The following post is contributed by the Coastal Conservation Association of Washington, an advocacy group for salmon, steelhead, and other Northwest fish, and member chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association.
After a record 176-day session, the Washington Legislature adjourned on July 10 after reaching agreement on a new $38 billion two-year state operating budget, a $16 billion transportation funding package, and a capital project budget. From the start of session to the time the final gavel came down, CCA Washington was working on behalf of recreational anglers and our fisheries. Here are highlights from key recreational angling issues:
WDFW Fee Increase/Budget
Heading into this session Governor Jay Inslee and WDFW proposed a license fee increase to address funding shortfalls at WDFW. At one point during the session, WDFW proposed a 22% surcharge on all recreational fishing licenses. CCA and our allies have focused on the need for any fee increase to be accompanied by policy reforms that recognize the economic and revenue benefits of recreational fisheries in the management of key species like salmon. The WDFW Commission adopted a budget policy expressing support for similar measures.
Ultimately, there were too many questions about WDFW’s proposal and key legislators opted to provide the agency additional state funding and require it to spend down a reserve account rather than adopt fee increase legislation. However, these temporary fixes will only last a year and WDFW will be back next session seeking a fee increase to shore up its budget. CCA will continue working with WDFW, the Governor, and Legislators to find a solution that meets the funding needs of our fisheries while also enhancing the value of recreational fishing through increased fishing opportunity and additional license sales.
Defending the Willapa Bay Reform Policy and Commission
In April and June, the Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted new landmark policies to reform the management of salmon in Willapa Bay. The long-term policy, adopted on June 13, will improve the conservation of wild Chinook populations and benefit recreational fisheries by putting limits on excessive gillnet harvest rates. For years, Willapa has been managed to benefit a select few, while the resource and recreational fisheries have suffered.
Representative Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen), Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, sought to reverse the policy at every turn. Within hours of the Commission’s adoption of the interim Willapa policy, Blake introduced legislation to cut the WDFW budget by $12 million under the guise of reducing sportfishing license fees. He didn’t stop there. On June 23, ten days after the Commission adopted a final Willapa policy, Blake worked to attach a policy rider to the state budget to effectively reverse the Commission’s Willapa policy. Thanks to your emails and phone calls we were able to turn back this rider and restore a proposed $400,000 cut to hatchery salmon production that was included in the House budget proposal.
The Commission, and Commissioner Miranda Wecker in particular, have been subjected to intimidation and scare tactics, including inflammatory signs that appeared near Wecker’s home in Naselle. They deserve our thanks and support for their service to our state’s fish and wildlife resources!
Additional Funding for New Deschutes River Hatchery
With so much negative news related to hatcheries and hatchery production, CCA was pleased to secure another $5 million in capital budget funding for the construction of a new Deschutes River hatchery in Tumwater. Once completed, this new, modern hatchery will benefit fisheries throughout the Puget Sound, including the south sound. In 2013, CCA worked with the legislature to provided $7.3 million towards the Deschutes project, bringing the total funding to about $12 million, or about 1/3 of the total estimated cost of construction. The legislature also provided funding for other key hatchery, access, and fishway projects, including:
– $2 million – Lake Rufus Woods Fishing Access
– $4 million – Kalama Falls Hatchery Renovation
– $5 million – Clarks Creek Hatchery Rebuild
– $15 million – Soos Creek Hatchery Renovation
– $700,000 – Samish Hatchery Intake
– $250,000 – Minter Creek Hatchery Intake
– $2.3 million – Marblemount Hatchery Intake
– $300 million – Culvert and Fish Passage Improvements (Transportation budget)
CCA appreciates the leadership of Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish), Chair of the House Capital Budget Committee, in helping to fund the Deschutes project and the rest of the hatchery investments!
