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New salmon center: 'It's bigger than Belfair'

This is an architect’s rendering of the planned 40,000 square foot Pacific Northwest Salmon Center that would be constructed in Belfair for $9.3 million. - Photo courtesy of Bruce Dees and Associates
This is an architect’s rendering of the planned 40,000 square foot Pacific Northwest Salmon Center that would be constructed in Belfair for $9.3 million.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Bruce Dees and Associates

In about two years the Pacific Northwest Salmon Center is scheduled to open its doors in Belfair.

So what does that mean for Kitsap County?

Plenty, said Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group officials.

“It’s bigger than Belfair, it’s bigger than the Pacific Northwest” said the group’s executive director Neil Werner about the planned 40,000 square-foot center.

There’s one facility like it in the world. Werner said. And it’s in Japan.

The three-level project will cost about $9.3 million to construct and involves the Hood Canal group, the Mary E. Theler Organization, North Mason School District and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“This will have a major effect on the future of salmon,” Werner said.

The center would include a demonstration garden, salmon spawning and interpretive channel, improvements to the Sweetwater Creek riparian corridor and barrier removal, parking, pedestrian trials, frontage improvements to SR 3.

The Pacific Northwest Salmon Center would be located on SR 3 in downtown Belfair, adjacent to the Mary E. Theler community center.

The Theler wetlands trail system brings in about 200,000 visitors a year. The new center, it is hoped, would bring in half a million or more visitors each year.

A public meeting to discuss the center is scheduled for 7 p.m., March 11 at the Theler Center, East 22871 SR 3.

The idea for salmon center began 10 years ago when three members of the group came up with the idea of a Salmon Museum and Learning Center. In 1998 the salmon enhancement group made it a long term goal to get the museum up and running. In December 2001 an anonymous donor gave the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group $50,000 to come up with a concept plan.

One of 14 regional salmon groups in the state, the Hood Canal group has spent the past several years working to restore salmon in the Hood Canal watershed.

The mostly volunteer group has concentrated its efforts on Mason County creeks, the Union, Dewatto and Tahuya rivers in supplementing fish populations, restoring habitat and outreach education, but they will soon start more projects in Kitsap County.

“When we restore salmon it affects people in Silverdale, Bremerton and Poulsbo,” Werner said.

The group has replaced about 40 culverts and re-introduced native salmon species to streams.

The Hama Hama river project looks to be a success, although it takes about 12 years for a population of salmon to sustain itself. In 1997 there were zero Fall Chinook in the river and now more than 500 have returned.

Although there are no plans as of yet, the enhancement group is keeping an eye on Big Beef Creek near Seabeck.

Because of development in the area water flows and temperatures have been effected and so have salmon populations.

“It’s hard to change those because we can’t get rid of the houses,” Werner said.

The group also awards thousands of dollars in scholarships to Central Kitsap students.

For information call (360) 275-3575 or e-mail hcseg@hctc.com

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