TESTIMONY OF DR. MAMIE PARKER, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR FISHERIES AND HABITAT CONSERVATION, ACCOMPANIED BY MARVIN MORIARITY, REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR THE NORTHEAST REGION,
June 15, 2006
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I am Dr. Mamie Parker, Assistant Director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). I am accompanied today by Marvin Moriarty, Regional Director for the Northeast Region. Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony for the Department of the Interior (Department) regarding H.R. 5381, National Fish Hatchery System Volunteer Act of 2006, H.R. 5061, Paint Bank and Wytheville National Fish Hatcheries Conveyance Act, and H.R. 4957, Tylersville Fish Hatchery Conveyance Act
H.R. 5381 National Fish Hatchery Volunteer Act of 2006
H.R. 5061 Paint Bank and Wytheville National Fish Hatcheries Conveyance Act
H.R. 5061 would direct the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) to convey to the Commonwealth of Virginia, without reimbursement and within 180 days after enactment, all right, title and interest of the United States in the Federal fish hatcheries located in Paint Bank and Wytheville, Virginia. H.R. 4957 directs the Secretary to convey, with the same conditions, to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Federal fish hatchery located in Tylersville, Pennsylvania. In addition, both bills include a reversionary clause that would transfer ownership back to the United States if the property so conveyed is used by the Commonwealth for any purpose other than for fish culture programs. The Department of the Interior supports this legislation.
To provide some background, the Service has closed or transferred to States or other partners 41 National Fish Hatcheries since 1970. These closures and transfers were undertaken after a careful analysis by the Service in which we identified facilities that would be more appropriate for a State or other agency to manage and the hatcheries that are most appropriate for the Service to retain within the Hatchery System. Some closures or transfers were the result of factors relating to age, condition, and operational efficiency. Others have been necessitated by shifts in program priorities, such as the termination of a program to stock privately-owned farm ponds, an increased focus on the recovery and restoration of threatened and endangered species, or an emphasis on coastal and anadromous species in response to concerns over decline of species and habitat alteration. Existing law also authorizes the General Services Administration to transfer land to States for conservation purposes. Under this authority, federal hatcheries have been transferred to State ownership in the States of New York, Mississippi, Colorado, and Texas. Twenty-one of the 41 Service hatcheries have been conveyed to State ownership through enactment of hatchery-specific public laws. The remainder, although still owned by the Service, are being operated by other Federal Agencies or States under a variety of long-term Memoranda of Agreement (MOA). Seven of these MOAs with States, including agreements on Paint Bank, Wytheville, and Tylersville National Fish Hatcheries, are due to expire within the next two years. Other MOAs extend as far into the future as 2021. The transferred hatcheries fulfill an important role in enhancing recreational fishing opportunities across the nation on Federal and non-Federal lands. These programs support a strong State/Federal partnership that provides for recreational fisheries augmentation in State waters and mitigation stocking for the loss of recreational fisheries in the tail waters of Federal water development projects. In addition, the hatcheries still under Service management significantly contribute to the agency’s mission and strategic goals including endangered and threatened species conservation, mitigation for Federal projects, recreational and educational opportunities for our nation’s youth, and other important goals. We need the hatcheries managed by our state partners and those managed by the Service to fulfill the nation’s fisheries conservation objectives.
Paint Bank and Wytheville Fish Hatcheries
In Virginia, Paint Bank National Fish Hatchery was originally constructed in 1960 and Wytheville National Fish Hatchery was constructed in 1966. Both facilities were developed to produce trout for recreational stocking on Federal lands and were put into caretaker status when the Service shifted program priorities in the early 1980’s. In 1983, the Service entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth of Virginia to maintain and operate the facilities for the Commonwealth’s recreational trout program. Currently, the hatcheries produce rainbow, brook, and brown trout. The Paint Bank facility also participates in the National Broodstock program. The National Broodstock Program is a cooperative venture coordinated by the Service that each year produces about 100 million disease-free eggs of specific genetic make-up to help ensure that healthy, high-quality fish are available to anglers in more than 30 states. Both facilities have excellent water supplies and produce a significant amount of trout for the Commonwealth’s recreational fisheries program. The Commonwealth of Virginia has made significant investments in the facilities over the last 23 years. The Service believes that the Commonwealth should assume ownership of these hatcheries and, therefore, we support H.R. 5061.
Tylersville Fish Hatchery
The Tylersville fish hatchery was originally constructed in 1963 by the Service to produce and stock trout for recreation and enhancement on Federal lands. The hatchery was a division of the Lamar National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center and comprises about 40 acres. The hatchery was placed in caretaker status in 1977 when the Service began to curtail the trout enhancement program for Federal lands. In 1984, the Service entered into an agreement with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (Commission) to maintain and operate the hatchery for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s recreational trout program. The hatchery has an excellent water supply, primarily supported from eight springs that originate from Big Fishing creek. The facility currently produces around 525,000 adult brook, rainbow, and brown trout per year -- approximately 13% of total trout production for the Commonwealth. These fish have an estimated annual economic impact in Pennsylvania of $63 million. The Commission has made, and continues to make, substantial investments in the Tylersville Fish Hatchery. From 1988 through 2002, infrastructure investments in the Tylersville hatchery facility have been estimated at $2 million. Currently, the Commonwealth is in the process of completing a wastewater treatment upgrade to meet National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. For these reasons, we support H.R. 4957.
In FY 2004, the Service re-committed to its role as a partner in conserving America’s fish and other aquatic resources by developing a new Fisheries Strategic Plan based on a Strategic Vision for the Future. Both documents were developed in close cooperation with our State, Tribal, and private partners. Working with our partners, the Fisheries Program identified seven areas of emphasis with associated goals, objectives, and actions. The Fisheries Program will continue to focus its efforts on objectives and actions that best position the Program to successfully meet the goals of the Fisheries Strategic Plan. To that end, as other MOAs expire, the Service will base future conveyance decisions on the individual merit of such transfers, taking into consideration the strength of State/Federal partnerships established to meet our mutual resource goals, our Federal trust responsibilities, emerging conservation issues, water rights, and the goals and objectives of the Fisheries Strategic Plan.
The transfer of the Paint Bank, Wytheville, and Tylersville facilities supports strong partnerships that have evolved between the Service and our resource management partners in Virginia and Pennsylvania. The transfers are supported by the Commonwealths and will not have an impact on high priority Service recovery and restoration programs in the Northeast Region. The transfer and continued operation of these facilities will support important recreational fisheries in both Virginia and Pennsylvania. In addition, the transfers will provide the Commonwealths with the long-term security for the capital improvements they have put into the facilities. The Department fully supports both transfer bills.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared testimony. I would like to extend the Service’s and the Department’s appreciation to you and the rest of the Subcommittee for your leadership and interest in the Fisheries Program and the National Fish Hatchery System. I would be happy to respond to any questions you may have.