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More than 50 salmon and trout carcasses placed in North Scappoose Creek by state wildlife agency and student volunteers

SUBMITTED PHOTO: JOEL HAUGEN - Nearly 100 fish carcasses float in a Scappoose creek after being placed there as part of a stream enrichment program through Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Stay connected to your local news! Get digital access today.

A slew of dead fish floating along the surface of a creek in Scappoose put some residents at unease last week.

Scappoose resident and City Councilor Joel Haugen took note of the site at North Scappoose Creek, reached out to law enforcement and, eventually, touched base with the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council.

Thankfully, the more than 50 belly-up salmon and trout weren't the product of illegal dumping or demise from the creek, but rather they were placed there through an Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife project with help from Scappoose Academy students.

ODFW says its Stream Nutrient Enrichment Programs are fairly common. The program sees fish carcasses strategically placed in streams to help bolster ecosystems in certain areas throughout the state.

"From the ecosystem side, due to smaller runs than would have historically returned, we have lost a large portion of marine-derived nutrients that would have come back with these larger runs of salmon," Dave Stewart, a fish biologist with ODFW, explained in an email. Stewart's email was sent to the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council for further explanation to curious Scappoose residents.

"Because of this we utilize excess salmon that return to the hatcheries and that are not used for the foodbank, as carcasses that are placed into the creek to provide these nutrients. There are a whole host of animals that utilize these carcasses, from bears to eagles to the macroinvertebrates that the wild salmon juveniles eat to survive until they migrate downstream and to the ocean."

Pat Welle, coordinator with the watershed council, confirmed that they partnered with ODFW for the recent fish toss.

"We were assisting them on the project," Welle noted. "Essentially, we do this to provide additional nutrients back into the creek."

ODFW says the decomposing fish release nutrients back into the water and soil, and the carcasses provide food for wildlife.

If it sounds like a dirty gig, that's because it is.

"Various schools have accompanied us on a lot of these enrichments as part of their natural resources studies and [it's] a good opportunity to talk about the food chain and cycle of life, among other things," notes Rick Swart, public information officer for ODFW. "As you can imagine, it's dirty, nasty work. There aren't many things that can out-stink dead, rotten fish ..."

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