More than 150 people gathered to bless the land and water at the site of the future Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery. Drum beats and song filled the air June 21 on the banks of the Clearwater River. "Our primary purpose ... is to help restore naturally spawning salmon runs in the Clearwater Basin," said Chairman Samuel N. Penney, adding it is an important project - culturally, historically and as a food source for the entire area. Unlike others in the Clearwater Basin, this chinook salmon rearing hatchery will produce juvenile salmon with wild characteristics. Some biologists contend hatchery salmon are dull-witted and reduce the genetic fitness of wild fish, which breed with the hatchery fish. Plans call for fish to live in ponds that match natural habitat. The concept of supplementation produces fish that return and spawn in the wild rather than relying on the hatchery to breed successive generations. The $16 million salmon hatchery is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration. Construction begins next month on the north side of the Clearwater River on tribal land and should be complete in three years. Five satellite facilities will go up on various tributaries where hatchery fish will acclimate to wild conditions and be released into the streams.
Expert witnesses and Camas Prairie residents have detailed their reasons the local railroad should not abandon a 67-mile spur which carries grain and other products to market before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. The Camas Prairie RailNet contends it is losing $1 million a year on the spur. The commission will collect all the testimony before deciding whether to join in the protest to keep the 67-mile line open. Land appraiser Ed Morse of Coeur d'Alene disputed the liquidated value the company assigns to the land of $758,000. He estimates the land is worth between $250,000 and $500,000, a majority of it inside the Nez Perce Reservation. It is possible the railroad may not be able to sell much of that land because of tribal claims, he said, adding that Lapwai Creek along the track is habitat for threatened steelhead runs. The fish would be a factor in any dismantling plan, he said. "Our ability to be competitive and attract new business to Grangeville will be substantially reduced by rail abandonment," City Councilman Bruce Walker said. Don Johnston of the Craigmont Chamber of Commerce said the scenic rail route with its high wooden trestles has been the backdrop for two movies in the past 20 years.