Department of Interior puts off hatchery closure and urges agencies to work towards long-term solution

CELINA-U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander received word this week from the Department of Interior that there will be no closures of national fish hatcheries in the next month, and that it had instructed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work with Congress, state wildlife agencies, and fishing groups to discuss long-term solutions.

The news comes on the heels of a letter Alexander sent with the support of his House and Senate colleagues to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell urging her to support the hatchery here and others across the state.

“I appreciate Interior Secretary Jewell heeding the concerns of Tennesseans and others around the country who depend upon these hatcheries to replace trout that are destroyed by federal locks and dams,” Alexander said. “Members of Congress spoke out, and the Department of the Interior responded.

“Now, the nearly 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors who buy fishing licenses in our state can once again have faith that Tennessee’s trout fishing will remain some of the best in the country.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been preparing a report, expected in the next month, on the mitigation fish hatchery program that fishing advocates feared would lead to closures of some hatcheries.

Earlier this month, the senator urged Jewell to delay any pending recommendations to close or jeopardize the future of mitigation hatcheries in Tennessee and around the country.

Before that, he brokered a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to keep the national fish hatchery here at Dale Hollow and others across the region open for three more years last spring.

The agreement was signed back in May between TVA and federal and state wildlife agencies, and it has TVA paying over $900,000 per year to keep the hatcheries producing fish through 2016 after budget woes had threatened their ability to do so.

“If federal locks and dams are going to destroy fish, then the federal government has a responsibility to replace them,” Alexander said.  “That’s why it’s important to make sure Tennessee’s hatcheries remain open.

“I helped work out a deal to keep the hatcheries producing fish for the next three years, and as part of its national review I hope the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will take that into account.”