Your opinions are the subject of the new edition of Wildfire, the TV talk show that I host with James Cote. While James and I discussed a lot of issues, including problems and opportunities at DIF&W’s fish hatcheries, and what the legislature achieved and didn’t achieve, we also spent a good deal of the time going through the results of our Sportsmen Say Survey questions.
And at the end of the show, we posed a new question for you to answer: Would you support a $3 million bond issue to fix problem and improve the state’s Casco and Grand Lake Stream hatcheries? You can access the question in the Sportsmen Say Survey section of my website, www.georgesmithmaine.com.
Each edition of Wildlife is aired on Time Warner cable station 9 on Tuesdays at 7 pm, Thursdays at 6:30 pm, and Sundays at 9:30 am. Each edition airs for two weeks. You can also access the show, including previous shows, online at www.vstv.me.
Here’s some background information on the hatchery issue.
A $28 million bond issue to construct a new hatchery, unanimously endorsed by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, died on the Appropriations table, not really a surprise.
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.
The study was done by FishPro Inc. of Illinois and cost $140,784. The FishPro plan included 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 ranged from $10,896,000 for a 10 percent increase in fish production to $90,603,500 for a 124 percent increase in fish production. FishPro recommended, based on DIF&W’s fish production goals in each region, that a new $27.9 million hatchery be constructed. That would allow an increase in production of 49%.
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, unanimously endorsing a $28 million bond issue to construct a new hatchery. Improvements at the other hatcheries were not included. And that was as far as the bill got.
Not long after, the Casco Hatchery lost most of its water supply, and shut down. DIF&W is still trying to figure out what and where the problem is, and find the money to fix it.