The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), the Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR) joined U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and leaders from the Tennessee Valley Authority in an announcement to provide long-term funding for trout production and stocking in 13 TVA dam tailwaters and reservoirs in Tennessee and Georgia.
The announcement for the multi-agency agreement to the USFWS came in a press conference at the Erwin National Fish Hatchery on May 11. The agreement ensures popular trout stocking programs in the region will continue beyond 2016, when a temporary TVA funding agreement reached in 2013 is set to expire.
The agreement supports continued TVA reservoir and tailwater stocking of non-native trout that are raised at three federal fish hatcheries operated by the USFWS: Erwin National Fish Hatchery in Erwin, Tenn.; Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery in Celina, Tenn., and Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery in Suches, Ga. The hatcheries produce 1.5 million trout annually for stocking.
“On behalf of all anglers who fish Tennessee waters, our agency appreciates Sen. Alexander’s leadership and the collaborative effort of the TVA, the USFWS, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, insuring the continuation of trout hatchery operations supplying our streams and tailwaters, said Ed Carter, TWRA Executive Director. “It gives me great comfort to know that the economic benefit to all Tennesseans and the fantastic angling opportunities these vital fisheries provide will continue.”
With the help of a working group of key stakeholders, the agencies developed a plan to collectively fund future trout hatchery operations at current levels in the following manner: TVA will provide base funding for the trout stocked; Fish and Wildlife Service will fund infrastructure and maintenance costs at the hatcheries, and the state agencies will take care of costs to distribute and monitor the fish.
“Nearly 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors buy fishing licenses each year,” Sen. Alexander said. “This means that the federal fish hatcheries in Erwin, Dale Hollow, and Georgia will continue to provide each year to Tennessee rivers and lakes more than 1 million fish that make out trout fishing some of the best in the country. TVA will support the hatcheries in the same way that the Army Corps of Engineers does when it replaces fish killed by dams on the Cumberland River and in the same was the Bonneville Power Administration supports fish on the Columbia and Snake rivers.”
The USFWS was directed by Congress and the Office of Management and Budget to seek reimbursement for its trout production at these and other hatcheries across the nation in this era of challenging federal budgets. The Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration are also providing funds for stocking at their respective facilities.
The federal trout raised in Tennessee and Georgia are provided to TWRA and GADNR for stocking in the colder water of the reservoirs and tailwaters of the TVA dams. TVA has worked to improve water quality and enhance aquatic habitat by adding dissolved oxygen, foregoing hydroelectric generation and maintaining minimum water flows through its dams.
However, in most of the waters the trout cannot naturally reproduce, requiring regular stocking to maintain fishable populations. Through this hatchery funding agreement, trout will continue to be stocked for recreational fishing in reservoirs or tailwaters at the selected TVA dams in Tennessee and Georgia.
More than 256,000 anglers are estimated to fish for trout in Tennessee and Georgia waters each year, spending about $73 for every $1 invested in the hatchery program and producing an economic impact of about $45 million.