Newly Uncovered Documents Show Funding to Save NW Salmon Only Half of That Neededby Trout Unlimited
Environmental News Network, January 31, 2002
Salmon recovery in the Columbia-Snake river basin of the Pacific Northwest will cost more than twice the amount the Bush administration has so far been willing to propose, according to internal budget estimates of the agency that wrote the federal salmon recovery plan (salmon plan).
Obtained by conservation groups through a lawsuit aimed at strengthening the salmon plan, the internal budget documents were written by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the lead agency in charge of implementing the salmon plan, also known as the 2000 Biological Opinion.
The internal documents show that NMFS saw a need for more than twice the funding requested by President Bush and ultimately appropriated by Congress for Columbia-Snake River salmon recovery in fiscal year 2002. The internal NMFS estimate for FY 2003 exceeds that of FY 2002.
As President Bush prepares to unveil his proposed FY 2003 budget on Monday, conservation groups are challenging him to fulfill his campaign pledge to "save the salmon" (Washington Post, July 20, 2000) by substantially increasing Columbia-Snake salmon recovery funding over the highly insufficient funding package the administration presented to Congress last year.
"Anything shy of a budget that would fully fund and implement this plan is a clear sign that this administration's commitment to salmon and to their recovery plan is half-baked at best," said Jeff Curtis of Trout Unlimited. "Unfortunately, the science shows that this situation has no room for partial measures or half-hearted efforts. We challenge the President to make good on his pledge to save salmon by giving this plan a chance to work, or to step up with something that will."
The internal budget documents, compiled just prior to the December 2000 release of the salmon plan, show a need for $857.9 million for FY 2002. In contrast, the administration proposed funding the same programs at less than half that level - $431.5 million for FY 2002. Congress, largely following the administration request, appropriated $449.3 million.
The NMFS requests detailed in the budget documents largely agree with the salmon budget outlined in the River Budget, released by American Rivers and 600 other conservation groups in December. The River Budget calls for $809 million for the salmon plan, compared to NMFS' $918 million.
"The numbers in the internal NMFS documents closely track what we have recommended in our River Budget," said Michael Garrity of American Rivers. "They confirm that trying to save Snake River salmon without removing the lower Snake River dams will be very expensive."
The salmon plan's success is tied to a number of performance standards against which it will be measured at key check points in 2003, 2005 and 2008. Failing grades at any of those points could force a resurfacing of the option to remove four federal dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington to facilitate salmon recovery. Adequate funding for recovery measures in the plan is one of those standards.
Salmon advocates, while supportive of funding and implementing the salmon plan, have long sided with the majority of scientific opinion in the region, insisting that an effective recovery plan must include bypassing the four lower Snake dams in addition to addressing other factors, such as inadequate river flows and outdated hatchery practices.
"If the Bush administration thinks it can achieve salmon recovery - let alone implement the salmon recovery plan - with the funding levels they are proposing, it must have Arthur Andersen checking the math and Enron consulting on the planning," said Bill Arthur, Sierra Club Northwest Regional Director. "If this administration hopes to have any chance to delay consideration of Snake River dam removal, the salmon plan must be fully funded and vigorously implemented at levels that give it a fighting chance to succeed."
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