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Blackbird Island Kids Fishing /Steelhead Acclimatization Pond
Project Sponsor: Icicle Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Project Location: Near the town of Leavenworth, Washington, approximately 25 miles west of Wenatchee, Washington, on the Wenatchee River.
Project goal: To reopen the man-made pond the Icicle Chapter of Trout Unlimited (ICTU) established for juvenile fishing in the year 2000 and enhances the recovery of listed (threatened) Upper Columbia River Steelhead.
Project background: In cooperation with the City of Leavenworth and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the ICTU connected two old barrow pits that were left over from the early 1900s Lamb Davis Mill. ICTU purpose was to create a fishing pond for juveniles in the immediate Leavenworth downtown core. The reason that ICTU and the community felt strongly about this construction was the lack of fishing opportunities for young people in the immediate area. Soon after construction (3 years), it was discovered that water oxygen levels were too low to support fish. Subsequently, WDFW ceased to plant fish into the pond.
Project Proposal: ICTU, along with the WDFW in cooperation with the City of Leavenworth and other interested parties, would like to rehabilitate the pond and develop a multipurpose facility.
Phase 1: Establish a fishing pond that can support fish. This will require a plan to increase oxygen levels above 5 ppm.
Phase 2: Background: Currently, the Upper Columbia River Steelhead is managed by the WDFW under a section 7 permit authorized by the NOOA Fisheries (Federal). Steelhead were listed as "endangered" 12 years ago and the Wenatchee River was closed to sport fishing. In 2006, the Steelhead listing was upgraded to "threatened" which may allow for an incidental take of hatchery Steelhead through a sport fishery. Presently, Steelhead are raised in a hatchery upstream of Rocky Reach Dam on the Columbia River and are released annually into the Wenatchee River. For the past few years, there have been poor hatchery returns to the Wenatchee River. It appears 40-70% of the hatchery raised Steelhead destined for the Wenatchee River have imprinted on hatchery water upstream of Rocky Reach Dam and are not returning to the Wenatchee River. The goal of the facility is to hold steelhead at the Blackbird (juvenile) pond on Wenatchee River water for a sufficient time for the imprinting process to take place (1-2 months). After the Steelhead have migrated out of the pond, it will resume as a juvenile fish pond.
Information collected from this dual purpose facility will provide scientific information from the imprinting process prior to a major investment by the Chelan County PUD at the Chiwawa Hatchery Complex. Returning adult Steelhead will be a major factor in reopening the Wenatchee River for sports fishing.
Conclusion: Not only will the children of the Upper Valley benefit from the facility being planted with triploid trout (sterile), but individuals will have an opportunity to fish the Wenatchee River once again.
Passed Unanimously by Executive Board on 2-28-07.
From The Wenatchee World April 3, 2008
Group looks to reopen pond closed to fishing since 2003
LEAVENWORTH — A group of fishing enthusiasts is trying to re-establish a kids' fishing pond and build a significant steelhead trout-rearing location right off the Wenatchee River. The big problem is there's no water to do it.
The Icicle Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited in 2000 landed an approximately $300,000 state grant to build a recreational fishing pond for kids at two old gravel pits left over from lumbering days in the early 1900s, about 50 feet from the Wenatchee River in downtown Leavenworth. For three years the pond supported trout and kids were able to fish, but in 2003 that changed. Trout Unlimited officials and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife discovered that the oxygen level in the approximately 1-acre, 20-foot-deep pond had dropped below a point where it could support fish. Biologists surmise that leaves falling from surrounding cottonwood trees created a mat on the bottom of the pond that prevented fresh water from the Wenatchee River from seeping in through the ground, delivering oxygen. The pond closed to fishing in 2003.
Now, Trout Unlimited, with the backing of the city of Leavenworth, is trying to restore the pond and make it a suitable spot to raise 53,000 steelhead per year in cooperation with the Chelan County PUD. All Trout Unlimited needs is a pipeline feeder from the nearby Wenatchee River to provide a constant stream of fresh water. To do that, the group needs permission from the state Department of Ecology through the approval of a water rights application, which the group is submitting. Leavenworth Mayor Rob Eaton has endorsed the application with a letter of support.
"We are 100 percent behind the project," Eaton said, speaking for himself and the Leavenworth City Council. "I think it's a great opportunity for residents to learn about fish, to learn about nature. ... It's a wonderful project. In the past it has been a great attribute."
The city could transfer water rights from a city-owned golf course to the Trout Unlimited pond, but Eaton said the direct application of Trout Unlimited to the state provides the "quickest and cleanest" way of bringing water to the pond. Dealing with the transfer of city water rights from the golf course to the pond would entail a longer, more complicated process, Eaton said. Plus, the city and its golf course may end up needing the water rights already granted by the state.
Trout Unlimited has already paid for bringing power to the site to run pumps and other amenities needed to maintain the pond in its earlier efforts.
"Once we receive water we are on our way," said Norm Warford, president of the Icicle Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
"The goal of the facility is to hold steelhead ... on Wenatchee River water for a sufficient time for the imprinting process to take place (one to two months)," according to Trout Unlimited's Web site. "Returning adult steelhead will be a major factor in reopening the Wenatchee River for sports fishing."
After the steelhead are released, the pond would open to children for recreational fishing in the summer, if all goes according to Trout Unlimited's plans. The Chelan County PUD is on board, said Chuck Peven, the PUD's senior fisheries biologist.
The application for water rights could take eight months to a year to process, Eaton said.
Jay Patrick: 664-7155 firstname.lastname@example.org
From The Wenatchee World April 3, 2008
A Wenatchee steelhead season