ODFW Commission Hears Tribes on Fishery Issue

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission met with four federally-recognized Tribes on January 13, 2023, to hear more information on their April 2022 decision to close the summer steelhead hatchery program on the North Umpqua River.

The decision in 2022, split on a 4-3 vote among the commission, stopped the release of hatchery summer steelhead smolts into the North Umpqua River, and marked an end to the hatchery program. One of the key points of this decision was the amount of hatchery-raised fish on wild fish spawning grounds in the North Umpqua River and tributaries.

In this hearing, representatives from the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, Coquille Indian Tribe, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians participated in person or remotely. The assembled Tribal representatives requested that the committee rescind their decision from 2022, and work with the Tribes to find way to continue the program while still protecting wild fish.

The Cow Creek Natural Resources Department is currently working with the local Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) office to repair the fish ladder on Rock Creek, a tributary to the North Umpqua River. Repairing the ladder will allow the sorting of wild and hatchery fish and help decrease the number of hatchery fish on wild fish spawning grounds.

The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians was represented by Natural Resources Director Kelly Coates, a long-time Tribal member employee. Coates concluded her comments to the Commission by stating, “We respectfully request that the Commission reverse their decision to terminate the North Umpqua Hatchery Summer Steelhead Program and work with the Tribes to make the Program better into the future. This type of co-management and collaborative problem solving is exactly what we intend to embark on through our recently approved agreement with ODFW.”

ODFW has made a recording of the meeting available at www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/.