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Congrats to McKenzie Flyfishers & the Steamboaters

Judge orders ODFW to set deadline on when it will significantly cut the number of McKenzie River hatchery-bred fish.

Congratulations to McKenzie Flyfishers and the McKenzie ChinookSteamboaters on their recent court case.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Tom Coffin ordered the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to set a deadline on when it will significantly cut the number of McKenzie River hatchery-bred fish that mingle and spawn with wild native salmon above Leaburg Dam.  State wildlife officials must submit their proposal setting that deadline within 90 days.

The two groups had sought a court order barring ODFW from releasing more than 360,000 hatchery smolts in the McKenzie until the state found a way to limit to 10 percent the proportion of hatchery salmon that swim upstream and spawn with wild salmon. Unfortunately the judge declined to limit the number of juvenile spring chinook salmon that state fish managers can release.

The two groups claimed that ODFW is harming wild McKenzie River Chinook salmon by excessive release of hatchery Chinook salmon. Large numbers of hatchery salmon stray onto the McKenzie River’s natural spawning grounds, where they interbreed with wild salmon and reduce their productivity. The groups had filed suit in December 2013 against the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), which owns the McKenzie Hatchery, and ODFW, which operates it. The ACE portion of the suit was settled at an earlier date. The Plaintiffs maintained that Defendants were violating the Endangered Species Act by operating the hatchery for many years without the required federally-approved Hatchery Genetic Management Plan (HGMP), and by exceeding the federally required limit for straying hatchery salmon by at least 400% for more than a decade.

Attachments: Court Opinion & Order

For more information, read "Judge refuses to limit chinook salmon release into McKenzie River - But the state must set a deadline for when it will reduce the releases" from The Register-Guard; March 18, 2015.

Photo Credit: Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard

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