Alpers: Senate bill could destroy fishing industry

Despite fervent opposition from Mono and Inyo County, a Senate bill—one that former Mono County aquaculturist Tim Alpers claims could almost eliminate the state’s trout stocking program—is now on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

“I think he is going to sign it,” Alpers said Wednesday. “Despite opposition (from rural counties like Mono County), his administration (in this case Alpers is referring to the state Department of Fish and Game) supports it.”

Alpers said the new bill will gut the previsions of a previous pro-trout hatchery bill, AB 7, that was passed in 2005. AB 7 required Fish and Game to use one third of the total amount of money from fishing license fees to go toward the state’s fish hatchery and stocking program.

The new bill Alpers opposes, SB 1148, passed both houses of the state Legislature by Aug. 31.

“Our way of life is in the hands of the environmental groups,” said supervisor Tim Hansen.

According to supporters, SB 1148 has been misunderstood and the bill sets a path forward for both hatchery and wild trout programs.

According to CalTrout—the wild trout advocacy group— SB 1148 is a way to give “teeth” to AB 7 (which, along with allocating money for the hatchery program also allocated some money and staffing for a Wild and Heritage trout program)—money that either never showed up or was withdrawn over time, according to Mark Drew, a CalTrout director for the Eastern Sierra region.

“This will give us $2 million a year and the seven staff members we need to run a healthy wild trout program,” he said. He added that the wild trout program in the state is small compared to the hatchery program and that there will be plenty of money for a strong hatchery program under SB 1148.

Alpers said the bill will skimp on hatchery programs while giving more weight to wild trout programs.

“There is only one million dollars a year set aside for hatchery infrastructure improvements,” Alpers said. “And it’s a one time shot. I don’t know exactly what it would take to get all the state’s hatcheries up to par. There are 12 to 14 of them, and a good chassis for a delivery truck, like the one that runs between the Fish Springs (state hatchery) and Hot Creek Hatchery costs $70,000 to $80,000 and they are all wearing out. And Fish Springs, their well is almost shot and it would cost about $3 million to get that up and going again. So $1 million is not very benevolent.”

He added that the bill will also redirect the authority to set license fees from the Legislature to the DFG, a change from previous practices.

“And third, the bill will require the DFG to spend ‘at least’ $2 million annually from the revenues on a Wild and Heritage Trout program,” he said. “In fact, the law now actually states that this program is a priority. The bill is silent as to what, if any, priority hatcheries will enjoy.”

Alpers, along with Mono County’s former state Senator, Dave Cogdill, who grew up in the Eastern Sierra and was a sponsor for AB 7, attended the Tuesday meeting to urge the supervisors to send a letter to Governor Brown in opposition to the bill.

Cogdill was blunt in his frustration with the new bill.

“Passage of SB 1148 will eventually doom our local state hatcheries,” he said.

He echoed Alpers’ concerns and said his frustration with the Department of Fish and Game was at the top of the list.

“The new director at DFG comes from Trout Unlimited and they are trying to protect him,” he said. “He wants to make his mark on the state.”

The supervisors voted 4-0 to send a letter to the governor opposing SB 1148. Supervisor Hap Hazard was absent.