Elwhas won’t release hatchery steelhead this year

Tacoma, Washington (AP) March 2012

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe has agreed not to release any hatchery-raised steelhead into the Olympic Peninsula’s Elwha River this year.

The tribe is facing a lawsuit brought by the Wild Fish Conservancy and other groups arguing that the nonnative steelhead will hurt the recovery of protected native salmon once the river’s two dams are removed.

The dam removal began late last year and is the largest dam removal project in the country. Before the dams were built a century ago, the Elwha River had some of the most impressive salmon runs in the Northwest.

Under an agreement in U.S. District Court in Tacoma this week, the tribe said it won’t release steelhead from its new Chambers Creek hatchery this year as the lawsuit proceeds.

An attorney for the Wild Fish Conservancy says that will give the sides more time to work out a settlement or for a judge to decide the merits of the case.