renew push for federal aid
CHARLESTON - At the same time
commercial salmon trollers were discussing the
past - the season closure during the summer of
2006 - they also were making plans for the
Roughly 50 fishermen attended an Oregon Salmon
Commission meeting in Charleston on Friday to
recap the disbursement of state funds, talk
about potential federal money and propose an
option for a 2007 fishery.
Oregon Department of Agriculture Assistant
Director Dalton Hobbs said the distribution of
money from the state - $1 million total in
direct aid to fishermen in two disbursements -
He also acknowledged that
getting that money to the fleet didn't go as
simply as had been projected. Some of the
problems during the first disbursement were
alleviated during the second go-round, but there
still were issues.
One was that the agency distributed all the
money, leaving none left to provide for the 25
to 50 permit holders who appealed their
disbursements. Another $50,000 likely would be
needed to accurately compensate any successful
“It's not really a lot of money, compared to
what you would have gotten if you had been
allowed to fish,” Hobbs said.
Still, for the few fishermen who didn't receive
a second check or who received very little state
aid, it was small consolation.
Now the industry has its sights set on federal
Hobbs said the consensus at the state is that
the 2007 will be nearly as dire as this one.
“This isn't just a one-season
problem,” he said.
That prompted several trollers to inquire about
federal funding: Will there be any? they asked.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez
declared the fishery a disaster in August, but
budget bills that could approve any funds to the
fleet were tied up through the end of the 109th
Congress. Despite last-minute attempts by
congressional delegations from California and
Washington, no appropriations bills were passed
before Congress adjourned in 2006.
But West Coast lawmakers already began once
again to push for money shortly after returning
to Washington, D.C., after the holidays.
In a bipartisan effort, Rep. Peter DeFazio,
D-Ore., and several other representatives and
senators introduced legislation in the House and
Senate on Thursday that would provide $60.4
million in disaster aid for the commercial
salmon fleet and communities. They also sent a
letter to House and Senate leadership,
requesting their assistance in getting the
disaster aid via any legislative vehicle
possible, according to a press release. Both
Oregon senators, Democrat Ron Wyden and
Republican Gordon Smith, signed onto the Senate
“Issuing these disaster funds is a top priority
for our constituents and is supported by the
governors of Washington, Oregon and California,
our county boards of supervisors, the Klamath
Water Users Association and the California
Chamber of Commerce,” the letter said. “We are
also steadfastly committed to instituting
comprehensive legislation that will restore the
Klamath River basin so commercial salmon
fishermen, tribes, farmers and related
businesses do not have to suffer these types of
At the meeting in Charleston, it was clear what
mattered most to fishermen: being able to pay
their bills. After much discussion, the
commission passed a resolution that requested
fishermen be directly reimbursed for the amount
of money they received during their best season
out of the 2003, 2004, and 2005 fishing seasons.
The $60.4 million requested by lawmakers,
according to the bill, would be made available
to the fleet, ancillary businesses, processors,
communities and Indian tribes, distributed by
the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
The chance of the bill actually going anywhere
in Congress may be slim - or it may not.
“I think it's anybody's guess what's going to
happen back there,” Hobbs said.
The season closure in 2006 took many fishermen
by surprise. A number of them had invested
thousands of dollars in their vessels and gear,
preparing for the March 15 season opener that
On Friday, trollers said, “Not again.”
Among the discussions about upcoming meetings
that correspond with federal season planning,
Pacific City troller and salmon commissioner Ray
Monroe proposed asking the state to model a
March-to-October season based on an all-waters
state fishery when the federal waters were
closed to commercial salmon trolling.
It would be different than the bubble fisheries
the state tried to put in place this year as a
way of mitigating the closure, he said. All
state waters, out to 3 nautical miles, would be
open under the proposal.
“I want to see what we can do,” Monroe said.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission meets
next week in Salem, where Monroe said he hopes
to present his idea.
The audience paused to consider the idea.
Initially, some fishermen were opposed. They
feared the feds would agree to a state-waters
fishery instead of a federal fishery.
No, Monroe said, the state waters-only fishery
would be in place if - and only if - the federal
waters were closed, as they were this year.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
scientists would have to plug all the data they
have available into a model and see if it could
work. Biologists have said in the past that
terminal fisheries and state-waters fisheries
often have very little impact on Klamath River
fall Chinook - the very fish for which federal
fishery managers were concerned about during
Slowly, other fishermen agreed.
“I'd like to know when the season's going to
open,” Charleston troller Roger Pryce said, “or
do I spend another $3,000 for nothing?”
Troller Henry deRonden-Pos warmed to the idea,
“It might get us crawling again,” deRonden-Pos
said, emphasizing that at the very least, it
could add to the state's database of fishery
information. “We're probably not going to catch
a lot of fish, but we might learn something.”