Washington DFW sets public meeting about McKernan Hatchery

Washington DFW sets public meeting about McKernan Hatchery

OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will hold a public meeting in Hoodsport Dec. 14 to review criteria for establishing a public/private partnership to operate the McKernan Hatchery, which is scheduled to close June 30 due to budget shortfalls.

The meeting is scheduled from 7-9 p.m. at the Hoodsport Timberland Library, 40 North Schoolhouse Hill Road. During the meeting, WDFW staff will discuss qualifications required for organizations interested in partnering with the state to manage salmon and steelhead hatcheries facing closure.

Earlier this year, the Washington Legislature directed WDFW to establish a public/private partnership program to continue salmon and steelhead production at state hatcheries now closed or scheduled to close during the 2009-11 biennium. House Bill 1951 (//www.leg.wa.gov/pages/home.aspx) also directed the department to further develop and apply criteria outlined in the legislation to identify appropriate partners.

While the Dec. 14 meeting will focus on criteria for operating the McKernan Hatchery, department managers anticipate the partnership process could apply to other hatcheries that may face closure in the future, said Heather Bartlett, WDFW's hatchery division manager.

"The McKernan Hatchery is the first facility to be considered for participation in the new partnership program, but the process we develop now could be used with other hatcheries facing closure," Bartlett said.

In the state's 2009-11 budget, two salmon and steelhead hatcheries were proposed for closure. The McKernan Hatchery, which produces chum salmon and steelhead, is scheduled to be closed June 30. Palmer Ponds, a steelhead rearing and release pond, located on the Green River, is now closed.

Under the hatchery partnership criteria described in the legislation, potential partners must either be federally recognized non-profit organizations, for-profit businesses, or federally recognized treaty tribes. Among other stipulations, the legislation states that applicants must provide a long-range business plan, demonstrate the ability to operate the facility in a manner consistent with state and federal laws and department rules, and maintain staff with qualifications comparable to those of existing fish hatchery personnel.

The hatchery partnership criteria will be finalized by the end of the month. The application process for potential partners interested in operating the McKernan Hatchery will begin in January, Bartlett said.

"WDFW recognizes the importance of keeping hatcheries open for the recreational and commercial benefits they provide," Bartlett said. "We're committed to finding qualified partners and welcome input from the public on the preliminary criteria we've developed outlining the requirements."

WDFW operates 87 fish hatcheries throughout the state.

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