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SB425 Walleye Welfare

walleyesignSenator Keith Bales SB425, the Walleyes Right To Work Act, passed out of the Senate Fish and Game committee last week. This bill will make the Fort Peck warm water hatchery eligible for state welfare payments using your tax money. It will pretty much gut the FWP budget for the rest of the state to fund the super-expensive boondoggle Montana Walleyes Home in Ft. Peck. The bill looks like it will make it to the House where the is a 50/50 split Democrats/Republicans. This is your last chance to stop the silliness. Contact your representatives quickly and let them know that we are not interested in changing the law to give walleyes more than their fair share at the expense of ruining fisheries management in Montana.

Wayne, over at Will Fish For Work gives a much better summary of this stupid legislation.

11 Responses

  1. Bugle Editor:
    Where did you ever come up with your inaccurate information on Wallop-Breaux funding and I quote from your March 25th posting: “The truth is that the Wallop/Breaux fund is a reimbursement account. The FWP funds the projects with state monies and then applies for reimbursement from the federal funds. There is always a positive balance in the account. That is NOT a surplus.” I don’t know where you got your “reimbursement theory” from but you are wrong. More problems arise from persons speaking out on issues when they are poorly informed and this causes undue rifs between sportsmans organizations. I’m glad that Todd went out and did some homework to get accurate information and appreciate that he has voiced it on your site. Please read on for the facts concerning the Fort Peck Hatchery.

    I was the Walleyes Unlimited of Montana State President in 1999 when the hatchery bill was passed and I have remained highly involved with all subject matter related to the hatchery since that time. The inspiration for “a warmwater fish hatchery located at Fort Peck Lake” was originated by “The Citizens for a Fort Peck Hatchery” which is comprised of anglers and businesses through out Montana. This diverse assemblage realized that for years Fort Peck Lake and numerous other Montana warmwater lakes and reservoirs had been under-stocked because of the limitations of the number and species of sport fish and forage fish that could be raised in the only warmwater fish hatchery located at Miles City. These limited resources resulted in poor angler catch rates, and poor quality sport fish which was due to insufficient quantity and quality of forage fish. This situation was negatively impacting businesses that relied on sport fishing and other outdoor related activities for their livelihood. Whenever anglers and businesses asked what could be done to improve the fisheries condition, FWP biologists always responded that warmwater fishing would remain poor until there was an additional warmwater fish hatchery to supplement the Miles City Hatchery. The citizens group contacted WUM and asked that we carry the hatchery bill for them. The legislative intent of the bill was to raise only warmwater sport fish and forage fish, chinook salmon and pallid sturgeon which is an endangered fish.

    The hatchery design that the citizens group envisioned was for a much smaller and basic needs building, indoor egg incubating equipment and outdoor rearing ponds only, and did not include all the additional egg incubating equipment, rearing tanks and raceways, nor the lavish building that is incorporated in this hatchery. Warmwater fish rearing primarily requires egg incubating equipment and outdoor rearing ponds only, not concrete raceways and other equipment that is in the facility which is exclusively for coldwater fish rearing needs. The cost for the citizens envisioned hatchery was estimated at between 12 and 14 million dollars and the annual operating and maintenance (O&M) cost was estimated at $200,000 per year. But with the inclusion of all the coldwater fish equipment the final cost was over 22 million dollars which increased the O&M to over $400,000 per year. Gary Bertellotti was the Montana FWP hatchery manager at the time that the Fort Peck Hatchery was being designed and held that position through the completion of the hatchery. In his records at the FWP office in Helena, there are emails and correspondence between him and the Corp of Engineers attesting that FWP had full control of the design and construction for the current facility and that Corp of Engineers built the hatchery in compliance with his design instructions. The latest fiscal note confirms that the warmwater stamp generated close to $300,000 in 2008. Therefore, had the hatchery been built to the design that was envisioned by the citizens group the warmwater stamp would have been more than sufficient to cover the annual O&M cost for the citizens envisioned hatchery. This is clear evidence that WUM did not have control of nor design the hatchery but continues to be blamed for the high O&M cost. No matter who is at fault, this state-of-the-art multispecies hatchery is reality and will be here for many years to serve a wide variety of fish stocking needs and has to be funded adequately.

    The O&M for the eight coldwater fish hatcheries and the Miles City hatchery are funded from two sources: (1)general fishing license funds; ALL anglers that fish Montana waters pay this fee. (2)Wallop-Breaux funds; this is a federal tax that ALL sportspersons pay on a wide variety of outdoor recreation products that range from firearms and ammunition to boats and boat motors, fish finders, rods and reels, hip waders, etc.
    Note: Every year there is Wallop-Breaux funds left over after paying for the hatcheries O&M. FWP puts the left over funds into their general fund, and based on a legislative audit done last fall on FWP’s general fund, the conclusion was; distribution of the remaining Wallop-Breaux funds in essence is very difficult to track.

