Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) announced rainbow trout stocking would resume today, following a three year hiatus, at the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery:
“As thousands of Rainbow Trout once again return to the Colorado River, Arizonans can be proud of the perseverance and vigilance of many local leaders which ultimately saved this important program at Willow Beach. The return of the trout-stocking program should inspire all Americans to remember that when ‘we the people’ stand together and take bold action against big government overreach, we can accomplish anything.”
Congressman Gosar has created an informational page on his website about his efforts to protect the trout-stocking program at the Willow Beach Fish Hatchery. That page can be found HERE.
In November 2013, the Service arbitrarily changed the priorities for the five different propagation program categories and announced their intent to close propagation programs and possibly hatcheries throughout the nation in fiscal year 2015. The Service also terminated the rainbow trout stocking program at the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery threatening 1,700 jobs and $75 million in associated economic output.
The infrastructure problems at the hatchery began nearly five years ago, when broken pipelines and low water levels threatened trout production at the facility. The loss of the trout stocking would have had a devastating economic effect on the communities in Mohave County, Arizona. The state’s sport fishing industry relies on the national hatchery system for more than 97 percent of sport fish stocked in Arizona.
The recreational fishing propagation programs that are on the Fish and Wildlife’s hit list are the only hatchery programs that generate any substantive revenues for local economies. The trout stocking propagation programs in Arkansas and Oklahoma are so successful that a recent economic analysis found that for “every $1 of hatchery operational budget spent, $95 was put back into the economy.”
In order to prevent the Service from terminating important fishing propagation programs at federal fish hatcheries throughout the country, Congressman Gosar introduced the Fish Hatchery Protection Act, H.R. 5026 during the 113th Congress. This important legislation aimed to preserve propagation fish hatcheries and propagation programs within the National Fish Hatchery System and stipulates that only the Congress can authorize the termination or significant alteration of such facilities or programs. H.R. 5026 passed the House Natural Resources Committee in July of 2014. The bill was endorsed by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the American Sportfishing Association.
During the hearing on H.R. 5026, Congressman Gosar was able to secure a commitment from Deputy Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Steve Guertin, that if the broken water supply line was fixed, then the rainbow trout stocking program would resume at the Willow Beach Hatchery. This was a significant change, as the Service had previously inflated the cost to fix the water supply line several millions of dollars and stated it was terminating the rainbow trout stocking program to focus on suckers and chubs.
On October 27, 2014, Congressman Gosar received a letter from the Service announcing it was reversing its decision and that “once a sufficient and reliable water supply has been fully reestablished, the Service intends to resume rainbow trout production at the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery.”