Outdoors Latest

Fish hatchery planning process moves forward

In fall 2023, 67,000 pounds of hatchery-raised trout were stocked in North Carolina. NCWRC photo In fall 2023, 67,000 pounds of hatchery-raised trout were stocked in North Carolina. NCWRC photo

The U.S. Forest Service has completed its review of proposed renovations at the Bobby N. Setzer Fish Hatchery in the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard and determined that current environmental regulations allow the project to move forward.

An objection period is now open during which anybody who had previously submitted public comment on the plan may participate.

The hatchery was severely damaged during flooding from Tropical Storm Fred in 2021. Renovations will replace dated and failing infrastructure to ensure that the hatchery can continue to operate, while also increasing operational efficiency, maximizing fish production and making the water supply more reliable. The project will increase the capacity for fish production and include improved restroom facilities. Renovations are expected to improve the quality of water used at the hatchery and flowing downstream in the Davidson River.

Located on 44 acres of national forest land, the hatchery operates via a special use permit the Forest Service has granted to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. It was built in the late 1950s by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and turned over to the Wildlife Commission in 1983, with a major renovation in the mid-1990s. Currently, the hatchery produces and stocks more than 600,000 catchable trout each year in 13 Western North Carolina counties.

Trout fishing in North Carolina has an economic impact of $1.38 billion, said Wildlife Commission Executive Director Cameron Ingram, and is enjoyed by more than 300,000 state residents — plus many more visitors from out of state. Most stocked trout in North Carolina originate from the hatchery.

The objection period is open for 45 days following the publication of a notice in the Asheville-Citizen Times. To access the recently completed Environmental Assessment, draft decision notice and finding of no significant impact, or to find out how to file an objection, visit  fs.usda.gov/project/nfsnc/?project=59657.

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