A Lane County fish hatchery will close at the end of June unless Oregon lawmakers decide to keep it open. The Leaburg Hatchery opened almost 70 years ago along the McKenzie River 20 miles east of Springfield. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife operated the trout and steelhead hatchery under a federal contract. When the US Army Corps of Engineers pulled funding last year, state lawmakers plugged the hole with a one-year spending plan.
With that funding set to run out, lawmakers say they’re trying to find the money in the state budget to keep the facility open. "I have some concerns about the Leaburg Hatchery and particularly the communities around there that rely on the fishing along the McKenzie River," said Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, who noted that recreation is one of the main economic drivers in that part of Lane County.
Frederick sits on the Oregon Legislature's budget subcommittee that is drawing up the next two-year spending plan for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Agency director Curt Melcher on Monday noted that layoff notices have already gone out to the employees of the Leaburg facility. “Obviously if you all are intending to fund the hatchery and keep it open, the sooner we know that the better,” he said.
Supporters of keeping the Leaburg Hatchery open are planning to testify at a public hearing on Wednesday in Salem. The ODFW says keeping the facility open will require $1.7 million in state general funds, without which the agency says the hatchery will close.