Colville Hatchery closed for good?

After three years of funding from the Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT), the Colville Fish Hatchery could be closing once and for all, says Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Regional Fish Program Manager John Whalen. The facility was slated for closure under 2009 state budget cuts. The Colville Hatchery annually provides about 409,000 trout and Kokanee salmon fry to support recreational fishing in lakes in Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties. “It’s been a very successful and cost-effective operation over the years,” says Whalen. “We are hoping it won’t come to closure, so we are looking at other options and trying to find an alternative source of funding.” Under an agreement that runs through June 30, 2012, the Tribes provided $114,000 to produce over 2,640 pounds of trout fry and 250,000 Kokanee salmon fry. The funding pays hatchery staff and fish-production expenses. Kokanee salmon fry and eggs were given to the Colvilel Confederated Tribe to be placed at the head of the San Poil River in 2010 and 2011, but the hatchery will not be able to support the project into 2012, says Whalen. “We have been very thankful to the Tribe for providing the funding over the past three years, but we’ve been told they are looking at other options and ideas for the use of their funds,” adds Whelan. ‘We’re open to ideas…’The WDFW is looking at the possibility of leasing or renting the facility and the three- plus acres it sits on just off Third Avenue, but no official decisions have been made yet. The hatchery employs one full-time manager and seasonal part-time work. If the facility is closed, the manager will have the option of finding employment elsewhere within WDFW. The part-time positions would be eliminated. “Obviously, we don’t want to be trying to figure something out up to the 11th hour,” says Whelan. “Right now, we are shaking the tree and hope to hear from people who are interested in helping us keep the facility open. It’s been there for a long time and it would be a shame to see it close.” Whelan adds that the department is also looking at the possibility of other area hatcheries absorbing the functions of the Colville facility, but it is not known yet whether those hatcheries would be able to sustain their own operations and Colville’s as well. “We’re open to ideas,” says Whelan.