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Alexander Calls on Interior Secretary to Spare TN Fish Hatcheries

Press release from the Office of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; September 11, 2013:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to support Tennessee’s national fish hatcheries at Dale Hollow and Erwin today. He did so while also joining a letter with House and Senate colleagues representing mitigation fish hatcheries that called on Jewell to delay the implementation of recommendations in a pending U.S. Fish and Wildlife report that could jeopardize the future of mitigation hatcheries in Tennessee and around the country.

Alexander said, “These hatcheries provide broodstock that help make trout fishing in Tennessee some of the best in the country. The nearly 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors who buy fishing licenses each year depend upon these hatcheries to replace trout in Tennessee’s fisheries.”

“If federal locks and dams are going to destroy fish, then the federal government has a responsibility to replace them. That’s why it’s important to make sure Tennessee’s hatcheries remain open,” Alexander said. “I helped work out a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep the hatcheries producing fish for the next three years, and as part of its national review I hope the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will take that into account.”

The letter, which Alexander joined with U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), asked for a 60-day delay in the implementation of any recommendations for closure of any national fish hatcheries or other plans, so the public could review them.

“It is our understanding that this study is soon to be released, along with decisions about hatchery closures,” Alexander and his colleagues said in the letter. “We are gravely concerned that Congress has not been consulted on the matter.”

In May, Alexander announced that he had brokered a deal to keep open Tennessee’s hatcheries at Dale Hollow and Erwin. The three-year agreement between the Tennessee Valley Authority and federal and state wildlife agencies has TVA paying to keep the hatcheries producing fish after budget woes had threatened their ability to do so.

Feds, States Reach Agreement on TVA Trout Hatchery Operations

Press release from the Tennessee Valley Authority; May 17, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and representatives from the Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced Friday a new agreement that will continue popular trout stocking programs in reservoirs and tailwaters of certain TVA dams across the region.

TVA will provide more than $900,000 per year for the next three years to support federal fish hatchery operations that provide the trout for stocking. During the three-year timeframe, per an agreement signed by the four agencies, a working group will be formed with key stakeholders who benefit from the recreation-based trout stocking to identify a long-term funding source.

Currently, non-native trout stocked near some of TVA’s dams are raised at three federal fish hatcheries operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Erwin National Fish Hatchery in Erwin, Tenn.; Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery in Celina, Tenn.; and Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery in Suches, Ga.

“Closing Dale Hollow and Erwin would have been a disaster for 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors who bought fishing licenses last year,” Alexander said. “Dale Hollow helps make Tennessee’s rivers and lakes among the most prized trout fisheries in our country. And the Erwin hatchery provides brood stocks for fishing waters across the country.”

The trout are provided to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Georgia Department of Natural Resources for stocking in the colder water of the reservoirs and tailwaters of the TVA dams. TVA supports the stocking programs by enhancing aquatic habitat through oxygenation systems, foregoing electric generation and providing minimum river flows to help adequately maintain cooler water temperatures. However, in most of the waters, the trout cannot naturally reproduce, requiring regular stocking to maintain fishable populations.

“TVA is voluntarily providing three years of stewardship funding for trout hatchery operations because the agencies involved understand the importance of stocked trout waters to recreation, tourism and local economies,” said Joe Hoagland, TVA senior vice president of Policy and Oversight. “At the same time, the working group being formed to look at ongoing, sustainable funding is critical given TVA’s focus on keeping electric rates low and the budget challenges of all the participating agencies.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service greatly appreciates TVA’s dedicated funding for the next three years,” said Cindy Dohner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional director for the Southeast. “We also are encouraged by the commitment by all the agencies to develop a long-term, sustainable funding source for this important conservation, recreational, and economic activity for our citizens.”

Through this three-year hatchery funding agreement, trout will continue to be stocked for recreational fishing in reservoirs or tailwaters at 12 TVA dams in Tennessee and Georgia: Apalachia Dam on the Hiwassee River; Blue Ridge Dam on the Toccoa River; Cherokee Dam on the Holston River; Ft. Patrick Henry Dam on the South Fork Holston River; Normandy Dam on the Duck River; Norris Dam on the Clinch River; Ocoee Dam No. 1 on the Ocoee River; South Holston Dam on the South Fork Holston River; Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River; Tims Ford Dam on the Elk River; Watauga Dam on the Watauga River; and Wilbur Dam on the Watauga River.

“The funding of the federal hatchery operations is vital to our agency’s ability to meet the demand for quality trout fishing in Tennessee,” said Ed Carter, executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “Their continued operation will help continue providing a tremendous recreational activity to thousands of Tennesseans. An associated but very important side benefit is the significant economic boost to local businesses associated with the fishing and outdoor industry.”

“The Blue Ridge Dam-Toccoa River project is a critical trout fishery for our citizens and the economy of the area,” said Dan Forster, director of the Wildlife Resources Division for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “This agreement provides an important step in addressing the long-term continuation of trout production and stocking associated with this fishery.”

Details on the trout hatchery funding working group are currently being developed. The agencies will be seeking representation, ideas and input from angling groups, local and regional businesses, tourism organizations and the local governments that realize the direct and indirect benefits of having fishable trout waters in their communities.

“This is good news for Tennessee fishermen,” Alexander said of the hatchery agreement. “TVA has helped make sure Tennessee’s rivers and lakes will remain among the most prized trout fisheries in our country.”

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; May 17, 2013:

NASHVILLE, May 17—U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today announced an agreement between TVA and federal and state wildlife agencies that he said will keep open hatcheries that produce 60 percent of the trout stocked in Tennessee rivers and lakes.

During a press conference at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency headquarters, the senator said that budget woes have threatened to close both the Dale Hollow and Erwin national fish hatcheries. The senator credited TVA’s participation in a three-year agreement with federal and state wildlife agencies with keeping the hatcheries open while a permanent solution is being negotiated.

“Closing Dale Hollow and Erwin would have been a disaster for 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors who bought fishing licenses last year. Dale Hollow helps make Tennessee’s rivers and lakes among the most prized trout fisheries in our country. The Erwin hatchery provides brood stocks for fishing waters across the country.”

For several years Alexander has helped provide funds for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ budget to purchase trout from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to mitigate the loss of fish caused by Corps dams. He is the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Corps. TVA will also mitigate for the loss of fish on the Tennessee River system.

Alexander said this had been a week of “good news for Tennessee fishermen.” On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed his legislation that would delegate to state wildlife agencies enforcement of safety regulations below Corps of Engineers Dams on the Cumberland River. The senator said he expected the Corps would work with state agencies to create “reasonable regulations that prohibit fishing while water is spilling through the gates of the dams 20 per cent of the time, but allow fishing with appropriate precautions the rest of the time.”

The senator was joined at the press conference by Joe Hoagland, TVA’s senior vice president of policy and oversight; Ed Carter, executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency; Cindy Dohner, regional director, southeast region, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Dan Forster, director, wildlife resources division, of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.