The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is making a concerted effort to welsh on their federal mitigation responsibilities, cripple Oregon’s largest recreational fishery, and threaten Oregon’s sovereign right to manage fish and wildlife within its borders.
As reported in The Oregonian on February 10 by Bill Monroe, “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to put the mega-fish hatchery at Bonneville Dam and several other key hatcheries on the Willamette and Rogue river systems out for competitive bid, moving away from a 65-year relationship with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.”
“Privatization will result in substantial reductions in stocked trout throughout the Willamette Valley,” Monroe continued.
The Corps plan calls for just 54 percent of its mitigation responsibility to be fulfilled. Additionally, it will end trout stocking in Detroit, Foster, Cougar and Middle Fork Willamette reservoirs, and possibly the McKenzie River.
The Oregon Outdoor Council has been informed that The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers intends to start accepting bids as early as February 15, 2017.
While the Oregon Outdoor Council is not opposed to private contracts to support recreational fisheries in Oregon, this conversation should be pursued carefully and in coordination with the state of Oregon, not on a whim at the sole discretion of the federal government.
The Oregon Outdoor Council believes the extremely fast pace of the process to be illegal as no environmental impact statement has been completed and no public comment process has been facilitated.
The Oregon Outdoor Council is currently reviewing the possibility of pursuing a court injunction to place a stay on the effort. We will provide more information as it becomes available.
Below is a press release from one of OOC’s Conservation Partners, The McKenzie River Guides Association (MRGA).
CORPS OF ENGINEERS TO CLOSE LEABURG HATCHERY-JEOPARDIZE MCKENZIE FISH STOCKING
The McKenzie River Guides Association (MRGA) learned last week that the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) intends to change the way it operates its hatchery program resulting in the closure of the Leaburg Trout Hatchery and the end of funding for trout stocking in the McKenzie River.
A February 7, 2016 letter to MRGA President Steve Mealey from ODFW Deputy Fish Chief Bruce McIntosh indicated the ACOE plans to terminate its 60-year Cooperative Agreement implementing federal mitigation hatcheries in Oregon. Hatchery fish production will be put out for competitive bids. McIntosh said the area hardest hit will be the Willamette Basin:
“Recreational trout fishing will be eliminated from the Detroit, Foster, Cougar, and Middle Fork Willamette Reservoirs and possibly the mainstem McKenzie River”.
With the defunding and closure of Leaburg Hatchery, trout production will be contracted to small business for up to 100,000 pounds of fish. There is no intent to meet the full mitigation responsibility of 277,000 pounds, reducing trout mitigation by 64% [sic].
McIntosh went on: “…the economic repercussions will be significant to those businesses and communities that rely on sport anglers and anglers”.
In response Mealey stated, “this arbitrary and surprising action by the ACOE will have a devastating impact on recreational fishing here on the McKenzie and elsewhere in the region; fishing opportunity for young and old alike, many of whom caught their first fish on the McKenzie, will be greatly reduced– this must not be allowed to happen.” He also noted that the arbitrary and bureaucratic action intended by the ACOE is contrary to the harmonious partnerships federal agencies are expected to develop and maintain with their state, local, and private neighbors.
For nearly 90 years McKenzie River guides in their famous McKenzie Drift Boats have helped people throughout Oregon, the nation and the globe experience the magic of the McKenzie River with both its stocked and wild rainbow trout. Roughly 40% of the 90 mile McKenzie River is stocked with catchable trout allowing anglers of all ages to catch and keep rainbows. The long-standing guide’s tradition of a noon lunch of freshly caught fried trout is a unique McKenzie experience. “The action planned by the ACOE will end the famous legacy of the McKenzie River Guides as we have come to know it,” Mealey stated.
The MRGA believes that the ACOE as a federal agency subject to the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) must complete an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the intended action to change management of its mitigation hatchery program before implementing the action. MRGA takes this position because it believes the intended action is a “major federal action” with significant social, economic and environmental consequences, which requires an EIS before implementation.
The ACOE intended action affects seven mitigation hatcheries in the Willamette, Columbia and Rogue Basins which were constructed and implemented beginning in 1951 to mitigate for the lost production and/or habitat associated with the construction of federal dams in these basins. For further information contact:
42112 Holden Creek Lane
Springfield, OR 97478