Things got heated at a meeting last week in Issaquah regarding the future of the Tokul Creek Fish Hatchery.
It was standing room only as the crowd spilled out into the doorways at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery on Sept. 10.
Fish and Wildlife officials were there to gather public input on the potential closure of the Tokul Hatchery.
Almost everyone who was there was against the closure of the hatchery, including state Rep. Glenn Anderson, who lives in Fall City.
“There’s no validation why (the hatchery would close),” Anderson said. Anderson also said that there were several conflicting reports given and that there was no mention of this possibility last year when the legislature approved $400,000 of funding for the Tokul Creek hatchery.
“We like the one in our backyard that our kids can go to, that our friends can go to,” Anderson said. “Let’s not rush into this.”
His words were met with thunderous applause.
Annette Hoffmann, the Regional Fish Program manager, gave an overview to the crowd about the proposed plans for the hatchery, which would include potentially closing the hatchery for financial and environmental reasons. Most of the discussion was based on environmental reasons, including officials’ concerns about the low levels of steelheads, which were recently named threatened.
The Snoqualmie River has been designated as a sanctuary zone for wild steelhead, which some researchers believe are harmed when they’re forced to compete with hatchery fish.
Several times during Hoffmann’s speech, opponents of the closure interrupted her, arguing and in some cases correcting her numbers for fish stocked by the Tokul hatchery.
The move would close fishing in the area of Tokul Creek hatchery, and the hatchery would no longer stock local fishing areas.
Fish and Wildlife officials said they will take comments from this meeting and an earlier session into consideration.
The Issaquah hatchery faced a similar situation in 1992 when it was under threat of closure. It was the formation of Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, or FISH, that saved the day when they formed. The group has raised $7.5 million for improvements since that time.
The Issaquah Hatchery would be affected by potential changes or the closure of Tokul. The Issaquah hatchery and Tokul hatchery help each other out with staffing at times, especially during stocking and spawning when the typical two employees at Issaquah aren’t enough.
“I don’t know how we can operate without their help,” FISH Executive Director Gestin Suttle said.
Reporter Newspapers reporter Denise Miller contributed to this report.