Trout hatcheries facing cuts — again
Posted: Friday, April 20, 2012 3:00 pm
KNOXVILLE (AP) — On a recent morning a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency hatchery truck backed up to the Clinch River below Norris Dam and dumped a load of rainbow trout.
The trout had come from the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery in Celina, Tenn., which each year supplies 160,000 fingerling-sized rainbow trout to the Norris Dam tailwaters, along with all of the brook trout and brown trout that are stocked in the river.
A year ago the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery was one of nine federal hatcheries across the U.S. facing possible closure because of cuts in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s budget. Trout raised at the agency’s hatcheries are released in tailwaters whose natural conditions have been altered by federal dams. In the case of the Norris Dam tailwaters, this means stocking trout in waters that have been rendered too cold for native species, like smallmouth bass and sunfish, by the construction of Norris Dam.
Thanks to some last-minute budget tweaking, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds for its hatchery program were reinstated for fiscal year 2012, and trout stocking in Tennessee is on schedule for this spring and summer.
In terms of next year, the situation remains as uncertain as it was a year ago. That’s because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget for fiscal year 2013 includes $3.2 million in reduced spending for its mitigation hatcheries. In Tennessee, the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery would be affected by the budget cuts, as would the Erwin National Fish Hatchery, which produces eggs for hatcheries around the country.
The issue has caught the attention of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. During a subcommittee hearing last month Alexander asked for, and received, an assurance from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar that the Dale Hollow and Erwin hatcheries would remain open until reimbursement is secured from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority, the agencies in charge of the waters that receive the federally raised trout.
“Way back in my political career I noticed in one election that the number of Tennesseans with hunting and fishing licenses exceeded the number of people who voted,” Alexander said in a phone interview.
“My staff is talking to the Army Corps (of Engineers), and we’ll be talking to TVA. What I asked the Secretary to do is hold off on closing these hatcheries while we look for funding.
“What this problem really needs is a long-term solution, and I’ll do my best to find one.” Published in The Messenger 4.20.12