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Oregon Governor Lobbies in D.C. for Boost to Salmon Recovery

by Katherine Pfleger, Associated Press
Seattle Times - March 2, 2001

WASHINGTON -- Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber made a pitch to government officials for more money to ease the Northwest's salmon-recovery expenses during a two-day trip to the nation's capital.

Kitzhaber said yesterday he wanted administration and congressional officials to support more than doubling the money available for programs to meet the goals of federal salmon-recovery plans. He'd like to see the region get more than $700 million next year.

"Is that a lot of money? Yes, it's a lot of money," said the Democratic governor. "The sincerity of this effort is going to be in the budget."

In a lobbying spree, Kitzhaber met with Cabinet secretaries and members of Congress, government lawyers and reporters. He was joined by state Senate President Gene Derfler, House Speaker Mark Simmons and Senate Minority Leader Kate Brown.

Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., told Kitzhaber that the salmon funds he's requested may be too much in light of the Bush administration's tight spending proposals.

"While the senator shares the governor's hope that those funds will be available, you are also talking about a matter of reality," Smith's spokesman Chris Matthews said. "It's a whole lot - more than twice as much as ever before."

Kitzhaber disagrees.

"If your attitude going in is, `I am not sure we can get there,' I don't think that it's the right place to start," he said.

"I acknowledge this is difficult."

Smith is up for re-election in 2002, and Kitzhaber is considering a run against him.

But the governor said he has not made any decisions, nor will he until the end of the state's legislative session. His trip to Washington is no indication of his intentions.

In general, Kitzhaber said, he is not going home with concrete promises from federal officials that money will flow into the state or the region.

On salmon planning, "everyone was fairly tight-lipped," he said. Plus, "they were given instructions not to discuss the details of the budget."

Kitzhaber's salmon-money request would go toward a broad federal recovery plan, adopted in December, to save threatened and endangered species in the Columbia Basin. The plan focuses on restoring habitat in tributaries and estuaries, though it does not rule out breaching four dams on the lower Snake River.

The federal government has been spending $280 million a year for salmon recovery to agencies outside the Bonneville Power Administration. BPA, a federal power-marketing agency, currently spends roughly $435 million a year on salmon programs.

Katherine Pfleger, Associated Press
Oregon Governor Lobbies in D.C. for Boost to Salmon Recovery
Seattle Times Company, March 2, 2001

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