Critics: Elwha hatchery will hurt salmon recovery

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PORT ANGELES, Wash. (AP) -- Many people have been looking forward to the removal of two dams on the Olympic Peninsula's Elwha River as a grand experiment in recovering wild salmon runs.

But The Seattle Times reports (http://bit.ly/onh3sU ) that the fish restoration plan includes planting fish from a new, $16 million tribal hatchery built with taxpayer money -- even though studies have shown that the presence of hatchery fish in rivers hurts wild fish.

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe plans to introduce not just hatchery salmon, but nonnative steelhead out of concern there otherwise won't be enough fish to catch. The century-old dams have long devastated the river's salmon runs, and the tribe says it won't wait another hundred years for the fish to come back.

Scientists at every agency the tribe asked -- from the National Park Service to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife -- advised against it. They argued that nonnative could hurt the native steelhead and interbreed with resident fish, weakening the genetic pool.

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Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com