McKenzie River Hatchery - Wild Chinook (OR)
Oregon's McKenzie River is cherished as a source of drinking water, for its varied recreational values, and as home to native wild spring Chinook salmon. Federal fish biologists have found that the McKenzie provides the best remaining habitat in the Willamette River basin for wild spring Chinook salmon, which were listed under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) as threatened with extinction in 1999. When the fish was listed there were approximately 5,300 in the McKenzie River, now the population is estimated to be only 1,000 fish.
The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) operates the McKenzie Hatchery on the McKenzie River, which breeds and releases hatchery Chinook salmon. Fish biologists – including those within ODFW – have found that hatchery salmon compete with wild salmon for food, habitat, and spawning space, and can spawn with wild salmon, diluting their genetic integrity.
These impacts constitute illegal “takes” under the ESA. ODFW may avoid liability for its hatchery operations only if it secures a federal Hatchery and Genetic Management Plan or other federal authorization, after public notice and comment.The permit is required to ensure that the hatchery does not impede the recovery of the wild fish. The McKenzie River hatchery does not have such a plan.
Partnering with the McKenzie Flyfishers and the Steamboaters, WELC filed a lawsuit in federal District Court on December 2, 2013 against the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their respective roles in operating and financing the McKenzie River hatchery.
We are not interested in closing the hatchery. The hatchery can and should continue to operate, but are hopeful this lawsuit will place the recovery of wild Chinook salmon as the paramount goal for managing fisheries in the river.
For more information, please read the background on the McKenzie River salmon lawsuit, The McKenzie Salmon Problem - And Why It Matters by the McKenzie Flyyfishers and the Steamboaters.
(WELC Project #224)