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Icicle River Hatchery Meets Heated Crowd, Twice

December 02, 2009


120209 hatchery meeting
Wednesday Morning—IKW
       Both of yesterday’s public meetings on the Leavenworth Hatchery’s plans to build a new water system on the Icicle River were full of worried residents. KOHO’s Isaac Kaplan-Woolner attended the evening session:
120209 hatchery meeting—07:58
“Isaac Kaplan-Woolner”
       Again, the Leavenworth Hatchery’s water plan would essentially consist of an underground pump house, a low check dam across the canal, and a new dam with a fish ladder across the Icicle River, just below the Sleeping Lady property. It would need NEPA approval by the end of next September. For more on the hatchery plans, visit our website for a link.
When it comes to multiple government agencies, hatchery salmon, and a pristine waterway with endangered wild fish, things can get complicated in a hurry. The conference room at Leavenworth’s Enzian Inn was packed not once but twice on Tuesday with concerned citizens. At stake are millions of one-time stimulus dollars for a desperately aging Hatchery facility and/or the future of the icicle river watershed, depending on who you ask.
The Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery and the Bureau of Reclamation presented a plan they say best meets their water needs, while best preserving the Icicle River. Officials said the current seventy year old water pipeline is literally falling apart, and now the Hatchery has access to $18 million in federal stimulus funds to fix their water intake system.
            The project would consist of an underground pumping station, a low check wall dam at the top of the hatchery channel, and a replacement “structure 2” dam with a new fish ladder across the river’s historic channel. The new intake site is about .7 miles downstream of the current gravity fed water intake, and immediately downstream of the Sleeping Lady resort.
            Federal Bureau of Reclamation Project manager Ron Eggers facilitated much of Tuesday’s discussions. He said that while the dam and pump house design plans are roughly 35% underway, there is still room for public input and discussion.
            The plans must first pass the muster of the National Environmental Policy (NEPA) process, which requires an environmental assessment, or EA, which will be open to public comment. If the EA fails, it will trigger the more stringent Environmental Impact Statement or EIS. But Eggers said that scenario could prove problematic:
            Dozens of residents asked questions and posed challenges to the Hatchery’s proposed pump house and dam plans. Some asked Eggers if any of their opinions would be taken into account:
            Still others challenged the timing of the hatchery’s plans, claiming they were rushed to qualify for federal stimulus dollars:
            Chelan County Commissioner Keith Goehner said he felt the plan had been formed too much behind closed doors. He said that as a member of the Wenatchee Watershed Planning Unit, he should have known about the hatcheries plans by now:
            The tone was intense throughout the two hour-plus meeting, as people raised concerns about the existing irrigation ditch, the fate of wild fish under the hatchery plan, why alternative plans were rejected, and why the current gravity fed system is not being rehabilitated.
            Last to speak from the audience was Leavenworth resident Pat Stroud, whose family built the original Icicle Irrigation system. Stroud said she remains strongly supportive of a gravity fed pipeline similar to the one currently in use. But most importantly, she supports the community gathering together to guide the future of the Hatchery:
            It seemed that many attendees left Tuesday’s meetings with nagging questions or thoroughly entrenched in their opposition to the Hatchery’s current water plans. Ron Eggers with the Bureau of Reclamation said the draft environmental assessment of the pump house and dam plan should be out before Christmas, and that they will be seeking further public comment.



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