Good news came out of the state Legislature budget funding that will enhance fish production in southern Puget Sound and Cowlitz river system thanks to lobbying efforts by the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), a group dedicated to the conservation of marine resources.
The state approved $7.3-million for a new southern Puget Sound chinook hatchery on the Deschutes River in Tumwater.
It will pay for the first phase of construction, and support renovation of the existing Tumwater Falls adult collection facility, construction of a water delivery system for the new hatchery, and site work at Pioneer Park to better accommodate the public, according to a CCA news release.
“This will be the first new salmon hatchery built by the State of Washington in decades, and represents a tremendous victory for recreational anglers in South Puget Sound and beyond,” Nello Picinich, Executive Director of CCA Washington said in the news release. “The Deschutes River is a strategic location for enhanced fall Chinook production to provide additional fishing opportunity to anglers up and down the Sound in a manner that is consistent with wild salmon recovery efforts.”
The new hatchery will have the capability to produce four-million fall chinook smolts.
The news release says currently the Deschutes River fall chinook production is spread out among a number of hatcheries along the I-5 corridor, resulting in decreased survival due to the lack of a centralized facility, stress from transportation, and other logistical challenges.
The new facility will boost survival of fish, and the plan by local communities is to create an environment similar to that of the successful Issaquah Hatchery. That would include tourism and educational opportunities. The Issaquah Hatchery draws more than 250,000 visitors every year.
The CCA also lobbied the Legislature to get $650,000 in revenue with the hopes of rebuilding the Cowlitz River fall chinook salmon runs.
These fall chinook in the Cowlitz were known to produce some good fishing opportunities in the past when about five million were produced annually before dropping to 1.5-million in recent times.
According to the CCA, the added revenue along with a possible recreational fishing endorsement fee grant, will result in the release of as many as two million more fall chinook in the Cowlitz river system. Releasing these smolts into the Upper Cowlitz River will increase production to 3.5-million, which remains consistent with hatchery reform conservation goals.
“This is a great day for the Cowlitz River and for recreational salmon fisherman from around the state who love to fish this river,” CCA member Dale Scott of Centralia said in a news release. “We appreciate the work of a number of key local legislators and hopefully we can work together to maintain a robust fishery on the Cowlitz for years to come.”
The improved production will also benefit anglers in the Lower Columbia River and coastal waters.