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Betrayal to necessary reduction in gillnetting

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On Jan. 20, this monumental decision process was breached by the arbitrary and misguided decision of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commission by a contentious and erroneous 4-3 vote.

It's simply outrageous!

Since about 1847, we Oregonians have faced gillnet fishing on the Columbia River. The way Oregon works is that the Legislature determines the policy and our state's agencies and their commissions implement such directives.

Thirty years ago when I entered the Oregon Senate as a freshman, I immediately became involved in this contentious issue, but for Oregon, it is a controversy that goes back over 150-plus years. Finally with Senate Bill 830 (2013) and 99 years of cooperation with Washington on the Columbia River Compact, we created a $9.75 Columbia River Endorsement fee on sports anglers to help manage and implement greatly needed updates and reforms. Currently, this all is in jeopardy!

On Jan. 20, this monumental decision process was breached by the arbitrary and misguided decision of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commission by a contentious and erroneous 4-3 vote. Consequently, we 175,000 Columbia River sports anglers are paying $9.75/year, and being betrayed and taken for a ride!

As Mr. Spock said so eloquently, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

Folks, let's get real. We're only talking about 209 current gillnet permittees with 85 part-time Oregon gillnetters who land more than $10,000 in salmon annually and just four exceeding $50,000. Compare this to our 400,000 Oregon sports anglers that generate tens of millions in economic value for our region and millions in license revenue for ODFW! For years gillnets have been damaging, and indeed in multiple instances, nearly have destroyed our salmon and sturgeon fisheries! SB 830 (2013) was a solid compromise solution with strong public and legislative support. And, sadly, that compromise solution is being destroyed 4-3 by the Fish and Wildlife Commission!

So, we must call on the ODFW Commission to reverse its Jan. 20 decision, and for the four offending members in the 4-3 decision to resign and allow new appointments or for these four members to reverse the decision. Additionally, I ask two things. First, that Oregon's Legislative Ways and Means Committee consider sweeping changes to ODFW's budget, including reimbursing all of us 175,000 sports anglers who paid the $9.75 Columbia River endorsement fee! And second, that Gov. Kate Brown replace these four appointees with folks who will forthrightly address the staff recommended reduction of gillnetting and immediately improve our salmon and sturgeon fishing!

Folks, this is a betrayal to all us 175,000 Columbia River Sports Anglers, and, indeed, an assault on all 400,000 sports anglers and the millions of environmental activists that realize this commercial raping of our fishery is killing our fish runs, habitat and our sustainable fishing future!

And we must appeal to Gov. Brown to insist that the ODFW Commission honor SB 830 or that she remove and replace the four rogue members of the ODFW Commission immediately! Oregonians deserve strong and healthy salmon and sturgeon fisheries in our Columbia River system, and it's time to stop these outrageous, periodic devastations and assaults by gillnetters! It is high time to remember and honor our 99-year partnership with Washington state to return our salmon and sturgeon populations to strong and sustainable levels for now and into Oregon and Washington's future.

Right now is the time for working cooperatively with our Washington neighbors and our environmental and sports fishing groups to restore our salmon and sturgeon fisheries to serve our four million Oregonians, our 400,000 sports fishers, and the incredible environmental and fishery ideal that is the Oregon most all of us believe should be both our present and our future!

Bill Kennemer is the representative of Oregon House District 39, which covers Canby, the rural Oregon City area and Estacada.