The Big Bear Municipal Water District, whose mission is to manage Big Bear Lake, is embarking on a remarkable effort to help enhance the trout population and fishing opportunities for Big Bear Lake. Hatchery raised fish which are then planted in lakes throughout California is a common practice but access to young trout for planting have been a challenge due to drought conditions and hatchery closures. Mike Stephenson and the MWD board are pursuing a local, indoor, high tech hatchery to be located on underutilized MWD property now being used for RV parking and boat storage.
After a well publicized MWD board tour and meeting in Alaska, they were able to observe and learn from a similar, yet much larger facility, how to hatch and raise trout indoors, a facility with the same type of climatic challenges we have in Big Bear. In other words, a hatchery which is fully enclosed offers savings by controlling indoor air temperatures and not exposed outdoor water tanks. According to GM Mike Stephenson, the benefits include the ability to produce fish year round and with much greater efficiency. The end result will a hatchery built using existing funds run in part with solar power, built on underutilized land and maximizing existing MWD buildings. This proposed hatchery can then supply Big Bear Lake with trout and sell the excess fish to other lakes helping to keep them operating in the black.
The cost to design and build this type and size of facility is substantial, somewhere north of $2,000,000, but as Stephenson tells K-BEAR that “this money is currently in the bank as a result of major savings we realized from our bond refinancing and a redesign of the flood gates needed during the 100 year flood event”.
Groundbreaking for this project could begin as early as summer 2017 with the first fish being planted in Big Bear Lake sometime in 2018. “Tours and public education along with enhanced fishing opportunities are”, as Stephenson described, “the benefits of a locally owned, operated and very efficient trout fish hatchery”.