OLYMPIA - State fishery managers will hold a public meeting Jan. 9 in Centralia to discuss a proposal to end the release of hatchery steelhead in the North Fork Toutle/Green River watershed to support the recovery of wild fish.
The meeting is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. Washington Hall Room 103 at Centralia College, 701 W. Walnut St.
The North Fork Toutle/Green River watershed is one of three tributaries to the lower Columbia River recently proposed as "gene banks" for wild steelhead by advisory groups to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The other two tributaries are the East Fork Lewis River and the Wind River.
The purpose of gene banks is to protect wild steelhead from the effects of hatchery stocks in strategic watersheds around the state, said Cindy Le Fleur, fish manager for WDFW's southwest region.
"Research has shown that negative effects can range from interbreeding to competition for food and habitat," Le Fleur said. "Creating gene banks to protect wild steelhead in some areas is required under the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan."
Wild steelhead populations in the lower Columbia River have been listed as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act since 1998.
Le Fleur said the upcoming meeting is designed to follow up on one held in Vancouver in late November.
"A lot of the questions and comments we've received since then have focused on the North Fork Toutle and Green rivers," Le Fleur said. "We decided another meeting dedicated to that proposal might be helpful."
Recommendations for the North Fork Toutle/Green River watershed and other rivers proposed as gene banks are posted on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01559/.
Final selections will be forwarded to NOAA-Fisheries, which oversees salmon and steelhead recovery on the Columbia River.