Thursday, January 10, 2013
- by Elsie Davis, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed secure funding agreements with many federal agencies and regional utilities to enable the agency to continue raising and stocking fish in streams affected by federal water development projects and power generation activities. However, unless a similar agreement is reached soon with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to cover fish rearing and stocking operations in Tennessee and Georgia, the Service will be forced to halt this work on behalf of the TVA.
For more than four decades, the Service has used its own funds to work with state fish and wildlife agencies, tribal governments and other partners to lessen the impact of dams and other water development projects that have contributed to the decline of native fisheries by impairing stream flows and water quality. But increasing costs and budget constraints have made it impossible for the Service to fund this work in the future.
Anticipating this crisis, the Service has worked for more than three years to secure agreements with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration that provide most of the funding needed for this work through the end of fiscal year 2013. Ongoing discussions have yielded no similar agreement with TVA, a federally owned corporation created by congressional charter during the Great Depression to provide navigation, flood control and electricity generation in the Tennessee Valley.
If the Service cannot reach an agreement with TVA by April 1, 2013, to provide nearly $1 million in annual operational funding, the agency will not be able to produce fish for delivery in fiscal year 2014.
“The fish supplied by our hatcheries play a critical role in reducing the impacts of water development and power generation activities on many stream systems, while also providing important economic and recreational benefits to local communities. We want to continue providing these benefits, but our hatchery system is stretched to the breaking point,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “We simply cannot continue to absorb these costs, and need TVA to step up and accept financial responsibility for keeping fish in rivers impacted by its operations.”
Ashe emphasized that the agency continues to talk with representatives of the TVA in hope of reaching an agreement.
The Service operates three national fish hatcheries that provide fish to mitigate the impacts of TVA projects. Two hatcheries are located in Tennessee and a third in North Georgia.
The Service has broad support for its efforts to have agencies and utilities pay to address the impacts of their operations. Congress, the White House Office of Management and Budget and key partners have each recognized that these agencies and utilities are the most appropriate funding source and encouraged the development of funding agreements.
“Many of the same citizens that depend on the power generated by these projects also want to know their rivers will be fishable when they head out with their rods, reels and fishing buddies,” said Ashe. “The Fish and Wildlife Service has worked for more than 140 years to protect and restore our nation’s freshwater fisheries, and we understand how important the Tennessee Valley is as a source of recreation, economic development and wildlife habitat.”