LEABURG, Ore. -- Time is running out for the Leaburg Fish Hatchery: if lawmakers stop funding it, the popular tourist destination will close on June 30, and documents show it's currently not on the proposed budget for Oregon Fish and Wildlife.
Since 1953 the fish hatchery has raised Rainbow Trout and Summer Steelhead that are then brought to rivers and lakes across the Willamette Valley.
Jennifer Hulett-Guard works at the hatchery for Orgon Fish and Wildlife. She said in 2017 the state took control of the hatchery, which was being run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Leaburg Fish Hatchery was scheduled to close June 30, 2018, but lawmakers provided $350,000 in bridge funding to operate the hatchery through June 30 this year.
Hulett-Guard said they are not sure what's in store but said they are preparing for the closure.
"We don't know, but we've gone through all the easy funding ideas and people are packing their things and moving," Hulett-Guard said.
Records show Sen. Floyd Prozanski and Rep. Cedric Hayden have tried to fund the hatchery for another two years with a $1.7 million amendment. But with the hatchery not on the proposed budget, Sean Davis, who founded the group Save the Leaburg Fish Hatchery, is worried the closure could devastate the Mckenzie River economy.
"If it were to go away, it would just be like the timber dollars going away," Davis said. "70 to 90,000 people a year go there. It brings in $1.5 million a year into our local economy."
Davis said he plans to go to Salem on Monday to meet with lawmakers during a work session to make his voice heard.
Hulett-Guard said the hatchery has three full-time employees, and ODFW is offering them transfers if the hatchery closes. The fish will be transferred to a different facility.
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