Here is a story by Tom Paulu, outdoors reporter for the The Daily News in Longview that updates state Fish and Wildlife’s budget issues:
Proposals to end commercial salmon and sturgeon fishing in Willapa Bay and to close the Nemah Hatchery that provides the bay with more than one-third of its fish may not swim after all.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife suggested these cuts in September in response to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s order that state agencies submit proposals for reducing their 2012-13 budgets by 10 percent.
However, Gregoire didn’t endorse WDFW’s ideas in a proposed state budget she released this week. The Legislature kicked off a special session Monday (Nov. 28) as it tries to pinpoint cuts to fill a $1.7 billion budget gap.
Gregoire’s budget sidesteps some of the drastic cuts WDFW suggested for Southwest Washington by moving programs to different funds.
“One-time Band-Aid fixes have kept this from the kinds of Draconian things like closing hatcheries for the time being,” said Guy Norman, WDFW regional director for Southwest Washington.
Cuts the WDFW proposed would have eliminated all commercial salmon and sturgeon fishing in Willapa Bay and closed the Nemah Hatchery, which is on a river that flows into the bay. Closing the hatchery would have eliminated 43 percent of the fall chinook and 38 percent of the chum stocked into the bay, officials estimated.
However, the governor’s budget is not without cuts to current WDFW spending. Under the governor’s budget:
— Six WDFW manager positions would be eliminated at Olympia headquarters and regional offices.
— A $50 fee would be charged for WDFW hydraulic permits, which are required for work near streams. In the past, there was no charge for the permits.
— WDFW would no longer reimburse landowners for damage from deer, elk and other wildlife. Norman said the program is widely used in Lewis County, near Packwood and Toledo.
New Southwest Washington office proposed
Despite the overall message of cutting costs, the WDFW’s proposed budget includes a one-time expenditure of $378,000 to relocate the agency’s Southwest Washington office. Though it isn’t in the governor’s budget, Norman said the agency may still pursue the move.
The agency has a history of odd locations for its offices. The old Department of Fisheries’ building was in the woods east of Battle Ground, miles from major rivers.
After the Fisheries and Wildlife agencies merged in 1994, they moved to a rented space on Grand Boulevard in Vancouver, several blocks north of Clark College.
According to a WDFW report, “the office is located in an economically depressed high crime area, which increases risk to staff and equipment.” It’s also several miles off Interstate 5, increasing travel costs for staff.
The agency proposes moving its office to a building being constructed just west of I-5 near the Ridgefield exit. The building, owned by the Port of Ridgefield, could also house the state Department of Ecology and Army Corps of Engineers.
“The building would be a pretty good fit for us,” Norman said, because it’s closer to where most of the agency’s field work is done in Southwest Washington.