The state is ending a Kenai Peninsula hatchery’s decades-old practice of dumping dead salmon in a glacial fjord inside Kachemak Bay State Park.
Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association Executive Director Dean Day said the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery has historically dumped hundreds of thousands of pink salmon carcasses harvested for their roe.
“When we go through the egg take process, we dispose of the carcasses in an approved zone for a number of years, over 25 years – a permitted location that’s permitted by the ADEC, the Department of Environmental Conservation,” Day explained.
But the hatchery never secured a permit from the state’s Department of Natural Resources. DNR reportedly asked the hatchery to apply for permission last year. It denied the permit this week and Day said DNR laid out its reasoning in its denial letter.
“I know the decision was made because they determined the carcass disposals constituted waste disposal and waste disposal was an incompatible use for the park. It was also noted that the extent of the potential impact on the park’s natural resources is not known.”
There was also concern that the nearly 200,000 rotting fish carcasses could deplete oxygen in Tutka Bay, affecting other organisms. The hatchery has a permit from a separate state agency to dump fish carcasses. But DNR’s decision automatically nullifies the permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation, which regulates water discharge in the state.
Day said the fact that the agencies apparently don’t agree leaves room for a challenge and he’s launched an appeal.
“It’s kind of like failing to defer to the DEC who has the expertise as a primary permitting agency for that particular activity,” he added.
Cook Inlet Aquaculture is already applying for a DEC permit to dispose fish carcasses outside of the park boundaries. But Day said that would be expensive.
DNR’s decision this week follows its denial of the hatchery association’s recent request to renew a contentious permit for a remote release site in Tutka Bay.