Big news is brewing down in Olympia as the Senate in its special second session looks at ways of righting the sinking boat of the state’s budget deficit.
Word has it state Fish and Wildlife has been given a contingency plan that includes a slate of draconian cuts, and one that would shutdown virtually all statewide sport and commercial fishing activity currently under way or set to open after July 1 if there is not budget agreement.
Many fisheries are set to begin on July 1 including the popular Puget Sound-Hood Canal Dungeness crab fishery, and some Puget Sound salmon fisheries from the Strait of Juan de Fuca east of Sekiu through the San Juan Islands.
In a conference call with the state fishing advisory board members on Thursday (June 20), state Fish and Wildlife director Phil Anderson wanted to let them know of the situation but not cause any unecessary havoc.
Other sources in the department just wanted to make sure people are aware of these situations, and for them to stay calm and upbeat as possible.
“I’m apprehensive to cretaing chaos and a riot before it is necessary,” Anderson said. “I will be working through the weekend, and I’ve been meeting with a lot of key leadership legislatures, and they are all working hard to get it done by Sunday night.”
Second, is if a budget is not produced by the July 1 deadline then salmon and other fish such as trout being reared in state hatcheries could also be at risk.
“We are doing everything we can to get a contingency plan in place to keep from losing those fish in the hatcheries,” Anderson said. “Loss of something on the millions of fish that are in our hatcheries would result in a catastrophic loss in our hatcheries. That will have significant consequences to human beings (hatchery staff) and the welfare of our fish.”
One request made by Anderson is the hopes of having the ability to keep the hatcheries with salmon listed on the Endangered Species Act operational.
“I don’t want a shutdown, but were trying to figure out how to do that right now and we don’t have an answer yet,” Anderson said. “The other is what do we do with the other hatcheries where trout and other salmon are being raised? We hope to get a solution in place.”
An advisory board member said some people will view this as a drill and it will be settled, but there are only 10 days left to get the budget done, and it could be a lot more austere and dramatic than previously thought.
The budget is expected come up for a vote on the floor in the next few days.
Here is a link to the statewide cotingency plan for state agency operations including state Fish and Wildlife http://www.ofm.wa.gov/contingency/agency_planning.pdf.
Here is a summary from the governor’s office in the budget issues http://www.ofm.wa.gov/contingency/default.asp.