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Idaho Senators Bid for Salmon Funding

by Larry Swisher
Capital Press - July 25, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Idaho's senators are staking a claim to federal Pacific salmon restoration funds based on the fact that their state is the spawning grounds for several of Northwest endangered fish.

Last week, Sen. Larry Craig put the Senate Appropriations Committee on notice that he and colleague Mike Crapo are tired of being shut out of an average of $90 million per year that has gone to four coastal states and Indian tribes.

Opposition to including Idaho has come mainly from the powerful former committee chairman, Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, as well as from Washington's senators. Claiming greater needs, those two states have taken the lion's share of the money, while lesser amounts have gone to Oregon, California and various Indian tribes.

The Pacific Salmon Fund, which was established in 1999, provides 50-50 matching grants for state and tribal salmon restoration projects and related watershed planning and monitoring.

The money is provided by Congress through the annual spending bill for the Department of Commerce. The Senate Appropriations Committee on July 18 approved a FY2003 spending bill that includes $95 million for the Pacific Salmon Fund - $5 million above the current year's amount and President Bush's budget request.

The grants would be allocated as follows: Washington state, $30.05 million; Alaska, $24.65 million; California and Oregon, $14 million each; coastal Indian tribes, $9 million; and Columbia River tribes, $3.3 million.

Craig noted that several endangered sockeye and chinook runs spawn in Idaho and migrate through the Columbia and Snake river dams to and from the Pacific Ocean. "Anything we do (to restore habitat) enhance the overall numbers," he said.

But Stevens argued that along with Oregon and Washington, Idaho already receives funding for salmon restoration through the Bonneville Power Administration's $188 million per year fish and wildlife mitigation program. Alaska does not share in those funds, he said.

Craig agreed to withhold an amendment to make his state eligible and to work with Stevens and committee leaders. But if an agreement cannot be reached, Craig said, he and Crapo would try to pass the amendment when the $43.5 billion appropriation bill reaches the Senate floor either next week or in September.

"We get a little" funding, Craig said after the committee meeting, but he said the two program are different and that BPA is financed by Northwest electric ratepayers.

BPA is a federal agency and is part of the Energy Department, but its annual operations are paid for through the sale of electricity generate by federal dams to Northwest utilities.

Stevens previously has opposed efforts to make Idaho eligible for the Pacific Salmon fund and to require an equal allocation of the grants by state. Permanent legislation to establish fund at up to $200 million per year for three year and to equalize state shares passed the House last year, but is stalled in the Senate Commerce Committee.

Larry Swisher , a columnist based in Washington, D.C., writes for Pacific Northwest newspapers.
Idaho Senators Bid for Salmon Funding
Capital Press, July 25, 2003

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