OLYMPIA — State fish managers will hold a public meeting Jan. 21 in Cathlamet to discuss two options for establishing a wild steelhead gene bank in rivers and streams near the mouth of the Columbia River.

Both options under consideration by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are designed to support preservation of wild steelhead populations by prohibiting future releases of hatchery-raised steelhead into specific waters of the Lower Columbia River.

One option would eliminate production of hatchery winter steelhead on the Grays and Chinook rivers. The other would prohibit production of hatchery steelhead on Mill, Abernathy and Germany creeks.

The meeting is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Wahkiakum County’s River Street Meeting Room, located at 25 River Street. The department will also accept public comments electronically starting Jan. 25, when additional information on the two options will be posted at tinyurl.com/SteelheadGeneBank.

“This is the last of four gene banks currently planned for tributaries to the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam,” said Cindy Le Fleur, WDFW regional fish manager. “Our advisory group was divided on two options, so we’d like to get some additional input from the public.”

Le Fleur said both options under consideration by the department meet standards outlined in the state’s Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, which calls on WDFW to “establish a network of wild stock gene banks across the state where wild stocks are largely protected from the effects of hatchery programs.”

That plan, adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2008, was based on studies showing that hatchery-produced fish can interfere with wild steelhead in ways ranging from interbreeding to competition for food.

WDFW established the state’s first official steelhead gene bank in 2012 in the Sol Duc River on the Olympic Peninsula. In March 2014, the department designated three gene banks in the Lower Columbia River drainage on the East Fork Lewis River, the North Fork Toutle and Green rivers, and the Wind River.

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