The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) announced today that it plans to reduce operating costs by $9 million over the next four years in order to meet future health-care and retirement obligations for its employees and to fund infrastructure needs. A portion of this reduction will come from closing two trout hatcheries, a move that will reduce annual operating costs by approximately $2 million.
The two hatcheries include Oswayo in Coudersport, Potter County, which has nine employees, and Bellefonte in Centre County, which has nine employees. No furloughs are expected. The PFBC plans to offer affected employees jobs at other PFBC facilities.
“Fishing license sales have steadily declined since 1990, while at the same time operating costs have continued to increase, including the price of fish food,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway.
“As a result, we must streamline our operations and reduce operating costs in order to maintain a sound financial condition while we attempt to secure long-term, dedicated alternative funding,” he added. “As part of this process, we evaluated our 14 production sites and determined that closing these two trout hatcheries would have the least impact on the number of trout stocked.”
Arway added that because of existing vacancies within the Commission, no employees are expected to be laid off.
“Over the last two years, a number of vacancies have been created from retirements and transfers,” he said. “As a result, we plan to offer the employees at Oswayo and Bellefonte the opportunity to take these jobs at other facilities.”
Today’s decision is one part of a long-range strategy to reduce operating costs across all PFBC bureaus by a total of $9 million by the 2016-17 Fiscal Year, which begins July 1, 2016. Approximately $6.7 million is needed for employee health care and retirement benefits and $2.3 million is needed for infrastructure needs, such as maintenance and repairs, at remaining hatcheries, other facilities and boating access areas.
In addition to the $2 million the PFBC expects to save by closing the two hatcheries, it estimates saving another $1 million by not enrolling a new class of waterways conservation officers. Overall, the bureaus of Hatcheries and Law Enforcement account for approximately 27.6 percent and 22.6 percent, respectively, of the PFBC’s annual expenditures.
The PFBC Bureau of Hatcheries spends approximately $12.5 million annually to raise 3.2 million adult trout, 2 million fingerling trout and more than 30 million fry and fingerling warm/coolwater fish at its 14 hatcheries. Oswayo and Bellefonte annually produce approximately 245,000 and 540,000 adult trout, respectively, including brook, brown, rainbow and golden trout.
The Oswayo and Bellefonte hatcheries aren’t expected to be completely closed until the end of 2014. Fish are being raised at both facilities and won’t be ready to stock until the end of this year and spring of next year. Once the fish have been stocked, the facilities will be cleaned and then closed.