BP Disaster Environment Pensacola

Hayward uses Upwords newsletter to challenge WEAR TV report on fish hatchery

January 7, 2014

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward’s thin skin was exposed again this week when he used his office’s digital newsletter to go after Jan. 2 report that aired on WEAR TV that questioned the fish hatchery the mayor’s wants to have built on the city’s waterfront next to the Community Maritime Park.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Wildlife Foundation of Florida want to develop the $19 million hatchery. Hayward will lease them land on Bruce Beach for a dollar a year.

In recent months, several locals have begun to question the project both from economic development and environmental perspectives. In 2013, Hayward pushed to renegotiate city contracts at Pitts Slip and Maritime stadium. However, he is ready to give away more waterfront property for only a $1 for a project that only creates about a dozen jobs.

One of the main functions of the facility will be to breed and release fish into the water. Environmentalist Christian Wagley has questioned the real benefit of such hatcheries to the our environment.

“A number of us have done research on fish hatcheries around the country,” Wagley told WEAR, “And it’s really a mixed record. They’ve had a lot of issues where the hatcheries haven’t worked out at all.”

The Louisiana Wildlife Federation investigated the fish hatcheries proposed for Louisiana and issued a resolution against them.

To date, Hayward has held no public forums on the project, even though he has been negotiating the land giveaway since 2011. As has often been the case with the first-term mayor  when his actions have been questioned, Hayward doubled down on the hatchery with his newsletter:

Last week, local TV station WEAR ran a story about the proposed Gulf Coast Marine Fisheries Hatchery and Enhancement Center, which I’ve been working to bring to Pensacola’s Bruce Beach. I strongly support this project as a key component of our economic and environmental recovery from the damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In addition to the 12-15 permanent jobs created by this facility, an additional 20-30 construction jobs will be created, representing more than 1,900 worker-days. Once online, the facility is also expected to create new jobs in the commercial fishing and tourism industries.

WEAR’s story raised a number of questions about the effectiveness and impact of the proposed facility. Unfortunately, while my office shared all the facts with WEAR’s reporter, a lot of important information didn’t make it into the report. I know that it can be challenging to fit everything into a two-minute story, but it’s important to me that our citizens are well-informed, so I wanted to take a moment to share the facts with you directly.

While WEAR’s story focused on the fish hatchery component, there’s a lot more to this project. The proposed Hatchery and Enhancement Center would be a flagship facility which would help diversify our downtown waterfront, provide a destination for visitors, and further bolster Pensacola’s growing reputation as a center for research and innovation. An integrated coastal habitat plant production pond will provide source plants for ecosystem restoration. In partnership with the University of West Florida, the hatchery will conduct research to support the Gulf Coast ecosystem. Additionally, there will be educational opportunities provided for students throughout the region, and the center will also recognize the history and heritage of the Bruce Beach site.

Many of the technical and environmental questions that have been raised have been addressed in considerable detail in the NRDA draft restoration plan and environmental impact report, available online at the Gulf Spill Restoration Portal. As we examine the project, it’s also important to note that the Hatchery and Enhancement Center is one of more than 40 interconnected restoration projects currently being considered, including millions in funding for seagrass recovery, living shoreline projects, and more. Taken separately, none of these projects is a cure-all, but together, these projects will have a tremendous impact toward restoring the Gulf Coast ecosystem.

Those who know me know that I am a strong believer in doing due diligence. The multiple federal and state agencies which comprise the NRDA trustees – including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Agriculture – are thoroughly vetting each of these projects both separately and as a whole. Scientists and other experts are working to ensure that the projects selected represent our best opportunity to restore both our natural resources and coastal economy.

The mayor did not set up a public meeting for citizens to ask him about the hatchery. Instead he invited them to attend the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trustees meeting that will be held at 6 pm on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at the Pensacola Bay Center.

“I’m extremely excited about our proposed Hatchery and Enhancement Center and the tremendous benefits it will provide for Pensacola and the greater Gulf Coast community,” he said in the city newsletter. “I hope you share my excitement, and I’ll continue to update you on this project and others as we work together to take our community upward in 2014.”



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  • jeeperman January 10, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Maybe this is another GB/FEMA/FISHING PIER funds grab.
    Get the funds for one thing then decide not to go ahead with what got the funds and spend the funds on other projects instead.

  • Talbot Wilson January 10, 2014 at 8:06 am

    Leasing that waterfront property for $1 per year… I’ve been told by a council member that the City’s allocation of land for this use @ $1/year is extremely inconsistent with recent legislation associated with enhancing our downtown and city.

    What about using some of the vacant space in the Port of Pensacola ? Would changing to a better location cause the city to loose the project?

  • Butcherpen January 9, 2014 at 7:52 am


    We should review the progress & success of this endevour by our next door neighbor

  • jeeperman January 8, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Not going to comment if the Hatchery is a viable endeavor or not.
    One thing for sure is we the taxpayer, will be saddled with operating and maintenance costs for years to come.
    And major rebuilding costs when the next cane rolls in at that location.
    The fish nor the visitor need the view.

  • Dale Parker January 8, 2014 at 1:12 am

    You could not find but a small group of people and Studerites who even remotely wanted the YMCA in that park. Most realized that it would have been a colossal waste of taxpayer property along with the fact that it simply was not a convenient fit for that parcel.

    ALL that this small group of people could see is that it would be in the park. No one cared that elderly who frequent the Y would have to hike great distances in the rain and cold to get to it. No one cared that handicap would have access issues. No one cared that the CRA and City would have lost 100’s of thousands in property taxes. The list goes on and on and on.

    I would contend that the YMCA risked alienating itself and losing members if it went in there. In short, it was short sighted and stupid to put it there.

    I agree whole heartedly that the CMPA has screwed up marketing the park, but I am not convinced that this was more about desire than failure. This group of idiots never even plotted the parcels that they were selling. Never marketed it. It was insane… it would be like having 30 acres set aside for a subdivision and leaving it wooded…. where is the roads, infrastructure, lot sizes, is it a corner, or cul-de-sac lot who would know. It is stupid and no one does that… except for the CMPA.

    I am also NOT convinced that leasing prime city waterfront in light of the fact that the City is broke, the CRA is broke for 1 dollar a year and putting a non-taxable entity there. Again, it seems like a colossal waste no matter what your belief is in hatcheries. OF WHICH… adding Snapper to the Gulf of Mexico from a hatchery would be likened to adding 2 deer to the state of Alabama in hunting season. And… to assert that it would add commercial and recreational fishing jobs is laughable.

  • joe January 7, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    The Pcola Mayor is thin-skinned. Rick doesn’t have to prove that comment. One would have to have his head buried in the sand to not see that Hayward hides behind memos and press releases. All good comments here. The hatchery is a good idea but prime waterfront doesn’t make sense and entering into such an endeavor without including the marine biologists at the University is pure lunacy.

  • skip vogelsang January 7, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    If CBRE can not come up with a better use for that prime piece of waterfront than a hatchery that employees 18 persons for $1 income per year then what use are they??? The YMCA could have done that and more. Come to think of it the Maritime land is still sitting vacant, generating expense but no income and with no progress from CBRE a year later. And if that is not disappointing enough the YMCA has been offered donated property at the PNJ site which will take that property off of the tax roles and reduce income to the city. Well done CMPA and Charles Bare.

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