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Peninsula man charged in weir incident

Posted: Thursday, September 09, 2010

An Anchor Point man has been charged this week for sending debris down the Anchor River to disable a Department of Fish and Game weir.

The charges stem from an incident last June when staff from the department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say large logs and stumps came down river while they were working in the water, installing the weir for the season.

Christopher Vigue, 46, admits to sending some small branches downstream, but denies he pushed in any large debris.

The Anchor Point resident blames the weir for low salmon runs. According to the department, more than 11,000 kings traveled through the Anchor in 2005, compared to approximately 4,450 came this year. Department biologist Carol Kerkviliet said that the fish counting mechanism has been put in since 2004.

Waters were low and water-borne debris sparse that day, according to Kerkvliet. Stumps and logs usually float down the river on high water days. Kerkvliet said that the crew was focused on its work instead of looking for errant logs. She remembers walking past a worker wearing a snorkel. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a filing cabinet-sized stump headed toward her submerged co-worker. The biologist alerted her colleague before he was struck.

She said. "Accidents happen when you have something unpredictable like that."

Although no one was reported injured, the debris clogged the weir's live boxes, where fish pass through. The biologist said that weir forces fish to swim through tight camera monitored channels. This allows the state to estimate the number of salmon entering the Anchor river.

Vigue, said he intended to stop the weir's progress, but claims he didn't want to hurt anyoneHe said he'd hiked several miles upriver and pushed smaller branches off the bank into the fast water. Vigue claims that the bigger branches he pushed off never made it to the weir. Stumps float down the river on a daily basis, according to his observations, and the state workers risk injury whenever they work.

"Those weigh thousands of pounds. How could I push them in?" he said.

Vigue denied accusations that he used a chain saw to cut down larger logs and push them into the river.

"Full trees come down all the time," he said.

In his mind, the kind of debris he pushed in floats down the river all the time.

"I didn't do anything unnatural," he said. "It's the same as a little kid on a boat floating down the river."

Tony Cella can be reached at tony.cella@peninsulaclarion.com.



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