Continued hatchery plans moving speedily, official says
Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Production Manger Bill Gass said he’s impressed by how fast State officials are moving forward with plans to reconstruct Petersburg’s Crystal Lake Hatchery incubation facility that was destroyed by a fire last month.
“It’s not a matter of deciding to pay it or not,” Gass said. “Before an expenditure of that magnitude happens or not they (State officials) need to get engineers involved, quotes from contractors, a fully functional design that would go out to bid… We’re the contracted operators but they’re allowing us to have a great deal of say on how we want it rebuilt.”
The State immediately ordered replacement equipment, such as a fish pump, that had been destroyed by the fire.
“That pump was ordered the next day,” Gass said. “It’s a fairly large item. They (State officials) are being very cooperative and stepping pretty far outside the bounds of normal procedure to make things happen.”
Gass said they had earlier hoped, for time and cost savings, to reuse the concrete foundation but that the fire has rendered it unusable.
That turns out to be good news, Gass said, because the concrete foundation was built higher than it needed to be because an electric water pump was housed beneath it.
Now the incubation facility will be built to support a gravity fed water pump—a mechanism most hatcheries use—as opposed to the electric powered pump they had, which increased costs and forced two staff members to be present at all times in case the electricity went out.
Gass said while they still hope to have a structure built by August. If not, staff will likely continue operations using a temporary structure and, aside from the fish lost during the fire, production won’t change.
Meanwhile, Petersburg residents Sally Dwyer and her husband Al Dwyer initiated a letter writing campaign asking locals to write to State officials urging them to expedite the reconstruction of the incubation facility. The Dwyer's collected 100 letters from around town, 94 written by local students.
Letters are being sent to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell. “People feel like the State will just take care of them on their own timeline and I guess we can keep our fingers crossed that they will,” Dwyer said
Damage to the Crystal Lake facility and equipment was estimated at around $3 million.