OROVILLE – Don McIvor and Ken Bevis appeared before the Oroville City Council at their Tuesday, May 15 meeting to discuss salmon recovery efforts in the Upper Columbia.
McIvor is the Natural Resources Coordinator of the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board (UCSRB) and Bevis is with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. McIver told the council that the Upper Columbia steelhead were listed as “endangered” in 1997 under the Endangered Species Act and spring chinook salmon were listed in 1999.
The two men presented a slide show and discussed the 4Hs – habitat, hatcheries, harvest and hydropower, which they say need to be addressed in order to restore the runs of wild fish. Much of their presentation was the same as they presented to the Tonasket City Council the week before (see article, May 17 edition).
They also discussed the economic benefits of opening up special fishing seasons for the hatchery-raised fish, pointing out that one Brewster gas station and store has seen a $300,000 increase in revenue from the fishing season annually.
“The fact that the wild population is doing so well has allowed us to have a sports fishery… without that we couldn’t afford to have it because of the incidental takes of wild fish,” said McIvor.
McIvor and Bevis also talked about the efforts being made by the Colville Confederated Tribes to restore fish runs in the Okanogan River, including what’s been done to acclimate juvenile populations to the warmer waters of Lake Osoyoos, something tribal representatives spoke with the council about last year.
Rod Noel, Public Works superintendent, asked if the diversion at the confluence of the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers, just south of Oroville, was working as intended. McIvor said the project, near the channel at the north end of Driscoll Island, had raised the water about a foot in an effort to keep warm water out of the Okanogan for about 1.5 miles.
“The biggest limiting factor in the Okanogan River is water temperature,” he said, adding that the project seems to be working as planned.
“There’s been some pretty substantial progress,” he said, asking the council and mayor to write a letter of support for the continued efforts of the UCSRB.
Councilman Walt Hart III made a motion that a letter of support be written and Councilman Tony Koepke seconded it and it passed unanimously.
“This has been very good gentlemen… very interesting and very informative,” said Mayor Chuck Spieth. “The (Colville Confederated) Tribe has been here two times to discuss restoration since I’ve been here.”
When talking about the members of the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board, Arnie Marchand, a member of the CCT, said, “The Yakamas don’t belong up here… they can’t even speak our language and still they want to tell us what to do.”
In other business, Marchand asked if the council would consider allowing the Okanogan Borderlands Historical Society use of a currently unused banner bracket on Main Street so that they might hang a banner with an arrow indicating the location of the visitor information center and/or the depot museum.
“We have also discussed making four or five banners that say ‘welcome’ or ‘hello’ in at least five different languages,” said Marchand. “The people from the historical society say they can make them as some of the old banners that were bought have turned shabby. We’d just like you to think about it.”
Under old business, Mayor Spieth asked Steve Johnston, Airport Services Manager, to report on his recent attendance at the Washington State Municipal Airport Conference held in Wenatchee.
Johnston said there seemed to be all new people in the state Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division. He said there is an ongoing effort to consolidate all the DOT in Olympia, rather than leave the Aviation Division at Arlington where Johnston said it had always been very accessible.
“They said they are trying to come up with the dollars for our airports and kept using Colorado as an example. We had $1 million to spend on Washington airports, while Colorado had $39 million,” said Johnston. “Aviation gets approximately 10 percent of the fuel taxes collected from sale of aviation fuel in this state, the rest goes into the general fund… it’s a common problem.”
Compounding problems for Oroville is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to Johnston.
“The FAA is funding our $600,000 project at 95 percent, leaving the state Department of Transportation with 2.5 percent and us with 2.5 percent,” he said. “Now they’re looking at only funding 90 percent, increasing our share and Transportation’s to 5 percent each.
“It makes it so everyone is starting to look for dollars everywhere they can… looking at things like the Department of Agriculture which has money for things like airport lounges.”
Johnston also said the new Airport Economic Impact Study had been released and applauded City Clerk Kathy Jones for her help while she was on the advisory committee for the study.
“I’m glad she was on there… I think she came up with making sure they included things like using helicopter to dry the cherries. About 98 percent of the people I talk about that look at you like your crazy when you mention this,” said Johnston, adding that the study was a “great step in the right direction.”
Supt. Noel reported that he had gotten notice the Okanogan River was expected to go above flood stage by May 18 at Tonasket.
He added that the gates at Zosel Dam were wide open according to Tom Scott with the Oroville-Tonasket Irrigation District.
“It’s fortunate that we got Osoyoos Lake down as I do not think there is an open reservation for any of the 80 sites at Veterans Memorial Park for the Canadian long weekend,” said Noel.
Under new business, Police Chief Clay Warnstaff said the city had gotten a request for membership dues for the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force.
Councilwoman Neysa Roley reported that Washington State was one of nine where pertussis (whooping cough) had reached epidemic levels. Roley, who is in the medical field and sits on the Okanogan County Public Health board, said pertussis is highly contagious and that vaccinations were being recommended.