Hatchery at Civil War site might reopen

MILLEN, Ga. --- In all the hoopla surrounding last week's unveiling of Civil War artifacts from the site of Confederate prison stockade Camp Lawton, another big story was largely overlooked.


The archeological site within Magnolia Springs State Park sits partly within a closed-down U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service fish hatchery that -- until recently -- nobody wanted.

Now that the area has become a nationally known Civil War site, however, the agency's headquarters is taking another look -- and could launch steps to reopen the facility as early as 2011.

"Right now the service has 14 operating fish hatcheries in the southeast region, and getting this one open again would be the 15th," said Linda Kelsey, assistant fisheries director for the agency's 10-state southeast region.

The Bo Ginn National Fish Hatchery was built in 1950 and originally called the Millen National Fish Hatchery.

For decades, it provided sportfish for lakes across the region.

In 1996, however, it was shuttered by federal budget cuts. Since the Fish & Wildlife Service could not keep it open, it was taken over by Georgia, which managed the property and its popular aquarium, but could not afford to continue to operate the hatchery.

Last year, as Georgia's Department of Natural Resources endured its own budget cuts, the aquarium was again scheduled for closure, but was rescued -- and kept open -- under a cooperative agreement with the Jenkins County Development Authority.

"We already know it needs a lot of work, repairs to roofs and things that need to be done to ponds that haven't been operated in many, many years," Kelsey said.

Federal authorities estimate it will take $8.3 million to get the facility up and running again, and could require an annual operating budget of around $2.8 million.

"The service is expecting to bring Bo Ginn back into operation starting with spring of 2011, but that is pending the appropriations we receive," she said. "At this point, we may not get the full amount we need to bring it back online, but there are some things we can start doing with the appropriations we do have."

In addition to serving as a tourist draw that will dovetail nicely with the archeological programs and the state park, the hatchery holds great potential to serve additional needs beyond the regular program of producing sportfish for stocking programs.

"One of the purposes that's being looked at is a refuge for imperiled aquatic species," Kelsey said. "At this time, though, we don't know what species we would hold there. A lot of this is still being looked at."

The same bountiful springs that prompted the construction of the Confederate Army's Camp Lawton in 1864 also spawned the creation of a national fish hatchery there in 1950.

The springs provide millions of gallons of fresh water daily, which makes the area suitable for new programs that will coexist with ongoing archeological work.

Future plans could include new office buildings and interpretive display areas for some of the Civil War artifacts being recovered, Kelsey said.

CRACKERNECK OPEN: Aiken County's Crackerneck Wildlife Management Area will be open for scouting and fishing on Saturdays in September. No weapons will be allowed.

Crackerneck includes 10,470 acres owned by the U.S. Department of Energy and is in Aiken County along the Savannah River south of the town of Jackson, off S.C. 125. Access is through the check station gate off Brown Road. Hunters will be able to scout prior to hunts in October.

For a detailed map of the Crackerneck, contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources office in Aiken County at (803) 725-3663. You can also request the map by e-mail. Please include your name and postal mailing address and e-mail it to caudellm@dnr.sc.gov.

DOVE SEASONS: You can tell fall is approaching when we start getting e-mails asking for dove season dates.

So here they are.

In Georgia, the statewide seasons are Sept. 4-19; Oct. 9-17; and Nov. 25 to Jan. 8. Limit is 15 birds per day with a 30-bird possession limit.

South Carolina seasons are Sept. 4-6 (noon until sunset); Sept. 7-Oct. 9; Nov. 20-27; and Dec. 21-Jan. 15. Legal hunting hours, except for Sept. 4-6, are from 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset. The daily bag limit is 15 birds per day.