Sunday, January 31, 2016

Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen - Letter to DEEP Commisioner re: Hatchery Funding


FISHERIES ADVISORY COUNCIL - A group of dedicated citizens from all regions of the state working together for fish and fishing in Connecticut.
January 12, 2016  VIA ELECTRONIC & FIRST CLASS MAIL
deep.commissioner@ct.gov
Robert J. Klee, Commissioner Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
79 Elm Street Hartford, CT 06106

Re: Hatchery Funding

Dear Commissioner Klee:

As I mentioned to you prior to the Holidays, the Fisheries Advisory Council (“FAC”) at its December meeting directed me to request, in the strongest terms, the FAC’s opposition to any cuts to the personal services or other expenses line items in the agency’s budget necessary to operate all three of the state’s hatcheries at their current levels.


I have read Secretary Barnes’ memorandum of December 30, 2015 to yourself and other agency heads directing you to achieve a total of $93 Million in savings per Section 3 of P.A. 15-01, DSS. While the memo from Secretary Barnes identifies certain specific items in the Department’s budget which are to be subject to holdbacks, it does not specifically identify the hatcheries. Therefore, it appears that you are under no obligation to cut hatchery funding, as such, and that you have the discretion as to where to impose the holdbacks within the Department’s personal services account and the Environmental Conservation Division’s other expenses budget line item.

As you know, the FAC and sportsmen throughout the state, with support from legislators on both sides of the aisle, have successfully fought the initiatives of the Office of Policy and Management (“OPM”) to cut hatchery funding. The first proposal last year was to close the Kensington Hatchery by eliminating from the budget the $195,000 line item for other expenses necessary to operate the hatchery. The General Assembly restored the funding in last summer’s budget bill so that this vital hatchery could continue in operation.

More recently, in order to close the budget deficit, OPM proposed an even more draconian set of cuts in the amount of $1.1 million, which would have required the
closure of not only the Kensington Hatchery, but also the Burlington and Quinebaug
hatcheries, leaving the state with no hatcheries and no funding to stock trout in
Connecticut waters. OPM’s proposal would have eliminated all 17 hatchery-related
positions and zeroed out the other expenses line items necessary to operate them. The
legislature pushed back against these cuts, and in the General Assembly’s negotiations
with the Governor’s Office, the funding was fortunately restored.

To the anglers of the state, these efforts by OPM to cut back on hatchery funding are both short-sided and counter-productive. Without trout stocking, the state cannot rationally expect that trout fishermen will buy licenses to fish in Connecticut’s inland waters, and trout fishermen comprise a significant percentage of the 134,000 sportsmen who purchased licenses allowing access to fish the state’s inland waters in 2014. The revenue for the sales of these licenses was close to $4.7 million. With a reduction in licenses sold would also come a reduction in income from the federal Sport Fish Restoration Act Fund. The loss of revenue from these sources coupled with reductions from the general fund would cripple the Bureau of Natural Resources.

Moreover, if, after closing the hatcheries, the State were belatedly to provide funding to acquire trout raised in private hatcheries, the cost to do so, according to the Department’s own 2012 report, would be on the order of three to four times what the savings would be. Without the stocking program, the funds spent by trout anglers for
gasoline, meals, tackle, etc. would disappear from the economy, along with the sales
tax revenues accruing from these expenditures.

I know you are familiar with all of these issues and that you have the unenviable
job of having to determine where the holdbacks will be applied, but on behalf of the FAC
and Connecticut’s anglers, I would respectfully request that no cuts be made to
personal services or other expenses line items necessary to operate the hatcheries.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Very truly yours,
Gregory A. Sharp Chairman 



The Cost of Cutting Connecticut’s State Hatcheries
* According to the 2011 Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and and Wildlife Associated Recreation, there were 3,518,000 days of freshwater fishing in Connecticut (trips) and 26% of those were for trout (914,680). If an angler spends $20 on average each trip, expenditures for trout fishing in the state of Connecticut is almost $18.3 MM per year. ** Exact number is number is $1,102,213
 
Basic facts
 A total of 718,206 catchable-size trout, 438,600 Brown Trout fry and 162,000 Kokanee Salmon fry was stocked in 2014 in more than 100 lakes and ponds and 200 rivers and streams.
 In 2014, approximately $3 MM in revenue was collected for freshwater fishing licenses.
 Each year, state collects approximately $3 MM in excise taxes from the federal Sport Fish Restoration Act Fund.
 Expenditures for trout fishing trips in Connecticut is nearly $20 MM* (this is a conservative estimate).
 The cost to run the three state hatcheries and employ 17 hatchery staff which Governor Malloy has cut from the state budget is $1.1 MM**.
The cost to outsource trout stocking
 In 2012, in response to a budget directive, Inland Fisheries did an assessment of privatization options for stocking trout and assessed three options as an alternative to operating state hatcheries to raise trout for stocking purposes:
 Option 1: Purchase trout from private vendors, delivery to a Connecticut Facility and distribution by DEEP. Total cost - $4.3 MM
 Option 2: Purchase trout from private vendors with delivery by private vendors. Total cost – $3.9 MM
 Option 3: Contract with private grower to operate hatcheries or lease state hatcheries to a private grower. A total was not able to be determined based on responses from potential hatchery operators.
The cost of not stocking
 Serious ecological and economic repercussions would result from ceasing stocking activities abruptly. For DEEP to propose and promulgate regulations to change creel limits, it would take approximately two years. During that time, fishing pressure from anglers and predation would deplete stocked populations with the potential for extirpation of many individual wild trout populations.
 In addition, the hatcheries supply eggs for two educational programs, Salmon in Schools and Trout in the Classroom. The two programs reach approximately 15,000 students per year in 150 schools in 90 towns throughout Connecticut and provide tangible applications for science, math and writing in classrooms. The Salmon in Schools program would cease to exist and the Trout in the Classroom project would be more difficult to run and egg costs would increase because eggs would have to be purchased through private hatcheries.
 Decrease in fishing license sales will reduce revenues which support fisheries programs for DEEP.

 
THE BOTTOM LINE
Trout and Salmon fishing are inarguably an income generator for the state of Connecticut with $6 MM dollars in free revenues to the state and $20 MM to local economies. Closing the hatcheries and outsourcing stocking would result in increased cost to the state ($2.8-$3.2 MM), and abruptly ceasing stocking would lead to loss of revenues for the state and local economies

* According to the 2011 Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and and Wildlife Associated Recreation, there were 3,518,000 days of freshwater fishing in Connecticut (trips) and 26% of those were for trout (914,680). If an angler spends $20 on average each trip, expenditures for trout fishing in the state of Connecticut is almost $18.3 MM per year.
** Exact number is number is $1,102,213

We uge you to communicate with your State legislators and Commissioner Klee asking them to retain full funding for the hatcheries.  You can find your legislators on the link  below:
https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/cgafindleg.asp
                         


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