Last night's meeting at first reminded me of the Erin Brockovich movie with Julia Roberts, a big open sterile room with four guys in suits reperesenting the atomic commission!
However in reality it was a rep from US Fish and Wildlife, TVA, TWRA and the Georgia TWRA equivalent. Please take a listen to the web audio, the first 20 minutes or so is there stand or postion than we were allowed to ask questions either in person at the front of the room or online users. The following is my take on what I heard and may differ from others, it's ok we all have diffrent perceptions. I have always described my definition of perception, as it depends on which side of the mountain you live on, in a Colarado winter a family is huddled around a candle praying for spring, on the other side of the same mountain is Christie Brinkley in a hot tub with wine praying for snow. Your reality depends on which side of the mountain you live!
That being said of the four proposals laid out, the first two based on what I heard from the US Fish rep is not even worth discussing as far as their help funding. He was asked numerous times about funding and the takeaway seemed to be zero from them, policy has shifted and funding for hatcheries are off the table. I specifically asked him during my time at the podium "The tap is off correct?" referring to them as a source of funds and he nodded, short of sending me a telegram saying so, it was clear to me Uncle Sam is not ponying up. One person even asked if other funds could be shifted and according to him that would be illegal without a congressional policy shift and it was pretty clear to me he was not willing to do time so I could spend time on the river!
That takes us to the third proposal which is a multi source funding utilizing US Fish, TWRA, and TVA. Well, US Fish has already made clear in the first two proposals, they are out of the hatchery business, so that kills that, in additon to good luck having three seperate agencies agree on anything for a long term fix which is what is being sought.
So the focus seems to fall on the fourth proposal, with TVA picking up the tab and passing on costs to the ratepayers. Our State TU rep Rick Murphee pointed out the math actually worked out to I think he said 10 cents per year per ratepayer based on their figure of annual hatchery funding needs of roughly $906,000 with an annual inflation factor to be determined. The knock on that is your neighbor probably does not want to pay a dime a year so you can play in the water!
TWRA also added that tailwater use fees if implemented would have a negative effect on angler satisfaction, this logic is a sore point for me as I pointed out to the TWRA rep at my time at the podium is if you want to see real angler disatisfaction, see the response a few years down the road with no fish!
It's like a beach town saying we will not replace the sand and than being suprised as the resort town fails because of no sand at the beach, the tourists come for the beach just like we come for the fish. One begats the other, action, reaction, no brainer.
I was not discouraged but energized by the meeting, this was a first event in a time line of three years to find the funding. The issue is dire but with prudent thinking on all fronts a plan can be made, the stakeholders group has met once since 2013 as I understood it and this was the first public discussion. Politics aside I did thank Sen. Lamar Alexander's rep for his stepping up to the plate last year and helping get this three year reprive for funding.
As I see it we must maintain open talks with many diffrent groups to acheive the funding. It will not be easy but I truly see this is as not as hard as building the pyramids or going to space, but an obtainable goal.
The thing that dissapointed me last night as I pointed out during my ramblings were the lack of local government or officials in the affected areas. If there was a rep from Anderson county, I never saw or heard from the podium a declared rep for the county. I cannot understand how a community or county so directly affected by the economy of the tailwaters could not be in attendance. A typical day for me at the Clinch which because of where I live may be three to four times a week year round, is buy flies from a flyshop earlier in the day or week, jump in the car get off at the Norris exit, grab some gas for the car, maybe a snack and try to outrun everyone to my spots on the river. The end of the day is many times a hotdog and drink at the Git and Go
, maybe groceries at Walmart and go home.
The point being on a typical day I impact three or more businesses at that exit, now multiply that by other locals, visitors to the campgrounds and hotels, boaters buying many gallons of gas and supplies and pretty quickly you see how much revenue is brought to a county that has a tailwater. Now multiply that by the number of rivers in numerous states and the impact mushrooms.
Once again the point being, to acheive the goal we have to think outside the box to acheive the funding we need; all groups have to be brought into the fold. Yes this means putting fly fishing snobbery aside (yes we are all guilty of that even if we won't admit it in public), whether it is bait fisherman, boaters who fish and yes bank fisherman we are all part of the solution and have to be brought to the table.
Every tailwater county has to get involved with local mayors, commisioners and officials, unless they want to be at retail merchants, hotel owners and campgrounds owners meetings at these highway exits as they explain to their employees that due to lack of sales we will be laying off 30% of you today!
Our state officials also need to be contacted and made aware of the problem and impact (i.e. our interest in trout=votes, it's a math they eminently understand. As people acquire phone numbers and emails to our politicans please add them here so they can be contacted and made aware of out interests and concerns!
As mentioned in the handout two states have addressed the issue, they need to viewd, and or contacted to see if all or parts of their plan is viable for us. This is a long process that will require cooperation with agencies but most importantly us, the fisherman and his or her family, the tax payer, the merchant, the politician.
I am adding to my signature line, one of my favorite sayings; it is from a TU poster of a bottle of clear water which has the tag line:
"It starts with raindrop."
I would like to expand on that and make it a mission statement for future use of this project.
"It starts with a raindrop, don't let it end with a teardrop!"
Let the discussion begin!