• A visit to the new Chatsworth hatchery

    We turned west from the highway between Willamsford and Chatsworth and then south on the old gravel road running parallel to #6 highway. It seemed much the same as it was on my first visit 36 years ago. The road is still narrow, crowded by trees and almost hidden between surrounding hills. Since much of the land along the road is owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources, no new homes interrupt the tree line and except for the maple trees being considerably higher, I could have been back in 1966. Southern Ontarioís rural areas have changed so much in just the last ten years that it is unusual to find an area almost unchanged by time. Soon after we passed through the gate leading to the old hatchery location the memories evaporated as newer buildings came in sight. The date was January 18 this year and my companion and guide to the new $6.5 million Chatsworth Fish Culture Station was Jeff Graham, president of the engineering consultant firm of Henderson and Paddon. H& P is responsible for the design and construction supervision of the big Grey County fishery project that will double the old worn-out hatcheryís capacity without requiring additional personnel.

    Jeff gave me a good tour through all sections of the building and we were accompanied by Manager John Sager, H&P Site Inspector Art Smith and Jamie Hastings from Allen Hastings Construction.

    The auxiliary rooms are products of modern fish culture design ideas and include three quarantine rooms that will contain fish strains not yet proven to be free of disease. These rooms have sealed non-slip floors that can be easily disinfected and remind me of nuclear fuel-handling facilities at the Bruce Power Station. The water and effluent from these rooms is settled, clarified, chlorinated and de-chlorinated before being released into the nearby upper Sydenham River.

    In the main building there are 34 large concrete fish-holding tanks from 12-15 meters long and approximately 2.4 meters wide. In addition there are 16 large fiberglass-reinforced plastic tanks. The depth of water in these tanks will be 1.2 meters or about 4 feet deep.

    The stationís location in Grey County and its real value is based on a first class water supply from a free-flowing spring source providing about 14,000 liters per minute all year. H&P have incorporated this gravity-fed supply so that it flows un-pumped from the source on MNR property through an aeration system (ground water does not contain enough dissolved oxygen for fish) then downhill to the building and through three banks or levels of fish tanks installed downstream from each other.

    All water supply main piping inside the building is solvent-welded schedule 40 PVC varying from 100 to 600 mm in diameter but the main water supply is delivered through 750 mm diameter piping to prevent head loss.

    Isolation valves are conveniently located so operators can drain one tank or several as required. There are access doors which allow a fork lift or other vehicle to deliver fish food and pick up fish for delivery to stocking locations.

    The building itself was pre-engineered by Dura Buildings and is fully insulated between double walls and double ceiling panels. Heating is not required as the un-varying ground water temperature alone should keep the building comfortable all year.

    The opening of the new station is planned for this spring after all testing is completed and Chatsworth staff will then transfer the present lake trout brood stock and their progeny fingerlings to their new homes. About 95% of the stationís output is slated for Lake Huron and Manager John Sager assured me that the MNR had enough fish within their system to quickly utilize the additional space. The old stationís tanks were exposed outside and prone to predation from various birds and animals.

    Also within the MNR property is a sub-station that will remain in operation and is presently being used to raise Simcoe-strain lake trout and brown trout. This building features a computer-controlled pneumatic fish feeder that adjusts food pellet size and volumes as its program warrants. Future Chatsworth plans may include installing the same type of computer-controlled feeding system in the main building.

    Another possible future project for the site may include a walleye and whitefish culture station and perhaps a visitorís interpretive centre.

    The funding commitment for the new facility was announced July 12-2000 by Minister of Natural Resources John Snobelen and Bill Murdoch, MPP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound.

    I attended the official announcement along with a large audience of outdoors people from local outdoor clubs. During the 70 year life of the old facility as many as 17,000 guests a year visited the original station.

    Perhaps in future visitors, including schoolchildren, will be once again be invited to visit the Chatsworth Station to learn about modern fish culture.

    ( Chatsworth staff at present; Manager John Sager, Operations Coordinator John Barrow and Hatchery Technicians Dan Helmka, Gerry Knapp, Tracy Kubesheskie and Glen Grateley)

    Grant Ferris
    Grey/Bruce Outdoors
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