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Sports >  Outdoors

New fee on commercial fishing guides causing a kerfuffle on Lake Roosevelt

Boat anglers troll for trout and kokanee on Lake Roosevelt. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
Boat anglers troll for trout and kokanee on Lake Roosevelt. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

A new fee on commercial fishing guides is causing a kerfuffle on Lake Roosevelt.

Starting this year, guides will have to pay an additional fee when applying for their Commercial Use Authorization permit, said Julia Treu-Fowler, the concessions management assistant for the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

The fee will be 2% of the gross income made while working on Lake Roosevelt, she said. Since 2016, guides have payed a $100 application fee for the CUA permit. That fee will remain and be credited toward the additional 2% fee, she said.

The additional money will go toward costs related to the management of the commercial activities.

“They are bringing their private business onto the peoples’ land,” she said. “So the idea is to bring some of that money back to the people.”

Guides will have to submit their overall gross income and their gross income earned on Roosevelt. The move is necessitated by NPS rules, she said, and not intended to discourage commercial use. Prior to coming to Lake Roosevelt in 2017, Treu-Fowler worked on commercial use rules in other parks, including in Puerto Rico.

“These fishermen are bringing in visitors,” she said. “That’s our purpose. We want people to visit this National Park. The fishermen are providing a service we can’t.”

Fishing guides see it differently.

“As far as I’m concerned I just have to pass it onto the customers,” Lance Effrig, the owner of Washington Guide Services. “So that means less people visiting the park. Less people visiting the economy.”

Effrig, who has been guiding on Roosevelt for four years, estimates he will increase his prices by 10%. The new fee will cost him about $300, an amount he admits is not much. However, that number doesn’t take into account the extra work required to log and submit his gross income, he said.

Nor does it consider the fact that guides already pay state fees, in addition to taxes and other business expenses, said Craig Dowdy, owner and operator of YJ Guide Service.

“Everybody is wanting a percentage, a piece of the pie,” he said. “By the time it’s all said and done, why do we do what we’re doing if we aren’t going to make any money doing it?”

The increased fee has its roots in a 2015 National Park Service rule establishing a new fee schedule for commercial operations on park lands. Per the rule, the NPS can level a 3% fee for recreation services that gross less than $250,000 a year.

However, after meeting with guides about the proposal, Treu-Fowler said Lake Roosevelt staff decided to only level a 2% fee.

“OK, maybe this is a little bit too drastic,” she said staff decided. “We’re going to give them a break. A 1% break.”

The fee could rise to 3% next year, she said.

“ Honestly, we got a little push back pushback about not making it 3% from our leadership,” she said.

Effrig said the fee increase ignores the reality of Lake Roosevelt and Eastern Washington more broadly.

“Lake Roosevelt is a great place.,” he said. “But it’s not a destination park … There is no one in a penthouse in New York sitting there saying, ‘You know what, we’re going to Lake Roosevelt to go sturgeon fishing.’ ”

Adding to the guides’ angst: Last year they were forced to remove videos of their angling clients from YouTube and elsewhere online, unless they paid a $45 fee for each video per commercial use rules.

Since then, the park has softened its stance, Treu-Fowler said. Guides are now allowed to post videos to their website, as long as they list their videos on their CUA application, without paying any additional fee. However, they may not post them to social media or YouTube, she said.

In addition to the federal changes, Washington guides are also skeptical and angered by new state rules requiring they report client license information and detail what fish they catch, when and where. With some fisheries struggling, state managers hope the new rule will make guides more involved in regulating an industry that depends on a public resource.

“It’s a nightmare,” said Ron Sharp, owner of Oakeysmokes Fishing Guide Service. “I’m thinking about not even guiding in Washington.”

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