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Cedar River Hatchery dedication the start of what many hope boosts future sockeye populations

September 20, 2011


It was a joyous occasion this morning (Tuesday, Sept. 20) on the upper stretch of the Cedar River just below Landsburg Dam.

With the trickling sounds of the nearby river filling the air, and the warmth of a autumn sun rising above, state Fish and Wildlife officials, Seattle City Council Members, Muckelshoot Tribal members, Seattle Public Utilities employees, City of Renton officials, and all those other stakeholders who've had a hand in seeing the permanent Cedar River Hatchery come to fruition were gathered for the dedication.

After more than two decades worth of filed lawsuits, and planning upon planning, the $7.9-million hatchery facility - which hopes to boost sockeye runs in the near future - has been finally completed.

A temporary hatchery in place since 1991 had the capacity to produce 17 million fry, but only did it once during that period. The permanent hatchery could produce 34 million fry.


That temporary hatchery made sport and tribal fisheries possible in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006.

In 2006, a return of 470,000 sockeye allowed an 18-day sport fishery, and was a big shot in the arm of the economy for all related industries.

Since then sockeye runs have dropped nearly to all-time lows, and this summer's return of 44,000 was well below the 350,000 needed to meet spawning escapement before any type of fisheries are allowed.

Now with the new facility in place many are looking forward to making that dream possible again.

"It is humbling for me to be here," said Phil Anderson, the state Fish and Wildlife director. "You look at Lake Washington, and sockeye provide an important and diverse exciting opportunity for a broad cross section of our communities. To not only catch fish, but to learn about salmon and gain a greater understanding of the environment in which we live, and the importance of taking care of that."


"This is one of those projects that touch's what we call our legislative mandate: Preserve Protect and Perpetuate as well as provide outdoor recreation activities," Anderson said.

"This state of the art facility really is an example of what we call hatchery reform to the highest degree, and we are very proud to be operators of this facility and part of the team that brought this to fruition," Anderson said. "It is an honor to be here, and we are looking forward to getting this hatchery and project in operation."

Anderson pointed out that Lake Washington is a special place in the Pacific Northwest.


"I had the opportunity to grow up on Lake Washington many years ago, and had easy access to the lake on my little boat," said Anderson. "And caught a lot of things, none of which were a sockeye and I am hoping to get that chance one of these days."

"When you look at the surveys, and see why people come to live at this place it is the quality of life here," Anderson said. "That really is the number one reason why people choose this area to live in."

Frank Urabeck, a member of the Cedar River Council and a sport fishing advocate was one of the most outspoken supporters of getting the permanent hatchery up and running.


"I am pleased to represent the many hundreds of thousands of sport anglers who enjoyed the special Lake Washington sockeye fishery over the past nearly half century," said Urabeck, who was one of the honored guest speakers today.

"The public overwhelmingly supports the new Cedar River sockeye hatchery as they believe it will help us get back to sockeye fisheries again," Urabeck said. "One of the things that make the Lake Washington sockeye fishery so special is that it is something families can enjoy as you do not have to be an expert angler to take home a sockeye."

Muckleshoot Tribal staff member were also in attendance at the dedication, and they too played a vital role in getting the permanent hatchery finally up and running, which began for them in 1985 when they started working with the City of Seattle.


Phil Hamilton, a member of the Muckleshoot Tribe's Fish Commission, went on to say the hatchery naysayers have claimed that hatcheries were detrimental to the preservation of wild stocks.

"On the contrary we need a dose of reality," Hamilton said. "Hatcheries are preserving the DNA and gene pools of the natural stocks. We are preserving the gene pool for future generations to have the opportunities to enjoy the resource that we've all come to love and share."

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) says much work has been done by scientists and engineers to carefully design the new facility.

In addition, scientists have developed a monitoring program and an adaptive management plan that will improve understanding of how the hatchery interacts with naturally spawning populations and will guide management decisions.

SPU has set goals for the permanent hatchery facility:

1: Implement a biologically and environmentally sound long-term hatchery program that will help to provide for the recovery and persistence of a well-adapted, genetically diverse, healthy, harvestable population of sockeye in the Cedar River.

2: Avoid or minimize detrimental effects on the reproductive fitness and genetic diversity of naturally reproducing salmon populations in the Cedar River and the Lake Washington Basin.

3: Gather new information over the life of the project by monitoring the performance and effects of the hatchery program and use this information as the basis for evaluating and modifying operations, when necessary, to meet program objectives.

4: Satisfy any mitigation obligations the City may have for the sockeye migration blockage created by the Landsburg Diversion Dam as defined in the Landsburg Mitigation Agreement, state and federal law and pursuant to City ordinance and initiatives.

(Photos taken by Mark Yuasa)

Mark Yuasa

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