Pennsylvania fishery officials have put on hold, at least for now, plans to close the Chesapeake Bay region’s largest remaining shad hatchery as part of a budget-cutting move.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission at its July meeting deferred the decision it made last year to cut $2 million from its budget for this year.
That cut would have closed three hatcheries, including its Van Dyke Research Station along the Juniata River, which has reared more than 281 million American shad and released them in the Susquehanna River over the last 42 years.
The reversal came after leaders of the House and Senate Game and Fisheries Committee said they would seek additional funding for the commission next year.
Although the Fish and Boat Commission is an independent state agency, it cannot unilaterally approve a hike in its primary source of revenue: general fishing licenses. Those increases must be approved by the General Assembly, which has not done so since 2005.
But legislative leaders were angered last year when the commission proposed budget cuts that would close the three hatcheries, including two trout hatcheries. Some introduced legislation to limit the term of the commission’s executive director to eight years, which would have put current director John Arway out of a job.
Prior to the commission’s July meeting, though, the chairs of the House and Senate committees issued a statement pledging they would pursue a fee increase early next year.
In the meantime, the commission said it would help plug its budget shortfall by raising the price on a variety of fees and permits over which it has direct control, which would raise about $1.2 million.
Because the commission operates on a July-through-June fiscal year, the delay ensures that the Van Dyke facility would be funded through next spring’s spawning season, though its fate for future years could change based on whether the General Assembly acts.
Meanwhile, Arway, announced that he would retire in November, after serving 38 years with the commission, including eight as its executive director.