Bill to Aid Pacific Salmon Faces Oppositionby Jim Barnett
The Oregonian, May 15, 2002
WASHINGTON -- A plan to triple federal money spent to recover imperiled West Coast salmon runs could founder over interstate rivalries and Bush administration objections to its cost, a Senate panel learned Tuesday.
The Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Act would send $350 million a year to the four West Coast states plus Idaho and tribes.
It also would set standards and require states and tribes to coordinate their efforts to improve salmon habitat.
The bill would more than triple the $110 million spent to carry out the Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada. It also would divide the money evenly among states, potentially reducing the amounts sent to Alaska and Washington.
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, told the ocean and fisheries subcommittee he wouldn't support the plan because it would further penalize Alaskan fishermen who cut their harvest to maintain stocks at levels acceptable to Canada.
"We're the ones who agreed to give up the fish to get the treaty passed," Stevens said. "We'd be happy to work out a solution for you, but we don't need another law for Alaska."
The plan also faces obstacles from the Bush administration.
Officials told the panel they support the goals of the plan. But they said they wanted to trim the cost to $90 million per year, the same amount proposed in the 2003 budget.
Nevertheless, the plan has bipartisan support from Oregon, California and Idaho, the three states that likely would see their funding increase, as well as tribes. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., are its co-sponsors.
Environmentalists and West Coast fishermen's groups support the plan because it would focus on efforts to recover wild salmon stocks rather than boost runs with hatchery fish. They also support standards for state recovery plans.
"In throwing money at these things, there really ought to be standards," said Jeff Curtis, Portland-based conservation director for Trout Unlimited.
A similar plan passed the House last year by a vote of 418-6.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who presided over the Commerce subcommittee, said she hoped to find a compromise that would be acceptable to Alaska and Washington state.
"We'll stick with it until we get it right," she said.
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