LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A move to cut federal funding to fisheries has prompted some officials to try to save the only trout hatchery in Kentucky.
Representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are discussing options to keep the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery open next year, according to The Courier-Journal.
The hatchery in south-central Kentucky provides fish for 115 rivers and lakes across the state. U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say they may have to close the hatchery if they can't reach a deal with the Army Corps of Engineers or unless Congress intercedes.
Ron Brooks with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Services said he attended a recent meeting during which a deal that would downsize the facility was discussed.
"There's nothing agreed to," said James Gray, who manages the hatchery on the Cumberland River near Jamestown, just below the Wolf Creek Dam. "It changes from week to week."
Corps spokesman Todd Hornback in Louisville declined to comment.
The hatchery has an annual budget of $900,000 and produces about 1 million rainbow, brook and brown trout each year. It also has a visitor center and offers an environmental education program.
The Cumberland River tailwater below the Wolf Creek Dam is considered a premier trout fishing area.
It was established in 1975 to help offset damage to warm-water fish which were largely forced out because of cooler waters from deep lakes that formed behind the dams, Gray said.
"It used to be that the federal government, we just produced the fish and stocked them and didn't think a whole lot about it," Gray said.
But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began charging the state about 15 years ago for some of the fish it produced. Now, the federal agency covers only the cost of producing fish for mitigating federal dam, Gray said.
Going forward, officials with Fish and Wildlife say mitigation is no longer their responsibility, Gray said, and they want the Corps to cover those costs for its dams.
"There are a lot of negotiations going on at the Washington level to try to make that happen," he said.
Brooks said the latest proposal would allow the state to continue to buy trout to stock rivers and lakes across the state.
State officials said there doesn't appear to be many alternatives for getting trout to stock lakes and streams if the hatchery shuts down.
Danielle Smoot, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-5th District, said the congressman knows how important the hatchery is "not only for his district but across the state. He's taking everything into consideration."
The House Appropriations Committee, of which Rogers is chairman, will take up the matter and other spending issues in July, Smoot said.