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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Crawford trying to save hatchery funding

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Workers at the Norfork National Hatchery load fish from one of their trout tanks. Photo/Norfork National Fish Hatchery [Order this photo]
First District Congressman Rick Crawford introduced a bill in June to insure that Norfork and Greers Ferry fish hatcheries are automatically funded each year. Crawford proposes using funds from power generation for operating and management costs of the hatcheries -- ending the uncertainty of funding in the Federal budget.

Crawford was in Sharp County on July 3 visiting with constituents about the legislation, and took an opportunity to explain the bill.

Opened in 1957, the purpose of Norfork National Fish Hatchery is to solve problems created by Corps of Engineer dam projects in the White River in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri.

The upper White River has been altered by the construction of the four multi-purpose dams along its course. The construction destroyed the warm water river habitat, replacing it with cold tailwaters. Beaver Dam and Lake are the uppermost, from there, the river flows through Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo and finally through Bull Shoals Reservoir. Tributary impoundments are Norfork and Greers Ferry, the two hatcheries the bill addresses.

The Congressman explained his bill is attempting to create a stable situation where funding for the hatcheries doesn't depend on a congressional appropriation each year, but rather the operating cost is secured from profits from power generation.

He said, "Once the energy demand is met locally, the surplus energy goes onto the National Grid and is marketed through Power Marketing, and the revenue from the excess power goes into the Federal Reserve."

"The bill says the mitigation hatchery is part of the overall responsibility of the dam, so it should be funded by revenues from the power generated by the dams," he further stated.

Crawford explained the dams in the Norfork and Greers Ferry Lake area have an economic impact of more than $10 million on the area. The combined annual investment for these hatcheries is only slightly over $1.6 million. "We are able to leverage that investment 10 fold, an example of a government investment that works and is responsible. What they have wrestled with year after year is where the investment comes from and who is going to be responsible," he stated.

Crawford went on to explain that the $1.6 million dollar annual operating cost of the hatcheries should be designated as part of management expense of the dam, prior to the excess money being put into the Fed. "Therefore, theoretically, instead of 7 million going to the fed, 5.4 million will," he said.

The bill aims to provide certainty to hatchery workers, and those who derive their livelihood from the trout tourism industry. If the bill passes, it would also give assurance to anyone who would consider establishing a tourism related business in these areas. With guaranteed funding from power generation profits, rather than a questionable yearly Congressional appropriation, business owners could be more confident in opening these types of businesses.

"Congress would be taken out of the equation." Crawford said.

Craig Eaton, Project leader for the Norfork National Fish Hatchery said, "This bill makes common sense. The southeast dams were built for a number of reasons. After they were built, it changed the environment below the dams from warm water to cold water, requiring production of a different fish species to replace the warm water species (i.e. trout). To mitigate for the change in fish species below the dams the Water Development Agency (i.e. Corps of Engineers) should bear that cost. The Water Development Agency in-turn, will be able to recoup the cost from the Power Management Agency (i.e. Southwest Power) as part of maintaining and operating the dam."

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