Salmon aid checks to
World Photo by Susan Chambers
David Crane, owner of the salmon
troller Larry Boy, works on the
engine in his boat on Thursday
in Charleston. One of the
pistons in the engine broke
recently while he was returning
home from fishing in the
northern part of the state. He,
along with several other salmon
trollers from Oregon, applied
for funding from the state, made
available after a federal season
Nearly 300 commercial salmon
trollers will receive checks from
the state today or tomorrow -
interim compensation to help see the
industry through a season that was,
for the most part, nonexistent.
The National Marine Fisheries
Service closed most of the season
for trollers in Oregon and Northern
California to protect wild runs of
Klamath River fall Chinook, leaving
hundreds of fishermen wondering how
they were going to pay their bills.
In Oregon, the state stepped up with
$500,000 in direct aid made
available in June and another
possible $500,000 in September
through approval by the Legislative
Emergency Board, which meets when
the Legislature isn't in session.
The checks are disbursements from
the first $500,000. Some of the
checks will be bigger than expected;
others likely will be much less.
According to Gov. Ted Kulongoski's
office, 280 of the 360 applicants
will receive funds. The highest
check - or checks - was for $7,500.
One of the smallest checks was $75.
angry over the disparity. They're
also worried that it may cause
dissension among the fleet, on the
docks. It's something they'd hoped
to avoid since news first got out
that there would be no real season
“The intent was never for anyone to
get a big amount of money like
that,” Oregon Salmon Commission
member Jeff Reeves said. “The idea
was for equitable assistance.”
Commission members met with the
Oregon departments of Agriculture,
Administrative Services, Fish and
Wildlife and staff of the governor's
office in May and June to help
formulate eligibility requirements
to receive funding. The Department
of Agriculture was charged with
approving the applications;
Administrative Services would cut
commission, the rationale was
simple: If you fished, you got a
portion of the funds, and everyone
would get roughly the same amount.
Everyone was equally denied access
to fish, after all.
But the state is responsible to more
people than just the fishermen.
“We feel comfortable we were able to
do as the Legislature (E-board)
directed,” ODA Assistant Director
Dalton Hobbs said, noting that the
state is held accountable for
disbursing taxpayer dollars.
A committee of coastal officials and
members of the state agencies (see
sidebar) reviewed the applications.
The committee was guided by two
things, Hobbs said: the
administrative rules established to
conduct the business of determining
eligibility and directions from the
E-Board that said the state must be
sure it gets the funds to the
fishermen who need it most.
It's for those reasons that the
application forms included questions
including how much income a
fisherman received from other
sources and other fisheries; how
much was earned from fishing in
other states; which
already had been paid; and a section
for a statement of need in which
fishermen could describe their
particular circumstances. They were
all details the state said it needed
to pass muster with taxpayers.
But the details and misinformation
ended up skewing the results,
fishermen say, and it's likely those
most in need won't get the funds.
“Nobody working this was really
expecting that would be the case,”
Onno Husing, executive director of
the Oregon Coastal Zone Management
Association, said of the disparity
in the amount of the checks.
Husing worked closely with the
Oregon Salmon Commission during the
months leading up to the
applications being mailed out. He,
too, said he could understand the
need to keep the eligibility
requirement simple, but other things
“The Department of Ag was laboring
under the fact that the E-Board
placed some strings on the money,”
It's a nightmarish process, he said.
“The objective was to determine who
was the most neediest Š and we
realized that would be almost an
impossible task,” said Husing.
The application forms also asked
fishermen for copies of receipts for
survival suits, moorage fees,
license fees, vessel insurance, fire
extinguishers, vessel loans and
interest, haul-out costs, etc. Those
often are expensive items and are
fixed costs that most every troller
But a check for $75 doesn't even
cover license fees, which was one of
the eligibility requirements.
Another oddity that turned up was
that “the people who submitted large
amounts of receipts ended up getting
more money,” Husing said.
That, too, was never the intention,
Reeves, of Charleston, said.
Like other salmon commission members
on the northern coast, several port
outreach specialists, and other
fishing industry leaders, he advised
fishermen that they didn't have to
submit all of their receipts, but
just the major ones; enough to show
that they fished and had major
Everyone knew there was only
$500,000 available - not much in
terms of long-term industry
sustenance, but interim funding that
could bridge the gap until federal
funding was made available.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture
knew that, too, and reiterated that
in a letter from Director Katy Coba
to all the salmon permit holders to
whom applications were mailed.
“It is important to re-emphasize
that $500,000 is a limited amount of
money and does not address all of
the legitimate needs of fishermen or
their families. As an example, if
the department was to receive
applications from 300 boat owners
and expenses were reimbursed
equally, each boat owner would
receive approximately $1,600,” Coba
said in the letter.
That $1,600 is a far cry from
$7,500; most trollers figured
everyone would receive about $1,600,
give or take a few hundred dollars.
Husing said that during the previous
salmon disaster, in the 1990s, it
was nearly impossible to establish
objective criteria to determine who
had the most need for federal
And that's what appears to have
happened again, though on a smaller
The state did what it thought best,
he said. It was Gov. Kulongoski's
intention and the E-Board's
intention to help.
This first go-round can still prove
useful, Hobbs said.
“We've got a lot better idea of who
these people are,” Hobbs said. “It's
a great body of knowledge.”
Still, the salmon industry is
concerned about the next $500,000
and any federal money that might
come through. Will the results be
“There's not much chance of that,”
Husing, too, said that he
understands the fishermen's
“Katy Coba and I talked today and
she understands that there are a lot
of people that are very concerned.
And she agrees that if there is
going to be another $500,000, that
they will go back to the drawing
board and do things differently,”
Husing said. “But let's remember
that the ODA and Katy Coba are
friends of this industry Š and we
should put this particular
disappointment in context. They are,
again, our allies.
“And heaven knows this industry
needs our allies.”
The members of the review committee
- Dalton Hobbs, assistant director,
Oregon Department of Agriculture
- Lauren Henderson, assistant,
- Kris Kautz, deputy director,
Oregon Department of Administrative
- Ralph Brown, Curry County
- Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, state
- Deborah Boone, D-Cannon Beach,
- Jay Rasmussen, Oregon State
University Sea Grant Extension Agent
- John Seabourne, commercial fish
information specialist, Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife