Hatchery, warden jobs spared in budget cuts

Posted Jan. 12, 2009, at 8:33 p.m.

GRAND LAKE STREAM, Maine — Although state officials are expected to slash programs to meet targeted budget cuts, salmon at the Grand Lake Stream Fish Hatchery have been given a reprieve.

Also saved were some game warden and warden sergeants’ jobs with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Last year, Gov. John Baldacci requested a 10 percent reduction in DIF&W’s total budget. That demand met with resistance and recently the governor changed his mind.

“The 10 percent plans were part of the preparation for the budget. After considering the proposals from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, I decided that a small increase in fees would be a better choice than cutting game wardens or closing the hatchery, which plays an important role in maintaining one of Maine’s premier sport fishing destinations,” Baldacci said Monday.

State Sen. Kevin Raye, R-Perry, was elated. He said Monday that he had learned at a leadership meeting with the governor on Friday that the plan to close the hatchery was off the table.

The hatchery dates to the 1870s and helps support one of Maine’s most famous fisheries for landlocked salmon. The hatchery produces landlocked salmon not only for Grand Lake Stream and other Down East lakes and streams, but also juvenile salmon for as far away as the Rangeley region.

But last year, the aging and costly facility had been included on a list of proposed cuts aimed at closing what is expected to be a massive hole in the next state budget.

The idea to close the hatchery was first floated last year by DIF&W Commissioner Roland “Danny” Martin, Raye said. “But during our briefing at the governor’s office, one of the governor’s staff people … leaned over to tell me at the beginning of it that the Grand Lake Stream hatchery was not being cut,” he said. “This is such good news because the hatchery is important to the future of the economy and a healthy sport fishery in the whole Grand Lake region.”

The reprieve also means that Dave Marsanskis, the hatchery’s fish culture supervisor, still has a job.

He said Monday that he learned about the change in plans from his boss at DIF&W.

The hatchery employs three people and stocks 50,000 salmon.

“The big thing that kinda gets lost is we provide about three-quarters of the state’s landlocked salmon. We don’t stock them all, we ship eggs and fish to other facilities,” he said.

The hatchery, located in the center of town, is considered the jewel of the area.

Take away the prized fishing and you’ve eliminated a major reason people come to this remote corner of Washington County, residents maintain.

Nancy Betz, who owns and operates Grand Lake Stream Camps with her husband, Gary, had not heard the news. “That is wonderful,” she said when she learned Monday of the governor’s decision. “We have had our business 34 years, and when we first started we didn’t have a lot of fly fishermen, but now it is a large part of our business. These people come from all over to fish here. They also have the opportunity to fish elsewhere, but they come back to Grand Lake Stream, so there is something special about this place. And the idea of losing the hatchery, which we feel ultimately would have damaged the fishery, just didn’t make any sense.”

BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO

Dave Marsanskis (from left), George Wharton and Scott Garbiel work in the pools of the Grand Lake Stream Fish Hatchery in November 2008. They stripped and fertilized eggs of landlocked salmon and were taking them to the hatchery, where the eggs would incubate.

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