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A funding gap of about $500,000 in federal Mitchell Act funds will reduce fish production at WDFWs North Toutle, Kalama Falls and Skamania hatcheries. Those cuts will result in 600,000 fewer coho released annually into the Kalama River and Deep River net pens and 24,000 fewer steelhead released each year into lower Columbia River tributaries beginning in 2015.
Earlier this month, WDFW released about 600,000 hatchery coho salmon into Riffe Lake in Lewis County as a first step in bringing hatchery costs into line with reduced funding. Those fish were scheduled to be released next year into the Kalama River and Deep River net pens.
Jim Scott, head of WDFWs Fish Program, said the changes are necessary because federal funding for the hatchery programs has dropped, while operating costs have increased to produce, feed and rear fish at lower Columbia River facilities.
Hatchery salmon production on the lower Columbia River has been declining for the last decade because of insufficient federal funding for these programs, Scott said. These recent changes are another blow to recreational anglers and commercial fishers that rely on hatchery coho in the ocean and lower river, as well as the communities that depend on the economic boost those industries provide.
Under this years funding reductions, WDFW will release 7 percent fewer coho from its lower Columbia River hatcheries, and nearly 2 percent fewer summer steelhead.
We are working closely with our federal delegation to help ensure adequate funding is available for these facilities, but without an increase in federal dollars we will likely see a reduction in salmon production once again next year, Scott said.
Since the 1940s, Congress has appropriated funding for the operation and maintenance of state and tribal hatcheries in the lower Columbia River to compensate Northwest states for losses in fish production resulting from the construction of hydroelectric dams.
Federal Mitchell Act funds cover the costs of operating and producing salmon and steelhead at numerous Columbia River hatcheries, including eight WDFW facilities.
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