State wants land for fish hatchery - County Commissioner criticizes that the state is not a good steward of the land it already has

By Michelle Partridge
Wenatchee World staff writer

CHELAN FALLS, WA - 6/4/02 -- Chelan County commissioners are criticizing the state over one agency's attempts to buy land along the Columbia River while another agency is trying to dump its riverfront property for lack of funding.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is trying to buy 227 acres in Chelan Falls at the same time the state Parks and Recreation Commission has been trying to get rid of 13 state parks, including Wenatchee Confluence, Lincoln Rock and Daroga on the Columbia River.

"The state is not a good steward of the land it already has," said Commissioner Buell Hawkins said. "I think it's unconscionable that, in these times of economic hardship, they want to spend $786,000 to buy more land."

Fish and Wildlife officials have said they need the additional land to expand an 87-year-old state fish hatchery at Chelan Falls.

But a state official says the criticism isn't warranted.

"State Parks and the Department of Fish and Wildlife are different entities with different spending priorities," said agency spokesman Doug Williams.

The wildlife agency has until July 1 to close a deal on the land, which is owned by a Colorado land holdings company that bought Dole Northwest land and buildings in Chelan and Douglas counties in February.

"I'm just hoping the gong rings on the deal and they don't have it done," Hawkins said.

The commissioners are not opposed to Fish and Wildlife buying a small portion of the Dole property, which nearly surrounds the fish hatchery, and accompanying water rights in order to expand the facility. The hatchery raises trout and kokanee that are released into fishing lakes, and steelhead to help rebuild dwindling runs in the Wenatchee River.

But commissioners don't believe the agency needs all the land, which includes a five-acre orchard and 6,000 feet of riverbank.

The Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce has not taken a position on the proposal but chamber director Colleen Crawford-Davis said putting public areas and interpretive trails on the land could attract visitors. She said the chamber has been approached by fishing and sporting groups that would like the Chelan Falls fish hatchery to be expanded.

Hawkins and Crawford-Davis said wildlife officials acknowledged they have no money to develop the property into a public park or trail. They hope to get donations from environmental groups.

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