Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber's proposal last week to address salmon allocation and related issues created some surprise and dismay on the Washington side of the Columbia River.
Briefly, Kitzhaber proposed moving gillnetting into the select fishing areas such as Deep River and Young's Bay, giving recreational anglers a majority of run harvest allocations, and allowing the developing alternative gear fisheries on the mainstem of the river (see adjacent story for more detail).
Local fishers fear the plan, if implemented, would have an adverse financial impact on their industry. Wahkiakum County officials are concerned Washington officials may follow suit and adopt a plan which doesn't benefit communities along the river.
And the director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a statement calling for the two states to continue working together for established goals.
Commercial fishers dismayed
The Kitzhaber plan has many concerns for commercial fishers, said Skamokawa resident Irene Martion, who with her husband, Kent, operates a commercial fishing business and is active in regional fishery issues.
Select areas are already fully used, Martin said. There had been a study of suitable waters when the select area program, and those which were suitable are being used.
"I don't know where the governor is thinking on this," she said. "Certainly, on the Washington shore, there aren't any more that lend themselves to select area fisheries."
Another aspect of Kitzhaber's proposal would allow continued commercial fishing on the main stem but with new, alternative methods such as beach and purse seining.
The proposal would also give harvest priority to recreational anglers and allow commercial fishers to go to work after recreational anglers had achieved their majority share of a salmon run.
That would most likely be economically unfeasible, Martin said, for the commercial boats would come on the water at the end of a run. Commercial gear is designed to fish at the peak of a run when most hatchery fish are present.
"It would be an economic downgrade," she said. "I don't see his solution being terribly feasible."
The proposal also doesn't mesh with the Bi-State Salmon Recovery Plan being developed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, she said. Martin is a member of the Lower Columbia Salmon Recovery Board and has read the Bi-State plan to develop comments in the public review process.
"From my own perspective and not speaking for the board, there may be contradictions," she said. "There needs to be a stakeholder process.
County commissioners concerned
Wahkiakum County commissioners discussed the issue briefly Tuesday and were concerned Kitzhaber had started a political process that would spread to Washington and have adverse impacts on the commercial fishing industry.
Commissioner Dan Cothren said the District 19 legislative delegation needs to intervene and make sure the proposal doesn't become a major issue for Washington Democrats.
"I have stated to our legislative people, we have a Democratic governor and Democratic legislators, that this party line needs to stop. They need to look at their constituency out here," he said.
"Here we go again. It's going to come here. She (Governor Chris Gregoire) is probably going to follow suit. These guys need to buckle up . . .
"What I'm saying to our legislators is you really need to hammer that thing . . . Don't go party line with this. They have to be held accountable for what happens to the rural communities."
Commissioners also linked the Kitzhaber proposal to an initative on the Oregon ballot that would ban gillnetting in Oregon waters.
"I'm concerned about the gillnet thing; isn't there a provision that Oregon consumers can't buy gillnet caught fish from Washington," Brady said.
"Even Indians wouldn't be able to sell in Oregon," said Commissioner Lisa Marsyla.
Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson issued a statement August 10, the day after Kitzhaber's became public. The statement noted that the two states have worked together for nearly a century under congressional authority to manage fisheries.
"We continue to believe that any effective long-term management plan must be developed by the two states working together, and that it must:
--"Include jointly developed conservation objectives;
--"Respect treaty Indian fishing rights and provide for close coordination with tribal fishery managers;
--"Provide for shared hatchery production goals;
--"Contain harvest management objectives for both commercial and recreational fisheries, recognizing their economic importance to both states; and
--"Ensure the two states continue to have reciprocal regulations and concurrent enforcement authority.
"We agree with Governor Kitzhaber that Columbia River fisheries management is very complex and requires the states to balance the legitimate needs and interests of many important groups and organizations. We respect the objectives he expresses in his letter, but are not bound by them."