By Joe Smillie
OLYMPIA –– Wild Fish Conservancy, a Puget Sound conservation group, has sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, claiming the agency’s planting of “Chambers Creek” steelhead in Puget Sound watersheds violates the federal Endangered Species Act.
“It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s a known fact these fish are harmful to wild steelhead, and they have no authority to plant them,” Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy, said Friday after the intent to sue was sent Thursday.
The suit seeks to have the practice stopped, saying the plantings harm wild Puget Sound steelhead, wild Puget Sound chinook and bull trout, all three listed as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
Fish and Wildlife officials could not be reached for comment Friday.
On the North Olympic Peninsula, the suit would apply to rivers and streams considered part of the Puget Sound drainage, those east of the Elwha River.
Fish and Wildlife has several hatcheries that could be affected on the Peninsula, including the Elwha Channel, 326 Crown Z Water Road, Port Angeles; the Dungeness, 1261 Fish Hatchery Road, Sequim; Hurd Creek, 955 Fasola Road, Sequim; and Morse Creek, off U.S. Highway 101 near Port Angeles.
Similar suit in 2012
In 2012, Wild Fish Conservancy filed a similar suit to stop the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe from planting Chambers Creek steelhead in its efforts to restore fish runs following the removal of Elwha Dam.
That suit was dismissed from court after the tribe agreed to stop planting Chambers Creek steelhead, though Beardslee said no legal prohibition was put in place.
The planted steelhead come from Chambers Creek, near Lakewood in Pierce County.
Beardslee said the fish have been found to be mating with wild steelhead — the official state fish — which lessens their chance of surviving in the wild.