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Oregon Could Lease Corps’ McKenzie River Leaburg Hatchery To Raise Willamette Spring Chinook
Posted on Friday, March 02, 2018 (PST)

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 Fisheries.


“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 River reforms.


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).


Also see:


--CBB March 10, 2017, “Corps Says Five Oregon Mitigation Hatcheries Could Stay With ODFW, May Solicit Bids For Two Others,”


--CBB, February 10, 2017, “Corps To Bid Out Operations At Seven Corps-Owned Oregon Hatcheries Now Managed By ODFW,


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