The Idaho Department of Fish & Game will take over operation of the Hagerman National Fish Hatchery next year from the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife, and the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning voted unanimously, 20-0, in favor of a budget for Idaho Fish & Game for next year that includes the takeover, to be funded entirely with a $2.2 million transfer from federal funds.
Fish & Game Director Virgil Moore told JFAC, “With this new administration, the director of the Fish & Wildlife Service, the acting director, had asked all of the state directors: Are there any federal hatcheries you would like to take over? We felt that there was some efficiency for us to have all of the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan hatcheries under our management, so we made that request to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and we are working our way through that process right now.” It should be completed by the start of the 2019 fiscal year on July 1, 2018, he said.
Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, asked whether the feds would ante up each year, or the state would be on the hook for funding. “This is continuous federal appropriations,” Moore responded. “The Lower Snake River Compensation Plan is authorized by Congress. The money comes from the Bonneville Power Administration as part of their mitigation responsibilities for those four lower Snake River dams.”
Idaho Fish & Game already manages four other fish hatcheries in the state; this would add the fifth. The move includes adding four new state employees, but the vast majority of the $2.2 million cost to take over management of the hatchery is actually for fish food.
That was the largest increase in the Fish & Game budget for next year that JFAC unanimously approved. The budget also includes a $1.1 million increase in funding for hatchery maintenance and repairs statewide, and a $1 million boost for statewide sportsmen’s access, both as recommended by the governor, along with other items. Overall, Fish & Game would see a 4.3 percent increase in all funding next year; it uses no state general funds, relying only on license and tag fees, on which lawmakers last year approved an increase, and federal funds.
Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, said, “We spent considerable time going over each of the line items. … The money is there.” Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, said, “They have quite a bit of money, they spend quite a bit of money, and we just try to keep track of it to make sure it’s reasonable.” The budget was crafted by a group of JFAC members including Bair, Miller, and Rep. Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton.