By Duane W. Gang | The Tennessean
The Tennessee Valley Authority signed an agreement Friday with the federal government and the states of Tennessee and Georgia to provide $2.7 million to keep three national fish hatcheries operating.
The agreement will provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with $900,000 annually for the next three years to raise trout at its hatcheries in Tennessee and Georgia.
The trout are provided to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for stocking in streams and lakes in both states.
The funding agreement means anglers will still get their shot at catching trout, despite federal budget cuts that threatened the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery in Celina, Tenn., the Erwin National Fish Hatchery in Erwin, Tenn., and the Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery in Suches, Ga.
"At the very least, without TVA's participation, the hatcheries would be doing a lot less work, there would be a lot fewer trout in our waters and it is possible that Dale Hollow would have closed," said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who helped broker the agreements.
"Closing Dale Hollow or Erwin would have been a disastrous blow to the 900,000 Tennesseans who have fishing licenses," he said at signing ceremony at TWRA's headquarters in Nashville.
Joe Hoagland, a TVA senior vice president, said TVA understands the importance that fishing has on recreation, tourism and local economies in Tennessee and Georgia. As part of the agreement, TVA will begin working with the federal government and state agencies to find a long-term funding source for the fish hatcheries.
Cindy Dohner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's southeast regional director, said the trout raised in the three fish hatcheries account for 500,000 angler days a year and $45 million in economic activity.
"It is a well-deserved investment," she said of the TVA funding.
Ed Carter, TWRA's executive director, and Dan Forster, director of Georgia's wildlife resources division, also attended the event Friday and praised TVA's funding commitment.
Alexander called it a good week for fisherman, not only because of the money for the fish hatcheries, but because the U.S. Senate passed two measure aimed at preventing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from putting in place boating and fishing restrictions near the 10 dams the agency operates on the Cumberland River and its tributaries.
One measure would turn over to state wildlife agencies the enforcement of safety regulations below Corps dams on the Cumberland. The other would prevent the Corps from putting in place the restrictions for the next two years.
Alexander is in ongoing feud with the Corps over the restrictions and has slammed the agency for not compromising and allowing some level of access. "I do not understand the Corps' obstinance on this," he told reporters Friday.
The Corps has stood by its decision, saying it must put in place the restrictions to boost safety below its dams and fully comply with a 1996 agency policy.
Contact Duane W. Gang at 615-726-5982 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @duanegang.