PENINSULA - If you don't have a razor clam license for the upcoming dig beginning Feb. 19 you might have to go to Olympia or use the Internet to purchase one.

Almost all of the local dealers who have been selling clam licenses the past several years will not be doing so the day before the season, beginning Feb. 18. The next three-day clam season is Feb. 19 through 21 on Peninsula beaches.

Jack's Country Store, Pioneer Market, Seaview One Stop, Seaview Short Stop, and Chinook Country Store joined forces with Bob's Merchandise and Manchester's Brothers in Longview to inform Dr. Jeffrey Koenings, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife by letter Feb. 6 that they will no longer sell clam licenses.

The letter stated, "The absence of any form of relief to our problems in providing recreational licenses to the public prompts us to withdraw from selling licenses the day prior to any razor clam season, as well as all days when clam digging is open.

The letter signed by the seven aforementioned dealers goes on to say, "We regret to inform you that we are unable to rely upon the promises made to us by WDFW management ... we are unwilling to discuss the matter further unless a licensed court reporter is present and provides transcripts to all of us."

Tom Downer of Jack's Country Store said, "The decision to not sell clam licenses is not something that has just come about. We have had many problems with WDFW in the past. The bottom line is that we cannot afford to sell the licenses any more."

The problems in the transaction are two-fold. Under the agreement dealers are required to sign with WDFW, they must pre-purchase the number of licenses they hope to sell and they cannot return those that are left over, according to Downer. Should a dig be canceled because of a domoic acid outbreak, for example, dealers are stuck with the price of the unsold licenses. Purchasing 1,000 unsold licenses would result in an loss of $6,570.

The other problem is some merchants feel people who purchase licenses go to their stores for just that purpose and there are few residual sales. "They tend to not buy anything other than a clam license, and they make it very difficult for our regular customers to even park near the store, let alone purchase anything. Our gross receipts plummet whenever there is a clam tide," one local merchant explained.

Downer summed up the merchants;' plight by saying, "Our costs far exceed our revenue for licenses. We would like to keep serving the public, but WDFW has not helped us to do so. It's a 'lose-lose' situation for us, and we as a group of merchants, have been forced to cut our losses."

In Oregon, all of the Fish and Wildlife offices sell licenses, according to Downer, but in Washington only Olympia provides the service. State Reps. Mark Doumit and Brian Hatfield voiced support for the dealers as they have proposed legislation to remedy the service WDFW has provided to the recreational public.

"Even if the legislation goes through, and we get all that we would like to see happen to again be able to sell licenses to the public, the changes would likely not occur until 2005," Downer predicted.

Joanie Rekart, manager of Dennis Company in Long Beach says their store will continue to sell recreational licenses during the up-coming digs and licenses can also be purchased online at (www.greatlodge.com).

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