ON GOING ISSUE!!!
89er Trout Unlimited Members we need your help to support the Trout Hatcheries that feed our Oklahoma Trout Waters. Once again funding for the mitigation hatcheries in Arkansas and other regions of the South/South Central United States is in jeopardy. Trout Unlimited Leaders at the national level are fully engaged in this issue but we as T.U. Members need to express our voice and support them. The text below is a proposed letter that we ask you to send to our Oklahoma Congressional and Senatorial Representatives asking them to engage on the funding issue.
Please copy and paste this letter, address it to the appropriate representative, input your name and in other information and send it to the address for the representative. The other option is to go to the individual representatives website and input the information via the contact form on the representatives websites. Either way is acceptable, the only stipulation is that you be respectful and understand that when you send your letter or electronic contact that you are not only representing yourself but you are also representing Trout Unlimited.
As a member of Trout Unlimited in Oklahoma, I am asking for your immediate help to maintain funding for the Greer’s Ferry and Norfolk Fish Hatcheries operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). We single out these two hatcheries as they supply the majority of the trout that supports our valuable Oklahoma trout fisheries. The situation this: based on verbiage in the FWS FY 15 budget proposal document and analysis done by the FWS on all of its hatcheries, it appears the mitigation hatcheries are to be excluded as budget line items and may not receive critical funding via the FWS in FY2015 budget.
You may not be aware that the Greer’s Ferry Hatchery is a "mitigation" hatchery and is the principal supplier of trout for our region. In Oklahoma, all trout for the Blue River, a seasonal trout fishery, as well as the Lower Illinois River, a year-around trout fishery, are supplied by the Greer’s Ferry Hatchery. In addition to these fisheries, winter trout stocking on the Lower Mountain Fork River near Broken Bow, OK is also sourced via the Greer’s Ferry Hatchery.
“Mitigation” hatcheries were established to provide trout to mitigate the loss of habitat caused by construction and operation of the various U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) dams, such as the Tenkiller Dam in Oklahoma. The FWS and USACE have an agreement in place, the terms of which compels the USACE to reimburse the FWS for most of the operating costs of mitigation hatcheries that supply fish to rivers where there are USACE dams. Unfortunately the agreement does not cover ALL of the costs, and that is where the threat to our Oklahoma fisheries occurs.
Any hatchery closures or reduced scope of operations due to lack of full funding will result in consequence to the state of Oklahoma. Specifically, Oklahoma waters will no longer receive the trout that the mitigation hatcheries have been providing. Based on history this averages to approximately 63,200 11 inch rainbow trout or approximately 34,170 pounds of fish annually.
I and my fellow Oklahoma TU members have worked extremely hard over the years, with the USACE, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and our elected officials to ensure that there is sufficient water and adequate water quality in the Lower Illinois River below the Tenkiller Dam to sustain the valuable fishery. You can imagine our frustrations as we consider the possibility that all of the work and progress to manage the river could be undermined by cutbacks at the National Fish Hatchery that supplies the fish.
I’d like to highlight that within Sequoyah County alone; studies indicated that trout fishing on the Lower Illinois River brings in over $5 million in tax revenue each year. Studies of the Broken Bow, OK area fisheries and the Lower Mountain Fork River fisheries have never been done to such a degree, but we are confident that the value of those fisheries would exceed the Lower Illinois numbers.
These, as well as all mitigation National Fish Hatcheries, deserve to be funded as promised by the mitigation agreements that took place when the dams were built. Funding for these programs should be done fully and permanently to avoid this reoccurring nightmare in the future.
The long and the short of this is simple: keeping these and all mitigation National Fish Hatchery System hatcheries open, operational and fully funded is good business. Good business for the states that hatcheries reside in and good business for the states that are in receipt of the fish that the hatcheries provide.
Therefore, in the short term, I urge you to work with the Appropriations committees to once again require the FWS to find the funds needed to keep all mitigation hatcheries open and functioning through FY2015. Longer term, I ask that you contact the US Army Corps of Engineers budget office and see to it that they work to fully reimburse the expenditures of the National Fish Hatchery System hatcheries within their regions.
Please keep me posted on your activities relative to this issue and with FY2015 rapidly approaching I respectfully ask for immediate action as Oklahoma trout fisheries cannot survive without resolution.