How a Power Protection System Could Have Saved 160,000 Lives

July 02, 2013

By Steve Anderson - Contributing Writer

A tragedy recently struck the Murray Springs Fish Hatchery in Eureka, Montana, the kind of tragedy that ends with 160,000 dead fish. Normally at the fish hatchery, shutting down the electrical system to the building causes a set of generators kicks on in response. This time, no such response occurred, and took a massive toll in fish. But could this have been avoided, could those 160,000 fish be headed for rivers today with the help of a power protection system?

The story was tragic enough in its own right: a scheduled power outage arrived at the Murray Springs Fish Hatchery, and, as expected, took the power down with it. Under normal circumstances, such an event would prompt the activation of backup generators, but these proved to be anything but normal as the generators failed to kick in. Three and a half hours later, crews restored power to the pumps that keep the water in the Murray Springs Fish Hatchery sufficiently aerated so that the fish can survive, and the lag between aeration times left a significant death toll in its wake, according to the Murray Springs Hatchery Bureau Chief, Eileen Ryce.

Among the losses were 30,000 rainbow trout measuring seven to eight inches to be routed to Lake Koocanusa, as well as 47,000 rainbow trout measuring in at two inches. Further losses included a two-year-old brood fish for the Redband spawn, 6,000 10-inch westslope cutthroat trout and fully 50,000 2.5 inch rainbow trout.

The losses, of course, go beyond the loss of fish lives. The Murray Springs Fish Hatchery won't be able to supply 160,000 fish for the season, which will in turn not only impact this year's bottom line but potentially also the bottom line for years to come. The impact to Murray Springs Fish Hatchery's image in the industry will take years to be fully appreciated.

Thankfully, this story has at least something of a happy ending, at least for the anglers out there; some of the losses will be ameliorated by the use of surplus fish from other hatcheries. But was there a way to have prevented even more of these losses? Possibly, with the correct kind of power protection system. Many look at power protection suites as a way to ensure continuity of business matters, a way to protect computer files or to keep phones operating so as to receive customer contact. But power management could have kept the Murray Springs Fish Hatchery's operations going as well, even through a scheduled power outage, or even an unscheduled one.

With this type of robust system in place, scheduled outages can be made accordingly, allowing uninterrupted power to reach the pumps or other such devices as needed. Even unscheduled outages can be accommodated via an array of power protection products, allowing devices to keep going even when the power isn't.

It's the kind of thing that most businesses should have on hand—not everyone can just close until the power comes back on, however long that may take—and it's likely the kind of thing that Murray Springs Fish Hatchery wishes it had had before 160,000 fish died on its watch.

Edited by Jamie Epstein