It’s been nearly two years since epic flood waters ripped through the 118-year-old facility, contaminating its trout and trashing its infrastructure. Most of the physical damage has been repaired, but another year and a half remains before the hatchery can fully resume its primary mission — providing rainbow trout eggs to hatcheries in 14 states. The will be back to normal until 2019.
If the hatchery simply produced trout to be stocked in streams and ponds, it would have been back in full swing several months ago. But as a supplier of eggs, the facility requires a full three years to come up to speed. It is required to provide disease-free eggs, but not allowed to receive adult fish from other hatcheries. It must bring in disease-free eggs and raise its own brood stock from scratch. Fortunately, other federal hatcheries were able to provide eggs as needed.
The first batch of eggs came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s facility in Erwin, Tennessee, in August 2016. The next batch arrived in January 2017 from the service’s Ennis, Montana, hatchery. Two sources were needed because White Sulphur historically raised two distinct rainbow strains — the Erwin Arlee strain and the Shasta strain. They’re both rainbow trout, but they spawn at different times of the year. Fortunately, both of our source hatcheries had backup supplies of eggs.
White Sulphur won’t return to full production until three-year classes of trout are being kept at the facility. The third year-class of Erwin Arlee fish won’t arrive until August. The third year-class of Shasta fish will arrive next January. Historically, most of the surplus adult rainbows end up in West Virginia waters. Some are sent to Virginia, and some end up with the North Carolina band of the Cherokee nation.