By Associated Press • 

Army Corps of Engineers weighs privatizing Oregon fish hatcheries

MEDFORD — A change in how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers interprets its acquisition regulations could mean operations at the Cole Rivers Hatchery on the Rogue River and six other Oregon hatcheries become privatized.

The agency is considering contracting out the Cole Rivers Hatchery to the lowest bidder on a one-year contract as early as this spring, reported the Mail Tribune.
The Cole Rivers Hatchery grows nearly 2.8 million fish for release in the Rogue River Basin. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has operated the hatchery under a cooperative agreement with the Corps since it opened in 1974. The Oregon agency also runs six other hatcheries associated with Corps dams.

Corps spokeswoman Michelle Helms said a recent review of the Federal Acquisitions Regulations has led officials to believe a contract approach would be more appropriate than the current cooperative agreement.

“The understanding of the law has developed over the years, and that’s what’s driving this,” Helms said. “The change will allow us to better meet the requirements of the FAR.”

Cole Rivers is the first of the Corps’ hatcheries to move forward with the new contract approach. The agency could start soliciting bids as early as late February.
The other hatcheries likely to face contract bids in the future are Bonneville Hatchery on the Columbia River, Marion Forks Hatchery on the North Santiam River, the South Santiam Hatchery on the South Santiam River and the Willamette, McKenzie and Lieberg hatcheries in the Willamette Valley.

Russ Stauff, ODFW’s Rogue Watershed manager, said the hatchery’s production might not be enough for anglers if a private contractor takes over. He said some contractors might not be as accountable to Rogue Basin anglers.

“As an angler, I’d be concerned,” Stauff said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty on whether we’ll see the same level of fish production and quality.”

Cole Rivers is a mitigation hatchery built to raise fish annually to compensate for wild salmon and steelhead lost when the Corps built Lost Creek and Applegate dams. It raises about 2.58 million salmon and steelhead for release in the Rogue and Applegate rivers.

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