Monday, May 08, 2006

Funny how if the fishermen suffer, so do the towns

Now that the king salmon trolling season on the coast of Oregon and California has been finalized, the tales of woe are pouring in.

Does it look like the stars that were placed in a line in Washington D.C. to assist oil development, also assist fish give-aways?

I suppose it's because reporters are flocking to the coast to see what's going on. And the picture they find isn't pretty. This is a link to the story from Morro Bay in N. California. I drove over to Brookings, OR last week to see what was going on there.

The first place we stopped was Cresent City, CA, mostly because we took a wrong turn out of the redwoods and got going South the few miles to that harbor. Since we were there, I took some pictures and talked to a fisherman, if you could call him that, whose boat was sunk in the harbor. Just before a lady came along and helped distract him so I could get away, he said that four boat owners there had recently just given their boats away.

After a nice dinner at a Chinese place down by the harbor, that seemed to be the favorite of the locals, and a good sleep, I found what I was looking for. It came in the form of the caretaker for the ice plant and cold storage. Ya gotta know WHO to talk to, then be able to speak the lingo. First, the owner of the ice plant, that was shying away from reporters, wasn't the character from out of the past in S.E. Alaska I thought he was. The caretaker had been a buying station manager in Brookings for 35 years until some fishermen built the ice plant and the EDA built the town a cold storage. He knew the whole story.

Well, I already gathered that the problems these towns were having started with some lady dropping by the Klamath Lake and turning off the water to the Klamath River in 2002. That was to get the farmers to elect a Republican U.S. Senator. Little did they guess, or maybe even care, that they would yank the rug out from under the trolling fleet and their communities for a 700 mile stretch. Oops.

Of course you now have this guy Pombo, running around doing that kind of thing for a living. And for the uninitiated, he is the Chairman of the House Resources Committee. One of Tom DeLays last brilliant moves was to appoint him, being the good radical give-away-the-west-to-developers type that he is. Which would grease the skids of exploring for oil all over the place, and give fish to big fish developers through his MSA reauthorization proposal. Never mind that big fish developers don't NEED to be given the fish while in the water, instead of buying them from fishermen.

I've got a feeling the big processors make enough money on abusive transfer pricing alone to enable them to buy up other plants right and left. (Actually, a plant might be a million or two, but what's that compared to a $40 plus million jet?) This isn't a partisan issue, the Dems would do the same thing too if they had a chance to help out some big donors. Well, I'll save the 'polarization of Congress' speech for later.

Back to Brookings, OR. Turns out the old boy running the ice plant for the owner, who is on the Port Commission, is mothballing the cold storage as we speak. The whole system was designed so the cold storage couldn't be pulled down to -20 for storing salmon when ice is being made. The bottom dragger I talked to said he was only going to get a month or so of fishing this year. He was unloading at one of the buying stations in the harbor. Not sure where the fish get trucked off to. But get this about the cold storage.

I mentioned some of Brookings problems last summer when Petersburg was debating putting in a cold storage. This one in Brookings turned out to be like another one the U.S. Economic Development Administration built in Alaska. IT DIDN'T HAVE ANY PROVISION TO QUICK FREEZE THE FISH, much less a place to wash and ice them, or anything that you usually do in a cold storage. They built cold storage, not A cold storage. It's just one very large walk-in freezer. A white-elephant that has never stored a product for human consumption. And now there isn't any salmon or bottomfish to warrant fixing it.

The money they might have used to give it blast freezing and a fish house went in to a Port Commission office building and convention center, which came a million dollars short of completion. So that white elephant sits too.

This kind of stuff doesn't only go on in Oregon. I saw plenty of the exact same thing in Alaska. The State even had the nerve to ask me to go out in the boonies and run one of these botch jobs, after I had voted against it while working at the State. The task force I had assembled in 1991 to prove the RSDA concept, got a big Alaska/EDA cold storage going again. And the thanks I got was a couple of boneheads in the Division of Business Development ended my Capital Project before I could get the results out. Of course, the big processors had threatened their jobs.

That's one reason it has taken the RSDAs so long to get going, even though they are the best hope for fishermen's survival, and for the health of the communities and all the other infrastructure. BLUNDERING ADDS UP. (That should be one of Murphy's Laws) The state of the fisheries isn't the fault of the fish, or the consumers, or the fishermen, or the weather, or the communities, or Men in Black, or UFOs. The problem is with government and big business; power and money. If you want to help fix problems instead of just talk about them, go there, don't go to the boat harbor. Or maybe camp out around the Governor's mansion in Juneau, like they did in the Ukraine.