Kake hatchery set to close Monday

PETERSBURG, Alaska — The hatchery in the southeast Alaska community of Kake is scheduled to close Monday, though it remains possible that a regional hatchery group could still take it over.

The Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association has been looking at whether it makes financial sense to operate the Kake Gunnuk Creek hatchery after it closes its doors. Factors being considered as part of that include installation of new equipment to recirculate and regulate water in Gunnuk Creek and high energy costs, association general manager Steve Reifenstuhl said. Gunnuk Creek has been logged, and has issues with sediment and temperature fluctuations, KFSK reported (http://bit.ly/1iwfPLx ).

The association also must consider the impact that a takeover would have on its own Hidden Falls chum hatchery.

Gunnuk Creek General manager John Oliva said the Kake Nonprofit Fisheries Corp., which owns the hatchery, doesn’t have enough money to keep it going. All told, the nonprofit owed about $22 million, Oliva and Kake’s mayor, Henrich Kadake Sr., have said.

The hatchery has released its final chum, pink and coho salmon. Oliva said it also has signed over all assets to the state, to which it owed money for loans, and the state has sold off equipment to the Sitka-based aquaculture association.

Oliva said some of the salmon could continue to spawn after the hatchery closes.

“The pinks and the coho came from this creek. The coho definitely are a native Gunnuk creek stock. And the pinks, the hatchery back in the ‘90s was doing pinks and they stopped and the pinks continued to come so they may come back still,” he said.

The hatchery began having troubles when a dam broke in 2000. It was rebuilt, but it stopped water flow, killing fish.

“Lost all of our water and stuff when they were doing the construction. So we actually had to start rebuilding again and it was just a battle,” he said. “You know this last year we’re finally seeing some good returns come back but it was a day late and a dollar short basically.”

Gunnuk Creek has four full-time employees and 10-12 season workers, he said.

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