SALEM, Ore. -- Oregon lawmakers are mulling over an amendment that would fund the Leaburg Fish Hatchery for another two years, but as of now, the hatchery is still set to close on June 30.
The move to review the amendment came during a work session for the Joint Subcommittee on Natural Resources for Ways and Means on Senate Bill 5510. The bill funds part of the Oregon Department of Wildlife's budget through the general fund.
During the meeting, Republican Rep. Cedric Hayden of Roseburg and Republican Sen. Fred Girod of Stayton both said they could not vote in favor of the bill without it funding the Leaburg Fish Hatchery. Committee co-chair Democrat Sen. Kathleen Taylor then moved to table the vote until Tuesday as they review the amendment that would send $1.7 million dollars to the hatchery over two years.
Hayden told KEZI 9 News keeping the hatchery open would not only help keep trout in area lakes and streams but could also be used to provide a food source to orcas.
"Washington State has asked us to provide several million baby Coho salmon, and we don't have the access unless we have the Leaburg Fish Hatchery," Hayden said.
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, The US Army Corps of Engineers built the hatchery in the 1950s to mitigate for lost trout habitat due to federal dams in the Willamette Valley. The Corps ended funding for the facility as of July 1, 2018, but the Legislature stepped in to provide interim funding for one year, but that ends June 30.
The move to look over the amendment comes after a dozen people who support keeping the fish hatchery open gathered on the Capitol's steps to wave signs and speak to lawmakers. Charles Prince took part in the rally and said he caught his first fish on the McKenzie River.
"We still have a home on the McKenzie that we go to often, and I was outfitters and I helped many people catch their first fish there, and it's a very very unique, special place," Prince said.
Committee co-chair Democrat Rep. Jeff Reardon of Happy Valley told KEZI 9 News there is only so much general fund money to go around, but while funding for the hatchery isn't currently on the budget, he says it's not over yet.
"We never say die around here until the end of the session is over," Reardon said.
Hayden said if the committee does not vote in favor of the motion, he'll still work to get the funding through other ways, including adding it on to a larger bill at the end of the session. Democrat Sen. Floyd Prozanski of Eugene said he will also look for ways to find money to keep the hatchery open.
"My discussions with ODFW is that they actually have some access to some of their existing funds that could be put toward this effort," Prozanski said.
An ODFW spokesperson said if the hatchery closes, they will move staff impacted into other suitable positions in the agency.