Not happy with merely kiboshing the release of 88 percent of all early winter steelhead into Puget Sound rivers this spring, the Wild Fish Conservancy is now going after a state hatchery where some of those fish were reared.
On Wednesday, the Duvall-based outfit announced it was challenging a King County permit allowing the Department of Fish & Wildlife to upgrade its Tokul Creek Hatchery, bringing it into compliance with ESA.
This after previously suing the agency to get it to fix the facility and bring it into compliance with ESA.
Yes, you read that right.
In the past WDFW has appeared ready to wash its hands of the historic hatchery, which has been vigorously defended by anglers, but it now it plans to spend $5 million on Tokul, which raises clipped steelhead for release into the nearby Snoqualmie River, as well as rainbow trout for local lakes.
It’s also where golden trout are reared for — and we quote straight out of WFC’s press release — “novelty purposes.”
Yes, you read that right, Mike Quinn, Jim Ledbetter, Bob Heirman, and all ya’ll Hi-Lakers and Trailblazers.
WFC’s press release gives little information about what precisely is wrong with WDFW’s shoreline development permit application through King County.
But it does apply the usual haughty talk about how wild steelhead are being suppressed by harvestable hatchery fish, never mind the widespread decline of all steelhead stocks in Pugetropolis and southwestern British Columbia due to massive habitat alterations, dams, ocean conditions and saltwater predation, and the lack of recovery in river systems where hatchery steelhead smolts have not been released for decades.
WFC paints Tokul as ancient and attempts to play the fiscal conservative card — even while they’re driving up the costs themselves.
WDFW is spending $5 mil on the hatchery because WFC — then known as Washington Trout — sued it in 2002 over fish passage past the facility, and now with WDFW trying to fix that, they’re complaining again.
Let’s tally up some of the expenses so far.
It cost WDFW an estimated $1 million to raise this spring’s crop of hatchery winter steelhead at Puget Sound hatcheries.
Due to the out-of-court settlement with WFC over WDFW’s lack of a federal permit for that program, it’s going to cost another estimated quarter million dollars to transport 881,000 smolts to lakes that don’t drain to the ocean — including Sprague Lake, way over near Spokane, where 369,000 are going — or continue growing them for release later this year.
Who the hell knows how fish that want to go to sea will deal with the confinement of lakes.
Then there’s the $45,000 check WFC got from WDFW for court costs, even as the agency has sharply reduced winter fishing seasons, smolt releases and altered hatchery practices to help out wild steelhead.
That 2002 lawsuit over Tokul fish passage was settled out of court with former WDFW director Jeff Koenings writing a $15,500 check to WFC’s lawyers.
More and more, it appears that WFC’s goals aren’t actually about recovering wild steelhead, but bleeding/roadblocking WDFW and what State Senator Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe) wrote a couple weeks ago, “the elimination of all fish hatcheries.”
For more, see this discussion on Piscatorial Pursuits.