By Tamsin Fleming, Operations Manager
February, 1 2021
T he Oregon state legislative session has ended with many budget measures having been tackled. A number of bills on the table that we wanted to be passed have, while others we did not want to be passed have not. There has been a lot of last-minute activity on these budget issues, and some of those final decisions are not easily available to the public. Read below for more information on the bills relevant to the angling community.
This bill comes as the latest in Senator Kennemer’s effort to control the waterway and fish habitat damage occurring in sensitive areas by the powerful boats used for wake surfing-type activities.
2/10 UPDATE: In the public hearing on February 9th many conservationists provided testimony offering evidence for the harm to shorelines and take of salmon and steelhead caused by motorboats used for wake surfing activities. However, some of the homeowners who would be affected by the bill opposed it, stating that limiting motorboat size will not solve the problems it aims to fix. The bill would prohibit motorboats over 5,000 pounds on the Newberg pool congested zone of the Willamette River.
2/15 UPDATE: After hearing testimony where some were concerned the bill would limit water sports other than wake surfing and potentially move to other lakes and stretches of the river, the Committee clarified that all provisions in the bill were specific to the Newberg pool congested zone and the problems it faces. In the SB 1589 work session, the bill was referred to the Ways and Means with a do pass recommendation.
3/3 UPDATE: SB 1589 passed in the Senate on February 17th. After a public hearing and lengthy work sessions with testimony from advocates and opponents of the bill, the rules were suspended to pass the bill after a vote of 33 ayes to 25 nays in the House.
If passed, SB 1534 would establish a state policy to increase carbon sequestration in Oregon’s natural and working lands and waters. This is designed to potentially increase economic development through increasing carbon sequestration.
2/15 UPDATE: Throughout the public hearings on SB 1534, some farmers, ranchers, and agricultural advocates spoke highly of the bill, stating the potential for good that incentivizing carbon sequestration on Oregon’s natural and working lands could have on our climate resilience. On February 14th, the bill was referred to Ways and Means with amendments and a do pass recommendation.
If passed, HB 4072 would allow the State Fish and Wildlife Commission to charge fees for hunting, angling, and shellfish licenses, tags, and permits that are less than the statutory fee schedule establishes.
2/15 UPDATE: On February 14th, the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources heard testimony from stakeholders on HB 4072. An especially salient point was made by a fishing guide who stated that Oregon’s one-day combined fishing pass fees are significantly higher than either California's or Washington’s. Our one-day passes being so much higher than either of our neighboring states puts our guide services at risk as more families opt to go to locations where passes are more affordable. While HB 4072 will still result in one-day fishing pass fees higher than California and Washington, reducing the fee will have a positive impact on fishing guide services and our recreation economy. The Committee moved to refer the bill to Ways and Means with a do pass recommendation.
3/3 UPDATE: After a work session spanning the 21st and 23rd of February, HB 4072 was recommended to pass with amendments. Despite a declaration that there may be potential conflicts of interest regarding the bill, it was passed 58 to 2 after the third reading in the House. After being referred to the Senate with a do pass recommendation for the B-Engrossed bill, It is waiting for its third reading.
To protect drivers and the state’s wildlife, as well as mitigate costs associated with wildlife-vehicle collisions, HB 4130 will designate money for wildlife corridor projects like establishing wildlife road crossing structures.
2/10 UPDATE: The House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources met in a public hearing on February 2nd to hear testimony on HB 4130. Many good points were made in support of the bill, one of which being that there are 6,000 wildlife collisions on ODOT roads each year, and even more on county roads or that go unreported. These accidents can be disastrous for endangered species of game like mule deer that migrate between mountains and valleys every year. More mule deer are killed on roads than by hunting each year. The bill allocates $7 million to corridor projects proven to protect wildlife and result in fewer collisions. On February 7th, the bill went to a work session where the bill was unanimously passed on to the Ways and Means Committee with a do pass recommendation.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) would be required to establish and operate a fish incubation box program along suitable waterways on Oregon’s south coast, specifically in Coos, Curry, and Douglas county under HB 4145.
The bill was referred to Environment and Natural Resources and was subsequently referred to Ways and Means.
Under HB 4148, the Department of State Lands and ODFW will establish a salmon credit program to motivate voluntary restoration of salmon habitat among other things. The program is designed to encourage landowners to offset negative impacts to salmon habitat through financial incentives.
2/10 UPDATE: During the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources’ public hearing on February 7th there was a mixed bag of testimony on the bill. There were so many advocates and individuals interested in testifying, testimony had to be cut short and continued on the 9th. While some adamantly supported the bill, others raised points questioning how effective the bill would be at restoring and preserving salmon habitat.
Concerns included that this bill would create a number of loopholes skirting existing laws intended to protect Oregon’s aquatic wildlife and their habitats. There would be no protection of scenic waterways, wetlands, or water quality, and no prohibition against harm from the projects. Tribal consultation, as well as state and federal fishery agencies, would not be required to review salmon credit projects for approval. HB 4148 does not require DSL to ensure that mitigation projects offset harm in waterways, leaving waterways more vulnerable to degradation.
While the objective of this bill is to allow exemptions for restoration projects, there are existing laws that already allow these exemptions while maintaining many more protections than this bill. The current protections ensure Oregon’s aquatic habitat is preserved with many more safeguards and requirements. That being said, Representative Smith has made it clear that they are receptive to feedback in order to provide a bill that all stakeholders are happy with, as we all want a win for Oregon’s fish.
On Feb 7th at the legislatures, ODFW reported to the natural resources budget subcommittee on the status of various hatchery issues, focusing on Leaburg and Rock Creek. Leaburg Hatchery is currently rearing fish throughout the summer and fall to fulfill the Willamette Valley Hatcheries contract as the McKenzie Hatchery is closed due to safety issues with the Leaburg Canal. The Rock Creek Hatchery has, unfortunately, mostly been destroyed by the Archie Creek fire in the fall of 2020. Having left only the educational facility on the property, the Department is conducting studies to analyze the rebuild of the hatchery, statewide hatchery needs, and hatchery best practices.
A number of questions need to be addressed during the months ahead – these range from climate and water impacts to operational and insurance issues. Several more hatcheries were extensively damaged by recent wildfires. Along with reviewing hatchery system needs in general, some legislators want to make sure the best science and best practices are fully utilized. This work will resurface during related subcommittee meetings during the 2023 legislature. Keep in mind, there are a couple of small radical groups that oppose much of what the hatcheries do. Accordingly, it is important that we activist anglers remind legislators and candidates of the public good and the fishing opportunities created through this interrelated network of facilities.
As legislating shifted online last year, participating in the political process is the easiest it’s ever been. While this year most bills were related to the budget which has little public input or surprises, getting involved leading up to next year’s legislative session can have a much larger impact. The Oregon Legislative Information System allows you to keep up to date on everything happening in Salem from tracking bills and where they are in the legislative process, to attending public hearings and providing testimony — you can now safely and easily advocate on behalf of the fishing community.
There’s been a lot of turnover in the Oregon Legislature since sine die 2021. The many resignations and retirements throughout the legislature have opened doors for new faces in many positions. Now, there are three new legislators in the Senate, four in the House, not to mention a whole host of other new placements. These new legislators may not know the importance of sportfishing to the region, or the struggles of salmon and steelhead, making the next year crucial for advocating for the needs of the angling community.
If you have any questions about our legislative priorities, or if you're interested in submitting testimony, please contact Tamsin Fleming at email@example.com.