Roxbury Fish Station Rebuilding Its History

Front Page / Jul. 13, 2017 9:56am EDT

Hatchery Receives $2.3 Million To Rebuild
By Brianna Hillier

The Roxbury Fish Culture Station, nestled in the valley of the Third Branch of the White River, began operation in 1891, making it Vermont’s oldest fish hatchery.

In 2011, however, the historic hatchery was one of the thousands of properties damaged by Tropical Storm Irene—too much of the same cold clear waters that made its previous prosperity possible. The scenic setting of the hatchery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, was ravaged by flood waters which wiped out the fish rearing ponds and raceways that once produced the hatchery’s freshwater brook and rainbow trout.

The hatchery’s absence has been sorely felt, according to Adam Miller, the fish culture operations chief in Montpelier. “The hatchery used to have 25,000 pounds of trout available to stock state waters and restore fish populations,” Miller said. Without the Roxbury station, “the state has seen a 20 to 30% shortage of fry and two-year-old trout in Vermont rivers.”

The fish hatchery also had a significant economic impact, and since 2011 the state has missed the hatchery’s $2.4 million annual contributions to Vermont’s economy. For these and many other “cultural, biological, and economic reasons, we know it’s necessary to rebuild,” said Miller.

A long negotiation process with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) resulted in a denial of funds in May of 2016. However, a bill (H.878) was approved by state legislation in 2016, providing $2.3 million to the Roxbury station to help rebuild.

The state money would have covered only a portion of the original $4.5 million reconstruction cost estimates. Luckily, after a lengthy appeal process to FEMA leading to more denials, Roxbury’s new plans to comply with the United States Clean Water Act have been a game changer.

With a new strategy to make the Roxbury Fish Culture Station more environmentally friendly and flood resistant, FEMA agreed to grant the hatchery just over $900,000 to mitigate future flood risks. The remainder of the reconstruction costs will be covered by the state of Vermont; the combination of these funding sources has made it possible for the hatchery to finally begin building this summer.

With the buildings damaged by Irene already restored, the hatchery is looking to break ground on their new buildings by the end of July. Miller estimates the construction could take up to a year to complete. Included in the renovations are two 20-foot circular tanks in which the fish will be housed, as well as a new water processing system to filter nutrients and take out toxins.

“The hatchery will maintain its original size, capacity, and function,” said Miller, “but modernized for the future.”

“We realize it’s taken a long time to get to where we are,” Miller lamented, “but we are 100% committed to restoring the Roxbury Fish Culture Station—and this key piece of Vermont history.”

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