Boardmembers for the Big Bear Municipal Water District recently traveled to the 49th state to visit the Anchorage-based William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery. The MWD board is wrestling with the concept of creating a local fish hatchery on district property located behind its main offices now used as an RV park to raise sport fish for release into Big Bear Lake and other possible locations. The boardmembers visited to hatchery to learn more about the feasibility of such a project as that facility was constructed by the contractor they are talking with about for the construction of a Big Bear fishery.
There was a bit of controversy concerning the journey. One Big Bear newspaper questioned the legality of the trip alleging the journey could be in violation of The Ralph M. Brown Act which guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies. The Act states: “A body must conduct its meetings within the boundaries of its jurisdiction unless it qualifies for a specific exemption.” However, the Act continues, “A legislative body must meet within its boundaries except to do any of the following: ‘Inspect real property located outside the jurisdiction or personal property which would be inconvenient to bring inside the jurisdiction. (§ 54954(b)(2).)’”
MWD documents state in a message from Mike Stephenson, district general manager, “District Counsel Cohn O’Neill explained that ‘this interpretation of the law is spot on.’”
Stephenson explained that a decision on the RV Park couldn’t be made until all the directors understand the best use of the property.
The District is researching the construction of an enclosed hatchery that would have the capability to produce game fish such as rainbow trout on a year-round basis. In the past it has been the practice of the District to purchase such game fish for seeding into Big Bear Lake from other agencies; however, in recent years, because of drought conditions and hatchery closures, it has become increasingly difficult to procure fish for additional fish implantations.
The cost to construct such a project is expected to run north of $2 million; however, it has been reported the District has those dollars in reserve.
It has been estimated that if the District makes the decision to move forward with the hatchery, groundbreaking could take place in summer 2017 with the facility online and sponsoring fish releases into Big Bear Lake as soon as 2018.
The Alaskan fishery is much larger than planned for Big Bear; however, with more than 100 rearing tanks, there is space for production of more than 6 million sport fish each year at that facility. Sport fishing activity supported through these fish releases accounts for over $20 million a year in economic impact on local Alaskan communities.
It is speculated that Big Bear will see beneficial economic impacts from the construction of a local fishery.