SF State Seeks End to Salmon Flap by Nels Johnson Marin IJ

San Francisco State University officials may allow a popular Tiburon salmon education and conservation program to remain at Romberg Center.
The Tiburon Salmon Institute won a 30-day eviction reprieve pending talks the university said are aimed at retaining the salmon project.
The university’s about-face comes amid mounting political pressure that includes Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state schools superintendent Tom Torlakson, who both serve as state university regents, state Sen. Mike McGuire, Rep. Jared Huffman and Marin officials.
The university announced it agreed to discuss negotiating “a license to allow Tiburon Salmon Institute to remain on university property at the Romberg Tiburon Center.”
The university is “hopeful that an agreement can be reached allowing Tiburon Salmon Institute to remain ... consistent with California State University and San Francisco State University policies and procedures,” according to a statement issued by Jonathan Morales, the university’s news director.
“My feeling is that perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel may not be the headlight of an oncoming train,” said Brooke Halsey, head of the salmon institute. “There is hope for a long-term agreement.”
Halsey met with officials representing the university, Huffman’s office and the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a session that resulted in a 30-day reprieve. “It is the first time that they had heard my side of the story,” Halsey said.
The university had issued a July 1 eviction for the program that has released hundreds of thousands of salmon smolts into the bay in a project involving hundreds of schoolchildren. But in its latest statement, the university said that “all parties hope to reach a final agreement within the next 30 days.”
The university’s change of heart follows a vigorous campaign orchestrated by Huffman, D-San Rafael, who lined up a roster of salmon institute supporters ranging from county supervisors and conservation league officials to state legislators including Newsom and Torlakson, as well as Charlton Bonham, head of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Huffman, a conservationist and recreational fisherman whose children participated in the Tiburon program, noted that “having the enthusiastic support of two California State University trustees has been especially helpful” in efforts to get the university’s attention. He added that Torlakson, the highest-ranking educator in the state, toured the Tiburon facility a week ago and “wants to do everything he can to save Tiburon Salmon Institute, including bringing the matter up at the next trustees meeting in Long Beach.”
Torlakson, a former marine biology and science teacher, said Monday he is hopeful there will be no need to bring the matter to the attention of other state university regents in two weeks because “I had a nice conversation with university president (Leslie) Wong and am hopeful there will be a resolution” allowing the institute to remain at Romberg. “I was impressed by the institute’s” equipment, programs and goals, the schools chief added.
Huffman said he remains “cautiously optimistic that things are starting to turn around” in light of “the opportunity for a fair and constructive dialogue.” He noted that “we haven’t had that until now.”
Huffman added that “truly, Tiburon Salmon Institute is one of the more impactful activities at the Romberg Center and should be viewed as an asset to San Francisco State University, not some kind of liability.”
Newsom, a Marin resident, has indicated the eviction of the institute from the Romberg Tiburon Center was apparently a “decision made in haste and in opposition to the expressed wishes of the Romberg Tiburon Center’s advisory board.”
“The Tiburon Salmon Institute has educated and inspired generations of people in Marin County,” the lieutenant governor noted in a letter to university president Wong, expressing hope for “an agreeable outcome for all parties,” and urging him to ”actively engage with all stakeholders and take the steps necessary to save this valued institution.”
Wong a week ago reported a solution to the dispute might be in the works, but declined to elaborate. “We’re trying to make it work,” he said.
Legalities regarding use of the Romberg Center site are tangled and include varying congressional authorizations and related stipulations. The salmon institute has permission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to use a warehouse and boat ramp licensed in perpetuity to the federal government when the Romberg property was given to the university, but the docks remain property of the university