AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation board has voted to recommend acceptance of the Jasper County bid to host a new East Texas freshwater fish hatchery for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The TPWD Commission must still approve the foundation recommendation at the commission’s Nov. 3 meeting.
The Jasper County proposal was valued at approximately $28 million over 50 years, more than $4 million higher than the next highest bidder. It offered the largest land area at 200 acres. And it was also the only hatchery proposal that would require almost no water pumping, because water could be delivered primarily by gravity flow at reduced cost. The site topography is flat and suitable for hatchery ponds, and it will be cleared at no cost to TPWD. Jasper County officials say a bass fishing tournament took place recently at a new pavilion near the site, attracting an estimated 18,000 visitors and competitors.
The Jasper County proposal would locate the new hatchery near the Sam Rayburn Reservoir dam on property owned by Temple-Inland. The site is currently a managed forest logging operation.
Other partner offerings in the Jasper County proposal include help to provide water and financial support from the Lower Neches Valley Authority, assistance with road construction from the Texas Department of Transportation, and additional support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Jasper County officials have stressed that they welcome participation from neighboring counties and communities to make the hatchery a truly regional project.
“The Jasper County proposal presented the best value for the anglers of Texas,” said Ed Cox, Jr., former foundation board chairman and head of the current foundation hatchery site selection committee. “The bids received from other communities were carefully considered and much appreciated and we’re going to look for ways to partner with these and other communities that realize how important fishing is to regional economies. This project will benefit all of East Texas.”
In May, the foundation received hatchery proposals from seven bidders—San Augustine County, Jasper County, the South Sulphur River Development Association, the Newton First Committee, Tyler County and the City of Woodville, the Sabine River Authority and Dow Chemical Company.
The hatchery proposals were evaluated based upon technical merit and value-added criteria by technical staff at TPWD and by two engineering companies and a CPA firm hired by the foundation. The goal of the hatchery is to provide anglers with the most value for the monies spent.
The new hatchery will replace the present Jasper Fish Hatchery, which was opened in 1932 and has had no major renovation or modernization since the late 1940s. The primary funding source for the new hatchery and for improvements at other hatcheries in the TPWD system will come from a new $5 freshwater fishing stamp that was required beginning Sept.1, and from community and corporate support.
“This approach is a great deal for the 2 million people who fish in Texas, two-thirds of whom fish freshwater,” said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director. “This kind of local community support will leverage the value of our new stamp funds to produce the most cost-effective possible outcome. The bottom line is that fishing in Texas will be better.”
Fish hatchery production, along with fisheries management, regulations and law enforcement, helps sustain the high quality of fishing in Texas, an important part of the state economy. Freshwater anglers in Texas generated $1.49 billion in retail sales in 2001 based on data collected by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. This angling activity generated $733 million in wages and salaries annually.
There are still major sponsorship opportunities available in connection with the new hatchery. For details, contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (formerly the Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas) at (214) 720-1478. – Lake Mohave
– Lake Mohave