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State, tribe conflict on Sanpoil fishing licenses

Sun., May 26, 2013, 7:35 a.m.

Lake Roosevelt anglers continue to be caught in the crossfire of boundary disagreements between the state of Washington and the Colville Confederated Tribes.

According to new wording in the recently published Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, anglers fishing the Sanpoil Arm of Lake Roosevelt are in legal limbo unless they buy both state and tribal fishing licenses.

For the first time, the state regulations pamphlet specifically says a Washington state fishing license is required for non-Indian anglers but “anglers may be checked by tribal enforcement officers for a tribal license.”

“The new wording in the pamphlet simply reflects what we’ve been telling fishermen for years when they call the office for clarification,” said Madonna Luers, WDFW spokeswoman in Spokane.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials say a state license is all an angler needs.

Colville Tribal officials contend they have jurisdiction in the Sanpoil arm and that tribal license is required.

When similar disagreement between anglers and tribal officers came to a head in 1994, Joe Cassidy of Davenport, Wash., pursued his arrest by tribal police and by taking the U.S. government to court.

The court ruled in favor of Cassidy, noting the Colville and Spokane tribes do not have authority under the existing U.S. laws to regulate fishing by non-Indians in Lake Roosevelt waters below the elevation of 1,310 feet.

The state stands by the ruling as clear legal backing for jurisdiction and access.

But the Colville Tribe has continued to press legal angles that occasionally frustrate anglers and state Fish and Wildlife officials alike.

Several anglers were ticketed by tribal officers last year for fishing without a tribal license near Grand Coulee Dam. Even though the anglers were on U.S. Bureau of Reclamation land, the tribe contended a portion of the public road they used for access crossed reservation property.

“The tribe has arrogantly thumbed their nose at the Cassidy decision, and our leaders have allowed this to continue,” said Connie Williamson of Grand Coulee, one of the anglers issued a $100 fine. She said she’s received no hint of a resolution to the issue from her letters to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby and other leaders.

The Department of Interior has not responded to the tribe’s November 2012 formal request to look into the matter.

Steve Pozzanghera, Fish and Wildlife regional manager in Spokane, said the new wording in the pamphlet was an attempt to show anglers that the state and the tribe do not agree on the 1310 jurisdiction issue.

“The state is not changing its stance,” he said. “Based on the court ruling, the tribe does not have jurisdiction on the water below the 1310 line, which in the Sanpoil Arm extends up to the flowing water Boundary C.”

Pozzanghera said the state has had fruitful meetings with the tribe on fish management issues, but they bog down in jurisdictional issues.

“We understand the tribe believes the Sanpoil is an interior water and therefore they are indicating their belief that they have jurisdiction,” he said.

“We disagree.”

John Sirois, chairman of Colville Tribe’s Business Council, declined to answer several of The Spokesman-Review’s questions about jurisdiction or how many non-tribal members have been cited.

“Jurisdiction on the Sanpoil is a complicated issue,” he said.

“The Colville Tribe has and will continue to work with the state to provide as much clarity as possible. 

“Until the parties are able to provide more clarity, the CCT recommends that anglers who are fishing on the Sanpoil Arm obtain a tribal fishing permit.”

Pozzanghera said regardless of what decision anglers make, he requests they report any tribal enforcement contacts they have on Lake Roosevelt to the Fish and Wildlife Department office in Spokane.

“We’ll try to keep track of it,” he said. “So far, we have had no reports of tribal enforcement contacts with anglers in the Sanpoil Arm.”

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