Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Is $500,000 The Magic Insiders' Financing Number In Walker's Wisconsin?

Before GOP State Senate leader Scott Suder got his appointment by Scott Walker to a high-paying Wisconsin Public Service Commission position, the legislator had helped insert into the state budget a low-profile $500,000 grant that a well-connected, GOP-friendly sportsman's organization is now in line to 'win.'

$500,000 seems to be a popular bottom-line figure the Walkerites tuck into politicized projects these days. 

Half-a-million state taxpayers dollars here, half-a-million there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

So take a look at the email traffic below between a senior DNR official and the Governor's office as Walker's office was preparing the release of details about "aquaculture" and a walleye production program.

Note that there's another $500,000 headed for unspecified "organizations." In related DNR material, that becomes "private fish farms."

Will there be, with this particular $500,000 at stake, a wide-open request for proposal (RFP) process?

And doesn't it violate fundamental Free Market Principles/GOP-talk radio talking points to a) pay private organizations (businesses?) b) with public dollars c) to hatch walleye fingerlings that d) will then be sold back to the state)?

Below is the email:

Separately, I appended below the dotted line ----------- what a related DNR email to other staffers called "speaking points" about the program being rolled out:

From: Evenson, Tom - GOV
Sent: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 3:41 PM
To: Moroney, Matt S - DNR
Cc: Schoenfeldt, Eileen - GOV; Webster, Jocelyn - GOV
Subject: Draft: Governor Scott Walker Announces Wisconsin Walleye Initiative
Hi Matt –
Here is our Wisconsin Walleye Initiative release.  Eileen mentioned you wanted to check for accuracy.  Thanks!
May 22, 2013
For Immediate Release
Contact: Tom Evenson, (608) 267-7303
Governor Scott Walker Announces Wisconsin Walleye Initiative
Madison – Governor Scott Walker announced the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative today.  The initiative, developed by the Department of Natural Resources, will dramatically increase the number of walleyes in Wisconsin by expanding production at state, private, and tribal fish hatcheries. 
“Fishing is such an important part of Wisconsin’s sporting heritage, and the demand for walleyes continues to exceed what our lakes can produce,” Governor Walker said. “With this historic investment, we are making long-term improvements to Wisconsin’s lakes and our state’s fishing and tourism industries.”
The Wisconsin Walleye Initiative includes the following:

·         $8.2 million in existing unencumbered bonding authority to expand hatchery capacities.
·         $1.8 million for operating costs over the biennium.
·         $2 million over the biennium for a competitive grant program for private organizations to expand walleye production and to cover operational costs. 
·         $160,000 in one-time funds for the UW Extension to continue aquaculture through the end of Fiscal Year 2014.
·         $500,000 annually beginning in Fiscal Year 2015 to contract with organizations to acquire additional walleye fingerlings.
·         $250,000 annually to expand the summer Tribal Youth Program.  The program is a state-tribal partnership giving high school-aged tribal youth the opportunity to work on natural resource-related projects. 

Under this initiative, production is estimated to increase from 60,000–120,000 large walleye fingerlings to well over 500,000 by 2016.
  • Walleye are Wisconsin’s most sought after gamefish.  Demand for walleyes continues to grow and now exceeds what our lakes can naturally produce – particularly in northern Wisconsin where state anglers and tribal subsistence harvesters exercising federal protected treaty fishing rights share the fish.
  • Governor Walker has challenged the Department to develop a plan to dramatically increase the number of walleye in Wisconsin to benefit all users.  The fastest way to “move the needle” is to stock more and larger walleyes those lakes across the state that can support additional walleye populations.
  • While not all lakes would benefit from enhanced walleye stocking, there are up to 500 lakes across the state whose walleye fisheries may be improved by enhanced stocking.
  • The Legislature has responded to Governor’s Walkers request and made available significant additional funding for use by state, tribal and private fish hatcheries to produce additional walleyes.  Funding of $8.2 million for infrastructure improvements and $1.3 million each year for annual operating costs will be provided to expand production at DNR state fish hatcheries.  Production should increase from 60,000-120,000 large walleye fingerlings to well over 500,000 by 2016.
  • One time funding of $2 million over the biennium is also being provided for a competitive grant program for municipal, tribal and private aquaculture facilities to improve their infrastructure and enhance the capabilities to stock additional large fingerling walleye in Wisconsin’s waters.
  • Also, $500,000 is being provided annually to purchase large fingerling walleye for stocking in Wisconsin’s waters from private fish farms.  Several states including Indiana and Minnesota have had success improving their walleye fisheries with purchases of walleye fingerlings from private sources.
  • The initiative will increase the stocking of large fingerling walleye by an estimated 500,000 to 850,000 fish, depending on grant proposals and contract bids that come forward.
  • This historic investment in Wisconsin’s walleye fishery will benefit all anglers, and Wisconsin’s economy due to increased tourism.
  • The Wisconsin Walleye Initiative will initially focus on increasing stocking of large walleye fingerlings.  These 6-8” fish are much more expensive to produce but survive to catchable size at a much higher rate than the fry or small fingerlings that have been traditionally been stocked because they are too large for predators to eat.
    • Fry which are newly hatched fish 1/4-1/2” in length are very inexpensive to produce and can be stocked in large numbers, but research shows they consistently work only in certain situations such as stocking winterkill or chemically treated lakes which have few predators.
    • Small fingerlings are raised for 4-6 weeks to a size of 1-2” before stocking.  They are inexpensive to produce because they feed on natural plankton and insects in ponds, and are commonly stocked by hatcheries across the country.  Research shows that these stockings produce inconsistent results in lakes with many predators with an average survival of only 1%.
    • Large fingerlings are raised to a size of 6-8” and stocked in fall.  They are expensive to produce because forage minnows or artificial feed must be purchased.  Because these fish are much larger they survive better in almost all stocked waters. Research shows they average 20% survival.
  • To better define the role that private aquaculture can play in future stockings of Wisconsin’s waters, DNR will partner with DATCP and the UW Extension to study barriers to private fish farm growth in Wisconsin and to characterize private aquaculture’s capacity to play a significant role in stocking greater numbers of large fingerling walleyes.
  • One time funding of $160,000 is being provided to University of Wisconsin Extension to continue support of the aquaculture extension specialists who will assist with the private aquaculture regulation and capacity studies and provide technical assistance to the industry.

1 comment:

John Foust said...

I missed the part where the DNR scientists study the situation to determine that it would be a good idea, ecology-wise, to increase the number of walleye, and if you did, what the effect would be apart from thinking you'd have more walleye to catch.