October 1, 2012 | Vol. 30, No. 43

Lame Ducks and Anglers

In a presumed bid to curry favor with sport fishermen, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has asked the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to ban commercial gillnets on the main stem of the Columbia River (see reader’s comments on pages 10 and 11 of the print version of the October 2012 Fishermen's News).

Despite the many concerns about the Kitzhaber plan among Washington State Columbia River gillnetters, the plan is moving ahead. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has agreed to consider it, as has the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, and a panel of commissioners from both states met in late September and will meet in Salem on October 22 to discuss implementation of the plan.

We asked several Washington State lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, to comment on the plan’s closing of the valuable resource to family wage- earners who harvest a sustainable product and live and work in Washington State. Among those approached were two candidates for Governor: Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna, as well as Washington’s current Governor, Christine Gregoire.

Gregoire’s office issued a statement noting that Washington State is not bound by any policy changes set by Gov. Kitzhaber, but “the Governor is watching this situation closely and remains in close contact with the director of Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

When pressed for an answer to the question of Governor Gregoire’s position on closing the main stem of the lower Columbia River to Commercial gill nets, the response was that her office is still “collecting facts and learning more about the proposal.”

Although the Governor’s answer didn’t actually contain anything of substance, at least her office paid lip service to her constituents along the Columbia. The two Candidates for Governor of the State of Washington, current Attorney General Rob McKenna and retired Congressman Jay Inslee, had nothing to say to their potential constituents, preferring instead to let lame duck Governor Gregoire and Oregon Governor Kitzhaber determine the future of the families and businesses that rely on the Columbia River commercial fishery.

One politician who is not afraid to make his feelings known is Wahkiakum County commissioner Dan Cothren, who spoke passionately against the Kitzhaber plan at a recent hearing in Olympia.

At the meeting, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Regional Director Guy Norman described Washington State’s implementation of the Kitzhaber plan, the adoption of which, by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, is scheduled for December. Apparently, the Governor’s office is unaware that the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is in favor of, and moving forward with, the Kitzhaber plan. Commissioner Cothren noted that upon implementation of the plan, families would move away, property values would plummet and the small vibrant communities in Wahkiakum County would be little better than ghost towns. He told the commission that they were “not looking at the long-term effect on the small communities” in his district.

Neither, apparently, are the two prospective candidates for Governor, neither of which has responded at press time to the concerns of the Columbia River fishermen.

Perhaps Commissioner Cothren should run for Governor.

While the implementation is set for December, the General Election is in November. If you live in Washington State and would like to contact your future governor, Rob McKenna’s campaign can be reached at 425-449-8244 and Jay Inslee’s campaign can be reached at 206-452-1943.