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The Deer Mountain Fish Hatchery is a community treasure.
Located in City Park, not far from the Totem Heritage Museum, it attracts tourists and other visitors as well as locals interested in Ketchikan Creek's salmon.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Ketchikan every year, most of them from cruise ships, and many trek over to the hatchery. The hatchery helps to explain to them the life cycle and migration of salmon. Visitors can see the fry, the salmon returning to the creek — even, if just in the right place at the right time, witness a bear along the way. The information provided through the hatchery educates visitors from around the world, but of significant importance those from the Lower 48 who often misunderstand natural-resource-use issues in Alaska. That fact alone makes the hatchery important not only to Ketchikan, but to the state.
A local or state entity concerned with the commercial or sportfishing salmon industry should take over the hatchery operation. The Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association has been mentioned; others certainly are possibilities, too.
Private enterprise shouldn't be ruled out as a source for an operator, either. Businesses that cater to tourists provide all kinds of attractions.
Ketchikan Indian Community operated the hatchery for 19 years. While KIC reps say their financial statements indicate it's time to call it quits, they did a fine job for almost two decades.
Others with different financing might be able to operate it for a couple decades more, and even enhance the experience and the service to the fishing industry and the community.
The Ketchikan City Council voted earlier this week to request proposals from possible operators. Interested parties can contact the city.
We hope they do; it would be a shame to lose the hatchery and eventually the salmon in Ketchikan Creek.