5/14/03
Rose Cullander
Environmental Internship
Final Report

Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife: Cooperative Compliance and Review Program

Office: 2nd and Cherry St. (back side of the cellular one building)
Sponsor: Enforcement Officer Mike Johnson, 527-4139 johnslmj@dfw.wa.gov
Area Habitat Biologist David Karl, 527-4138 karldbk@dfw.wa.gov

Background:

The Walla Walla basin has been selected by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to be the test case for the feasibility of the new Cooperative Compliance and Review Program. The goal of this program is to work with the irrigators who use water from streams that support samonoid species, to gain compliance with the ESA restrictions on pump screen size/installation/etc. In the past, new regulations have been distributed to the public but fail to reach most of the people they apply too. Often it is not until a citation is written and submitted to the courthouse that the offender learns the details of their “infraction”. The Cooperative Compliance and Review Program is taking a new direction in informing the public of the new laws. Along with widely publicized meetings in the community, the DFW has sent out packets containing pertinent information on the specifics of the law, basic fish and pump screen information and the expectations of the public to become compliant with the ESA law. Each client that signs up for the CCRP program enters into a contract with the program and is insured that 85% of the cost of the screen installation (regardless of the size) will be supported by the DFW. The remaining 15% is covered by the irrigator but they are not required to pay direct out of pocket expenses but can instead work out a different method of payment such as contributing materials to meet the 15% requirement. The Area Habitat Biologist (David Karl) is on call to answer questions about the program, and to assist the irrigator in becoming compliant by visiting the site and issuing Hydraulic Project Applications to allow the clients to do in-stream work.

The program is in phase 1: recruiting clients and entering them into the database. Soon we will be moving into phase 2: identifying irrigators not yet included in the program for various reasons (i.e. missed meetings, part-time stream users, irrigators without recognized water rights). Although we require a DOE (Department of Energy) acknowledgement of water rights, it is not the responsibility of the program to enforce relinquishment or monitor the amount of cfs flow running into a client’s field. This enables us to work on the “same side” as the irrigators when we explain to them that we are not here to enforce correct compliance with water right laws (a very heated issue in all farming communities in the west) but we are instead trying to work with the public to insure that anyone drawing water from the stream has a protected right to do so. Our main focus is to protect the public from receiving citations because of non-compliance with the pump screen regulations but we also offer information on all aspects of stream politics. Phase 3: will incorporate complete compliance from the estimated 1,000 irrigators in the Walla Walla basin, to date only 400 have signed up for the program.

Objectives/Goals:

(3/14/03) My main duties are as an assistant Area Habitat Biologist/computer database support expert, I work with the WSDFW in creating and maintaining the master database (on site) to help Walla Walla Basin irrigators comply with the Endangered Species Act regulations on irrigation pump screen specifications. I will also begin writing a handbook of guidelines for the CCRP that will enable other counties to troubleshoot and create their own CCRP database and method for implementation of ESA requirements in new areas as the deadline for compliance with the ESA approaches. During the irrigation season (starting in late March-early April) I will soon be calling clients and borrowing a DFW truck to begin taking GPS points of the clients’ installations for accurate descriptions of the projects and in order to help identify irrigators not yet included in the program. I also get volunteer hours credited with the Fish and Wildlife Department for all of the work I accomplish.

(5/14/03) I have completed the initial database entry that they needed and I proposed a new project; to input all of the clients with sufficient data into the database to create a more comprehensive initial database for future reference. In writing the CCRP handbook we have run up against a wall because we all understand approximately the same amount of the database but we cannot answer each others questions when it comes to creating new links within the actual program itself. We need to have a meeting with the software designer so that we can make this program run more efficiently for us and to tailor it more to our needs and expectations. Until then we can only input data into the master files until we can learn the intricacies of our tailor-made program. We hope to have it completely fine tuned by next year so that we could send it along with the CCRP package of information to other counties looking to start the same program.

I was also unable to make solo field calls as both Dave and Mike were out of the office a great percentage of the time I was there, for departmental meetings and workshops. I did continue to accompany Mr. Carl on field calls and I learned a lot of the skills necessary for integrating the CCRP’s message into the irrigator’s projects for obtaining water. The irrigation season has started and the program continues to get busier so I promised that I would continue to enter data into the database and hopefully finish with all the current clients before I leave for Oregon.

