Hatchery manager Patrick Nero is holding up coastal cutthroat trout. | Photo by Michael Weber

Fisheries hatches more than fish

HSU fish hatchery hopes to expand legacy with new projects. OR Hatchery projects seek to cut energy use by half and grow produce using fish waste.

During the Great Depression a small college in Humboldt County built a fish hatchery. The hatchery’s popularity among students gave rise to a blossoming natural resources program.

Today, Humboldt State is known for its natural resource and science programs, according to the California State University website. This wasn’t always the case.

In Richard Ridenhour’s book “Natural resources at Humboldt State College: the first 30 years” the author wrote that in 1939 Humboldt State College had under 300 students and had no natural resource classes.

After the construction of the campus fish hatchery in 1940 Humboldt State was the first college in the nation to have a fish hatchery on campus and that success and popularity of hatchery classes led to the expansion of other natural resource and science programs.

Andrew Kinziger is the current chair of the Department of Fisheries Biology at Humboldt State. According to Kinziger there aren’t many universities that have a fish hatchery that can provide hands on instruction and experience.

“It’s one of the keystone facilities for the university,” Kinziger said. “It’s a wonderful resource and we’re fortunate to have it.”

Kinziger said that Fisheries department students and faculty interact with the hatchery on a daily basis.

Patrick Nero has been the hatchery manager at the facility for about 11 months. Nero said the hatchery raises native steelhead and native coastal cutthroat trout. According to Nero, fish from the hatchery are used purely for research and aren’t eaten or stocked.

Nero said that the hatchery recently implemented an aquaponics project on the facility. Nero’s goal is to produce something valuable with water discharged from the fish system. The discharged water is full of fish by-product, including lots of nitrogen, and acts as a fertilizer.

Currently the hatchery is growing lettuce, and marigold to transplant in other areas of the campus with discharged water from the hatchery.

“We’re finding ways to use the discharge,” Nero said. “It’s been successful so far.”

Michael Academia, a Fisheries Biology major, is a student employee at the hatchery and has worked there since April. Some of Academia’s responsibilities at the facility include feeding the fish, checking the water quality and back flushing the system, which involves pumping in fresh water to hatchery fish tanks.

Academia said over the summer Nero had asked him to look into ways to work with the Humboldt Energy Independence Fund to improve the facility’s energy efficiency.

According to the student run Humboldt Energy Independence Fund website their mission is to create a more sustainable campus by promoting energy independence. Notable projects from the organization include the solar panel array on top of Music A building and the relighting of the Redwood Bowl with efficient bulbs.

The Humboldt Energy Independence Fund is funded with a small portion of student’s tuition each semester. According to their website, about $13 from each student per semester goes to the organization to be implemented on renewable energy projects on campus.

Academia said initially he was looking at adding solar panels to the hatchery facility but students from the Humboldt Energy Independence Fund said that the hatchery’s energy costs were too high and that inefficient energy draws on the facility should be addressed first.

This led Academia to look at alternative ways at maximizing facility energy efficiency. Academia worked with a Building Engineer from Facilities Management, Jeff Robison, to conduct an energy analysis on the facility.

The analysis concluded that replacing dated facility equipment could reduce energy usage by 50 percent and save over $14,000 per year.

Academia’s proposed project would replace the existing water pumps and electric motor system with new energy efficient models.

Currently water flow control for the hatchery system is manually controlled and requires two pump motors to run at full capacity for 24 hours a day. The updated pump motors along with an intelligent variable control system, which will automatically control the flow of water through the system would cut energy usage roughly by half.

“We’re trying to integrate more than fish,” Academia said.

Academia’s project is in the beginning stages of the approval process by the Humboldt Energy Independence Fund. The organization is currently looking at the feasibility of the project to see if the project can be done.

“We’re trying to be green pioneers of raising fish,” Academia said.

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