Environment Finance Committee approves new fish hatchery advisory group

A bill was heard by the Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee this week that establishes a 12-member “Reinvest in Fish Hatcheries Citizen-Legislative Advisory Group” and requires a report and recommendations to the legislature.

This bill was presented as a way to have a discussion about how to update and modernize the state’s aging fish hatchery system. Minnesota operates 15 hatcheries around the state, with some built in the 1950’s and operating with original equipment. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the most pressing needs include: biosecurity upgrades to protect against fish diseases and invasive species, radon and mold mitigation, employee safety-related repairs to failing infrastructure, and energy-efficiency upgrades. Fish raised at hatcheries support the $4.2 billion annual contribution that anglers make to the state’s economy.

The advisory group will be comprised of the chairs and a minority member from each of the Senate and House Environment Finance Committees, as well as four citizens appointed by each legislative body. Appointments are to be made by November 1, 2019. The group is to:

  • Study the status of the state’s fish hatchery system, stocking programs for walleye and other fish, and natural fish reproduction.
  • Look at the public priorities and life cycle of Minnesota’s fish hatchery system with a cost-benefit analysis, consider accountability and transparency issues, and look at designated reviews and analyses.
  • Consult with DNR advisory and oversight committees and fishery-related interests.
  • Report with recommendations to the Legislature by January 15, 2021. The advisory group expires June 30, 2021.

The bill was approved and sent to the State Government Finance Committee. (SF 390)