Make the McKenzie Connection!

Cutbacks in hatchery funding protested

McKenzie area trout stocking could drop by 60 percent

Cuts to annual federal budgets for trout, steelhead, and Chinook salmon stocking in the Upper Willamette Basin are generating protests from Northwest anglers and organizations. In December the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers (ACOE) notified the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) that it planned to stop funding producing hatchery trout, steelhead, and Chinook salmon in the Upper Willamette Basin.

Numbers in the Corps’ plans include an overall 65% reduction from 277,000 lbs. of trout per year to 97,000 in 2025. That could translate into less than 20,000 lbs. per year for the McKenzie - instead of the nearly 50,000 lbs. per year.

The Corps says federal budget reductions and annual inflation costs are the main reasons for the cuts. More details include ending the Middle Fork Willamette’s summer steelhead program in 2025 and cutting Spring Chinook production by 172,000 smolts.

In 1938 the Flood Control Act led to the construction of 13 dams, including Blue River and the South Fork McKenzie rivers.

To mitigate the loss of fish habitat and production, construction, and operation of the dam, the Corps built and funded five hatcheries in the Upper Willamette Basin.

“Excluding unavoidable pro-gram reductions related to recent litigation and Endangered Species Act (ESA) implementation, ACOE mitigation program contributions have been fairly steady over the past 50 years,” according to the McKenzie River Guides Association. “The Corps’ 3-year contract payments to ODFW “have approached $5 million in recent years. ACOE’s planned reduction of nearly $1 million in payment would be the first real departure in steady ACOE mitigation support/performance,” they noted in a letter to Oregon Fourth District Congresswoman Val Hoyle.

“In the face of already diminished returns, reductions of this magnitude would effectively bury sportfishing in the Willamette River Basin,” according to Liz Hamilton, Policy Director of the Oregon City-based Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association (NSIA).

“The Willamette River once saw wild salmon and steelhead returns exceeding 1 million adults annually back to the basin,” she noted. “When the US Army Corps of Engineers cut off spawning and rearing habitat by constructing the dams in the upper basin, these wild fish plummeted to around 3% of their historical abundance.”

Last week the NSIA organized a letter campaign to alert Hoyle and Fifth District Congresswoman Lori Chavez-DeRemer of growing opposition. By Tuesday morning they had forwarded letters of concern from 1,600 Oregonians.

 

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