With less than three days to reach a budget agreement, state Fish and Wildlife has come up with a contingency plan that would save some fisheries and hatchery operations should a government shutdown occur beginning July 1.
“We’ve decided to send something out (a public notice about the situation) by the end of (Thursday, June 27), but I think that the probability to close these fisheries is highly remote,” said Phil Anderson, the director of state Fish and Wildlife.
“I know all the folks are working hard to find a budget, and one way or another we’ll not have a situation to close fisheries,” Anderson said. “I put a heavy emphasis on the positive, and would like to let people know there is a remote chance that it could come if there isn’t a successful conclusion.”
Anderson who spent time Wednesday (June 26) “across the street” to get assurances from key politicians that they’ll find success.
If there is no resolve the state Fish and Wildlife agency will have temporary layoffs of 1,177 employees including Anderson.
State Fish and Wildlife have identified four specific areas that would still have at least partial operation in the event of a shutdown.
Those include rockfish research, coastal Dungeness crab sport and commercial fisheries, Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsements and the regional fish enhancement group.
The rockfish research program comes from a surcharge on certain recreational and commercial fishing licenses. That money will be used to support one to four staff members for rockfish research, including sampling and monitoring of fisheries.
The plan would also keep the recreational and commercial coastal crab fisheries open. Two enforcement staff members would stay on the job to monitor fishing in Ilwaco and Westport.
The regional fisheries enhancement group would have one staff member stay on to coordinate the activities of 14 statewide fishery enhancement groups operating.
The last would be the Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsement that would be able to fund 38 staff members for a period of up to two weeks in the event of a shutdown. Those employees would be used for sampling and monitoring fisheries, and enforcement officers.
“That will allow us to keep the Columbia mainstem and tributary fisheries open,” Anderson said.
Some of those would be the Snake River, Grand Ronde to Walla Walla and all the way up in the Upper Yakima, Klickitat down into the Lower Columbia, and the 17 miles above McNary Dam, and the John Day and Dalles reservoirs.
All other fisheries across the state would be closed that have a bag limit or regulations, staff monitoring and enforcement associated with it.
Lastly, state Fish and Wildlife have 83 hatcheries in operation, and 45 of them have a link to the Endangered Species Act.
Under a federal mandate those hatcheries will be able to keep those fish alive and allowed to retain 59 full-time employees.
Anderson is also looking at ways to keep hatcheries not on the mandate list operating on a short-term basis with a skeleton crew of 49 employees, but that hasn’t been finalized yet.
“I am confident based on conversations that we’ll be able to keep those fish hatcheries operational,” Anderson said. “I am extremely confident we will do that to make it happen.”