As DNR pursues sustainable funding framework, Waterville hatchery feels effects of funding gaps

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 10:42 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2021 at 10:47 PM CDT
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WATERVILLE, Minn. (KEYC) - The Waterville Hatchery is one of the largest hatcheries in Minnesota.

Originally built in the 1950s, the hatchery raises fish that get shipped throughout the state.

But Area Fisheries Supervisor Craig Soupir said the decades-old location is in need of renovations.

“One of the big things that we really need is a new water system. Right now the pond that’s behind me is our water source pond, so we pump well water into this pond and then we pump that into the hatchery. It’s used for raising fish inside the hatchery. And one of the things we don’t have is the ability to heat or cool that water,” he said.

Soupir said space is another issue.

“We’re using it pretty intensively, and it’s being used for ways it wasn’t necessarily designed for,” he added.

But as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources pursues a new sustainable funding framework, Commissioner Sarah Strommen said they have already identified a funding gap for fisheries and hatcheries like the one in Waterville.

“That hatchery is really important to fishing in southern Minnesota, because many of the lakes in southern Minnesota don’t have naturally reproducing fish populations. Stocking is a really important part of providing those opportunities, and that is a hatchery where we definitely need some modernization and some investment in to keep that going,” said Strommen.

According to Strommen, Minnesota’s current outdoor funding model faces many challenges.

First, user fees do not keep up with inflation, making it challenging for the DNR to allocate resources while providing affordable access to the outdoors without having to raise prices.

Secondly, some funds are only targeted for specific uses.

Strommen said future framework will be more forward-thinking and will help identify ways to find new funding for areas, like the hatchery, that need it.

“The first step is to identify the gaps and really to identify that vision that we want for conservation and outdoor recreation. And then the second piece is ok now that we have that vision, how can we achieve a sustainable level of funding to get to that vision with those gaps filled,” she said.

Southern Regional Fisheries Manager Jack Lauer said it’s important for the state to find ways to fund hatchery infrastructure.

“It’s out of the box thinking. It’s not based on traditional funding mechanisms like license sales. We’re looking at innovative ways to supplement funds to in essence support our hatchery infrastructure, the buildings themselves,” he said.

Soupir said renovations will help the hatchery in Waterville raise fish more efficiently.

“So it’s really an important facility, and it’s important that we maintain it and keep it updated as much as possible,” he said.

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