With Washington fishery overseers this week declining Oregon’s offered “compromise” on Columbia salmon reforms, Friday is lining up to be a very interesting day as the southern state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission meets on the topic.
Concurrency of regulations on the big river is at stake the deeper into the year the disagreement lingers.
In the background are directives from two Oregon governors — the sitting one, who asked her commission to reconsider their earlier decision to move backwards on sport-commercial allocations and gillnetting and is expecting a fix by April 3, and the previous one, whose plan set in motion the reforms which were scheduled to take full effect this year but have been sidetracked by Oregon’s commission.
The two states, which jointly manage nontribal fisheries on the shared Columbia, are most at odds over fall Chinook impacts — originally slated to go to 80-20 from 70-30, Oregon expressed hesitation and Washington voted for 75-25, but then Oregon voted to go to 66-34 and then offered 70-30 as a compromise — and removing gillnets from the mainstem, part of the original deal and which Oregon anglers have been paying for over the past few years.
The chairs of both DFWs’ commissions have exchanged letters in the lead-up to tomorrow discussion in Corvallis, and the latest came yesterday as Washington’s Brad Smith responded to Oregon’s Michael Finley, and which wraps up thusly, keeping the ball in Oregon’s court:
Columbia River management reform is a difficult issue, but our states have a long history of working collaboratively and have previously solved equally challenging fishery, hatchery, and other natural resources issues.
Washington remains committed to that approach, and you can be assured that the WFWC will carefully consider any proposal supported by the OFWC as a whole that is consistent with the vision for Columbia River management reform and within the sideboards of Governor Brown’s letter.
I thank you again for reaching out to the WFWC and for all of your efforts in support of Columbia River management reform.
The sideboards of Brown’s letter would include honoring “rules that align with her administration’s fishery management policies, Washington’s regulations, and the commitments made to anglers in SB 830,” as summarized by the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.
So, what happens if the two states can’t come to an agreement?
A document prepared by ODFW staff — which includes their recommendation on where to go with Columbia River reform — outlines the risks of nonconcurrent regulations:
… First, if non-concurrent fishing regulations exist, enforcement agencies from each state are functionally confined to enforcing only their respective state’s rules within their state’s boundaries. When rules are sufficiently similar in each state, enforcement officers from either state can enforce regulations in all joint waters (functionally the mainstem). This inability to enforce regulations throughout the mainstem creates enforcement problems and undermines conservation protections in both states.
Second, reciprocity agreements allowing individuals to fish (commercially and/orrecreationally) in joint state waters is facilitated by concurrent regulations. Reciprocity allows individuals licensed in one state to also fish in the other state (in joint waters of the Columbia River) as long as regulations are primarily concurrent. If rules are non-concurrent, individuals could be required to be licensed in the state waters they are fishing (Figure 1).
Third, management of Columbia River fisheries is complex and allocations, gear requirements, season structures, etc., all have far-reaching effects. It is difficult to foresee the potential outcomes of non-concurrence in allocation, allowable fishing gears, times, or techniques, between the states. The statutory language of the Columbia River Compact (ORS 507.010, 507.020, 507.030) could potentially address these issues at least in part; however, the court record related to the Compact is complicated and it is difficult to predict how a court may interpret the 1918 Compact language in 2017. One possible outcome of significant non-concurrence could be a subdivision between the two states of the overall allocation, which would then be allocated per individual state policy and/or rule, in individual state waters within the Columbia, and managed per individual state policy and/or rule. The end result of which could be a fishery that overlaps in both time and space but had separate gears fishing with separate landing requirements.
Fourth, non-concurrent regulations can increase the risk of losing significant economic value of bi-state managed fisheries. This risk becomes real when the two states are unable to resolve substantive differences affecting joint fisheries. For example, unresolved allocation differences in the past have resulted in the difference remaining unallocated. Depending on the magnitude of this difference, the economic impacts to both commercial and recreational fisheries can be significant.