Below is an article in today's Knoxville, TN newspaper, look for more print and media attention and some indepth reporting in upcoming days. Thanks Joe!
"One of the big success stories of the last decade or so has been the trout fishery that has developed in the Holston River below Cherokee Dam.
Thanks to a little luck and a lot of work from the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and others, the Holston River went from being a coldwater wasteland to a destination spot for fishermen.
It was the equivalent of throwing seeds on acres of red clay and coming back a few years later and finding the Garden of Eden.
The Garden of Eden reference is from the Bible. The coldwater wasteland phrase can be credited to Joe Congleton.
Congleton, a fisherman and hunter from Knoxville, fears that Eden is in trouble.
Before trout stocking, minimum flows in the summer and projects put more oxygen in the water for fish, he said the tailwaters “were essentially barren, coldwater wastelands” that had no economic benefit to the area.
Now Congress has directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to seek full reimbursement for the trout from its hatcheries that go to “mitigation stockings.” That means where federal water projects have disrupted the natural aquatic environment — in this case TVA dams — the USFWS has been stocking from its hatchery system gratis.
Over decades, that’s a lot of fish and a lot of money. Now Congress wants its money back.
That’s sort of like a bank robber getting mad because you picked up the dollar bill he dropped, but the big question now is who will pay for all those trout?
In East Tennessee, a tailwater fishery’s lifeblood is stocking. Some natural reproduction may take place, but not nearly enough to keep rivers like the Clinch and Holston viable.
Congleton has worked with and sometimes against TVA for decades when it comes to improving fishing below the agency’s dams. His work and that done by others has paid off in putting East Tennessee on the map for trout fishermen from all over the country.
“There are ample (Government Accounting Office) studies to show the value of a day of recreation fishing to the economy,” Congleton said. “Nowhere are those days more valuable than right here in our TVA tailwaters.”
And where you don’t have trout, you don’t have trout fishermen.
At a meeting in Knoxville in May, four options were presented for funding the stocking that included bucking Congress and putting the ball and the money back in the USFWS’s hands; for TVA and the USFWS to co-fund the stockings; for a plan to be developed that would bring together the USFWS, TVA, TWRA and others to form a partnership of state and federal agencies; and for TVA ratepayers to pay for the costs to produce and stock trout in the tailwaters of TVA dams.
Congleton said the last option is what he believes makes the most sense.
Unlike the TVA lakes that support numerous fisheries, pleasure boaters, water skiers, etc., most of the tailwaters would revert back to a coldwater wastelands. The relatively new fishery of the Holston isn’t the only one at stake if the situation isn’t resolved.
“There are no other viable economic uses that would create any significant comparable economic impacts from these hundreds of miles of water,” Congelton said. “After spending hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements in their weir dams, re-oxygenation facilities and devices and other water quality costs, is TVA going to abandon trout fisheries for what amounts to a cost of a few cents annually, a kilowatt hour in rates, to its ratepayers?”
Last year, TVA agreed to a short-term solution, providing $900,000 a year for three years to fund federal hatchery operations. The clock is ticking on that deal, with the money earmarked only through 2016 for the Erwin National Hatchery, Dale Hollow National Hatchery and the Chattahoochie Forest National Fish Hatchery in Georgia.
One of TVA’s mandates is economic development in its service area. On the other hand, a slate of new environmental regulations coming down the pike are going to force TVA to hike rates by dollars, and not just pennies, before it ever buys trout number one.
But if the trout go, restaurants, campgrounds, fly shops and other businesses could go with them.
“TVA created and then reclaimed what is a national asset,” Congleton said. “Why abandon it now?”
Bob Hodge is a freelance
"It starts with a raindrop, don't let it end with a teardrop!"
"Nothing straightens out my mind like a twisting mountain stream!"