Seattle Times: Elwha River hatchery steelhead and “Treaty rights are not a bumper sticker”

The Seattle Times published a thorough discussion of the debate on using hatchery fish in the Elwha River after two dams are removed later this year.

From the article:

“The problem is, we have people that are used to fishing, and they will be reducing their fishing for five years as it is,” said Rob Elofson, river restoration director for the tribe, referring to a moratorium on fishing in the river, in place for five years after the dams come down.

He predicted that waiting for native runs to rebuild to fishable levels will take even longer — and if runs are too weak to support a fishery, without nonnative Chambers Creek fish raised for harvest, he said, the tribe would have nothing in the river to catch.

“If you make it another 10 or 15 years, you are talking about almost a generation,” Elofson said. “We want to maintain a fishery for our tribal members,” Elofson said. And not just anywhere: “On the reservation, on the Elwha,” he added.

Stelle said he agrees with the tribe’s decision, which also is a matter of treaty rights.

“Were treaty rights not involved and the obligation to provide for continuing fishing opportunities through this transition period not active, then we would not do Chambers Creek,” Stelle said. “But those obligations are real, and they are substantial. Treaty rights are not a bumper sticker. It is a reality, and because of it we have had to reshape and modify the transition program.”

You can read the entire piece here.