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RH Fish Hatchery more energy efficient after renovations
Striped Bass Eggs Just Before Hatch.jpg
Striped bass eggs just before hatching at the Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery. Photo provided.

This is the first of two-part story on the Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery.

The state record for a striped bass is 63 pounds and owned by two men, neither from around here.

But the fish they caught got their start in life at the Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery, the place where since 1968 more than 800 million striped and hybrid bass began their journey into life, and into the state’s reservoirs and rivers.

The hatchery, which has been in Richmond Hill since the 1930s, recently under-went a renovation that cost about $3 million, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The bulk of that money came from mitigation funds through the Savannah River Harbor Expansion, the rest from state funding.

Among the upgrades was a regional administrative facility, overseen by Regional Supervisor Tim Barrett, and a new state of the art hatchery, run by fisheries biologist Chris Harper.

Harper, who grew up in Richmond Hill and started working at the hatchery as soon as he could, is a graduate of Armstrong State and has a master’s from Clemson.

He said the renovations were aimed at not only improving the hatchery operations, but “we wanted it to be something that the people of Richmond Hill would be proud of.”

Among the upgrades are new water chillers and a heat exchanger system that reduces water use and is more energy efficient; increased egg incubation capacity by 25 percent; a drive through facility that will make it easier to load or unload fish, reducing stress; a 33 percent increase in the ability to spawn shad; additional tanks for spawning; a doubling of the hatchery’s “wet lab” space; and an auto alarm to let employees know if pumps fail or water levels drop below certain levels.

Up next: How the fish are hatched, and more.

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