A federal hatchery on the McKenzie River that
was scheduled for closure could soon reopen and be repurposed to raise spring
chinook and trophy rainbow trout.
The Leaburg Hatchery, owned by the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers and operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife,
has raised steelhead and rainbow trout at the hatchery since 1953 to mitigate
for fish losses resulting from the construction and operation of the Corps’
Willamette River basin dams.
However, while it revamped its contracts for
hatchery production at six of its Oregon hatcheries during 2017, the Corps had
planned on abandoning its Leaburg facility this summer, which is at mile 38.8
of the McKenzie River.
It is ceasing production of steelhead at the
hatchery as well as outsourcing the hatchery’s rainbow trout production to
Desert Springs Trout Farm in Summer Lake, Ore. That outsourcing contract calls
for Desert Springs to produce at its facility in southcentral Oregon some
277,000 pounds of trout each year for distribution throughout Oregon.
The state plans to grow some 240,000 spring
chinook smolts at the hatchery and 100,000 trophy rainbow trout, said Scott
Patterson, fish propagation manager at ODFW. The addition of trout would add 20
percent more trout harvest opportunities in the Willamette Valley.
ODFW has added the amount of money it would
need to operate the hatchery as part of its 2019-21 biennium budget, but it
still needs “gap” funding for the remaining 2017-19 biennium, Patterson said.
The gap funding would provide the fishery agency with enough money to operate
July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, the remainder of the biennium.
At the same time, according to Patterson, the
Corps has recently sent a letter to the state agency suggesting a no-cost five
year lease to use the hatchery. If agreed to by the Corps and ODFW, and if ODFW
secures funding, the lease would begin July 1.
“We will step in if given the opportunity,”
Patterson said. “If the gap funding is provided, we will gear up for production
this fall with releases of trout as early as 2019 and chinook in 2020.”
The gap funding to pay for the repurposed operations
could come soon from the Oregon legislature, now in a short 6-week session in
Salem. It would be added to a late session omnibus bill, allocating the needed
money, according to Bruce McIntosh, deputy fish chief of ODFW’s Inland
“There is no actual bill in the short session,
but Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) and others are working to add funding in
the end-of-session omnibus bill that would allocate $350,000 General Fund and
$150,000 Columbia Basin Endorsement Funds to keep the hatchery operating for
another year,” McIntosh said. “We are working through the budget process to be
in a place where the Governor and the legislature can consider long term
funding solutions next winter for the 2019-21 session.”
Endorsement funds are paid by anglers each
year as a way to fund enhanced recreational fisheries and to implement Columbia
In 2017, the Corps renegotiated contracts with
ODFW to operate its hatcheries at 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), and the Willamette Fish
Hatchery (rebuilt in 1952) near Oakridge, McKenzie Hatchery (rebuilt in 1975).
--CBB March 10, 2017, “Corps Says Five Oregon
Mitigation Hatcheries Could Stay With ODFW, May Solicit Bids For Two Others,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438455.aspx
--CBB, February 10, 2017, “Corps To Bid Out
Operations At Seven Corps-Owned Oregon Hatcheries Now Managed By ODFW, http://www.cbbulletin.com/438309.aspx