CDQ battle brewing

You probably haven't heard much about it, but Alaska's Community Development Quota program is coming up for a major performance review, the first in several years.

The CDQ program is a 20-year-old federal initiative that vests six nonprofit companies with exclusive shares of the Bering Sea commercial fisheries. The companies harvest the fish and crab for the benefit of disadvantaged Western Alaska villages.

Through most of the CDQ program's history, these six companies competed fiercely with one another for the lucrative quota during periodic government reviews.

To the relief of many, the competition ended when Congress in 2006 passed legislation that set each company's quota shares more or less permanently.

The law, however, mandated a state review of the program in — you guessed it — 2012, and every 10 years thereafter.

A special panel made up of the state commissioners of commerce, labor and fish and game later this year will evaluate each company's performance in generating village prosperity.

The review has teeth — an underperformer could lose as much as 10 percent of its quota.

Now, longtime followers of the CDQ program won't be surprised to learn that some of the CDQ players aren't content to simply go through the state review.

No, some see a bigger opportunity here and are going — again, you guessed it — directly to Congress seeking a bigger share.

This is the approach of Coastal Villages Region Fund, the Anchorage-based CDQ company representing 20 communities in the Kuskokwim River area.

In the latest edition of its newsletter, Coastal says its president, vice president and staff went to Washington, D.C., in early May to ask Congress to correct the "enormous inequities that exist in the current CDQ allocations."

Already the richest of the six CDQ companies, Coastal argues it actually deserves considerably more quota given its larger constituent population.

Coastal is "asking Congress to fix the inequities that occurred in the CDQ allocations prior to 2006 so that Coastal will get its fair share."

Well, Deckboss is sure Coastal has a good argument. But he imagines the other five CDQ groups also have good arguments — and maybe have taken their own trips to D.C.


I can see an old-fashioned CDQ smackdown coming. Can't you?