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2/4/2014 6:00:00 AM
Mohave County wants Willow Beach hatchery kept alive
Willow Beach, in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, shown here in a file photo from 2011. (MOHAVE COUNTY/Courtesy)
Willow Beach, in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, shown here in a file photo from 2011. (MOHAVE COUNTY/Courtesy)
Willow Beach hatchery meeting
9:30 a.m. Feb. 13

Mohave County auditorium

700 W. Beale St.


Kim Steele
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - Those with questions and concerns about the abrupt end to rainbow trout stocking at Willow Beach Hatchery can voice them during a forum next week sponsored by the Mohave County Board of Supervisors.

Board members discussed their frustration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision during a meeting Monday, noting the closing was unannounced and questioning whether it was based on real problems at the hatchery or just an excuse to shut down the stocking program to save money.

Board members have met since November with hatchery officials and members of U.S. Sen. John McCain's staff to get the program going again.

"The federal government made the unilateral decision that it was going to stop this program," said Board Chairman Hildy Angius, District 2. "They gave their reasons and we did not find their reasons acceptable, and we've made that known.

"This will be a public forum anyone can attend to question the federal government, who seems to drop these things on us on a weekly basis without asking us how it will affect us now or in the future."

The meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 13 at the Mohave County Board of Supervisors auditorium, 700 W. Beale St. in Kingman.

Stewart Jacks, assistant regional director of the Southwest Region Fisheries Division for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will give a presentation about the closing. Local officials, as well as those affected in the fishing industry, plan to attend to discuss the situation and what they'd like to see happen at the hatchery.

According to a flyer created by the board and available at the county building, the rainbow trout stocking program has been in effect for at least 50 years at the hatchery, which is located 11 miles below Hoover Dam and within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

It was started with the sole purpose of producing rainbow trout to plant below the Colorado River dams to create recreational fisheries in the water released from the reservoirs.

But shortly after the Endangered Species Act was enacted in 1973, the hatchery began working with threatened and endangered fish native to the Colorado River, including the bony-tail chub and the razorback sucker. Now, the hatchery plans to focus solely on the endangered species program.

The flyer noted "the impact on the economy and the quality of life all along the Colorado River will be devastating."

Last year, the hatchery was plagued by two large and unexpected rainbow trout die-offs that led to the closing of the stocking program.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an intake pipeline at the hatchery that delivers water to the trout tanks became clogged in early August with sediment and vegetation, killing 40,000 large, stockable-sized trout weighing a total of 25,000 pounds.

The dead fish amounted to 40 percent of the trout there.

And in early November, the agency revealed, the elevation in Lake Mohave dipped low enough to starve the water pumps at the hatchery, affecting six trout tanks.

Fish from three of the tanks were released into Lake Mohave, saving 11,105 fish weighing a total of 7,782 pounds. But all the fish in the other three tanks were killed, leaving a total loss of 20,880 fish weighing 13,420 pounds.

After the incidents, the board sent Mohave County Administrator Mike Hendrix to the hatchery to view the tanks, study the facility's blueprints and talk with officials there about the stocking program.

Hendrix, who is the county's civil engineer, said that from what he could see and read about the hatchery's inlet pipes and pumps, which both needed some work, they were still operational enough to continue being used and keep the program running.

Supervisor Buster Johnson, District 3, said residents might wonder why they should care about whether trout are introduced from the hatchery when there are bigger worries, such as drought and lake levels.

But at least 30 fishing tournaments will be coming to Lake Havasu City this summer, said Johnson, and will be bringing in a tremendous amount of money to local businesses.

"Trout are put in the water as a feeder fish for the striped bass, and if the stripers don't have the trout to eat, then they start eating the other fish, which ruins the whole cycle," said Johnson. "And that affects the millions of dollars put in to the fishing here.

"So it's not that you just won't be able to catch a trout. It's the idea you won't be able to catch the striper or the largemouth bass."

Angius said she still has doubts about the long-term impact of the die-off problem last year and wants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its decision to close the stocking program.

Angius said the federal agency assures the county that it wants to work with the state and county to keep the program alive in the future.

"We as a board believe they want to cut these hatchery programs across the U.S. and that these pipe issues were a good starting point to do it at Willow Beach," said Angius.

"I think they picked the wrong hatchery to go after, because we're going to do everything in our power to make sure this program survives here."

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Related Stories:
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• 'Heads should roll' over Willow Beach hatchery snafu
• Hatchery's closure would spell end to local rainbow trout availability

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2014
Article comment by: billy g

*sorry for such a late response, but someone just called my attention to something*

Edward Tomchin, I wasn't aware that Medicaid and SNAP programs have been cut.. or even cut back... Sad to hear that people are once again starving... I would love to donate my limit of freshly caught trout, to some needy family... Oh, that's right, there's no more trout to be caught out of that river. budget cuts and all. But it's ok to blow half a million $ to try to teach little fish to avoid bigger fish.

Tomchin, how about you get back to us on that argument about it not being right to have a 'luxury' program when their cutting 'food stamps' and Medicaid programs. Because if that ever happens I'll pick up the protest sign right along side of you.
Hard as you may try to turn this into a liberal/conservative issue, your not!

Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Article comment by: Jason Young

I have a crazy idea to raise money for Willow beach. Why not open the gate that was already built for charging people to enter. US fish and wildlife conducted a study into the economic benifits of investing in fisheries. That study found that for every tax dollar invested has a $22 return. That is a successful equation if you ask me, but what do I know. I live in Vegas and just found out about this meeting. I'm going to be there because I have a great deal to say.

