Community Development Recommendation 2

Tribal FishCo LLC


In 2010 CRITFC’s four member tribes formed Tribal FishCo, LLC (FishCo) to operate and maintain a fish processing center located in White Salmon, Washington, which was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Public Law 100-581 Title IV Columbia River Treaty Fishing Sites legislation. Once the tribes have a federally compliant food processing facility, they can take greater control of their fisheries resources by processing and marketing fish and accessing new markets.

To date, a number of important activities to assist FishCo to begin operations at the plant have been completed:

Each of the four member tribes appointed two representatives to the Board of Advisors (Board), which provides policy oversight to FishCo.

CRITFC secured funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to complete a feasibility study planning document and a business plan. These were developed by the McDowell Group not only to determine feasibility, but also to provide guidance for start-up and future operations. The Board, the plant manager and CRITFC staff provided input for the business plan’s development. The plan noted that for the tribes to move forward with operations, they would require an additional capital contribution or a partnership with an experienced seafood processor to provide equipment or capital (i.e., cash or a line of credit to purchase fish).

CRITFC also funded an engineering report on FishCo’s processing plant discharges and the city’s wastewater treatment system, which will be used in the negotiation process for a user agreement with the City of Bingen to authorize discharges into its wastewater treatment system.

FishCo hired a manager to conduct a pilot test for plant operations and also contracted with an experienced seafood processor for limited operations in 2011 and 2012. For the fall 2012 fishing season, FishCo hired 16 employees to process fish and to provide bookkeeping functions. These limited operations also provided information on the makeup of discharges (e.g., fats, oils, grease), which will assist the negotiation process for an agreement with the City of Bingen to use its wastewater treatment plant.

CRITFC contracted with FishCo to provide ice to the tribal fishers in 2011 and 2012. In total, FishCo provided approximately one million pounds of ice to the fishers, which helped generate $98,000 in ice-contracting revenues.

For the summer and fall 2013 fishing seasons, FishCo provided ice to the tribal fishers at near cost. The ice helped maintain the quality of the tribal catch, while charging a minimal fee preserved FishCo’s capital.

CRITFC continues to assist FishCo with the payment of invoices for plant utilities and operations.

Actions Needed

For FishCo to operate in the near term, these issues to be need addressed.

  • The user agreement with the City of Bingen must be finalized prior to full-scale operations to reserve capacity at the city’s wastewater treatment system. The agreement will set a monthly fee for using the city’s wastewater treatment plant; a higher fee will be charged during peak operating periods.
  • The Board needs support from the member tribes’ economic development personnel to help with start-up and operational activities. Tribes have expertise in business planning and project capitalization. The business plan should be updated to incorporate financial and market information.
  • The Board needs to review capitalization needs for FishCo’s operations (e.g., cash, labor, equipment) and whether it will utilize a contractor to assist with operations.
  • The Board’s review of capitalization needs also must include an evaluation of the funds necessary to ensure that basic management and accounting functions are budgeted.

Desired Outcome

  • A user agreement is finalized between Tribal FishCo and the City of Bingen authorizing the use of the city’s wastewater treatment system for FishCo’s operational discharges.
  • FishCo operates as a federally compliant food processing facility, allowing access to new markets.
  • FishCo is operated by the four tribes as a self-sustaining entity, capable of meeting cash flow needs and the needs of the markets.
  • The fish plant provides tribal employment opportunities for fish processing.
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