Tumwater Falls Hatchery Modernization

Chinook Salmon Underwater | Tumwater Falls Hatchery Modernization

Tumwater Falls Hatchery Modernization

Increasing Chinook Production to Support Southern Resident Killer Whale (orca)

Constructed by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, City of Tumwater, Squaxin Island Tribe and Olympia Tumwater Foundation, the Tumwater Falls Hatchery project provides a facility to trap returning adult salmon; rear, acclimate and release additional Chinook salmon; improve water quality; educate the community; and support the dwindling Southern Resident Killer Whale (orca) population. 

Built in the 1950s to help spawning salmon traverse the Deschutes River, Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls’ fish ladders needed repair and the hatchery’s 1960s-era holding ponds had become too small for current needs. The $9 million modernization project built new, larger adult holding and juvenile rearing ponds, extended the fish ladder and expanded production quantity to more than 3.8 million Chinook salmon annually. The project will allow the more than 250,000 annual park visitors to come face-to-face with salmon through new fish-viewing windows in the holding ponds and ladder. 

The upgraded hatchery coincides with orca recovery legislation that was signed into law in May 2019 by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. The increased fish production serves as a critical food supply for orcas, which propagate Puget Sound and have struggled, in part, due to a lack of food. 

The facility upgrades also included a new mechanical building to house surface water pumps, air backwash equipment and alarms, a new surface water intake that meets current National Marine Fisheries Criteria and pollution abatement facilities that meet the Department of Ecology requirements.

Construction was completed within a tight in-water work window to get the infrastructure in place for water supply and provide additional rearing space for the Chinook. The facility’s design also captures the historical aspects of the area.

The highly public park will also allow for facility monitoring and may influence the way future Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife facilities are constructed. 

Incorporating the new developments into the park setting took considerable effort from the team to locate facilities, public viewing and gathering places, public access, and structure locations. While the greatest attraction will be the viewing windows in the fish ladder, the observation platform will also provide the public opportunities to see hatchery operations and adult fish in the ponds. The park’s unique aspects are tied together with federal Americans with Disabilities Act compliant sidewalks that shuttle visitors around the fish facilities, benches and tables for congregating, and kiosks that provide information on the life cycle of fish, historical perspectives of the park, and the overall watershed.

Chinook Salmon Underwater | Tumwater Falls Hatchery Modernization
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife

Tumwater, WA
United States

3.8M Annual Chinook Salmon Production


Honorable Mention (2021)
American Society of Civil Engineers, Olympia-Tacoma Section
National Recognition Award (2021)
Engineering Excellence Awards
American Council of Engineering Companies
Gold Award (2021)
Engineering Excellence Awards
American Council of Engineering Companies of Washington
Award of Merit (2020)
Small Project (under $10 million) Category
Engineering News-Record Northwest