Tribes Say Money Lackingby Natalie M. Henry, staff writer
Northwest Indian tribes say unless Congress and the Bush administration push a supplemental funding bill this year, there will not be enough money to fully implement salmon recovery plans released last month. The plans disappointed environmentalists by not recommending breaching of four federal dams on the lower Snake River, but called for myriad other measures to recover the fish.
The Bonneville Power Administration will need an additional $100 million this year, and $265 million to $430 million in additional funds annually for fiscal years 2002 through 2006, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission said Tuesday. BPA needs the funds to upgrade the transmission system to allow water to spill for fish, as well as repay the Army Corps of Engineers for capital investments and implement habitat protection measures and fish and wildlife provisions.
CRITFC's policy coordinator, Bob Lothrup, said BPA will be hard pressed to come up with the funds given its current crisis, which could force it to buy power on the open market at exorbitantly high prices and maybe even raise rates. He added that people in the Northwest generally think Congress should front the money through appropriations, yet inside the Beltway many members of Congress think BPA should pay for fish and wildlife measures itself.
The Interior Department will need an additional $67 million this year, according to CRITFC. In FY '02 through '06, Interior will need between $115 million and $480 million in additional funds annually. Much of this funding is needed to maintain water in the reservoirs at safe temperatures for fish and for decreasing dissolved gases. Interior also performs habitat restoration on federal lands.
The National Marine Fisheries Service will need $81 million this year, and about $83 million annually from 2002 through 2006, according to CRITFC. NMFS needs more funding for habitat restoration, hatchery upgrades, and research and planning for implementing the new Biological Opinion (BiOp) as required by the Endangered Species Act. The BiOp is a legal document outlining salmon recovery in the Northwest.
The Army Corps of Engineers will need $12 million more this year, and $70 million to $813 million more annually through 2006.
CRITFC representatives also stressed the situation in the Northwest this year of very low precipitation - snowpack is at 50 percent of normal and runoff 80 percent, Lothrup said - coupled with high energy demands, and therefore high demands for water from reservoirs. Add to that the upcoming spring chinook salmon run, which is expected to yield 364,000 fish, and the fish may find not enough water in the system. "It's not going to be a good year for migrating salmon," Lothrup said.
The expected 364,000 spring chinook is the highest since the 1930s, and "is certainly the product of good water" in 1996 and 1997, said CRITFC spokesman Charles Hudson.
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