Will an increase in stocked fish define Maine’s fishing future? The legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee apparently thinks so. The Committee, by a unanimous vote, endorsed a proposal for a $28 million bond issue to construct a new hatchery.
Last year Representative Russell Black submitted a bill at my request that got quite a bit of discussion, but a disappointing result. In my testimony for the bill, I reported on problems with stocking policies, genetics of brook, brown, and rainbow trout, and high costs and low catch rates. Our bill would have created a Hatchery Commission to:
- Examine the costs of production, the numbers and species of fish stocked, and the return on stocked fish, both in Maine and in other states;
- Conduct a survey of licensed anglers in the State, using contact lists at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, to assess the anglers’ interest in and satisfaction with fish stocked by the State;
- Make recommendations designed to provide for the production and distribution of fish sufficient to meet current and future demand in the most cost-effective manner.
The IFW Committee rejected our bill, and in its place, voted to appropriate $700,000, from DIF&W’s surplus account, to contract for an engineering study on upgrading the Grand Lake Stream Hatchery and constructing a new hatchery.
On February 9, Todd Langevin, DIF&W’s Superintendent of Hatcheries, presented the engineering study to the IFW Committee. The study was done by FishPro Inc. of Illinois and cost $140,784.
Todd also reported that the agency had awarded a $53,000 contract to Mountain Springs Trout Farm for 5,000 one-pound fall yearling brook trout, which will be stocked this fall. For more information on stocking costs and returns, read my news column posted on February 12.
The FishPro plan includes adding a second deeper water intake at the Casco hatchery, expanding the Grand Lake Stream water supply and production capacity, and building a new hatchery. FishPro outlined four possibilities: expansions of 10%, 25%, 39%, and 114% in pounds of fish.
The Casco recommendations could cost as much as $963,000 and the Grand Lake Stream recommendations could cost as much as $2 million. The costs of a new hatchery were:
For a 10% increase in production pounds of fish: $10,896,000
For a 25% increase in production pounds of fish: $19,695,000
For a 49% increase in production pounds of fish: $27,879,000
For a 124% increase in production pounds of fish: $90,603,500.
FishPro recommended, based on DIF&W’s fish production goals in each region, that a new $27.9 million hatchery be constructed.
When the IFW Committee sought a recommendation from Commissioner Chandler Woodcock, he could not give them one. So they voted without any guidance from the agency.
The IFW Committee voted to seek a $28 million bond issue, without a lot of discussion after the motion was made, but the vote seemed to be based on a desire to build a new hatchery, without seeking the improvements recommended for Casco and Grand Lake Stream.
This probably doesn’t matter, because the chance of convincing the legislature and governor to support a $28 million bond issue for a fish hatchery are slim to none. Well, none actually.