In January, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) announced plans to close two of the state's thirteen hatcheries, in Bellefonte and Oswayo, in order to meet a $6.7 million budgetary shortfall introduced by newly mandated state and federal healthcare and pension requirements for employees. In a surprise turn of events, the commission announced yesterday that it will stash plans to shutter the two hatcheries and will fund both operations through July 2015, while seeking a long-term budget solution.
“Since the board of commissioners voted in January to close the two hatcheries, staff and Commissioners have met with members of the General Assembly to try to identify opportunities to secure long-term funding sources,” said Board President Steve Ketterer. “As a result, we have voted to keep the hatcheries open while we pursue these opportunities.”
PFBC Executive Director John Arway noted that "[the PFBC] must still find $9 million in annual savings or revenue over the next four years.” No information has been made available regarding what potential long term funding sources were identified during meetings with members of the General Assembly which may have led to the commissions' decision to reverse the Bellefonte and Oswayo hatcheries.
Closing of the two hatcheries would have resulted in a reduction of over 20 percent in the number of trout stocked in state waters, a consequence that lauded by anglers that support a changing tide in state fisheries management to a plan more focused on preserving and restoring wild-only trout populations in state waters which naturally support them. Conversely, the planned reduction in state stocking efforts received a great deal of criticism from those that maintain that the existence of healthy trout populations in Pennsylvania's waters depend on the PFBC's hatcheries.
Pressure from constituents in the latter group may have contributed to state legislators, such as Rep. Kerry Benninghoff and Rep. Martin Causer (who's districts includes the Bellefonte and Oswayo facilities), efforts to support the commission's reversal.