VANCOUVER -- Clark County Public Utilities' $235,000 New Year's present will
keep the 58-year-old Vancouver Trout Hatchery open.
The historic hatchery, on 24 acres just east of Interstate 205 on the Old
Evergreen Highway, receives the lifesaving gift as part of a novel agreement recently
signed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the customer-owned
public utility district.
For the next 20 years, Clark Public Utilities will fund the operation and
maintenance of the hatchery to enhance fish and wildlife in southwest Washington's
Lower Columbia River region. The hatchery produces 50,000 catchable-size trout,
110,000 steelhead, and 10,000 sea-run cutthroat for release in Clark County.
The arrangement helps both parties: the utility fulfills its own mission to enhance
fish and wildlife resources in its service area, and the state agency can keep the facility
in operation to produce more fish for thousands of recreational anglers.
The Vancouver hatchery historically has been funded equally by the state and
the federal government through the Mitchell Act Fund. The federal fund supports
Columbia Basin hatcheries to mitigate for the loss of fish habitat by construction of the
region's hydroelectric dams. Tight state budgets forced a reduction in fish production at
Vancouver in the past few years. Cuts in federal and state funds placed the old
hatchery on the cutting block.
The new agreement allows recreational fish production to continue, and it
enhances the hatchery's capabilities and will expand its role as an environmental
education facility in the future. Two new wells will be drilled and other upgrades could
increase fish production by as much as 25 percent. Special access areas for disabled,
juvenile, and senior citizen fishing are planned, as are historical interpretation,
educational and recreational trails.
The hatchery also will promote ecosystem stewardship.
The agreement evolved from cooperative work over the last four years between
WDFW's Hatcheries Program and former state Sen. Dean Sutherland, now
environmental resources manager for Clark Public Utilities. It started when the utility
funded a net pen fish-rearing project at Klineline Pond in Vancouver, explained Manual
Farinas, WDFW's Lower Columbia Operations division manager. When the cutbacks
threatened the entire hatchery operation, the overall funding agreement seemed a
natural next step. Now WDFW is working with Sutherland and Clark Public Utilities on a
four-year plan to develop an ecosystem interpretive center on the hatchery grounds.
"We're always looking for new avenues to bring the public and private sectors
together to produce the kind of community and environment we all want for the future,"
said Farinas. "This is just that kind of venture, and we're really pumped about the
NOTE: Contact Manuel Farinas at 360-902-2683 to make arrangements for a tour of
the Vancouver Hatchery and/or on-site interviews with him or the hatchery manager.