WDF&W DIRECTOR UNSWORTH ON THE BUDGET
What we have here is a letter to the Senate from Director Unsworth. I am told ( but have not seen ) the House letter is similar. So rather than me beat up my keyboard read and make you own mind up.
Dear Honorable members of the Washington State Senate,
I recognize that as you work on reaching consensus on what has been a very challenging budget process this session you are dealing with many concerns on budget policy. However, I need to share my unease about the following issues in the House and Senate budget proposals in regards to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s operating and capital budgets.
Transfer of Hatchery Production
A budget amendment adopted during the House Appropriations Committee hearing on Tuesday directs the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to relocate all salmon production at the Nemah Hatchery to the Naselle Hatchery effectively nullifying recent Fish and Wildlife Commission policy on the Willapa Bay.
Moving salmon production to the Naselle locations will impact a specific salmon population that has been designated with a higher brood stock management standard. The policy in the House budget severely limits our ability to remove hatchery fish off of the spawning grounds. This separation is necessary so that hatchery salmon do not interact with wild stocks. Adding more hatchery fish to the Naselle area complicates (if not makes impossible) our ability to meet this standard and comply with required hatchery reform principles.
If this policy is adopted in the conference budget the state will not be able to meet the scientific standards set by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG) and attain hatchery reform goals. I respectfully request that the Legislature refrain from making policy decisions that abrogate Fish and Wildlife Commission Policy on these complex resource management issues.
Mass Marking Funding
WDFW is required by state and federal laws to mark (by removing adipose fins) hatchery raised chinook and coho salmon in order to maintain mark-selective fisheries. WDFW can only release salmon that have been marked. The House proposal that passed the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday reduces the Department's ability to mark hatchery fish and will result in a reduction in hatchery production that will impact salmon fishing opportunity. Please maintain this funding at the level in the Senate budget.
Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project (PSNERP)
The Senate operating budget removes $800,000 that is needed to finalize an over ten year planning partnership (a $20 million investment to date) with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Completion of the plan is the next step in efforts to leverage nearly $800 million in federal funding to advance Puget Sound recovery. The policy in the Senate budget eliminates the funding needed to finalize the plan (throwing aside the $20 million investment) and will halt all effort to bring nearly $1 billion of federal funding to support Puget Sound restoration projects. Please maintain the funding at the level in the House budget.
Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP)
WDFW has worked closely with local partners to develop WWRP proposals for acquisition, easement and restoration effort to advance recreational and conservation opportunities. These WDFW projects are all supported within their local communities. While I support the Legislature’s efforts to investigate WWRP reform that addresses current public values, I respectfully request that the current process, projects and funding levels as proposed in the House budget remain intact.
Thank you for your hard work and consideration.
Jim Unsworth Director
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Posted on Tue, June 30, 2015
by Dave Hamilton