By Butch Shaw
Your legislators are now focused on committee work as the Town Meeting break, scheduled for March 2 through March 11, approaches. I do look forward to this annual recess of the Legislature so I can remove myself from the ‘Golden Bubble’ of Montpelier and re-connect with my family, friends and constituents.
It always amazes me how legislators, myself included, get so involved in the work at hand that we can lose touch with the everyday happenings in our district. I look forward to attending the Brandon, Pittsford and Sudbury town meetings. The Pittsford and Brandon meetings happen at the same time on Monday, March 4th. To accommodate both meetings I will be in Pittsford prior to 6:30 p.m. start to listen to and answer any questions you may have. After speaking at the Pittsford meeting, I will travel to Brandon to meet with folks at the conclusion of the annual meeting.
On Tuesday evening, March 5, I will be in Sudbury before and during their traditional Town Meeting for a question and answer session. I do hope many of you will attend these important informational meetings and vote on March 5th on your various town and school budgets, along with electing various town and school officials.
SALISBURY FISH HATCHERY
An issue that has stirred quite a bit of local interest is the proposed closing of the Salisbury Fish Culture Station. I am personally very fond of the Salisbury hatchery. In my younger days, my friends and I would ride our bicycles on the back road from East Middlebury to Salisbury to see the fish, learn about the process of growing fish for stocking and, most importantly, to beg the staff to allow us to fish in the pond for ‘the big ones’. They never did let us drop a line. Alas, closing or decommissioning the hatchery is not all about the current reported shortfall of $250,000 in the Department of Fish and Wildlife budget, as some would have us believe, but more about a combination of operational factors.
Salisbury, built in 1931, is the second oldest hatchery in the state system and is the most expensive of all the hatcheries to operate on a comparative basis. On top of this, the facility needs significant infrastructure upgrades to bring it up to current practice standards. Perhaps the most demanding upgrade is the requirement to bring the considerable amount of water discharged from the hatchery everyday up to modern codes and standards as required by Vermont Water Quality Standards and The Clean Water Act. I learned about this potential requirement three years ago when the fish and wildlife fisheries manager informed the Committee on Corrections & Institutions that this new standard could possibly affect Salisbury because the fish effluent at this hatchery is extremely high in phosphorus thus adding to the total maximum daily phosphorus load in Lake Champlain.
To fund this one infrastructure improvement likely will require construction of a wastewater treatment facility with a cost of upwards of $12 million. There are two other unique issues with Salisbury that can cause concern: the first is the hatchery does not have a naturally flowing fresh water supply, therefore, it relies on a drilled well for the thousands of gallons of water per day used to support operations. The facility needs to be staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to monitor the water supply, which is developing into a cost prohibitive operational function. Secondly, and perhaps the most concerning issue for me, is to learn the brood fish are infected with the fish disease furunculosis, which is contagious and a health risk to other adult fish. The eggs from these fish must be cleaned to prevent the spread of this disease before they can be hatched at Salisbury or shipped to our other hatcheries for development. Therefore, adding substantially to the cost of production.
Unfortunately, these infected brood fish cannot be transferred to other locations or released into the wild so if Salisbury should close, fish production statewide would be limited for an unknown period of time until a new brood stock can be developed.
As we can see, the suggested closing of this fish culture station is not just about the current budget but a series of conditions and events that have come together to create a perfect storm for Salisbury. I am part of a ‘3-Legged Team’ of legislators working together to keep Salisbury open until the Legislature can figure out what is the best path forward. Our team is making progress with a temporary solution and with the blessing of the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Governor we will continue to seek a path forward for this popular and valuable Vermont state asset.
On a high note for our fish program, the Roxbury Hatchery, which was destroyed in Tropical Storm Irene, is now being reconstructed and scheduled to be completed in late fall of 2019 adding to Vermont’s fish stocking capacity.
House Bill H.57 — Preserving the Right to Abortion
This bill has been widely reported throughout the media this past week and needs no further explanation, but I feel compelled to comment on my vote. When asked about abortion and Roe vs. Wade, in every election since 2011, I have made it very clear that women have a right to make decisions regarding their body and their health. I have also expressed my opinion that current law in the area of a woman’s rights to abortion is current law and I would not be in favor of changing current law. I also clearly stated I would not support any further changes to the existing law. The vote on this issue was a very personal for me. After nearly 11 hours of debate this bill passed the House, without my support, on a vote of 104 yes and 40 no. If would like to contact me, I can be reached at the State House, 802-828-2228, at home, 483-2398 or via email at email@example.com.