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In response to Kathleen Menke's letter of Dec. 7 referring to Skagway's proposed hatchery, I find it discouraging that Ms. Menke would write such a letter without seemingly to have done her homework. The hatchery currently being proposed for Skagway is not a new idea and is one that has been on the planning table for several years. But this recent incarnation is not the only option being considered by the Skagway City Council.
The state Legislature in 2005 appropriated $1.5 million for Skagway to either build a hatchery or to continue, for another ten years, the agreement that is currently in place with DIPAC. DIPAC is paid by Skagway to raise our fish and release them into Pullen Creek. This agreement has been in place since 2000. I do not believe that Ms. Menke, or anyone else, has verbalized any problems with this agreement over the last five years.
This new hatchery proposal does not increase the number of fish currently being released into Pullen Creek, nor does it change the broodstock. What it does change is where these fish are raised and provides for the long-term sustainability of the program and fish stocks in the upper Taiya Inlet. The other option is to continue as normal for the next ten years without the hatchery but still releasing the same numbers of fish.
The Skagway City Council is taking a look at both options very seriously. The choices boil down to: Pay DIPAC and walk away from it, or build a facility that needs to be maintained and operated in perpetuity. For the first ten years nothing will change and both options will result in a similar final outcome but what happens after that will depend on the option chosen. That decision will be made in Skagway by the council in consultation with the Skagway community.
Skagway has also chosen to support financially the Pullen Creek Restoration Project initiated by the Taiya Inlet Watershed Council. This project, which is a partnership between TIWC, the city of Skagway, Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, White Pass and other private contributors will restore and enhance salmon-rearing habitat so that the wild stocks that do use Pullen Creek will have a better chance of survival and hopefully prove to be a strong and sustainable wild stock.