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Transfer of Hatchery
Not Expected to Result in Loss of Jobs

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, May 21, 2004

The proposed transfer of Kooskia National Fish Hatchery to the Nez Perce Tribe is not expected to result in a loss of jobs or reduce the number of fish available to anglers, according to officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

As part of a proposed settlement of the tribe's water claims in the Snake River Basin, the tribe would take over management of Kooskia National Hatchery and become a co-manager of Dworshak National Fish Hatchery.

"The details are still to me not exactly clear as far as the time frames and the dollars and the responsibility issues," said Bill Miller, manager of Dworshak Hatchery. "A lot of those things have to be worked out. "

But Miller said he expects nobody would lose their jobs. Instead, he said as people retire or move on from Kooskia National Fish Hatchery for other reasons, they would be replaced with tribal employees instead of federal employees.

"It's our vision that this would be a transition," he said. "It is a long-term deal. This is not something that is going to happen quickly."

Heidi Gudgel, an attorney for the tribe, said she doesn't know how the transfer will occur but did not disagree with the vision expressed by the Fish and Wildlife Service of a slow transition. The details will be worked out between now and a settlement deadline of March 31.

"It's premature to second-guess what the final agreement is going to look like," she said.

Both hatcheries were built and are funded to produce fish for tribal and non-tribal anglers. That is expected to continue.

Dworshak National Fish Hatchery was built as part of Dworshak Dam. It produces a hatchery run of steelhead to compensate anglers for the wild run of steelhead destroyed when the dam blocked spawning grounds on the North Fork of the Clearwater River. The hatchery also produces spring chinook to compensate for declines in wild runs of spring chinook caused by the four U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams on the lower Snake River.

The Kooskia National Hatchery was built to mitigate for water development projects constructed on the Columbia River in the late 1960s. It works in conjunction with the Dworshak hatchery.

The production goals of both hatcheries are set as part of a settlement to court case that determines how surplus fish runs are divided between states and tribes in the Columbia River Basin.

"These are mitigation hatcheries. They were legally built under the law that says they would mitigate for projects," said Miller.

However, Miller said he did not know how the hatcheries would be funded in the future. He said both are now funded out of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget.

"At this time we don't see that the money goes with the hatchery."

The tribe and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service already work together at the Dworshak hatchery. Each year coho salmon and fall chinook are produced there as part of a tribal project. Surplus steelhead and spring chinook that return to the hatcheries and are not needed for spawning are outplanted as part of a tribal program to supplement wild runs.

Eric Barker
Transfer of Hatchery Not Expected to Result in Loss of Jobs
Lewiston Tribune, May 21, 2004

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