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FLAGSTAFF – Sterling Springs Hatchery at the top of Oak Creek Canyon is the smallest state-run hatchery in Arizona, but it’s where nearly 60% of the state’s trout begin their lives. The hatchery is currently undergoing a $3.3 million dollar renovation which is supposed to conclude by the end of June.
“If Sterling Springs wasn’t repaired, we’re losing all the small fish that stock Page Springs, which produces 58% of the trout we are stocking the state with,” said Geoffrey Rabinovich, the Arizona Game & Fish Department’s statewide hatchery program manager. “That would probably have an impact of $400 million a year for the state.”
Some of the hatchery’s pipes and valves are more than 70 years old and are leaky. Raceways, which are the channel-like basins the fish grow in, are crumbling.
The five other hatcheries operated by Game & Fish need upgrades, too, but the funds aren’t available, Rabinovich said. All are crucial to Arizona’s $1.47 billion recreational fishing industry.
Cronkite News reporter Jonah Hrkal looks at how the upgrades at Sterling Springs will save water and money.