The Ketchikan City Council quickly and unanimously agreed Thursday to transfer operations of the Deer Mountain Hatchery to the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association. The Council also declared a public emergency so the city could expedite replacement of some water treatment equipment, learned that several key employees have resigned, and said farewell to longtime Council Member Marty West.
Deer Mountain Hatchery isn’t actually on Deer Mountain. It sits in City Park, next to Ketchikan Creek, which right now is filled with salmon that have fulfilled their mission and are slowly providing fertilizer for the soil, food for scavengers and the unmistakable, almost visible odor of a salmon stream in fall.
For many years, the hatchery has been the source of quite a few of those fish, so when Ketchikan Indian Community chose to stop operating the city-owned facility, there was concern about how best to keep fish in the crick.
Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association runs hatcheries all over Southeast, including at nearby Whitman Lake. Officials there started negotiating with the city to take over, and now they have an agreement.
City Mayor Lew Williams III spoke before the agreement was unanimously approved: “This is the optimum situation. We couldn’t do any better than to have SSRAA take this over. It worked out great.”
SSRAA plans to use the Deer Mountain Hatchery as an extension of the Whitman Lake hatchery’s king salmon program. It will produce about 500,000 fish, and will release 100,000 of them into Ketchikan Creek. The rest will be taken to Neets Bay for release at that hatchery.
The plan also calls for tourism and educational programs, which Council members liked. The area already is a popular destination for tourists, who like to watch the fish.
In other business, the Council voted to declare a public emergency because some disinfection equipment at the water treatment plant is degrading and needs replacement. Council Member Matt Olsen voted against the motion because, he said, it didn’t have to be an emergency.
“Usually I see the need for the emergency, but as I’m reading through this, it reads like it’s something that’s been happening and we could have taken care of it without the emergency declaration,” he said.
City Manager Karl Amylon responded that the city had planned to replace one of the titanium generator cells as part of next year’s budget.
“The problem is, one of the units started to degrade. They’re both of the same vintage and we’re trying to avoid a situation where before the end of the year, both units start to degrade,” he said.
Amylon later talked about the challenging weekend city staff experienced, with nearly 10 inches of rain leading to a landslide at the city’s main water supply, an electric outage and various other issues. He said city employees from Public Works, the Streets Division, Wastewater, Ketchikan Public Utilities Electric Division and the Fire Department all were called to respond.
“We’re very fortunate. We have a very dedicated work force that comes out for us when we get these kinds of emergencies and I just want to say thanks to them,” he said.
In his report to the Council, Amylon also noted that Public Works Director Clif Allen has resigned his position, as well as Ted Ferry Civic Center Director Rhonda Bolling and the Finance Department’s Office Services Manager Nicolle Lewis.
In other business, the Ketchikan City Council approved a resolution honoring Council Member Marty West, who chose not to run for re-election. West is completing her 15th year on the Ketchikan City Council.
“I would just like to say that I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity,” West said. “It’s been a pretty fast 15 years. I’ve served with some wonderful people. I’ve worked with two wonderful mayors, and with Clerk (Katy) Suiter, as has Mr. Amylon. I’m getting choked up. I’m surprised at myself.”
It was West’s last meeting before the municipal election. So, when the Council meets again, there will be at least one new member.