ERWIN, Tenn. (AP) — Anglers can rejoice: A steady stream of trout will continue to flow into lakes in Tennessee and Georgia thanks to a funding agreement involving the Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state agencies.
The agreement will keep open three fish hatcheries that together supply more than a million trout each year for 13 TVA reservoirs and dam tailwaters in the two states.
Put simply, under the agreement, TVA pays for the fish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pays the cost of the hatcheries and state agencies pay for stocking and monitoring. In Tennessee, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency takes care of that last part. In Georgia, it's the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced the agreement at the Erwin National Fish Hatchery on Monday. The Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery in Celina and the Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery in Suches, Georgia, will also benefit from the agreement, according to news releases from the agencies.
The hatcheries have faced the threat of closure because of federal budget cuts since 2011. And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been directed by Congress and the Office of Management and Budget to seek reimbursement for its trout production at hatcheries across the nation.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration — a public utility in the Pacific Northwest — are also contributing funds to stock their reservoirs, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The hatchery-raised trout in Tennessee and Georgia are stocked in the coldest parts of the reservoirs and tailwaters. TVA has worked since the 1990s to improve aquatic habitat through practices like adding dissolved oxygen, forgoing hydroelectric generation and maintaining minimum water flows through its dams. Still, the trout cannot reproduce naturally in most of the waters, so regular stocking is required, according to the Tennessee WRA.
Estimates released by the agencies say more than 256,000 anglers fish for trout in Tennessee and Georgia waters each year. They spend about $73 for every $1 invested in the hatchery program, producing an economic impact of about $45 million.