Hey all I have not been able to post a update on the legal challenge to the 2013 season but it was settled out of court. So read through it and you will see it ends up addressing several key issues of the Grays Harbor Management Plan redo. I will do a second post with the talking points ( press release more / less ) shortly.



SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

Hamilton, et al. v. Wash. Depít of Fish and Wildlife, Thurston Cnty. Sup. Ct. No. 13-2-01741-2
Hamilton, et al. v. Wash. Depít of Fish and Wildlife, Thurston Cnty. Sup. Ct. No. 13-2-02050-2

This Agreement is entered into on the date of last signature below by and between Tim Hamilton, Arthur Holman, and Ronald Schweitzer (Petitioners) and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (Department).

RECITALS

Petitioners filed the above-referenced lawsuits challenging rules promulgated by the Department setting salmon fishing seasons for Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, respectively, for 2013.

Petitioners and the Department both desire to facilitate enhanced communication between the Department and recreational fishers. We both want to ensure a strong technical foundation for salmon fishery management in both commercial and recreational fisheries in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, and we want to improve the integration of the North of Falcon fishery planning and APA rule processes.

Petitioners and the Department seek to settle these matters and resolve all claims between them related to the subject of the above-referenced matters.

AGREEMENT

Now, therefore, in consideration of the mutual promises contained herein, the parties agree as follows:

1) Petitioners agree to dismiss with prejudice the above-referenced lawsuits, without costs or attorney fees to either party. Such dismissal shall occur within 10 days of execution of this Agreement.

2) The Director will request the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to give him direction to initiate the development of a Willapa Bay Fishery Management Policy (Policy) after the Grays harbor Policy and the 2014 North of Falcon process has been completed. The Department will target having the new Willapa Bay policy process completed by February of 2015 and implemented through the 2015 North of Falcon process. In addition, following the adoption of the Policy, the Willapa Bay Management Plan will be revised in a manner consistent with the Policy.

3) The Department will establish a dedicated account and deposit $15,000 in such account to be used solely for procuring the consulting services of independent fishery scientists for tasks described herein. The initial task of the independent fishery scientists will be to review existing scientific studies and recommend appropriate release mortality rates for use by the Department to predict the mortality of fish released from state managed commercial gillnets in Grays Harbor (see 5a below).
a. The independent fisheries scientists engaged pursuant to this paragraph shall be jointly selected by the parties and the scientistsí scope of work shall be jointly developed by the parties.
b. The parties acknowledge that time is of the essence in engaging the scientists pursuant to this chapter and shall make best efforts to select and approve the scientists and the scope of work no later than February 14, 2014. If the scientific review and recommendations regarding release mortalities cannot be completed by March 14, 2014, as contemplated by the parties, then the work will and any recommendations will be completed by February 1, 2015 and used in the 2015 and subsequent preseason planning processes.

c. Additional tasks that will be considered and implemented by agreement of the parties utilizing any remaining funds from this account include the development of: 1) a Grays Harbor web page with a clear presentation of key information (i.e., catches, spawners, basis of spawner goals); 2) improved preseason predictions of salmon abundance; and 3) inseason estimates or indicators of salmon abundance.

4) The Department will provide $15,000 to a nonprofit organization established by Petitioners to enhance communication and build cooperation between the Department and recreational fishers. The Department shall make such payment within 10 days of receiving proof of an appropriate nonprofit organization having been established.

5) The nonprofit organization created by Petitioners shall, at a minimum, complete the following:

a. Assist the Department in the planning, promotion, and implementation of a workshop to ensure that the release mortality rates used for preseason planning of commercial fisheries in Grays Harbor are based on the best available information (Workshop 1 Ė February 2014). After the conclusion of the workshop, the panel of independent fishery scientists (paid for through the independent account created and funded pursuant to paragraph 3, above) will summarize scientific studies presented at the workshop and provide recommendations on release mortality rates.

b. Assist the Department in the planning, promotion, and implementation of a workshop to review the performance identify improved methods for predicting the catch in Grays Harbor Basin salmon fisheries (Workshop 2 - February 2014). Panelists will present information on the performance of previous catch projections, propose improvements, and solicit additional suggestions to improve preseason catch projections.

c. Assist the Department in the planning, promotion, and implementation of four workshops designed to improve understanding of salmon fishery management in the Grays Harbor Basin (Workshops 3-6). The workshops would occur prior to August, 2014.

d. Provide recommendations and suggestions to the Department on increasing public confidence in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) rulemaking process for season-setting for Willapa and Grays Harbor.

6) The parties agree to work together to develop messaging and outreach to the public that accurately conveys this Agreement and the public process provided for in the Agreement. The parties shall not communicate about this Agreement or the public process provided for in the Agreement in a manner inconsistent with their jointly developed messaging and outreach plan.

7) The parties agree that they shall meet not less than monthly while the obligations under this Agreement are outstanding to discuss implementation of this Agreement. Each party may designate one or more representatives to attend such meetings and attendance may be by telephone or other electronic means. The parties will strive to cooperatively resolve any disagreements related to this Agreement. In the event either party has a disagreement with the other, that party shall communicate that disagreement during a meeting of the parties. Prior to initiating any legal action to enforce this Agreement, a party shall communicate in writing the subject of the disagreement and give the other party 30 days to respond.

8) This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties with respect to resolution of the above-entitled matters and the subject matter thereof. Any representations, promises, or statements not set forth in the Agreement are of no force and effect and have not been relied upon.

9) The language of all parts of this Agreement shall be construed as a whole, according to its fair meaning, and not strictly for or against any of the Parties. It has been negotiated by and between attorneys for the Parties and shall not be construed against either side as drafter. If any portion or provision of this Agreement is determined to be illegal, invalid, or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction, the remainder of this Agreement shall not be affected by such determination and shall be valid and enforceable to the fullest extent permitted by law, and said illegal, invalid, or unenforceable portion or provision shall be deemed not to be a part of this Agreement.

10) This Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the state of Washington. Venue for any suit involving a dispute over this Agreement shall be Thurston County.

11) Each party agrees to be responsible for his own attorneys fees and costs associated with the above-referenced lawsuits and this Agreement.


Dated this __ day of January, 2014




TIM HAMILTON


Dated this __ day of January, 2014




ARTHUR HOLMAN


Dated this __ day of January, 2014




RONALD SCHWEITZER


Dated this __ day of January, 2014




______________________, TITLE _______________________
FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WIDLIFE
_________________________
Dazed and confused.............the fog is closing in