New York hatchery repairs ongoing, slowly

Albany — In 2003, DEC’s Bureau of Fisheries developed a plan to repair and refurbish the state’s dozen fish hatcheries.

Nearly a decade later, while some major work has been completed, there still remains a laundry list of work to be done, including numerous “top priority” needs for 2012-13.

Call it a product of the state’s ongoing fiscal constraints, which has forced fisheries division officials to prioritize repair projects and tackle the work when funds become available.

This year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget sets aside $500,000 for hatchery work. That’s just a sliver of what’s needed to handle all the projects, and not even enough to cover even one of the major hatchery repairs, such as those targeted at the Randolph facility in Cattaraugus County.

“The reality now is that kind of money is dealt with on a cash basis, year by year,” DEC fisheries bureau chief Phil Hulbert said recently. “To some extent it’s difficult to prioritize. But if we see an acute need or an emergency situation it’s pretty straightforward – as long as we can find funding.”

Still, DEC officials maintain that despite seemingly endless rumors of hatchery closures, there are none planned.

“The hiring of new people (within the hatchery system) is a pretty good indication of the commitment (to keeping them open),” DEC superintendent of fish culture and fish culture section head Jim Daley said.

And, in fact, some major hatchery projects have been completed; a $2.1 million project at the Rome hatchery in Oneida County took four years to finish, but the major upgrades include a new visitors’ center, a new fish-rearing area, refrigerated storage for trout feed, new offices and storage areas.

Much remains to be done across the state’s hatchery system, however, as a “Fish Hatchery Infrastructure Status and Needs” report shows.

“It’s a big list,” Hulbert says. “Some are still on the list from five years ago.”

The “top priority” list alone is a lengthy one:

  • Central office – the purchase of four new, six-tank stocking trucks. The price tag is estimated at $400,000.
  • Caledonia hatchery – painting and structural repairs; paving of roadways and parking lots. The paving work alone is estimated at $120,000.
  • Chautauqua hatchery – repair of a leak in a rearing pond; roof replacement on the main hatchery building; new roof on manager’s residence and winterization and roof work to a second residence. The report doesn’t offer an estimate on the leak repairs, but indicates the second residence work will cost about $20,000.
  • Oneida hatchery – replacement of a boiler; replacement of broodstock hauling tubs and railing work on Scriba Creek. Estimated price tag: $46,000.
  • Randolph hatchery – design work for a new hatchery building; replacement of the manager’s residence; replacement of hatchery ponds and covering of the ponds to prevent predation by birds such as great blue herons. The hatchery ponds alone carry an estimated $2 million princeage, while the manager’s residence will cost about $150,000 more and the pond covers an estimated $25,000.
  • Rome hatchery – Connect to the municipal water supply at a cost of about $150,000.
  • Salmon River hatchery – water supply improvements and visitors’ center enhancements. The report indicates funding for the $300,000 project could come from the Occidental natural resource damage settlement.
  • Van Hornesville hatchery – walkway repairs and paving work at an estimated cost of $21,000.
  • South Otselic hatchery – a vacuum waste removal system at an estimated $30,000.
  • Bath hatchery – winterization of the main hatchery building, possibly from energy funds, at a cost of about $35,000.

The report indicates that some hatcheries – notably Adirondack, Bath, Chautauqua, Rome and the Rome fish disease control laboratory, Van Hornesville and South Otselic – are in relatively good condition, even though projects at some of those facilities are on the priority list.

Other hatcheries, like Caledonia, are aging, and perhaps not so gracefully.

“(The Caledonia hatchery) is now on the New York State Registry of Historic Places (and will likely soon by on the National Register of Historic Places),” the report reads. “Repainting and paving repairs should be put into place before the 150th anniversary takes place in 2014.” 

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