Salmon rearing pens off Cathlamet, a site for a new food bank and water rates were among the many items on the agenda at the Monday meeting of the Cathlamet Town Council.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is moving forward with plans to develop a side channel salmon net project in the Cathlamet Channel, said Aaron Roberts, WDFW hatchery complex manager for the lower Columbia region.
The states of Oregon and Washington several years ago started the Select Area Fishery Enhancement (SAFE) program and located pens to rear juvenile salmon in Columbia River side channels. Oregon has several areas; Washington has only one, in Deep River. The juvenile salmon are released to go to sea and return as adults. The project is designed to support commercial fisheries.
This past winter, Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions adopted a plan proposed by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber which would move gillnets off the mainstem of the Columbia and into the side channels.
The idea of locating net pens in the Cathlamet Channel concept originated last year with WDFW Regional Director Guy Norman, said Mayor George Wehrfritz, and the Wahkiakum Marine Resources Council has supported it.
Roberts said the department is actively pursuing the net pen plan. Pens would be moored at the town's Broadway Street dock and at another location upriver. From November to May, the department would rear 250,000 spring chinook salmon which would return 3-5 years after being release. They would be available for both commercial and recreational fishers, Roberts said.
"We have the fish; we have the means to do it," Roberts said. "We're working on the permitting."
The Cathlamet Channel is considered a side channel, Roberts said, and so gillnetting would be allowed there.
"What has not happened is that there needs to be a test fishery in the Cathlamet Channel to see how many wild fish might be caught," Roberts said. "We have to make sure there's not a huge impact on wild fish."
Fire Chief Fred Johnson, also the retired county prosecuting attorney, urged the council to avoid taking any action which would show support of the Kitzhaber Plan. A petition to ban gillnets had no success in Oregon last fall, and the actions of the fish and wildlife commission had no basis in statute, he said.
In other business:
--The council approved a draft real estate agreement for the Wahkiakum Helping Hand Food Bank to locate a 1,600 square foot building in Erickson Park.
The council asked that the agreement include benchmark for progress in locating the building. Helping Hand plans to submit an application for a grant to finance purchase of a prefabricated building and its location in the park.
The lease, at $1 per year, will be for 10 years, with a 10-year renewal possible. It will expire in 2033.
--The council approved the 2013 water rate for sale of water to the Puget Island Water System operated by Wahkiakum PUD. The rate is based on several factors, including the cost of production, and town officials this winter have expressed unhappiness with the formulas.
"I would be lying if I said I was happy with it," said Public Works Director Duncan Cruikshank, "but this is the way it's written. "My major concern is the amount of money they pay us. I think we can do better."
Cruikshank said he hoped to open negotiations on the overall contract once the board of commissioners of Wahkiakum PUD had approved the 2013 rate. (See separate story on this page for a report on the PUD's action.)