    I have been one of the persons representing WUM at the Anglers Forum since 1997. This forum meets twice a year and is made up of various sportsman organizations from around Montana and includes TU. TU is on record as being opposed to any hatchery operations. Furthermore, they are on record as being adamantly against raising trout in the Fort Peck Hatchery for reasons that are not totally related to this funding issue. From what I am told, they are also spreading the unfounded myth that if Wallop-Breaux and general license funds are used for Fort Peck O&M that it will take away funding from existing coldwater projects, and that is unsubstantiated. There are numerous coldwater projects that are already guaranteed funding every year such as Future Fisheries, etc. and these projects have funding earmarks from so many different sources that it is unbelievable. Who pays for these earmarked projects, all sportspersons that fish Montana waters. All sportspersons pay the Wallop-Breaux tax and general fishing license fee. Therefore it is very clear that these funds ARE NOT for the exclusive purpose to fund only Montana coldwater projects and coldwater hatcheries! I personally know many TU members that are not in agreement with TU’s point of view. Furthermore, many sportspersons opinion is “it is a fish hatchery and should be maximized for the benefit of all Montana waters and sportspersons.”

    Amendments in the bill authorizes FWP to raise any species of coldwater fish and that is what FWP wanted and yet it guarantees that propagation of warmwater species fish remains the priority and that FWP shall maximize production of warmwater to the greatest extend possible. Senate Bill 425 is a win-win situation for all sportspersons! Warmwater anglers are guaranteed maximum warmwater fish production and that warmwater fish remain the hatchery production priority and FWP receives authority to raise coldwater fish that in turn increases benefits for coldwater anglers. In addition, this bill does not increase sportspersons license fees or outdoor recreation products taxes which is one of the primary goals of all legislators and the governor this session. This bill equitably funds the Fort Peck Hatchery using identical funding authority that the other Montana hatcheries receive. Most importantly, passage of this bill is for our future generation of Montanan’s which is our children! The old saying is “the family that fishes together stays together.” When families recreate together in our great Montana outdoors studies show that the children are less likely to get involved in using drugs and tobacco products and they become more productive citizens.

    • Mike, good reply and very detailed but, it in no way invalidates my opposition of this very bad piece of legislation. The Sport Fish Restoration fund IS a grant program. The program is a cost-reimbursement program, where the state covers the full amount of an approved project then applies for reimbursement through Federal Aid for up to 75 percent of the project expenses. The state must provide at least 25 percent of the project costs from a non-federal source. From the USFWS program website: “Grant funds are disbursed to states for approved grants on a reimbursement basis for up to 75% of the project costs and insular areas up to 100% of the project costs.” The state applies for the money each year based on proposed programs. FWP uses the money to pay for salaries, conservation, education, habitat restoration, etc. That some of the money winds up in the FWP general fund and is “difficult to track” is no surprise.

      There’s way more here than I need to reply to so, I’ll just hit a few points. I never have laid blame on WUM for the mess at the hatchery. FWP should take full responsibility the hatchery being overbuilt and I think it was a calculated move on their part. The agreement was made when the hatchery was proposed that it would use only warm water stamp funds for operation and maintenance. That agreement was written into law because it was the only way that the hatchery could be built. Now FWP wants to negate that law and the agreement and take money away from other fish management projects. This bill will reduce funding across the state for local fish populations, warm and cold water. If that is not the case, why did both SB13 and SB14, which were earlier attempts this session to fund the hatchery, both state in their fiscal notes: “…reallocation of federal Sport Fish Restoration funds [Wallop/Breaux] to the Fort Peck Hatchery will maintain the current level of production at Fort Peck but will result in reduced fish production at eight of FWP’s other fish hatcheries.”

      You say that “this bill does not increase sportpersons license fees…” and that’s not exactly true. Section 3 of SB425 repeals the warm water stamp and makes no provision to replace the funds. “Section 3. Repealer. Section 87-3-236, MCA [the warm water stamp] is repealed.” And this made retroactive to 2012 to make it look like it has no revenue impact. This was done by FWP to artificially create a budget crisis that will allow it to raise license fees for everybody by $3-5 in the next legislature. It is FWP’s stated intent to repeal the stamp, remove the species limit at the hatchery and go to full capacity at over $500,000. I’m sure it is not their intent to stay with a token number of trout either. There is no way to loose the warm water stamp money, fully fund the hatchery at 100% capacity and not impact all other programs across Montana.

      This bill is bad for sportsmen, bad for fish and reduces money for projects already funded. Yes, every sportsman pays for a license and pays for Wallop/Breaux but we did not agree to fund the Fort Peck hatchery and we don’t have a “cold water stamp” for other hatcheries. I think that FWP should live with the law and the mess that it created. If that means reducing the output of the Fort Peck hatchery or even giving it back to the Corps, so be it. What happened to the other option to raise the warm water stamp by $3 to fund the hatchery at current levels without introducing new fish species? Why is that such a bad idea?

      I don’t think there is a squabble between WUM and TU. I think there should be a large squabble between both organizations and FWP over this issue. I see they just changed the room number for the hearing tomorrow. I expect they decided they need a bigger room. Should be interesting. No matter how this bill comes out, I really have no bone to pick with WUM or walleye anglers in general. My stance is predicated on what I think is best for all fisheries in Montana. If the bill passes as I suspect it will, I’ll be disappointed but we will all move on.

