CHELAN - A cooperative project to develop wildlife viewing facilities and enhance fish habitat on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) property in Chelan County received $1.5 million in state legislative funding.
Known as Beebe Springs, the 185-acre property lies adjacent to WDFW's Chelan Fish Hatchery between the Columbia River and State Highway 97, just north of Chelan. The riparian area hosts a variety of wildlife, from mule deer to songbirds, and tributary streams could be restored for increased spawning and rearing of endangered steelhead.
The project got a funding start earlier this year when the Lake Chelan Sportsman's Association (LCSA) received a $84,092 grant from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, and secured another $14,850 in local contributions, for conceptual site design and planning through a contract with the Watershed Company of Kirkland, WA.
LCSA has been working to promote development of the site with WDFW as part of a community stakeholders group, including state and county elected officials, Chelan Public Utility District (PUD), Chelan Chamber of Commerce U.S. Forest Service, Audubon, Colville Confederated Tribes, Upper Columbia Resource Conservation & Development Office, and others.
The state legislative appropriation, led by District 12 Senator Linda Evans Parlette, provides $950,000 for development of an interpretive nature trail, kiosk and associated wildlife viewing projects, and $550,000 for cost-sharing with Chelan County PUD for development of a summer chinook salmon acclimation pond.
"We envision a complex that will evoke a greater appreciation of nature," said LCSA president Frank Clark. "The fish hatchery already draws many visitors traveling Highway 97 to view the kokanee and rainbow, cutthroat, brown and brook trout raised there for stocking in local fishing waters. Beebe Springs is a natural for broader fish and wildlife education, recreation and community economic development."
The Chelan County PUD has long been engaged in protection of salmonids affected by its hydroelectric projects on the Columbia River, explained Tracy Yount of the PUD. "We are currently working with WDFW and others to develop hatchery programs that are best for the fish and the local economy," he said.
If a study completed by June 30 can show the viability of a fish acclimation pond off the Chelan River south of the Beebe Springs site, the legislative appropriation can be used as a cost-share with the PUD for development of the pond.
"These are the kinds of projects that can boost local economies," said WDFW North Central Regional Director Dennis Beich. "Surveys show that with travel, lodging, food, equipment and other recreational expenditures, fishing brings about $854 million and wildlife viewing brings almost $1 billion into Washington each year. Chelan County stands to gain a bigger share of that with the Beebe Springs project."