HARRISBURG, Pa. (March 22) – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) voted at a special meeting today to keep its Oswayo and Bellefonte hatcheries open for at least two more years while the agency pursues a long-term funding source through the General Assembly.
“Since the board of commissioners voted in January to close the two hatcheries, staff and Commissioners have met with members of the General Assembly to try to identify opportunities to secure long-term funding sources,” said Board President Steve Ketterer. “As a result, we have voted to keep the hatcheries open while we pursue these opportunities.”
Commissioner Glade Squires introduced today’s motion, which reads: “I move that we restore funding for the continued operation of the Oswayo and Bellefonte trout hatcheries until the July 2015 Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission meeting and that we continue to work with senators and representatives to secure funding for the other areas of our budget previously identified to be reduced or eliminated.”
The motion passed by a unanimous vote.
The PFBC announced on Jan. 25 that it would close the Oswayo and Bellefonte hatcheries by the end of 2014 as part of a budget plan to save $9 million annually over the next four years. Approximately $6.7 million is needed in order to meet escalating health-care and retirement obligations for employees, and $2.3 million is needed for infrastructure needs, such as maintenance and repairs, at remaining hatcheries, other facilities and boating access areas. Closing the two hatcheries would save approximately $2 million annually.
“We’re thankful that the General Assembly has recognized the fiscal situation we’re in and have expressed their willingness to help us reach a solution,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “However, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that we must still find $9 million in annual savings or revenue over the next four years.”
The Oswayo State Fish Hatchery is located in Coudersport, Potter County, and Bellefonte is in Centre County. Each has nine employees. The PFBC said at the time of the closure announcement that the hatchery employees would not be furloughed, and would be offered jobs at other facilities.