Recent agreement will keep Dale Hollow Hatchery open through 2016 – and beyond
CELINA – The date: June 6, 2015. The weather: Sunny and mild; a beautiful summer day. Especially for the roughly 200 kids, fishing poles in hand, lining the banks of an outfall stream located just below the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery in Celina. In its 18th year, the Kids Fishing Rodeo, hosted by the hatchery, is a means to foster a love for the sport and expose children to the great outdoors.
Thanks to a new agreement that will keep the hatchery, which was once at risk for closure, open indefinitely, more kids – and anglers all across the state – will enjoy the sport for generations to come.
The Dale Hollow Fish Hatchery supplied nearly 2 million trout to Tennessee waters last year, and is a major economic driver in rural Clay County, but its future has essentially been in limbo since 2011. Months before a temporary funding deal was set to expire, Sen. Lamar Alexander said a “permanent solution had been reached” to keep it – as well two other facilities in East Tennessee and Suches, Ga. – open beyond 2016.
The word came through in mid- May.
“It’s definitely front-page news here,” said Andy Currie, manager at the Dale Hollow Hatchery. “We’re out of the woods. Our economy is really dependent on the outdoors. I’d say the lake is the No. 1 attraction here and probably the hatchery’s No. 2 right behind it.”
Last year, the Dale Hollow Hatchery raised 1.9 million fish, or 325,00 pounds, accounting for 60 percent of the trout stocked in Tennessee waters, Currie said, including Center Hill Lake, Dale Hollow Lake, and 12 TVA water development projects along the Tennessee River, like Norris Dam on the Clinch River, Normandy Dam on the Duck River and Tims Ford Dam on the Elk. The Dale Hollow hatchery was founded in 1965 by the federal government, and most of the trout – four species in all, rainbow, brown, brook and lake – are mitigation fish, meaning they’re stocked to offset habitat alterations brought about by the construction of federal dams.
In the past, the program has been funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) through appropriated monies. However, Currie said, there was a push in recent years to get the users to pay instead, in this case, largely the Army Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). In early 2011, word came down that the hatchery could close as part of a 2012 federal budget plan. But Sen. Alexander brokered a three-year deal to provide funding while the parties sought a more permanent solution.
“That bailed us out,” Currie said. “The Corps came on board a few years back to reimburse us. But that deal would have ended in our fiscal year 2016, which would begin Oct. 1. So that was on horizon. The (recent) announcement means we’ll be reimbursed indefinitely.”
Exact funding details weren’t released – Currie said talks will likely resume soon to iron out specifics.
But a release from Alexander’s office said TVA has agreed to support the hatcheries in the same way that the Corps does. Essentially, without TVA’s contribution, keeping the Dale Hollow National Hatchery “would have proven difficult,” Alexander has said in the past.
“It means we can continue to produce and stock fish,” Currie said.
That certainly is good news for those in Tennessee and Celina, and not just for future Kids’ Rodeo goers. Fish production at Dale Hollow Hatchery, for example, generates employment for more than 867 people with more than $22.5 million in wage and salary income, according to studies. Dale Hollow Hatchery’s total economic output for trout production amounts to nearly $79 million each year.
“We don’t have to look over our backs anymore,” Currie said. “And that’s a huge benefit for Tennessee.”