  2. Let’s try shutting down half of the raceways at Fort Peck first and see what kind of savings we can get.
    The hatchery is not running at full capacity.
    You confuse me.

    Let’s not tax everybody for a hatchery that nobody wants.
    If nobody wants it how/why did it get built?
    If we didn’t need the hatchery why is the one in Miles still open? This is a matter of opinion.

    FWP are the one’s who over built in the first place and spent the extra money on what THEY wanted. Which in turn caused operating cost to rise above what was projected.
    We could argue this forever.
    North Dakota already has a state of the art hatchery that is Fed. funded
    I would love to see how much Wallop Breaux tax is collected from species specific anglers.

    I feel that my license dollars and Wallop Breaux tax should support the hatchery and warm water fish that we have here in the state.

    • If I were a walleye angler, I think I would be more worried about FWP getting a foot in the door with this bill. If Fort Peck is funded the same as other hatcheries and already has a population of cold water fish, as the bill allows, it is just a simple policy change to add more trout. FWP states in their strategic plan that they want to increase cold water production at Fort Peck.

      Let’s look at SB14, an earlier version of the bill to get federal funding for Fort Peck that died in committee. The fiscal note for that bill stated that “All federal Sport Fish Restoration [Wallop/Breaux] funding is fully allocated…” and “…funding for operations and maintenance at Fort Peck will be redirected from the eight hatcheries currently funded with FWP license and Sport Fish Restoration money. Fish production in those eight hatcheries will decline, but fish production at the Fort Peck Hatchery will not change.”, hmmm… somewhere between SB14 and SB425 we have discovered a $2 million dollar surplus? The truth is that the Wallop/Breaux fund is a reimbursement account. The FWP funds the projects with state monies and then applies for reimbursement from the federal funds. There is always a positive balance in the account. That is NOT a surplus.

      Wallop/Breaux funding (around $5 per fishing license holder) funds hatchery personnel, habitat protection, education, research and education. Which of these do we want to give up to fund a Cadillac hatchery? Fort Peck is not running at full capacity because the funding is not there. If we allow it access to license and federal funds, I can guarantee it will go to full capacity at over $500,000 probably with lots more trout. How about the other FWP option of raising the warm water stamp by $3? That would solve the funding problem for current operations without introducing cold water fish and allow the hatchery to remain a single-species hatchery.

  3. Why should the rest of the state pay for a hatchery that we don’t use?

    Why have I? Can you answer that? I have been funding hatcheries that benifit me in no way for years.
    Sorry to say that your license is good for the entire state not just where you choose. If the FWP wouldnt have over built the hatchery the cost to run it would be much less as stated on WU web site.

    • When the other hatcheries were built, there was no funding agreement for a special stamp. The Law says that Fort Peck can only use funds from the warm water stamp. The other hatcheries are not restricted to warm water fish. The FWP didn’t want the Fort Peck hatchery in the first place. It was not, and still is not, needed. My license is not good if I want to fish for warm water fish unless I buy a stamp. You don’t pay an extra license fee to catch trout. Let’s try shutting down half of the raceways at Fort Peck first and see what kind of savings we can get. Maybe we won’t need the extra money.

      The bill gives the overbuilt, super-expensive hatchery access to “revenue in the general license account or ANY federal funding available to the department.” There is no guarantee that they won’t want more funding in the future. The hatchery is not running at full capacity. If we can’t afford the hatchery, let’s shut it down or sell it to North Dakota. Let’s not tax everybody for a hatchery that nobody wants. I have no problem with shutting down some of the cold water hatcheries as well.

  4. The stamp generated almost $300,000 in 2008 so we are only looking at needing about $200,000 from the Wallop/Breaux Federal Fund. This fund had $2 million left from the past three years and SB 425 will not affect funding for the other hatcheries.


    • The stamp is supposedly going away in 2012, then we’re stuck for it all. I’m not so worried about impact on the other hatcheries as I am on the rest of the FWP budget. What programs does that extra money come out of? Why should the rest of the state pay for a hatchery that we don’t use? Why not raise the cost of the warm water stamp to cover Fort Peck rather than raise the cost for everybody? Why are there no proposals to make cutbacks at the hatchery? Why do we have to put 750,000 cold water fish in the hatchery? Nobody wants them there and that alone costs an additional $80,000. What happens if the next legislature can’t do away with the warm water stamp? What happens when they want to go to full capacity at Fort Peck?

      In the original agreement, as written into law, proponents said that all they needed was the warm water stamp. Let’s stick to the agreement. There has been too much arm twisting and to many questions left unanswered. This bill was poorly written and even more poorly thought out.

  5. […] Thursday – and then Friday – were two disappointments – both SB425, the “Walleye Welfare” bill, and SB497, the “it protects protesters from people that are entering health care […]

  6. […] which The Editor at the Button Valley Bugle calls “Walleye Welfare” sees its second reading on the floor of the Senate tomorrow, 1 p.m. The Editor put together another […]

  7. […] previous posts – yes, Virginia, there really is more – The Editor disses on SB425, which is bad, bad, bad for native fish and Montana fishing enthusiasts. Not only […]

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