The commission, a citizen panel that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved a proposal to sell the 95-year-old trout hatchery for its appraised value of $150,000 during a public meeting in Olympia.
"This is really a win-win for the department and Stevens County," said Commissioner Gary Douvia, who lives in Colville and helped to champion the sale. "While the hatchery may be past its prime, it’s still a real asset for the community."
Dan Budd, WDFW real estate manager, said the state acquired the trout hatchery from Stevens County in 1933 and operated it for nearly 80 years. WDFW closed the facility last June and moved most of the fish production to the Spokane Hatchery to cut costs in response to state budget reductions, he said.
Douvia said the county plans to create a non-profit organization to work with area schools to operate the facility and use it as a learning center. Students will learn hatchery-management skills at an on-site classroom affiliated with the Spokane-based NEWTECH Skill Center and supported by local Stevens County school districts.
"The last time I checked, 22 students had signed up - and the program isn’t even up and running yet," Douvia said.
Trout produced by the students will provide additional fish for local lakes and boost the local economy, he said. In addition, the terms of contract allow WDFW to credit Stevens County for the value of those fish toward the amount owed for the hatchery.
The current 19.4-acre property includes water rights and a small house. The Colville Confederated Tribes provided operational funding for the hatchery from 2010 through 2012, before it was closed last June.
"It’s great to see this old hatchery get a new lease on life," Budd said.