The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it will end its
cooperative agreements with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to
operate seven Corps-owned hatcheries in Oregon and instead solicit bids and
award contracts for their operation. In the end, that could privatize
operations at the hatcheries by July 1.
ODFW’s 5-year cooperative agreements at each of the
hatcheries with the Corps will end June 30 and the federal agency says it wants
the contractor in place by mid-April and any operational changes by July 1.
That could mean that ODFW will continue to operate one or
more of the seven hatcheries, or the operators could be private parties.
Prior to 1990 the Corps had contracts with ODFW, but that
practice transitioned to cooperative agreements in the 1990s, according to
Michelle Helms, Portland District Corps spokesperson. She said a cooperative
agreement is something akin to a grant that helps an entity fund an activity,
whereas a contract is where the Corps pays a contractor to do work on its
behalf to support a Corps’ authorization. “We can outline expectations better
with a contract,” she said.
She said the Federal Acquisitions Regulations says that the
most appropriate approach is to go back to a bidding process and award
contracts for hatchery operations.
“That allows us to meet the requirements of regulations, it
will lead to efficiencies and it also would allow us to be more specific in how
the hatcheries are operated,” Helms said.
The Corps-owned Oregon hatcheries operated by ODFW are Cole
Rivers Hatchery (built in 1973) on the Rogue River, Bonneville Fish Hatchery at
Eagle Creek near Bonneville Dam (expanded in 1957), Marion Forks Hatchery
(1951) on Marion Creek a tributary of the Santiam River, South Santiam Fish
Hatchery (1925), Willamette Fish Hatchery (rebuilt in 1952) near Oakridge,
McKenzie Hatchery (rebuilt in 1975) and Leaburg Hatchery (1953), mostly a trout
hatchery, on the Willamette River.
All the hatcheries are operated to mitigate for the loss of
trout and anadromous fish as a result of the construction of Corps dams in
What appeared to be a sudden move from agreements to
contracts and bidding out the work at hatcheries was a surprise to Bruce
McIntosh, deputy fish chief of ODFW’s Inland Fisheries.
ODFW has operated the seven hatcheries for the Corps since
they were built and he said the state and federal agencies have had a good
relationship for 65 years. For a year ODFW and the Corps have been discussing
the fact that their cooperative agreement was up June 30 and that the
agreements were no longer Corps policy and could be replaced by contracts,
McIntosh said. However, it was just two weeks ago that the Corps approached
ODFW about the plan to put all the hatcheries out for bid in the next couple of
weeks, and that seemed sudden.
“From a process standpoint, we were pretty much caught off
guard,” he said. “Disappointing is the softest word I can use.”
Helms said the Corps relationship with ODFW has been good
and that’s not why the Corps is changing strategies on hatchery operations.
“This has nothing to do with the operations of the
hatcheries,” Helms said. “It’s a business process change and we want to make
sure we are doing it in such a way that it aligns with federal regulations.”
Some of the hatcheries are co-owned by ODFW, the Corps and
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an ownership complication the Corps is
trying to work out.
“Those present a different circumstance and set up,” Helms
said. “We may need to approach these a little differently.”
South Santiam and Willamette hatcheries are co-owned by the
Corps and ODFW. The McKenzie hatchery is owned by the Corps, but ODFW has a 50
year lease that was issued in 1976. The buildings at the Marion Forks hatchery
are owned by the Corps, the land is owned by the Service and ODFW has an
agreement with the Service to operate a hatchery at that location, Helms
Contracts will be awarded using competitive procedures
according to Federal Acquisition Regulations and ODFW can submit bids for the
services, she said.
“We have worked within the bounds of our contracting processes
to keep ODFW informed, but have been careful to not share anything that would
render ODFW ineligible to bid on any contracts,” Helms said.
McIntosh said ODFW intends to bid on the contracts.
The Corps hosted an “industry day” in November. At that time,
Helms said, the Corps told participants about the type of work that would be
contracted in the coming year, including operations at hatcheries.
In addition, the Corps published notices in
www.FedBizOpps.gov alerting potential bidders to a contracting opportunity at
Cole Rivers Hatchery, which could be the first hatchery on the bidding block.
It is a market survey, Helms said, to get an idea of interest and ability to
operate the hatchery.
Two potential bidders have already responded to the market
survey as interested and qualified bidders. They are Anchor QEA, LLC of
Wenatchee, Washington, and Prairie Springs Fish Farm in Dayville, near John
Day, according to a February 8 Medford Mail Tribune article.
Helms did not confirm the two bidders, but said the formal
request for bids – the next step – could be out by the end of February.
There are also Corps-funded mitigation hatcheries in
Washington and Idaho, including Dworshak National Fish Hatchery in Idaho,
Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery on the Columbia River, Ringgold Springs
Hatchery on the Yakima River, and the Little White Salmon Hatchery, all in
other Corps hatcheries could be subject to contracts, Helms said, each would be
unique as they relate to the agencies involved. Federal to federal agreements
fall under different acquisition regulations than those with state agencies or