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Corps To Bid Out Operations At Seven Corps-Owned Oregon Hatcheries Now Managed By ODFW
Posted on Friday, February 10, 2017 (PST)

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 Oregon.


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 explained.


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 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 Washington.

While 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 private contractors.


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