The BPA is proposing to build another hatchery facility on the Klickitat designed to "increase the abundance of spring chinook and steelhead natural spawning," and "decrease the impacts of non-native fall Chinook and coho programs". While the projects purported benefits are to reduce the impacts of hatchery propagation on native spring chinook and summer steelhead it would also build two new hatchery facilities in the klickitat basin to accomplish that goal, a concerning contradiction given the already out of control nature of hatchery supplementation in the basin.
Spring Chinook and steelhead are native to the klickitat however the construction of a fishway at Lyle falls and misguided hatchery programs have led to introduction two non-native species (fall Chinook and coho) into the upper watershed creating a situation which poses a significant threat to wild salmon in the basin. A recent report by the Columbia River Intertribal Fisheries Commission (CRITFC) identified genetic introgression between introduced fall chinook and native spring chinook and revealed that at present wild steelhead are outnumbered by their hatchery counterparts approximately 5:1 in the Klickitat. Both situations are extremely disconcerting and do not bode well for the genetic integrity or productivity of the river's wild stocks.
The proposal to reduce the number of non-native smolts released into the Klickitat is a tiny step in the right direction however the idea of releasing non-native species into the river at all is lunacy, particularly when it has been established that fall Chinook are swamping the indigenous genetic material of the native spring Chinook stock. At an absolute minimum all fall Chinook and hatchery coho should be sorted out of the upriver population at the Lyle Falls fishway, making them available for tribal harvest and eliminating any risk that they spawn in the wild.
Policy makers at the Yakama nation appear fixated on hatchery reform as a cure all to the well known ills of hatchery supplementation, however their hope that moving the steelhead program to a "state of the art" integrated program will somehow reduce the risks posed by the hatchery program is not rooted in reality. Instead it's another expensive hatchery program that doesn't address the problem of the hatchery fish being there in the first place. Furthermore it would likely increase the total number of steelhead being released in the basin by 80,000 fish and increase the number of spring chinook released by 200,000, implementing a production hatchery using broodstock taken from an ESA listed population of wild fish. This is a terrible idea and frankly might be a step back from the current conditions on the Klickitat. Furthermore, despite the assertion that the new program would address the threat posed by fall chinook the plan calls for the continued release of 4 millionnon-native fall chinook into the Klickitat each year.
The proposed hatchery upgrades on the Klickitat are nothing more than an expansion of hatchery operations in the watershed, veiled in the misleading language of its purported and clearly farcical "conservation benefits". None of the 3 options on the table lead to a reduction in the overall number of hatchery fish released into the Klickitat.
A public meeting on the draft EIS is being held this Weds August 10th from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.
at the Lyle Community Center. 5th Street and State Highway Lyle, WA 98635
If you fish the Klickitat or live in the area please turn out and tell the BPA not to fund any new hatchery facilties in the Klickitat until the underlying problems are fully addressed. This plan is an abomination against wild fish in the basin and highlights the BPA and YKFP's singular focus on hatchery production and lack of interest in instituting policy that will lead to real recovery of wild fish in the watershed.
The BPA is accepting comments on the Klickitat EIS, please let BPA know that we wont tolerate the wild and scenic Klickitat being managed as yet another hatchery raceway.
for getting the word out.