Logistics/Reflection:

(3/14/03) Both David Karl and Mike Johnson are very helpful and friendly guys with a passion for the work that they are doing. I work at least four hours a week updating and modifying the database and accompanying David Karl on field calls. The difficult part of this internship resides not within the office but within the governmental department itself. The eye-opening part of this internship is the gross inefficiency that occurs when you have to coordinate efforts from other divisions and offices. We have been trying to order the same version of a particular mapping software for at least a year and a half but each time we seem to have acquired the approval of all the necessary departmental heads we have to start at ground zero again when one decides that we need the newer version of the software even though we repeatedly explained that it is not compatible with the DOE software. By buying the DOE compatible version we can use their information to create maps for our programs without starting from scratch.

They have assured me that this is a “gold star” program in its ability to get results and escape condemnation from environmental groups. This is because the program developed by Mike Bierley seeks to incorporate not only the environmental interest groups, and the other governmental branches concerned with the implementation of the law but it also encourages the public to comply with the regulations in a non-authoritative way. This internship has been very valuable to me in the fact that it gives me a chance to identify acronyms such as DOE, with their real life manifestation. It is interesting to see how many of the departments become “scapegoats” for other departments but also how there are people in every department who can really make things work. This program is unable to proceed to the other phases of the project without the approval and input of information from other departments (such as the DOE). When these departments repeatedly send incorrect or incomplete information or even fail to send the information until asked multiple times, our program is slowed and we get blamed for not showing rapid growth in the number of completed projects. Since we are an extremely new program we will get scraped before the other more established departments but it seems unfair when we are making progress with our work but cannot continue without including forms from other offices that these offices required us to include. I feel that both Mr. Karl and Mr. Johnson have been handed over the reins of this ambitious project and are able to make it truly effective. I also greatly appreciate their working style since I have been repeatedly assured that I am a valued member of the team.

This equality is the high point of my experience so far because I know I have skills that I can use with great effectiveness in the workplace and I am getting a chance to prove this not only to my employers but to myself as well. I have recently undertaken the task of completely reassessing the hard files of the program to identify the gaps in the information we have from the cooperative clients. We need to have this project completed before the irrigation season ends in order to progress to the next phase. WE have been working hard meeting with environmental groups and our own department to show them the tremendous results we have achieved so far. However, the three of us all desire that 100% completion mark that seems so far away. I feel though that by chipping away and inputting all of the possible information we can get into our database that we will build a strong foundation upon which we can base the rest of our efforts. I look forward to this upcoming challenge and I am excited to continue working towards establishing all known irrigators and creating a handbook to help other counties to do the same.

(5/14/03) Dealing with the irrigators was one of the most eye-opening aspects of my internship. It was easy for me with all of the information and none of the responsibility for a farm to understand the need to accelerate the rate at which the screens were installed. I often had to take a step back, when walking around someone’s fields to view their intake site, and remind myself that these hard working men and women did not have the same background knowledge coming into our meeting and that we had to learn to “sell” our project to each and every one of them starting from ground zero. Most were very interested in becoming compliant and many had already started leaving their sections of the streams and rivers to be overtaken by native plant species and to become more habitable. Streams that ran through residential areas however were highly modified and were potentially quite hazardous/ difficult for any fish to pass through. These “dead ends” were better suited to screening the entire “ditch” with a regulation size screen then to screen each and every pump used for watering the landscapes and lawns. The cost for both sides was greatly reduced in these instances and potential juvenile fish mortality was reduced overall as the large screen would protect them from having to swim against the current in order to find their way out of these “blind” streams.

Although data entry was somewhat boring it was a real treat to be able to watch these guys in action and to know that my job was also important to the continuing health of the program. I didn’t expect that I would be such an integral part of the team and I appreciate the efforts of both Mike and Dave to bring me up to speed with the entire message of the program. I encourage anyone who might be continuing work for the CCRP to emphasize their willingness to tag along on field calls. These are some of the most informative sessions and you gain experience working with the public as a government employee. I could see myself working as a habitat biologist for the DFW but I think that I would enjoy mammal habitat restoration instead of working with fish species. The enforcement side of the DFW didn’t interest me quite as much and I feel that its appeal rests more with a police-officer sort of crowd.

When I finish with the database there will still be plenty of work reorganizing and refilling information in the craziness that is the district office. The program is fairly small however so there will probably only be one position open next year to continue the data-entry of new clients and the management of the system. The intern could also probably branch out of the office and start to organize meetings along with the DFW staff to educate the public and to inform the other departments and environmental groups of the progress that has been made in this innovative program. The Walla Walla Community College irrigation tech. program handles most of the installation work for the screens but if an intern was around in the summer they could tag along with this group as they take initial surveys of the sites and recommend a specific screen based on pump size and water usage.