Recreational Priority Legislation
Rep. Liz Pike (R-Camas) and Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center) introduced companion legislation to prioritize the economic and revenue benefits of recreational fishing in the management of key state fisheries (HB 1660 / SB 5844 ). The legislation largely grew out of meetings with local constituents, most of which were CCA members. Unfortunately, Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen), the Chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee refused to hold a hearing on HB 1660. SB 5844 did receive a hearing in the Senate Natural Resources & Parks Committee on February 18 thanks to its Chairman, Senator Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe). Both bills remain alive heading into the next session of the Legislature, although it is more likely that discussions about policies to recognize the economic and revenue benefits of recreational angling will make their way into the WDFW budget and fee increase discussion. We will keep you posted! In the meantime, if you are represented by one of the legislators that sponsored HB 1660 or SB 5844, please take a moment to email them to thank them for their support of the many benefits of recreational fishing. Their names and district numbers are listed in the chart below – as you will see there was strong bipartisan support for these proposals. You can click on their name to view their contact information. Sponsors of HB 1660 and SB 5844:
District 1, Rep. Derek Stanford – D
District 20, Rep. Ed Orcutt – R
District 5, Rep. Jay Rodne – R
District 21, Sen. Marco Liias – D
District 9, Rep. Joe Schmick – R
District 22, Rep. Chris Reykdal – D
District 12, Sen. Linda Evans Parlette – R
District 23, Sen. Christine Rolfes – D
District 13, Sen. Judy Warnick – R
District 24, Rep. Steve Tharinger – D
District 16, Sen. Mike Hewitt – R
District 26, Sen. Jan Angel – R
District 17, Rep. Paul Harris – R
District 29, Sen. Steve Conway – D
District 18, Sen. Ann Rivers – R
District 37, Rep. Eric Pettigrew – D
District 18, Rep. Liz Pike – R
District 39, Rep. Elizabeth Scott – R
District 18, Rep. Brandon Vick – R
District 44, Rep. Hans Dunshee – D
District 20, Sen. John Braun – R
District 46, Rep. Gerry Pollet – D
Forage Fish Legislation
SB 5166 requires WDFW to conduct a survey of surf smelt and sand lance spawning grounds throughout Puget Sound, including the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The survey must be completed by June 30, 2017. Also by June 30, 2017, WDFW must conduct a mid-water trawl survey throughout the Puget Sound to evaluate the prevalence of adults of all species of forage fish in order to be better manage and conserve forage fish species and the species that prey on them. CCA has a position statement in support of forage fish conservation and testified in favor of this bill. We would like to thank Senator Christine Rolfes (D -Bainbridge Island) for sponsoring the bill.
Outdoor Recreation Policy Position
SB 5843 establishes a State Lead on Economic Development and Outdoor Recreation within the Governor’s Officer. The Senior Policy Advisor must focus on promoting, increasing participation in, and increasing opportunities for outdoor recreation in Washington State. They will also be responsible for developing strategies for increasing the number of new jobs related to outdoor recreation; and strategies for increasing consumer spending connected to outdoor recreation. CCA testified in favor of this bill and how recreational fishing is an important part of our economy. The new policy level position in the Governor’s Office will allow us to elevate that conversation to even a higher level. We would like to thank Senators Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) and Linda Evans Parlette (R –Wenatchee) for their work on this bill.
Additional Notes of Appreciation
First of all, thanks for all that you do for our fisheries and for your support of CCA – it is what makes all of this possible.
In addition to the legislators listed above, we would also like to recognize a number of legislators for their support of recreational fishing in the development of the state operating budget:
Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-Covington)
Sen. Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe)
Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim)
Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia)
CCA members should be aware that through the expertise, diligence and leadership of our lobbyist, Scott Sigmon and our Fisheries Director, Heath Heikkila, we were able to achieve these and other accomplishments while also continuing to educate our elected officials about the conservation and economic value of recreational fishing and fishermen. These gentlemen not only bring their “A” game, but they truly care about us and the fish and bring a passion for our interests.
Legislative Building photo courtesy Tradnor (CC-BY-SA-3.0).