Mono County officials said this week their partner at the Conway Ranch, the Inland Aquaculture Group, is mistaken in its claims that the county is getting in the way of a successful fishery on the county-owned property.
The nonprofit IAG has been struggling at the ranch against bad weather and a slow bureaucratic regulatory process for the past seven years as it tries to make the Conway Ranch into a self-sustaining fish hatchery.
But a letter from IAG to the county a week ago stating that IAG was running out of patience and claiming it was being prevented from fulfilling the terms of its contract with the county caught the county by surprise.
“We thought we were working through the issue they are concerned about,” said county counsel Marshall Rudolph last week. He also said many of the statements in the letter were inaccurate, especially the claim that IAG could not raise fish on the property due to regulatory problems.
This week, the county sent a response to IAG’s letter asking for a face-to-face meeting and refuting much of the nonprofit’s claims.
John Frederickson, the president of IAG, said last week he had no intention of suing the county, but Rudolph said he was wary of the letter.
“It sure looks like the prelude to a lawsuit,” he said then.
The meeting between the two entities is expected to take place in the next few weeks.
Former aquaculturist Tim Alpers, of the well-known Alpers Trout trophy trout brand, started IAG. Alpers recently divested himself of all his interests in the group and is now running for Mono County District 3 Supervisor against incumbent Vikki Bauer.
It was Alpers dream to make the Conway Ranch a sustainable fish hatchery that could some day take the place of the state’s rapidly dwindling fish stocking program and make the county completely self-sufficient in terms of fish stocking capabilities.
That dream has faced many challenges, not least of which was a fish kill last winter that did $50,000 worth of damage to IAG trout supplies. That could have been prevented, IAG said, with a pipeline to protect the fish’s water supply; a pipeline that was delayed due to bureaucratic wrangling.