Fish Hatchery: Good Opportunity at Different Location

Fish Hatchery: Good Opportunity at Different Location

Posted November 14, 2017

With my recent filing for Mayor, several people have asked me about the Fish Hatchery. I have typically stayed out of other jurisdictions, but since I have declared my intention to serve in Pensacola, I have a few thoughts and comments to share.

I know there is significant debate about both the value of hatcheries and their real value in effectively replenishing fish stocks. However, with the hatchery project, the State of Florida and, more specifically, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) have made their intention known through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) that Florida wants to evaluate a hatchery. If the State is going to have a hatchery, why not locate it in NW Florida and Pensacola specifically.

Whether you like or don’t like hatcheries, you have to admit that the evaluation part of the process means there will be some level of study and research attached to the hatchery. Any form of research will be good for Pensacola, Escambia County and NW Florida as we look to continue to grow knowledge-based business in our region.

In addition to research and study, the hatchery was also a priority of the Governor when the original NRDA decisions were made. In addition to early NRDA decisions, the Governor’s office has considerable decision making in large sums of NRDA and other BP-related monies. Working with the Governor’s office to support his priorities does place Pensacola and Escambia County in a better position for future awards.

Based on these reasons, there appears to be value in the hatchery; however the problem may be its proposed location. The current site was one of the only bayfront public properties not at the Port of Pensacola when the decision was made. The thought process was that the hatchery would need to be located on an estuary both for water supply and fish disbursement. However, upon further evaluation, the hatchery may not need waterfront real estate, and still if it does, there could be better public sites.

Recently when the county was evaluating Triumph projects, there was an interesting proposal for a marine research facility at the port. This was a promising proposal identified by both Commissioner Underhill and myself and would be a natural fit to co-locate with the research opportunities of the hatchery.

The only problem is a consistent vision for the port from the city. Over just the last two weeks, the Escambia BCC has seen proposals for the port that includes an active port, research facility, residential high rise, and arena/field house. Without a consistent position, it is hard to build any credibility or public support.

In addition, the hatchery could be on another water body like Bayou Chico which has other industrial sites and looking for estuarian renewal. Finally, maybe the hatchery does not need to be on the water at all and could find a centrally located site like the uncontaminated Escambia Treating Superfund sites. There are several pieces of the Superfund site that were low contaminated neighborhoods that have been evacuated and are looking for economic opportunities to contribute to our community.

This is another example where the city could use real leadership to find collaboration within the city and with other jurisdictions to find the best and most appropriate site for the hatchery. I feel the hatchery is a good opportunity for Pensacola, but its location needs to change. Towards that end, I am happy to serve for better solutions.

— Grover Robinson

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