SALEM, Ore.—After hearing strong support from area residents, law enforcement and emergency responders who have been dealing with alcohol-related problems, the Fish and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to ban alcohol at Sauvie Island Wildlife Area (SIWA) from May 1-Sept. 30 annually during its meeting in Salem today. The ban will begin this year on May 1, 2018.
Over the past several years, Oregon State Police has documented an increase in alcohol-related problems at SIWA beaches, despite increased law enforcement, including saturation patrols. Last year, 17 individuals were arrested for DUII as they traveled away from Sauvie Island beaches, and 36 percent of all DUII arrests in Columbia County by OSP troopers between April 1 and Aug. 3 were those traveling from SIWA beaches.
Wildlife area management and OSP believe that an alcohol ban during the summer months will significantly reduce alcohol-related problems, plus need for additional law enforcement and emergency medical personnel. ODFW and law enforcement personnel will continue to monitor parking and other issues in this heavily visited area, which receives approximately 488,465 visitors from May-September and sometimes more than 16,000 people daily during hot summer days.
In other business, the Commission voted to:
- Close the recreational abalone fishery for three years, with the intent of reopening in the future after ODFW staff assess red abalone populations. ODFW staff are expected to report back with an update on that assessment about a year from now. The 2018 season was closed by emergency rule due to low densities of red abalone, poor environmental conditions, and increasing fishery pressure.
- Approved Access and Habitat (A&H) funding for a new Coos Mtn Access Area to provide public hunting access to more than 65,000 acres of a mix of private and public land and interconnected roads in the Tioga Unit.
- Granted A&H funds to improve wildlife habitat and re-appointed Craig Ely of La Grande as Chair of the A&H board.
- Approved funding for several Restoration and Enhancement projects which improve facilities for anglers or help fund improved fish passage and fish research.
Commissioners were also briefed about planning for the 2018 ocean salmon fishery and results from the 2017 fisheries on the Columbia River.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. Its next meeting is scheduled for April 19-20 in Astoria.