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The Observer Paper 10/29/14

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By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

LOSTINE A dozen residents last week were reassured about their groundwater concerns at the site of a proposed spring chinook fish hatchery 6 miles south of Lostine.

Residents were concerned that if a well is drilled for the Lostine River hatchery, their water supply might be diminished.

A decision on whether to build the hatchery is more than a year away. Officials said the hatchery would use mostly river water. However, warmer ground water could be used to de-ice the inlet.

Well water could be used during the winter to early spring egg incubation period and early rearing stage when young spring chinook salmon are most vulnerable to disease.

The total use is estimated at less than 5 percent of the aquifer. If a well is not developed, river water would have to be treated and used.

The hatchery would curtail operations if the domestic and agricultural wells were impacted, said project manager Jay Marcotte. The hatchery will have to apply for water rights. Existing wells have senior water rights protected by law.

Last weeks informal workshop was conducted in response to requests from people who attended a meeting in January in Lostine. The residents asked to be kept informed about the project.

Those requests were part of 252 comments received on the proposed hatchery after three January scoping meetings. Sessions were held in La Grande and Imnaha.

A new rearing facility not a full hatchery is also planned for the Imnaha River at Marks Ranch, some 5 miles upstream from Imnaha.

At the Gumboot Satellite Facility, another 15 miles farther upstream, the adult holding area is planned to be enlarged.

Marcotte committed to having public meetings every four to six weeks in addition to the formal EIS process. The next meeting is tentatively planned for April 27.

We want a plan that everyone agrees to, Marcotte said.

Marcotte said he wants to get peoples comments on planning and ensure that their concerns are reflected in the design, he said.

Other issues addressed last week included how the layout and appearance would fit in with, and how traffic might impact, the neighboring subdivision.

There will be two office/residence structures. A new house is to be built on a nearby site. The meeting was held in the existing house

Construction vehicles will operate in the area. After that, for two to four weeks in late spring, tanker trucks will bring in adult fish to diversify genetic stock and spread the risk among hatcheries. No fish will be hauled out, but they will be released into the Lostine River.

The purpose of the new hatchery is not to increase the number of fish being produced, but to make the existing Northeast Oregon Hatchery / Grande Ronde and Imnaha Spring Chinook Program work better and to get spring chinook removed from the Endangered Species Acts threatened list.

No more project design work will be done until the draft environmental impact statement is available, probably in October. It will be followed by a 45- day public review and comment period.

The final EIS is expected to be released next spring and a decision should be made that summer.

The BPA will decide whether and how to proceed with the project.

A copy of the comments can be requested by calling 1-800-622-4520, and leaving a message including a return address, and identifying this as the NEOH project.


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