Knight argues the merits of SB 1148 to Mono Supes
CalTrout was clearly swimming against the current at Tuesday’s Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting when it made its case for Senate Bill 1148, currently sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting his signature or veto.
Until Tuesday, the Board had only heard from those opposing the bill such as Retired State Senator and current Stanislaus County Assessor Dave Cogdill and local District 3 Supervisor-Elect Tim Alpers.
CalTrout Conservation Director Curtis Knight claimed that rather than trying to squash the language in Assembly Bill 7, which gives funding prioritization to fish hatcheries, SB 1148 had been written with the intent of reinvigorating the bill.
“We wanted to create a piece of legislation to remind legislators that trout are important,” Knight said. “SB 1148 keeps the issue on the front-burner. We are not trying to tip the balance any one way.
“It’s the way to get things to work in the messy world of Sacramento,” he added.
One of the major goals of SB 1148, according to Knight’s presentation, was to earmark funding for seven staffing positions for the wild trout program.
“SB 1148 added at least $2 million for the wild trout program, which would be used largely for staffing permanent positions,” Knight said.
This money would be taken out of the Hatcheries and Inland Fisheries Fund (HIFF), which was created as part of AB 7, first and then the remainder would be used for hatcheries.
While Knight pointed out that $2 million was 10% of the HIFF, so hatcheries would still be receiving 90% of the fund, Cogdill, who was also present at Tuesday’s meeting, felt that wasn’t the point. AB 7 put hatcheries first on the list to receive HIFF funding, so SB 1148 would be reversing the approved order.
“The language in SB 1148 says heritage and wild trout programs are the priorities, not hatcheries,” Cogdill said. So, if license fee sales drop, so would the amount of funding hatcheries receive because they would not be able to dip into the HIFF barrel until $2 million was pulled out for the heritage and wild trout programs.
“How are hatcheries not going to come up short,” Cogdill asked. “We’re going to end up having to raise fishing license fees, which ultimately makes families suffer. If license fees increase, fewer people will buy them and again it will hurt the hatcheries.
“This bill does not get us all where we want to be,” Cogdill added. He felt the process of creating SB 1148 had been truncated. He didn’t hear about the bill until June when it had already made its way through several steps in the process of becoming law.
“1148 was a wetlands mitigation bill at first,” Cogdill claimed. “CalTrout tried to sneak it in.”
Even after some eventual conversation with CalTrout over the past month, both Cogdill and Knight said they didn’t see eye to eye at the end of the day.
Both agreed that AB 7 had never been implemented properly, but while Knight said SB 1148 was the solution for that problem, Cogdill believed the new language fell short.
“AB 7 needs to be revisited and strengthened but SB 1148 does not do that,” Cogdill argued. “CalTrout was a major opponent to AB 7 at first and tried to block it because they saw it as a threat to their funding.”
The Department of Fish and Game is another agency that hasn’t been fond of the production goals of AB 7.
“There have been a lot of politics back and forth,” Cogdill said. “From the beginning there was language in AB 7 that said the production goals would be difficult to achieve. This was in the language signed by the governor and it gave DFG an out to not comply with AB 7 from the start. We need legislation with more teeth.”
Knight pointed out that SB 1148 would give hatcheries $1 million right off the bat to help them build up their facilities and meet production goals.
Cogdill, however, pointed out that the $1 million was a one-time allocation.
Supervisor-Elect and hatchery expert Tim Alpers got to the heart of the matter by pointing out that the bottom line was getting fish in the water.
“If the hatchery system is impaired any further, fishing [which is a large portion of Mono County’s economy] will go downhill,” Alpers said. “Without the hatchery system we can’t perpetuate fishing and get younger fisherpeople on board. You need funding continuity to properly grow nicer, bigger fish on a regular basis.”
These bigger fish are what will attract more fisherpeople to the waters.
Despite CalTrout’s presentation, the Board came to consensus to send two letters to the governor: one asking him to veto SB 1148 and another asking him to support SB 505, which, according to Cogdill, just restates the obvious points of AB 7.
“The DFG is just doing what it wants and is not following the law,” said Supervisor Larry Johnston. “The tail is wagging the dog and DFG will probably just ignore this bill, too.”
“It’s good we came to the table, but it’s the wrong table here at this Board level,” added Supervisor Vikki Bauer, in reference to the alleged truncated 1148 process.
“There are possible consequences, intended or unintended, from SB 1148,” Cogdill said. Since it has made it to the governor’s desk, Cogdill felt it would likely be signed.
“It’s never a done deal, especially with this governor, but the Department [DFG] is behind it so he is going to have a lot of pressure to sign it,” Cogdill said.