Fish hatchery pushed as use for surplus revenue

Rep. John Holsclaw, R-Elizabethton, says he’s hopeful part of the state’s surplus revenue will go toward building a state fish hatchery in Carter County, reports the Johnson City Press, noting the project “has been a political football bouncing around for several years.”

The lawmaker said the time to act on getting fish hatchery approved was now, pointing to a state budget surplus he said could be used on several projects.

He said one of the difficulties in getting legislative support for the hatchery has been its price tag. The cost of the state-of-the art facility has risen from $18 million to $24 million, thanks to inflation.

Holsclaw said that price tag has put a few legislators off, but noted the facility was originally proposed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to be more than a means of keeping some of the most popular streams in the state stocked. It was also intended to be a state-of-the-art facility that would also be a tourist attraction and an education center for students.

The article notes TWRA purchased 19 acres for the hatchery from the City of Elizabethton for $198,000 in 2009.

But the timing was terrible.

The state representative for the district, Kent Williams, had just incurred the wrath of Republicans who had been planning to take over the speakership of the House of the Representatives for the first time since the 1970s. They counted 50 votes to 49 for the Democrats, giving them the majority.

Those plans were dashed when Williams joined with Democrats to elect himself speaker.

In the aftermath, the Republican leadership was not eager to approve a fish hatchery in Williams’ district that would cost as much as $18 million.

Political pundits in Nashville wrote that “fish was the new pork.

…As bad as the timing was in 2009, Holsclaw says the timing was probably the best it could ever be this year. He said there is a budget surplus — and a governor who has expressed support for the project.

“I have been working hard on this,” Holsclaw said.