23
Feb
11

hatchery fight brewing

This is copied from Jimmy T.’s Blog on http://www.flyfisharkansas.com , but needs repeating.

 

From todays paper (Baxter Bulletin):

Three Twin Lakes Area legislators have introduced a resolution into the Arkansas House calling on the president and the Arkansas congressional delegation to support and continue funding for the fish hatcheries at Norfork and Greers Ferry. Norfork National Fish Hatchery and the Greers Ferry hatchery are facing a loss of funds due to proposed federal budget cuts.

House Resolution 1014 by Rep. Kelley Linck, R-Flippin, was referred to the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative & Military Affairs and is on the committee agenda for a hearing today. Rep. Lori Benedict, R-Sturkie, is a member of the committee.

Benedict and Rep. Karen Hopper, R-Lakeview, are co-sponsors of the resolution.

HR1014 argues that the hatcheries “provide the foundation for Arkansas’ world-renowned trout fishery waters that produce a total economic impact of well over $150,000,000 annually, but only cost taxpayers approximately $1,500,000 annually to operate.”

The lawmakers assert in the resolution that the hatcheries generate $5.5 million in federal tax revenues.

Read this entire story in the Wednesday, Feb, 23, 2011 print edition of The Baxter Bulletin.

This from yesterdays Bulletin:

A press release published on Valentine’s Day from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the service wants to stop funding to the Norfork and Greers Ferry national fish hatcheries and a few other hatcheries like them, then pass that cost on to the agencies that built the dams that created the need for the hatcheries.

Jim Gaston, a leader in the promotion of tourism to Arkansas for nearly half a century, told The BulletinMonday there is no federal legislation that assures funding for the stocker-trout production from the Norfork National Fish Hatchery and other hatcheries like it that replace native fish species displaced by dams.

Mitigation-of-species agreements between states and the federal government aren’t worth much in the absence of legislation to fund the hatcheries, Gaston said. Without a law that clearly defines and enables funding for the hatcheries, the issue will continue to be bantered about by bureaucrats that head agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he said.

“Our first order of business is to solve the present crisis,” Gaston said, “and then to come up with something so we don’t have to go through this every few years.”

Budget

When President Obama rolled out his 2012 budget earlier this month, it included $1.7 billion for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a net increase of $47.9 million compared to the Fiscal Year 2010 budget. But the line item from federal fish hatcheries buried in the budget shows plans to cut the hatcheries budget from $54.37 million spent in the operation of 70 fish hatcheries in 2010 to $42.76 million, or 21.3 percent, for 2012.

Nine hatcheries in the 70 that operate under the FWS umbrella — including the Norfork and Greers Ferry national fish hatcheries — were built pursuant to mitigation-of-species agreements between the agencies that built the dams and the states they’re in. FWS plans to cut $6.3 million from the funding of the those hatcheries.

“The service has been working to recover costs from the federal agencies that built and operate these water infrastructure projects, and will continue ongoing reimbursement discussions with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Central Utah Project Completion Act, and the Bonneville Power Administration,” the FWS said in its Valentine’s Day press release.

Gaston said news that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already had been persuaded by FWS to contribute $3.8 million to the operation of a the nine-dam group in 2011 and to pledge a similar amount in 2012 was a surprise to him. It’s illustrative, Gaston said, of how bureaucracies work. Gaston said the behavior, indeed, represents a funding crisis to the hatcheries because of current fiscal problems with the federal government that gives momentum to almost any kind of budget-cutting proposals by bureaucracies or government executives, despite facts for or against cuts.

The facts

Here are some facts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s current fact sheet about the Norfork National Fish Hatchery:

“Norfork National Fish Hatchery has a significant economic impact. For every dollar spent by the hatchery, $94.98 is generated in economic output. The total economic output for trout production at the hatchery (2010 dollars) is $90,400,000.”

Gaston said facts mean little in Washington, D.C., and the present crisis is not altogether unlike a funding crisis in 1995 when a past director of the FWS decreed that service’s mission was not to nurture sport fishing in America and proposed deep cuts to the hatchery program.

“I went to Washington in 1995 armed with a report containing the facts. I was very proud of my report,” Gaston said. “Our Sen. (Dale) Bumpers introduced me to (the late) Sen. Robert Byrd. He read my report, and we had lunch together. He told me something that will always be with me.

“Sen. Byrd said: ‘Facts mean just a little bit here in Washington.’ ”

Gaston said the peddling of hatchery responsibilities back and forth between agencies are outcomes of “Washington heavyweights” making deals for pet projects at the highest levels of FWS.

Voices heard

“People who think the facts are going to win this one are just wrong. We don’t know whose behind this,” Gaston said.

The people of Arkansas and the nation who love the rivers and trout fishing and want adequate funding for the hatchery in 2012 and thereafter must organize and make their voices heard, Gaston said.

“The people are really going to have to turn up the pressure on them (FWS). We have to bring it to a level that it’s not worth the trouble,” Gaston said.

At a meeting of Arkansas Game and Fish Commission department heads last week that included Gaston and others vested in the trout fishing in Arkansas, a number of remedies were discussed for the hatchery crisis including an offer from the state to buy the Norfork hatchery, according to a report by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Proffered “a more salient point” was “the federal government’s responsibility to maintain the hatcheries, which supply year-round trout fisheries to mitigate the loss of the native fisheries that existed in the White and Little Red rivers before the Bull Shoals, Norfork and Greers Ferry dams were built.

“Closing those hatcheries would exacerbate the dams’ negative environmental impact and would essentially constitute a breach of contract. In short, the feds might be obligated to keep the hatcheries running,” veteran Democrat-Gazette outdoors writer Bryan Hendricks wrote.

Gaston said viable, hard-funding options exist. On Monday, he was mindful that bills for construction of the dams had been retired by proceeds from the sale of electricity produced by the dams. The quasi-governmental Southwest Power Administration is the seller of that electricity.

“An amount added to the cost of electricity per kilowatt hour on the electricity that comes from dams is an option that comes to my mind,” Gaston said. “Southwestern probably wouldn’t like it. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t either.”

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