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The state's Division of Wildlife Resources has announced plans for doubling production of fish at the hatchery that was established here in 1940.

State fisheries chief Joe Valentine said the division will spend between $3 million and $4 million on updating and expanding the hatchery to increase the capacity from its current 60,000 pounds to 120,000 pounds of trout, which will be planted in the state's streams and lakes.The division is purchasing 50 adjacent acres for use in the expansion, Valentine said. He added that the number of rearing ponds - originally 19 small ones and three large ones - will be increased, considerable work on the penstock will be undertaken and modern fish-growing technology will be introduced.

The project is scheduled for completion in 1993.

The Big Springs area southwest of Fountain Green in the Sanpitch Mountains provides the hatchery with an adequate year-round supply of water.

The hatchery was completed in 1940 as a WPA project and, according to the records, planted "in the streams each year about 100,000 legal-size fish."

In addition to the hatchery, the Big Springs penstock provides the water that operates a small hydroelectric plant. It is also a main source of culinary and irrigation water for the area.

Valentine said a bypass will divert water from the penstock to the hatchery and then return it to the irrigation system.

The Big Springs is one of central Utah's prime historic sites. Its stream was first encountered by the Sanpete Valley's pioneer vanguard who struggled up Salt Creek Canyon to the crest and then down into the valley in November 1849 to establish a settlement at the foot of Temple Hill in Manti.

"The Big Springs have produced more than power, green fields and trout," a local history buff said. "They've also produced reams of legends since the pioneers stopped at the crossing of the stream to water their teams in '49."