A shake up to Assembly Bill 7 (AB 7) would put California hatcheries under attack, according to retired State Senator Dave Cogdill, who carried AB 7 while serving in the State Assembly.
The blow comes in the form of Senate Bill 1148, which, if passed, would shift funding prioritization away from hatcheries to wild and native trout programs.
For Mono and Inyo counties this would mean a return to unstable funding for hatcheries, which translates into potentially less fish stocking for the Eastern Sierra.
In 2002, while serving as a member of the State Assembly, Cogdill received a call from Virginia Lakes Resort in Mono County notifying him that they had not received their delivery of fish from the Department of Fish and Game.
“When the operator called DFG they were told they would not be getting one,” Cogdill told The Sheet on Thursday, because of low funds. That was when the battle to have AB 7 approved began.
“With the amount of time it takes to hatch and raise fish, the hatcheries need stable funding to rely on to be able to continue to work,” Cogdill explained.
AB 7 earmarked one-third of sport license fee sales to be used first for hatcheries and then for wild and native programs to ensure the hatcheries would have the funding they needed.
But according to Cogdill, DFG was never in favor of AB 7 and since it was put into place in 2005, has never taken its planting responsibilities required by the law, seriously.
“DFG never met the quotas spelled out in the law of how much fish they were suppose to plant,” Cogdill said. “We need to put more teeth into AB 7, not change it.”
Now, CalTrout has sponsored SB 1148 to try to change the rules. According to Cogdill, the process has been done in an underhanded way. CalTrout originally creating a 10-page document, but later added 27-pages of content in a so-called amendment. The additional pages are where the gutting of AB 7 occurred.
SB 1148 is expected to go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for a vote on Aug. 8. Cogdill felt the outcome would be 50/50.
“They [CalTrout] have kept it under the radar as much as possible,” Cogdill said. “It’s going to establish policy, so it needs thorough vetting.” But thus far CalTrout has failed to take Cogdill up on his offer to work together to create a better bill.
“The more light shined on SB 1148, the more opposition it receives,” he said.
Another concern of Cogdill’s is how SB 1148 would be managed if approved.
“It would establish a five member ‘hatchery independent science panel’,” Cogdill explained. “The five members would have five-year terms and would be expected to file annual reports to which DFG would have to respond to, publicly.”
Cogdill sees the panel as an “unaccountable body making heavy decisions. It will suck up money in studies, lawsuits and administrative duties and take it away from planting fish.”
Cogdill fears that this in turn could lead to increased fees for licenses, which have already jumped from $32 to $44 since AB 7 was put into place.
“It will cause license fees to be raised to a point where people can’t afford them,” Cogdill said. “It will depress the economy in Inyo and Mono counties.”
According to Mono County District 3 Supervisor Elect Tim Alpers, SB 1148 would be catastrophic for the Eastern Sierra, especially June Lake.
“June Lake depends on stocked fish as much as any other area in the Eastern Sierra, if not more so,” Alpers said. “It is the most concentrated area with four lakes close together that need to be stocked.
“The new bill would gut AB 7,” Alpers told the public in attendance at Tuesday’s Mono County Supervisor’s Special Meeting. “It would be another blow to the June Lake economy [in addition to the blow caused by the confirmed closure of June Mountain for the 2012-13 winter season].”
To get involved, the public can write letters to the Assembly Appropriations Committee voicing its opinion. Send letters to: Felipe Fuentes, Chair, Assembly Appropriations Committee, State Capitol, Room 2114, Sacramento, CA 95814.