Washington approves Columbia R. Reforms; All Eyes on Oregon Commission

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Washington approves Columbia R. Reforms; All Eyes on Oregon Commission


Will Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission fall in line with Washington when it comes to voting on the Columbia River Reforms? In a matter of days—Jan. 20 to be exact—sport fishermen in Oregon will find out.

At its Jan. 14 commission meeting in Vancouver, commissioners in Washington voted to implement the bi-state reforms that included some compromises in an effort to reach agreement with Oregon. Because the Columbia River is managed together the Washington vote places a lot of pressure on Oregon’s commission to either fall in line and vote for the reforms, or go rogue and continue to extend the reforms for another year. If Oregon votes to extend the reforms for another year it will throw the Columbia River management into a tailspin. The fallout will be far reaching.

“Personally I think the Oregon policy makers get a big black eye if they choose to walk away from this deal,” says Nello Picinich, Executive Director for CCA in Washington. “We agreed to a plan four years ago and the political ramifications for the commission in Oregon are pretty sizable.”

In 2012, CCA Oregon moved swiftly to place Measure 81 on the November ballot. Measure 81 would have removed gillnets from the main stem Columbia; however, then Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber negotiated a deal to move gillnets off the main stem Columbia and implement selective harvest for salmon. Kitzhaber’s plan was to take four years and it was to be fully implemented in 2017. The plan was undermined when Kitzhaber was forced out of office in 2015. Newly appointed Gov. Kate Brown placed Bruce Buckmaster onto Oregon’s commission. Along with fellow commissioner Laura Anderson, Buckmaster used his influence to block the plan’s implementation by a year. The decision was counter to the overwhelming majority of comments received from the sport fishing community.

At this point it’s unclear how the Columbia will be managed unilaterally should the two states disagree on the reforms. There is no legal requirement for Oregon to jointly manage the river with Washington, however both states for years have mutually agreed to manage the Columbia consensually. Should the two states disagree they will have to come to compromise on allocation, selective gear and seasons. In other words, it will be a conundrum.

Stay tuned for more updates as the process unfolds.

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