The legislature’s supplemental budget, approved by the Appropriations Committee last week, includes $4.8 million to fix problems in two state fish hatcheries. Given all the needs in this state, the Fish and Wildlife Department has to be congratulated for getting this money. For example, while there’s been a lot of discussion about what we need to do for those addicted to opiates, DIF&W got $2 million more than was appropriated for opiate addiction treatment programs.
This money will be spent to construct water supply lines and update water treatment equipment at the Casco and Grand Lake Stream fish hatcheries.
This story starts last year, when DIF&W spent $140,784 on an engineering study of its hatcheries, conducted by FishPro of Illinois. The FishPro recommendations included adding a second deeper water intake at the Casco hatchery, expanding the Grand Lake Stream water supply and production capacity. They also provided information and costs for construction of a new hatchery. FishPro outlined four possibilities: expansions of 10%, 25%, 39%, and 114% in pounds of fish.
The plan reported that 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.
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, choosing to seek a $28 million bond issue for a new hatcher without seeking the improvements recommended for Casco and Grand Lake Stream.
It was not surprising that the Appropriations Committee rejected the $28 million hatchery bond issue. And not long after, as predicted by the study, the water supply at the Casco hatchery failed and the hatchery closed. We also suffered a major fish kill at the Grand Lake Stream hatchery.
Here’s what we learned in FishPro’s report about the Casco Hatchery.
“The facility is supplied with water by a single 16 inch pipeline that is a mix of a DI and AC constructed in the 1950s, which is nearing the end of its designed life… The pipeline alignment has not been maintained to protect the pipe, and large trees have grown along and above the pipeline, which present a threat to the pipeline… The intake pipe tower stability and condition are a concern.”
FishPro recommended that “funding should be allocated for replacement of the existing AC pipeline portion in the near future.”
Of course, that didn’t happen last year, and the predicted loss of the hatchery’s water supply happened soon after.
Grand Lake Stream
Similar concerns were raised in the report about the water supply at Grand Lake Stream. For example, FishPro reported, “The facility is currently supplied with water by a single 24 inch diameter DI pipeline from the lake to the filter building, which yields water that is considered to be too warm for coldwater species of fish.
“Additionally, varying lake levels, due to hydropower storage operations in the reservoir, lead to decreased water supply to the hatchery during the fall and winter, which are the highest production months.
“Primary concerns with the existing pipeline are: remaining life in the existing valving at the headbox, considerations over excessive headloss due to pipe reductions and the valve type at the UV building, the existing intake depth and limited access to cooler water, and the impact of frazil and anchor ice on the operation of the existing shallow-water intake and water supply to the hatchery.”
The New Plan
I’ve asked Commissioner Chandler Woodcock to provide me with the details of how they are going to spend that $5 million on these two hatcheries, and I will share that information with you when I get it.