused three separate avalanches into Deer Lake. The resulting waves swamped a skiff used by the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association. NSRAA operations manager Scott Wagner says the wave was about four or five feet high.

The U.S. Forest Service, meanwhile, has put out a call to all employees in Southeast Alaska to report any similar events.

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