Posted: Sunday, February 9, 2014
Article comment by: Edward Tomchin

billy g, it was me. I brought up food stamps and Medicaid because the article was complaining about people losing their government funded fishing pleasure. There are far more needy programs than stocking streams with trout so that a few people can catch and eat them. Food stamps is about feeding hungry people and Medicaid is about medical care for the ailing who cannot afford health insurance or paying a doctor in cash. I think you have your priorities twisted into a dysfunction knot.

Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2014
Article comment by: Same Thing

"Maybe $150 tacked on to each fishing license. Sounds fair, right? Put the expense on the those who benefit from it, right?"

Right! Now if they would only apply the same logic to the golf course! Imagine how much quicker they could pay it off.

Posted: Friday, February 7, 2014
Article comment by: Origional Kingman Resident

"an just for the record, I have both family and good friends who get both Medicaid and SNAP (it's not called 'food stamps' anymore) "

A rose by any other name is still a rose.

Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

”If Mohave County wants the fishing revenue so badly, then maybe we should open our own stocking facility.”

Absolutely and only those who fish should be taxed to pay for it. Maybe $150 tacked on to each fishing license. Sounds fair, right? Put the expense on the those who benefit from it, right?

Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014
Article comment by: billy g

@mr. Edward Tomchin, who said anything about food stamps or Medicaid? I don't see where anyone even mentioned those programs.. Or are you still on some Republican Vs Dem forum? Well you see this page here is about fishing and the $$$ it brings in...and Oh lets see.... Oh yeah, the recreation that it provides! Im sure that you would rather see kids fishing at the lakes & rivers instead of hanging out on the sidewalk in front of your house, right? Or are you one of those grumpy old men who just enjoys yelling 'GET OFF MY LAWN'

an just for the record, I have both family and good friends who get both Medicaid and SNAP (it's not called 'food stamps' anymore) and they also enjoy fishing.. as it's one of the few things they can afford!

I don't know how the feds run their programs.. but usually when the states have stocking programs, it's funded by the revenue that comes from fishing & hunting licenses

Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Article comment by: SJunelsla Chance

What happen to all the dead FISH DID THEY SALE THEM TO MAKE CATFOOD ???

Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Article comment by: Nikki B


If the federal government doesn't want to run the stocking program, why can't state Game and Fish take it over, or Mohave County?

I agree with OKR: we have no say over what federal appointees do, but we DO have a say in state and county officials.

If Mohave County wants the fishing revenue so badly, then maybe we should open our own stocking facility.

Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Article comment by: concerned citizen

Isn't it amazing how hateful most people in Mohave County are of the government, until the government stops one of their projects in their area?
People, and elected officials, just hate those government handouts, until it affects them directly!

Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Article comment by: Billy g

Yeah, well I don't understand why the question about the lack of water? If there isn't water running in that river, well then were all up s creek without a paddle!

I think there's a misunderstanding as to why the water was low at the time of the fish die off at WB hatchery. IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH DROUGHT, or the level of lake mead! It was brought down to assist the .. Oh just read this:

"Reclamation Lowers Lake Mohave Water Level as Annual Razorback Sucker Harvest Underway
BOULDER CITY, Nev. - The Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region is lowering water levels in Lake Mohave to aid in annual endangered fish species conservation project work. Beginning today, Lake Mohave, located above Davis Dam on the Colorado River, will steadily lower from its current elevation of about 640 feet to an elevation of about 633 feet by the week of November 18, 2013. Water levels will begin rising again by late November as the razorback sucker fish project is finished" They do it EVERY year!! Thats why I said it was NO surprise that the water was going to be low!

Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Article comment by: Just Wondering

Another battle with the Federal government. They want wolves but not trout?

Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Article comment by: Edward Tomchin

I think it's rather humorous that people who generally want to shut down government programs and cut people off food stamps and Medicaid, want the government to fund their fishing pleasure. We have met the enemy and they are us.

Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Article comment by: Billy gfroerer

Well I applaud the supervisors for their work on this issue!

And their right to doubt the feds reasons for the closure, because the water level is lowered at the same time every year, for the USFWS to do their work with the native fish rearing in lake Mohave.. So they knew the lake was going to be drawn down, as it is every year! just as they knew that the vegetation could be a problem with the intakes... Does anyone think that they wouldn't have an alarm system to alert them if the water stopped flowing?? If isn't lies then it's MAJOR incompetence!

Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Article comment by: Mike Bennett

I have been going to Willow Beach 8 times a year from Southern California for over 10 years to fish for giant striped bass and rainbow trout. It was a great fishery with great scenery. I have personally pumped tens of thousands of dollars to local business and hotels not even counting the countless other people I would take with me to enjoy the region. For a minimal investment by the gov't we can keep the hatchery going for it's ORIGINAL INTENDED PURPOSE of raising rainbow trout for anglers.

Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Article comment by: H Q

And what exactly does Angius & the BOS think they can do if there no water, there no water? Speaking of which the shortage of H2o was brought up several times @ the Board meeting but no mention of conservation by Mohave County? I guess it's better to wait until it's to late?

Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Article comment by: dv s

don't close it...

Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Article comment by: Origional Kingman Resident

"Angius said she doubts the federal agency's assertion that it wants to work with the state and county to keep the program alive in the future."

That is why the citizens lose when we are ruled by unelected federal agencies. It doesn't matter what the residents want. It would not matter if every resident of Mohave county AZ and Clark County, NV, (many come from NV to fish the stocked trout), go to the meeting. The federal agents do not have to worry about losing their jobs. We the people didn't hire them and we can not fire them.

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