Administrative Civil Liability Settlement Agreement with California Department of Fish and Wildlife for the Hot Creek Hatchery, Mono County
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) owns and operates the Hot Creek Fish Hatchery, a cold water concentrated aquatic animal production facility located near the town of Mammoth Lakes. Wastewater from the hatchery is discharged to a tributary to Hot Creek, and to Hot Creek, both of which are waters of the United States.
CDFW is subject to $120,000 in mandatory minimum penalties for effluent violations that took place between June 1, 2009 and April 30, 2021. CDFW has proposed that the entire penalty be suspended upon completion of a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP). The SEP would involve installation of a water recirculation system at the Fish Springs Fish Hatchery, near Bishop. Water used at this hatchery is supplied by two groundwater production wells. For a large part of the year, the hatchery pumps at least 19 million gallons per day (mgd) of groundwater to support fish health, growth, and overall survival. CDFW proposes to install a modern recirculation system at the mid-point of the raceways at the hatchery. The system would remove water after being used by the fish in the upper 500 feet of the raceways, pass the water through an aeration/degassing tower, and return the water for use by fish in the lower 500 feet of raceways. The improved water quality for the lower section of the raceways would reduce the need for the addition of fresh groundwater into the raceways. This reduced groundwater use will increase the flow at Fish Springs, as well as benefit the regional groundwater table. CDFW has confirmed that it has dedicated a minimum of $1,000,000 to this project. The project has not yet begun.
The Lahontan Water Board’s Prosecution Team agreed to this proposal and released a tentative settlement agreement for a 30-day public comment period. No public comments were received. The Lahontan Water Board’s Advisory Team subsequently sent an “Information Request” to the Prosecution Team and CDFW. The parties replied with additional information regarding the proposed SEP.
On September 27, 2022, the Lahontan Water Board’s Executive Officer, acting on behalf of the Lahontan Water Board, signed the Settlement Agreement with the following stipulation: “Approved with the supplement to Attachment C of the Settlement Agreement specified in the August 19, 2022, Lahontan Waster Board Prosecution Team/California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Response to the Advisory Team’s Information Request regarding the Hot Creek Hatchery Proposed Settlement Agreement and Stipulation of Entry of Order, page 4.