Innovative Fish Hatchery Reduces Energy Demands to Sustain Alaska’s Sport Fishing Industry

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With a reported 290,000 licensed anglers fishing in 2011, their economic effect on the state of Alaska is a booming $1.4 billion a year, but the popular sport is also depleting waterways of fragile native fish populations. To sustain the sport fishing industry in the southern part of the state, the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery in Anchorage, Alaska, is using innovative technologies to reduce energy waste, using only five percent of the water volume and energy required by systems at conventional hatcheries. Spanning the length of two football fields, the Hernandez Hatchery is the largest of its kind in North America, annually replenishing Alaska’s rivers and lakes with six million salmon, trout, and grayling.

Development on a brownfield that served as a cooling pond for a military power plant, the hatchery’s site challenges included lowering the water table, removal of petroleum-contaminated soil, screening for Native American artifacts, and avoiding damage to salmon runs and eagle nesting spots. In addition, the construction of the facility, which took place over five phases, included intricate pipe placement for the heated and cold water needed to rear fish, dispose of fish waste effluent, and supply the building’s heating system. The use of 3D modeling provided design solutions for fitting the complex pipe network around steel columns, the foundation, and ductwork. The 3D modeling also enabled designers to virtually drive forklifts through the facility to address critical items such as overhead clearance.

Seventy six large circular tanks at the hatchery are separated into 35 fish rearing modules, each of which is managed with its own water treatment system to provide pure, clean water to rear the fish. The $89.5-million, 141,000-sft facility, owned and operated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, uses intensive recirculation technology to cut back on water waste, reusing up to 95 percent of its water. The hatchery uses pump-driven aquaculture systems to maintain water flow so fish will not die. In the case of a power outage due to severe Alaskan winters, the hatchery features backup generators that will switch on in less than two minutes. Natural light and thermally efficient windows also reduce energy use in the facility.

The hatchery began operations in 2011. By 2014, it will support 20 regional fishery programs at 137 sport fish stocking sites. The anticipated 100,000 visitors a year to the hatchery can witness fish life stages through a 10,000-sft viewing area into the facility and attend educational opportunities in the supplemental public meeting space, as well as walk along five acres of landscaped grounds and trails to watch stocking and other operations, helping to promote and support the important sport fishing industry in Alaska.