Last month, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved a bill that would convey the McKinney Lake National Fish Hatchery in Hoffman, N.C., from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
“A few years ago the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to take over control and funding for the fish hatchery due to a lack of federal funds,” said Chris Dillon, legislative liaison for the commission. “The state has been maintaining the property and operations since that time.”
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has operated the McKinney Lake fish hatchery under a Memorandum of Agreement since 1996.
According to David Deaton, fish production supervisor for the commission, the state spends about $320,000 annually maintaining the hatchery and its operations.
“We’re just trying to officially take ownership of the property,” said Dillon. “Nothing about the operations would change, but we wouldn’t have to go through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make decisions.”
The bill was introduced in Congress initially as H.R. 1160, McKinney Lake National Fish Hatchery Conveyance Act, by U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC). It passed the House Committee on Natural Resources as well as the full House of Representatives in 2011.
In the Senate, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) led the effort to get the bill through the Environment and Public Works Committee. The bill now goes to vote in the full Senate.
“We’re just waiting on the bill to get floor time, and expect a unanimous vote,” said Dillon. “It’s not controversial. We hope this will happen before the August recess.”
Located at 220 McKinney Lake Road in Hoffman, the McKinney Lake hatchery is the primary source of channel catfish, which helps the Commission achieve its fisheries management goals in city and county parks across North Carolina.
“This hatchery supplies channel catfish for community fishing lakes and ponds mainly in the Piedmont and coastal areas of the state,” said Deaton. “It’s one of the main suppliers for public fishing opportunities in these areas.”
Last year, N.C. Wildlife stocked around 160,000 “catchable” catfish.
“We’re grateful to Representative Kissell and Senators Hagan and Burr for their support of this legislation,” said Gordon Myers, executive director of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “This no-cost transfer of property from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Commission would help us continue to provide quality fishing opportunities for North Carolina anglers.”
The state does have some future upgrades to the hatchery in mind, including renovating ponds and harvest kettles.
“We’d like to look at renovating the harvest house, and maybe adding some new species some time in the future,” said Deaton.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.