Hatchery is fully funded through fiscal year 2012

By THOMAS P. WEAVER

HORIZON Editor

CELINA-With the passing of the fiscal year 2012 Final Consolidated Appropriations Bill by Congress late last year came a sigh of relief for local hatchery employees and supporters here.

A story on an Arkansas Trout Unlimited (TU) Group website (news.whiterivertu.com) posted on December 22, 2010 by Leon Alexander said the approved budget “includes a total of 7.2 million for nine U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) mitigation hatcheries,” including Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery (DHNFH) here, “which were defunded” in the original 2012 budget.

The story quoted Arkansas Congressman Rich Crawford’s office saying “this funding is $3.8 million by Corps of Engineers (which they will in turn use to reimburse USFWS) and $3.38 million from USFWS. The ask was $6.9 million, so this amount covers full funding plus the remainder and any additional funds from peripheral reimbursements will be for deferred maintenance.”

When asked her thoughts on the development by the HORIZON, local Congressman Diane Black’s communications director Stephanie Genco said Monday the information on the Arkansas TU website was “accurate” based on her “checking of the facts” and she also offered a statement from the Congressman.

“The Congressman is very happy that this money was included for 2012 and she looks forward to working with the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery on sustainable funding so those jobs can stay in Clay County.”

A summary of the bill found online at appropriations.house.gov said:

“The FWS is funded at $1.5 billion in the bill, a cut of $28 million below last year’s level. Funding for mitigation fish hatcheries is restored, which returns $28 to the economy for every federal taxpayer dollar invested.”

The restoration of the funding is key for this fiscal year’s operation here at DHNFH, but the future still remains in limbo as apparent by another source documented in Alexander’s story.

The website posting gives an explanation it says comes from “the conference report on Interior” that in part reads “the Committee directs the Service to continue to seek reimbursement from the remaining agencies for mitigation hatchery operations, and to redirect any additional reimbursed funding to deferred maintenance.”

That information refers to the fact FWS has yet to receive any reimbursement from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) or any other responsible agencies besides the Corps.

A story in the June 8, 2011 edition of the HORIZON quoted FWS public affairs officer Valerie Fellows saying “If the Service does not receive funding from TVA, it will not be able to provide them mitigation fish in fiscal year 2012,” but the passing of the Appropriations Bill will make up that shortfall this year.

Funding in fiscal year 2013 and beyond was not addressed in the latest legislation and is still in question.

Support groups, including the Friends of DHNFH who meet the first Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. here at the Methodist Church Activity Center (MAC), have worked hard to show their opposition to the closure of the hatcheries since the possibility was announced in early 2011 and organizers of the groups have pledged to continue to work towards funding for future hatchery operations here and throughout the country.

See a future HORIZON for updates regarding this story.