West Virginia making upgrades to state's trout hatcheries

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s trout hatcheries are getting repairs and upgrades that state officials hope will produce more and bigger fish.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that some of the work is already done, some is under way and some is still in the planning stages.
One of the key projects — a major expansion of the Bowden Hatchery — could get started as early as this summer, officials said.
Jim Hedrick, hatchery supervisor for the state Division of Natural Resources, said the Bowden expansion will be the linchpin in the entire process because it will allow the state to maintain trout production when smaller hatcheries go off-line for repairs.
“The increase in capacity at Bowden will prevent us from having to cut back on trout stockings while all these upgrades are taking place,” he said. “And ultimately, when the other hatcheries get repaired and up to speed, we’ll get an overall increase in capacity for the entire system.”
Most of the state’s trout hatcheries were built more than 50 years ago. In their heyday, they allowed the DNR to produce almost 1.5 million trout a year. Age has taken a toll, though; water shortages, leaking pipes, failing equipment and general wear-and-tear have made it impossible to maintain that level of production.
A report prepared nearly a decade ago identified at least $40 million worth of needed repairs and upgrades. Funding for them wasn’t available at the time, but in recent years a windfall of natural-gas severance money recently has rendered them possible — not all at once, but in phases.
Some of the first major repairs took place at the Edray Hatchery in Pocahontas County. The facility, which dates back to the 1930s, had major plumbing problems that simply had to be addressed.
“We had to replace the water intake lines and drain lines,” Hedrick said. “The intake lines were iron pipe, and they had rusted almost shut. The outlets were clogged, too. When the repairs were completed, we were able to use all the (concrete circular holding pools) for the first time in 25 years. They’re online now, and we have fish in them ready to go.”
The Bowden project hasn’t yet been put out for bids, but Hedrick believes construction could begin “by sometime this summer.”
Other projects on tap for the system include an effort to shore up the raceways at the Reeds Creek Hatchery in Pendleton County, a new spring box at the Ridge Hatchery in Morgan County and plumbing upgrades at the Spring Run Hatchery in Grant County.
Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.