The Wahkiakum County Eagle

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Council OKs net pen permit with 3-2 vote

Published on Wed, Dec 18, 2013 by Rick Nelson

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    The Cathlamet town council supported a plan to moor fish rearing net pens at the town dock and acted on other business at their monthly meeting on Monday.


    It was the last meeting for Council Members Ruth Doumit and Bob Rendler and Mayor George Wehrfritz, all of whom didn't seek re-election. Their successors, Mayor-elect Dale Jacobson and Council Members-elect Andy Lea and David Goodroe attended the meeting and participated in a closed door executive session about potential litigation.


    The council also put finishing touches on ordinances raising the rate for excess water consumption, restoring traditional sewer and water connection fees, setting limits for deposits of liquids with high acidity or alkalinity, and setting the 2014 budgets.


    The council approved by a 3-2 vote a conditional use permit for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) for mooring fish rearing pens at the town dock.


    The department and Wahkiakum County Marine Resource Committee have proposed locating the pens in the Cathlamet channel to provide a stock of spring chinook that could be caught by gillnetters in the future. The department believes the Cathlamet Channel will be classified as a side channel of the mainstem Columbia. Gillnetting will be prohibited in the mainstem in the future but allowed in side channels. The department wants to place juvenile spring chinook in the pens with the intention that they'll imprint the location as their destination when they return as adults.



    Council Members Wally Wright and Dick Swart opposed the proposal.


    The pens will block access to the dock for several months, Wright said, and that could impact a number of vessels that would bring visitors and business to town.


    He also questioned the idea that the fish will imprint on location; instead the pens should be located near the mouths of Birnie or Abe creeks, he said.


    "I just think it's a stupid place to put it," he said.


    "I don't care for the way this has been rolled onto the town," Swart said. "I don't think this is in the best interest of the town."


    Wehrfritz and WDFW hatchery program supervisor Aaron Roberts supported the proposal.


    Wehrfritz, who has been a member of the Marine Resource Committee, said the proposal is an effort to aid the commercial fishing industry, and some gillnetters oppose it, others support it. The dock would be free during the boating season, he added, for the net pens are to be removed at the end of April.


    "The cost of trying and failing is better than the cost of not trying," he said, "so, I advocate we move ahead."


    Roberts agreed that the site may not be the best for imprinting, but it has the advantage of being out of the main currents.


    He added that he had surveyed the Washington side of the Columbia and found very few sites for net pens. Abe Creek is a seasonal creek, he added, and the currents are strong there.


    The plan is an attempt to supplement gilletting, he said.


    "We've looked elsewhere on the Washington side for a site like Deep River (which is a net pen site)," he said. "This is a reasonable attempt."


    In the voting, Swart and Wright opposed approval of the conditional use permit, and Doumit, Rendler and Hannah Booth-Watts favored approval.



    In other business, the council approved 2014 budgets. Clerk Treasurer Tina Schubert said the town should start the year with $50,000 cash on hand, up from $25,000 expected earlier in the fall. Budgets total $8.2 million.