Gaye Mueller was elected Chair of the Mono County Fisheries Commission (MCFC), and Bob Dunn Vice Chair, at the Commission’s monthly meeting Wednesday, May 7 in June Lake. This was the first MCFC meeting since former Chair Steve Marti and Vice Chair John Webb submitted letters of resignation at the April 2 meeting.
“I do not know why they resigned,” Mueller said of Marti and Dunn, who were both unavailable for comment. “But I believe they both resigned out of frustration over not being able to communicate with the Board of Supervisors due to this impending lawsuit over Conway Ranch.”
Mono County is currently in a lawsuit with Inland Aquaculture Group, LLC (IAG), which manages the fishing operations at Conway Ranch. IAG was brought into Conway Ranch in 2006 to build a trophy trout farm, but was asked to stop development in 2009 due to grant restrictions on the land.
IAG is asking Mono County $1.6 million to settle.
MCFC has been very involved with the Conway Ranch Development and was saving most of its annual $25,000 discretionary fund for the project this year.
Supervisor Tim Fesko and County staff members attended MCFC meetings until several months ago, when they were advised by legal counsel not to attend.
“It was so important having a door of communication open with the Board, until the attorneys would not let the Board talk with the Commission,” Mueller said. “MCFC is supposed to advise the Board on fish and wildlife issues.”
Wednesday’s meeting saw a change in the quiet spell.
“I know it’s been difficult over the last few months,” said Jeff Simpson, Mono County Economic Development Department Assistant. “I hope we can move forward in a positive direction.” Yet he told the Commission that some of their questions “will remain unanswered due to the lawsuit.”
Simpson also informed the Commissioners that all County departments have been asked to cut 10 percent of their budget for the next fiscal year.
“Are you saying the County will cut our $25,000?” asked Commissioner Jim King from Rock Creek.
“It could always be cut,” responded Simpson. “I just wanted you to be hyperaware because other budgets are being cut this year.”
MCFC voted to invest the remaining $14,000 of this year’s budget into trophy trout stocking in five bodies of water this May and June. The Commission had been saving the funds to fix an electrical system at Conway Ranch.
“[MCFC] is important for the future of Conway Ranch and the fishing economics of Mono County,” Mueller said. “I think as soon as this lawsuit is dealt with we will be able to move forward, not only working with Conway Ranch but also to increase the stocking in the County.”
After Mueller and Dunn, who was not present at Wednesday’s meeting, were appointed Chair and Vice Chair, the Commissioners discussed possible candidates to fill the two open positions vacated by Marti and Webb. They suggested diversifying by including people from the Lakes Basin fishing community in Mammoth, as well as someone from the fly-fishing or sustainable fishing communities.
Simpson reminded the Commissioners that any appointment to the MCFC has to be done by the Board of Supervisors, who will have to publically solicit applications. Simpson told the Commission he would start the process with the Board as soon as possible.
“Personally, I would like to see [Webb] and [Marti] re-apply to be on the Commission,” Mueller said. “Their expertise and knowledge was remarkable and transformed the strength of the Commission.”