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National Fish Hatchery In North Chittenden Feels Pain Of Government Shutdown

Henry Bouchard feeds brook trout at the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery in North Chittenden.
Nina Keck
Henry Bouchard feeds brook trout at Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery in North Chittenden. The facility is affected by the partial government shutdown, and he said caring for the fish and fish eggs is difficult with only half their normal staff.

The hundreds of thousands of fish and fish eggs at the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery in North Chittenden didn’t get the memo about the government shutdown — but they still need care every day.

Fish hatchery manager Henry Bouchard said it’s been hard with a skeleton staff and no clear idea of when things will return to normal.

The North Chittenden facility is one of two national fish hatcheries in the state — the other is located in Bethel — and both are overseen by Bouchard.

He said that in North Chittenden, their normal staff of six is down to three, they work half days and no one’s getting paid.

Henry Bouchard overseeing operations at the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery
Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Henry Bouchard manages the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery in North Chittenden. He says hundreds of thousands of salmon eggs have begun hatching and require a lot of attention, which has become difficult because of the partial government shutdown.

Bouchard said 400,000 salmon eggs have started to hatch and they need to be ready to deliver trout in the spring.

We annually produce about 50,000 brook trout for the state of catchable size," he explained. "So, these [fish] will be growing all winter and be about 9 inches in April and May.”

Bouchard walks through one of 40 rectangular outdoor raceways, where the trout are kept, and begins to throw feed into one of the tanks.

“Ideally they’re fed three times a day — right now we’re down to two, sometimes three [times],” Bouchard said. “The more we feed them, you know, the more cleaning we've got to do. So, you know, it's just the whole cycle of it. When you're short-staffed it makes it difficult.”

A collection of salmon eggs that have begun hatching.
Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Salmon eggs have begun hatching inside incubators at the national fish hatchery in North Chittenden. It's a labor-intensive time, according to manager Henry Bouchard, because there's a lot of cleaning that needs to happen to ensure the salmon continue to thrive.

Several large maintenance and expansion projects have had to be halted, which Bouchard said has created headaches in the office. He said bills are coming due – many from local vendors — and it's causing a ripple effect.

Bouchard is hopeful they won’t lose any fish but said the shutdown has created a frustrating limbo.

“Just not knowing how long this is going to last," he said. "So, you know, we're getting by right now — but, you know, it's at half the staff ... I can envision burnout and things like that.”

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