TX: Fish Hatchery Closure Possible Due to Drought
ATHENS-Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) may temporarily close the Dundee Fish Hatchery near Wichita Falls during the upcoming production season due to a declining water supply.
"Although we have not officially made the decision to suspend operations at Dundee for 2012, it looks like we will not have water to operate this spring, and we do not plan to put any ponds into production unless conditions change within the next couple of weeks," said Todd Engeling, hatchery program director for TPWD. "Although we have had restrictions placed on our water use in the past due to drought conditions, as far as I know this is the first time that it has resulted in a temporary suspension in operations at any of our facilities."
Located in Archer County below Lake Diversion, the Dundee Fish Hatchery has 97 ponds and 84 total acres of water, representing 34 percent of the state's available freshwater fish production capacity. It is the state's primary producer of striped bass and hybrid striped bass, turning out 3 million to 4 million fingerlings annually.
Originally constructed in 1927 and renovated in 1994, Dundee receives its water supply under contract with the Wichita County Water Improvement District No. 2, which provides water primarily for irrigation and municipal use. The hatchery gets its water from Lake Diversion, which is a constant level reservoir fed by Lake Kemp.
"Severe drought in that part of the state has left water levels in Lake Kemp very low, resulting in restricted water use," Engeling said. "Under the water district's drought plan, the hatchery is not allowed to divert water when water elevations in Lake Kemp reach 1125 feet above mean sea level. The water elevation in Kemp is currently 1126 and is expected to drop to 1125 early this spring when irrigation activity increases."
TPWD operates four other freshwater fish hatcheries. They are the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos; the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens; the Possum Kingdom Fish Hatchery near Graford; and the John D. Parker East Texas Fish Hatchery near Jasper. Water supplies at those hatcheries are not in immediate danger but could become impacted if the drought continues.
"That is not to say that operations at the other facilities will not be impacted," Engeling said. "Continued production of striped bass and hybrid striped bass fingerlings is a high priority, because they support valuable and popular sport fisheries throughout the state. We may need to adjust normal production plans and shift efforts at other facilities away from largemouth bass to produce these fingerlings. Our goal is to balance the priorities and needs for both species in supporting fisheries management efforts with available hatchery space." TPWD typically produces 8 million to 9 million largemouth bass and 4 million to 5 million striped bass and hybrid striped bass fingerlings each year.
"Largemouth bass populations should be fine with a short-term reduction in stocking numbers," said Dave Terre, the fisheries management and research program director for TPWD. "Unlike largemouth bass, fisheries for striped and hybrid striped bass are almost totally supported through our stocking programs."