Deal to create fish hatchery program goes bad

There’s nothing like fish to get emotions flowing in Mono County.

Just ask the Mono County Supervisors, now embroiled in a contentious  lawsuit filed against the county by a private aquaculture group after an effort to make the county self sufficient in terms of fish stocking went sour recently.

The lawsuit drags on, conducted in closed session out of the public’s eye week after week. On Tuesday, however, the board’s frustration with the issue erupted into the open when it came time to appoint/re-appoint members to the county’s advisory group in all things fishy, the Mono County Fisheries Commission.

“I want it on the record that I am very dissatisfied with the commission,” Supervisor Byng Hunt said. “I’m not necessarily ready to dismantle the commission, but that’s something to consider.”

The problem, Hunt said, is that he had seen people from the commission sitting in court rooting for Inland Aquaculture Group, the group that filed the lawsuit against the county over alleged damages it incurred over the past several years while attempting to create a viable fish hatchery program on the county-owned Conway Ranch property.

There were five applicants for the four vacancies in the commission, posted in August. The five applicants were: Steve Marti of Bridgeport, Robert Dunn of Coleville, R. Gary Jones of Mammoth Lakes, Thomas Petersen of Mammoth Lakes, and Gaye Mueller of Bishop.

Hunt wasn’t the only supervisor that voiced concerns.

“In the Civil War,” Supervisor Larry Johnston said, “you had to choose sides. I think we’ve got a big deal going here, and it seems people have chosen sides.”

Supervisor Tim Fesko, however, said he had spoken with those individuals and was dismayed, but that it was perhaps taken out of context.

“I believe there’s more county blame here,” Fesko said. “But we need to look at [the commission’s] mission. Is their mission clear?”

Supervisor Tim Alpers, who initially said he liked the idea of continuity in the appointment of the commissioners, said he recommended foregoing all appointments for now.

“We should be considering the bigger picture,” Alpers said, and not rush appointments.

The Board agreed to discuss ideas for the commission and reconsider the issue at the Nov. 5or Nov. 12 meeting.