The future for some of Kansas’ most imperiled aquatic species got brighter this week.
The Kansas Aquatic Biodiversity Center (KABC) at the Farlington Fish Hatchery in southeast Kansas opened. More than 60 people attended the opening ceremony for the facility, which culminated more than 10 years of planning and work.
The KABC is operated by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT). It is part of a program to propagate imperiled aquatic wildlife for reintroduction into areas where they have had serious population declines due to human activities and other factors. It will also be a holding facility for animals in immediate peril due to a decline in the quality of their habitat. In the next few months, KABC staff will work to propagate common, non-imperiled animals to develop procedures and get the rearing systems up and running. Once the systems are ready, KABC staff will begin propagating a few select species that have been determined by KDWPT to be important to restoring existing populations.
Robin Jennison, KDWPT Secretary, told a crowd at the event the facility could have a quick impact by raising and releasing aquatic animals currently on a threatened or endangered species list. Jennison said the center will play a huge role in the recovery of species in future disaster areas, such as where a chemical spill has impacted miles of a particular stream. As well as a place to take survivors of the disaster, the center could also propagate replacement animals far faster than the species could reproduce naturally. KABC will also participate in research projects pertaining to such aquatic animals.
Dan Mosier, KABC manager, said building the facility required the collaboration of various state and federal agencies. KDWPT, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) contributed to the $853,000 construction cost. KDHE provided more than half, largely with funds collected from mitigation agreements with corporations responsible for past ecological disasters. Such funding will help support the center in the future, too.
“KDHE is proud to partner with the KDWPT on this crucial aquatic biodiversity facility. This facility will allow for critical research and production work with species that are in need of conservation,” said Leo Henning, KDHE director of the division of environment.
Mosier said KABC is currently working on a research project concerning alligator snapping turtles with a Missouri university.
The Farlington Fish Hatchery is located at 101 Hatchery Rd., Farlington, which is below the Crawford State Fishing Lake Dam in Crawford County. The KABC will not be open to the public, but tours may be given by prior arrangement by calling 620-362-4166.