Supporters of the Leaburg Fish Hatchery in eastern Lane County are making a last-ditch appeal to Oregon lawmakers to keep it open. A legislative budget committee could vote as soon as Tuesday on whether to save the nearly 70-year-old facility along the McKenzie River 20 miles east of Springfield.
For years, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife operated the facility under a federal contract. The federal government pulled out of that contract last year, which means it would take state funding to keep it open.
A first draft of the ODFW budget did not include funding for the hatchery, meaning it would close at the end of June.
Activist Tim Laue brought a group of area residents to the capitol to lobby lawmakers to keep the hatchery open. Closing the hatchery “would have a negative, negative impact on the economy," said Laue. "The schools use it all the time for fish science classes. It’s a vital part of our community.”
A planned vote in a budget committee on Monday was delayed when Rep. Cedric Hayden, R-Roseburg, introduced an amendment to keep the hatchery open. The co-chairs of the Ways and Means Joint Subcommittee on Natural Resources decided to hold the budget vote over until Tuesday to give lawmakers more time to evaluate the proposal.
Hayden said he holds out hope for keeping the hatchery, which lies in his district, open beyond the end of this month. “If you look at trying to replace that asset in the future, it would be extremely expensive," he said. "I’m disappointed that it’s looking like it might get shuttered, but we’re not going to give up until [the end of the session].”
According to ODFW, it would take $1.7 million to keep the Leaburg Hatchery open for the upcoming two-year budget cycle.