Repairs needed on 20-year-old facility
JUNCTION CITY -- The Milford Fish Hatchery will shut down for eight months beginning July 1 for much-needed repair. Milford is one of the few warm-water, intensive-culture fish hatcheries in the country. However, like most working facilities, time and wear take their toll. Such wear and tear is to be expected from a high-tech facility like this one, which is more than 20 years old.

This hatchery has special maintenance needs because 7,200 gallons per minute (gpm) of water are pumped ½ mile to the facility from Milford Supply Lake, and an additional 4,000 gpm of groundwater is pumped 100 yards, all to fill the hatchery's 24 raceways. Waste must be pumped 3/8 of a mile to sewage lagoons. To complete these tasks, 25 motors and pumps with backup systems are employed. Additional systems are also required to maintain water quality.

The shutdown is part of a five-year plan begun in 2002 to repair much of the hatchery's infrastructure. Already completed work includes repair and rehabilitation of the liquid oxygen system, water aeration towers, and wells; obtaining an additional water supply for the area; and installation of an alarm system, sewage lift station monitors/protectors, and numerous pumps and motors that keep the operation moving.

The work beginning in July will include replacement of raceway water and drain valves, replacing low-pressure air lines, modifying the waste drain system to handle peak use and conform to Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) regulations, meeting demands of the domestic water supply system (which has increased 10-fold since 1985), replacing electrical wiring, and creating underground access to raceway valves so they do not freeze in winter but can be easily worked on.

The obvious question most anglers have regarding this shutdown is what affect it will have on the state's fish supply. The answer is "minimal." The timing of the work comes when the bulk of Milford's fish production for the year is complete. What production will be lost will be taken up by KDWP's hatcheries at Farlington, Meade, and Pratt, as well as contracts with private fish growers.

As time and funding allow, future plans for Milford Hatchery include a new siphon line from Milford Reservoir, which would provide an efficient and reliable supply of high-quality water.

The Milford Fish Hatchery uses an intensive system in which eggs are hatched in small containers, and fish are grown in concrete raceways. More fish can be produced in less water, and the health of the fish can be monitored daily.

The 24 concrete raceways hold approximately 18,000 gallons of water. Each raceway has its own recirculation system in which about two-thirds of the water is completely exchanged every hour.

Fish species raised at Milford include walleye, sauger, saugeye, wiper (striped bass/white bass hybrid), hybrid sunfish, channel catfish, blue catfish, largemouth bass, striped bass, and paddlefish.