Fish ponds contribute to Alabama's freshwater ecology. They provide both recreational opportunities and environmental benefits. In some parts of the state, ponds serve as the only available fishing source. If you're interested in building a fish pond in Alabama, grants and assistance programs may help you.
Protecting Critically Endangered Fish
The Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has historically funded the stocking of private fish ponds for a variety of fish. However, in fiscal year 2010, the Fisheries Division suspended funding for such projects. Because of limited government resources, assistance is available only to fish ponds that provide a habitat for the state's most endangered fish. According to the Southeastern Fishes Council, endangered fish in Alabama include the Alabama cavefish, the Alabama sturgeon, the pygmy sculpin, the pygmy sunfish, and the vermilion darter. If you wish to receive financial assistance building your fish pond, plan to house at least one of these types of fish.
Alabama State Wildlife Grants Program
Depending upon the size and scale of your fish pond, you may apply to the Alabama State Wildlife Grants Program, a general conservation grant sponsored by the DCNR. This program funds projects that protect declining species and ecosystems but only on a large scale. If you have the capacity to build a large pond that provides a substantial habitat for some of the state's most critically endangered fish, you may qualify for funding from this program.
Landowner Incentive Program
The Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) is a federal program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that is administered at the state level though Alabama's DCNR. The program provides both technical and financial assistance to private landowners who help to conserve critically endangered species. LIP can provide up to 75 percent of a project's funding and was focusing its resources in 2011 in the Paint Rock, Cahaba, Choctawatchee and Coosa River basin and the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem. Alabama residents who own land outside of these areas are still eligible to apply.
Partners For Fish and Wildlife
A federal program administered jointly by Alabama's Soil and Water Conservation Committee and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Partners for Fish and Wildlife provides funding and assistance for private property owners who protect endangered or threatened species and wetlands on their land. A fish pond that contains either endangered fish or threatened plant material may qualify for assistance in this program. The property owner must agree to have the pond in place for a minimum of 10 years to qualify for funding. The application begins with a site visit from either Alabama's Soil and Water Conservation Committee or its Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.
In addition to funding, Alabama fish pond builders can also make use of free technical assistance from the state's DCNR. A team of Alabama's pond management biologists has produced several primers and literature on proper management of fish ponds. They occasionally provide free consultations and site visits upon request.
Jay Caulfield has been writing for more than 15 years, with published work in regional magazines in California, Washington, D.C. and Louisiana. He holds a bachelor's degree from University of California, Berkeley and currently lives in Los Angeles.