About nine years ago, groundbreaking and initial construction was started on our current visitor center. It was a big deal, and the result of many years of petitioning and planning. The first shovelfuls of earth with its ceremony and celebration drew a large crowd, including congress members, U.S. Fish & Wildlife leaders and many others.

About nine years ago, groundbreaking and initial construction was started on our current visitor center. It was a big deal, and the result of many years of petitioning and planning. The first shovelfuls of earth with its ceremony and celebration drew a large crowd, including congress members, U.S. Fish & Wildlife leaders and many others.

The design process included many energy efficient features, and the goal was to make this as “green” a building as was feasible. Once completed, the visitor center was officially appraised by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system. This is a set of rating methods for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes and neighborhoods worldwide, not just in the states. Buildings can qualify for four levels of certification: Certified (40–49 points), Silver (50–59), Gold (60–79), and Platinum (80 or more). To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to attain different levels of accreditation. We are very proud to have achieved the Gold level, a first for the federal fish hatchery system!

So what did we earn our points for? Under the current LEED, there are 100 possible base points distributed across six categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation in Design. Bonus points are also available for Regional Priority and Innovative Design features. While I invite you to read the display in the hallway of the center, we have earned credits for exterior as well as interior details, building materials used, energy efficiency and water efficiency features, and have received national awards as well.

LEED stands for green building leadership. LEED is transforming the way we think about how buildings and communities are designed, constructed, maintained and operated across the globe. The goal is for LEED certified buildings to save money and resources and have a positive impact on the health of occupants, while promoting renewable, clean energy. As the acting Director of the Service stated, “This is not a hatchery of the past; this is a hatchery of the future. The improvements to the hatchery’s visitor center are an investment on environmental stewardship and local economic growth.”

Thanks to the geothermal wells tapping into the cooler temperatures underground, our center has efficiently chilled air that is oh so pleasant compared to the outrageous heat outdoors of late. If summer’s sweltering temperatures have you melting, stop by for some resourceful cooling soon. We’d love to share some of that refreshing ahhhhh with you!

And we haven’t stopped there. Past projects have looked for solar energy to help with our sturgeon facilities, and we are always trying to find more ways to improve our energy footprint. The latest ventures include more photovoltaic panels to offset electrical use here. Hopefully we can find some funding and systems that will work for our future needs. As always, we hope to continue LEEDing the way in fisheries for our country!

Bruce Hallman writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.