Governor orders reorganization of commercial fisheries commission

Gov. Bill Walker issued an administrative order Tuesday that transfers many functions of the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) into the Department of Fish and Game. The reorganization will save the state more than $1.3 million a year, according to the governor’s office.

The CFEC, an autonomous state agency, is responsible for deciding what commercial fisheries to limit, who gets to participate in them and adjudicating appeal cases. It also issues permits and licenses, which bring in the majority of the agency’s revenue.

The administrative order moves CFEC’s licensing, permitting, research, information technology, accounting, payroll, procurement and budget services to Fish and Game. This transfer would affect about a dozen of the commission’s 25 employees. Some vacancies and at least one office manager will be eliminated, according to Fish and Game Deputy Commissioner Kevin Brooks.

Brooks said the reorganization will be done in phases.

“We’ve got to do it orderly and make sure we maintain services to the fleet. We don’t want to do something that’s going to disrupt issuing permits to fishermen. We’re not going to take any action that’s going to compromise the ability of the folks doing the job to keep doing that job,” Brooks said.

CFEC will retain its adjudication functions, which include the positions of three commissioners, a hearing officer, legal staff and clerical positions.

Brooks said part of the $1.3 million of savings includes the three commissioner positions going from full-time to part-time in January 2017. Other savings will come from not renewing CFEC’s building lease when it’s up in August 2017.

Brooks said the ideal long-term solution is to move the 12 reorganized employees to Fish and Game headquarters.

“We can get the groups working together and get some of the synergies we’re hoping to get by bringing the licensing staff together and our IT staff together,” Brooks said.

A report by the Legislature’s audit division released in October suggested similar changes to the governor’s order.

A different report by Fish and Game drew attention to backlogged permit application cases, a slow work pace by the three commissioners who head the agency, and alternatives to the agency’s organizational structure.

Rep. Paul Seaton and Rep. Louise Stutes both have tried to eliminate CFEC with bills in 2014 and 2015.

Lisa Phu is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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