Sen. Alexander secures commitment to keep Tennessee hatcheries open

CELINA-Long range survival of the Dale Hollow Lake National Fish Hatchery here has been in doubt but recent developments in congress appears to have eased those fears considerably as U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has secured a commitment for funding from the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

In a press release from Alexander’s office dated March 1 the senator praises U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for committing to keep the Erwin National Fish Hatchery and Dale Hollow open, saying, “Secretary Salazar’s commitment today to keep these Tennessee hatcheries open until we secure joint funding for them shows just how big and vital a role they play in Tennessee’s and the country’s economies.”

At a hearing February 29, of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, Alexander asked Secretary Salazar for his assurance that Tennessee’s hatcheries would be kept open despite the Interior Department’s budget cut of $3.2 million from mitigation hatcheries, saying:

“I once noticed that the number of Tennesseans who have hunting and fishing licenses exceeded the number who voted in a recent election, so this is serious business for us. The Erwin National Fish Hatchery provides eggs for hatcheries all over the country and Dale Hollow produces 60 percent of the trout stocked in Tennessee. In your tight budget, you’re having to cut $3.2 million from mitigation hatcheries, which would close those hatcheries, with very serious consequences for Americans.

“We are working with the Tennessee Valley Authority and with the Army Corps of Engineers to help share in the funding of those hatcheries so that you’ll be able to keep them open. My question is: Can you assure me the hatcheries won’t close until we have an opportunity to try to secure joint funding for them?”

Salazar responded: “Absolutely, Senator Alexander. And I look forward to working with you and TVA and the Army Corps to see how we can keep these hatcheries open. They are, as you say, very important to the anglers of Tennessee and beyond Tennessee, so we’ll be happy to work with you on that.”

The hatchery’s funding dilemma was the top HORIZON news story in 2011, received the attention of local and state representatives, and spawned the formation of a local support group, The Friends of the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery.

See a future HORIZON for more on this ongoing story.