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TVA support saves hatchery

Several years of uncertainty regarding the future of the Erwin National Fish Hatchery came to an end on Monday, May 11.
During a press conference at the hatchery, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander announced that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has agreed to provide funds in support of the Erwin hatchery as well was the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery in Celina, Tenn., and the Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery in Suches, Ga.
“Nearly 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors buy fishing licenses each year,” Sen. Alexander said. “This means that the federal fish hatcheries in Erwin, Dale Hollow and Georgia will continue to provide each year to Tennessee rivers and lakes more than one million fish that make our trout fishing some of the best in the country.
“TVA will support the hatcheries in the same way that the Army Corps of Engineers does when it replaces fish killed by dams on the Cumberland River and in the same way the Bonneville Power Administration supports fish on the Columbia and Snake rivers,” Alexander continued.
Joining Alexander for the announcement were Bill Johnson, president and CEO of TVA, Ed Carter, executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), Mike Oetker, deputy regional director for the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Jeff Durniak with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Carter described the situation facing the hatcheries as “dire” during his opening comments on Monday.
“This is a really historic day,” Carter said. “Three years ago the hatcheries were in trouble. Today, we have really great news.”
The estimated annual amount of funding to be provided by TVA is approximately $1 million, Johnson said Monday. This support will allow the hatcheries to continue operations at current levels. More than one million trout were stocked below TVA dams during 2014.
“Last Wednesday, I met with Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, who said that TVA’s support makes possible a permanent solution to keep the hatcheries open,” Alexander said Monday. “This is also good news for the businesses that create jobs and depend on fishing in Tennessee.”
In 2013, Alexander spearheaded the development of a three-year agreement to keep the hatcheries open while a permanent solution could be developed. This agreement was set to expire next year.
“On behalf of all anglers who fish Tennessee waters, our agency is deeply appreciative of Senator Alexander’s leadership and his working relationships with TVA, the USFWS and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources that bring us here today,” Carter said. “Insuring the continuation of trout hatchery operations supplying our streams and tailwaters is very comforting to me. I’m elated that, with this agreement, the economic benefit to all Tennesseans and the fantastic angling opportunities these vital fisheries provide will continue.”
According to information from the FWS, TVA will provide base funding for the trout stocked. The FWS agrees to fund infrastructure and maintenance costs at the hatcheries and the state agencies will provide for the care of costs to distribute and monitor the fish.
The FWS also reported that for every dollar spent on fish production and stocking at these three hatcheries generates $73 in overall economic impact. According to the TWRA, more than 256,000 anglers are estimated to fish for trout in Tennessee and Georgia annually, creating an economic impact of approximately $45 million.
Regarding economic impact in Unicoi County, Alexander said ensuring the future of the Erwin hatchery, as well as the development of the Rocky Fork State Park, makes the county an outdoor tourism destination.
“I see the economic development of this region tied a great deal to outdoor tourism,” Alexander said. “… There are few places in the country that can match Unicoi County for adventure tourism and the fish hatchery and Rocky Fork are two important steps in that.”
Following the press conference, Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch said that ensuring the Erwin hatchery continue to operate is important for the county.
“This hatchery has an important economic impact on Unicoi County,” Lynch said. “From the employees we have working here to the fact that so many people visit, helps drive our tourism economy. We are thankful that TVA stepped up to the plate.”