Every year but one since 1994, Ketchikan Indian Community has lost money on the KIC Tribal Hatchery in City Park. Now, with budgets tightening everywhere and federal dollars drying up, the tribe wants to shut down operations.
The hope is that the closure will be temporary, and the facility will reopen later, still producing salmon, but with a different mission.
Before KIC can apply for state and federal grants to do that, though, it needs the City of Ketchikan to remove a clause from the property’s quit-claim deed. The site used to belong to the city, and the deed states that if KIC stops operating the facility as a hatchery, it reverts back to city ownership.
At Thursday’s Ketchikan City Council meeting, KIC officials gave a presentation about their hopes for the facility, and why it’s no longer feasible for them to operate the current program.
KIC Workforce Development Director Chaz Edwardson said, “What we were planning and what we are planning is to close the hatchery under economic development. It’s a dead weight around our neck. So we want to close it as economic development and reopen it under our department over in workforce development and education. It’s two totally different management structures. It’s two totally different financial structures.”
Camille Booth, KIC education director, said that tribal representatives were exploring partnerships with the university and other entities. She said they want the facility to remain a hatchery, if possible.
City Council members also want the hatchery to continue providing fish for Ketchikan Creek. That was the main concern over KIC’s request. Council Member Marty West said she understands KIC’s quandary, but, “the quandary that we’re in is giving quite a valuable hunk of land away without knowing what’s going to happen to it.”
The assessed value of the property is about $800,000. It officially belongs to KIC, albeit with the reversionary clause.
Edwardson agreed it’s a tough decision for the city, and said KIC will go along with whatever the Council decides. He said it would almost be easier for tribal staff if the Council decided to take the facility back.
“We’re ready to walk away, simple as that. But we’re also ready to try to help save it,” he said.
Edwardson noted that there is a natural salmon run at the creek, and that the hatchery only enhanced the existing stocks.
KIC Interim General Manager John Brown said another possible option for the site is a longhouse that would be used to educate tourists about local Native culture. He said it might be possible to combine a longhouse with hatchery operations.
The Council deferred its decision until a later meeting. Members asked city management to bring back more information.
Also Thursday, the Council agreed to help pay for two historic preservation efforts. The city will provide matching funds for the first phase of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s effort to rehabilitate Hopkins Alley, and for initial planning for the Yates Building restoration project.