This article appeared in The Issaquah Press, May 7, 1997
The new state construction budget adopted last week by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Gary Locke calls for the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery to receive nearly $3 million for major renovations.
The money will be used to construct new salmon-rearing raceways and fish-holding ponds, and to improve and expand visitor facilities. The hatchery, on five acres in downtown Issaquah, hosts more visitors each year than any other hatchery in the state.
“We’re extremely pleased that some much-needed improvements can now take place at this very important facility,” said Bern Shanks, director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“Not only is the hatchery key in terms of fish production, but it also serves as a major cultural and educational asset locally and for the entire State of Washington,” he added.
The work to be completed with the new money is part of a larger plan to upgrade the hatchery during the next several years. Built during the Depression, the hatchery was scheduled to be closed in 1994 because of state budget constraints.
However, city, county and state leaders, local teachers and area residents argued the hatchery was a major community asset and fought to keep it open.
A decision to keep it operating was made in 1995 after the city agreed to match $500,000 in state funds. The money was used to install a new fish ladder and educational exhibits.
Last year, approximately six million coho and chinook salmon were raised at the hatchery.
“I think everyone realizes and embraces not only the educational role this hatchery plays throughout the state and region, but also its role in restoring weak fish stocks in the Lake Washington watershed,” said Steve Bell, executive director of Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, (FISH).
The 250-member non-profit group was formed to save the 51-year-old facility and advocate watershed stewardship. The organization provides free educational services to local schools and the public.
Money allocated in the state’s next biennial budget will be used to rebuild two adult salmon ponds, six raceways and a pollution-abatement pond. A commons area will be constructed on the hatchery’s south side, and an existing pedestrian footbridge over Issaquah Creek will be replaced with a new bridge capable of handling more people and light vehicles.
In addition, roof and window repairs will be made to the hatchery’s main building. The west end of the main building also will be renovated to better accommodate visitors and educational exhibits.
Future plans call for additional improvements to enhance fish production facilities, as well as the construction of an environmental education center.
This Article © 1997 Issaquah Press. Used by permission