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Kitzhaber asks Bush to Add $500 Million for Salmon

by Tom Detzel, The Oregonian staff
The Oregonian, February 27, 2001

Oregon's governor will push his fish recovery proposal during visits to Washington

WASHINGTON -- Aides to Gov. John Kitzhaber said Monday he will ask the Bush administration to spend an additional $438 million on Northwest salmon programs next year to meet the goals of federal recovery plans.

The Democratic governor hopes to introduce the proposal in a whirlwind Washington lobbying trip that starts today and may include meetings with several cabinet secretaries and the Oregon congressional delegation.

Kitzhaber's plan would more than double spending for fish protection, habitat and hatcheries at federal agencies other than the Bonneville Power Administration, whose salmon program costs about $435 million a year.

Eric Bloch, a Kitzhaber appointee to the Northwest Power Planning Council, said the money is needed right away to meet time frames in the ambitious recovery plan adopted by federal agencies in December.

The plan rejected breaching dams on the lower Snake River, instead calling for sweeping efforts to restore rivers and streams in the basin.

"We think that if we're really going to achieve salmon recovery in the Columbia River basin . . . we're going to need a lot more money for things like fish screening and diversion and habitat purchases," Bloch said.

The proposal comes as President Bush prepares to outline his budget priorities before a joint session of Congress tonight, but he is expected to stick to such major themes as his tax-cut, education and Medicare proposals.

Aides said detailed budgets for fish and wildlife agencies and other departments that oversee salmon programs won't be ready for weeks.

Meanwhile, there have been few clues about how far Bush will go to pay for the salmon plan developed under the Clinton administration. Initial estimates said it could cost the taxpayers and ratepayers in the region $700 million to $1 billion a year, including some costs borne by Bonneville.

Kitzhaber's proposal would bring non-BPA spending on major salmon recovery programs in the region to about $718 million a year, up from $280 million now.

Millions for hatchery programs The biggest part of the increase, about $183 million, would go to the National Marine Fisheries Service for hatchery and habitat programs run by Northwest tribes and Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho and California.

But the proposal also includes $5 million to study breaching the lower Snake dams if that is ultimately necessary for the fish to recover. Four of the basin's 12 stocks of endangered or threatened fish pass the Snake dams.

Ken Lisaius, a White House spokesman, said he couldn't comment on budget specifics before the president's speech. He said Bush expressed support for salmon recovery steps other than dam breaching during last year's campaign.

Kitzhaber is tentatively scheduled to meet with four cabinet secretaries in his two-day visit: Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and Commerce Secretary Don Evans. He also will meet with Forest Service Chief Michael Dombeck.

Aides said Sens. Ron Wyden, D- Ore., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., were aware of Kitzhaber's proposal but hadn't heard the details. The two senators and Oregon's five House members will meet with Kitzhaber Wednesday.

"Sen. Wyden certainly shares the governor's concern for improving habitat, mending fish screens and hatchery reforms," said Josh Kardon, Wyden's chief of staff. "The question now is, what's doable while President Bush is cutting the budget and pushing a $1.6 trillion tax cut?"

Bush aides have warned that spending on some programs may be scaled back if needed to meet his priorities, including the tax cut and increases in education.

Bloch, the Northwest Power Planning Council member, acknowledged that Kitzhaber was seeking "a lot of money" for salmon, but he said the government authorized $7.8 billion in spending during 10 years on environmental improvements to the Florida Everglades.

"We applaud that, but that is one state and an area that is merely a fraction of the Columbia basin," he said.

Tom Detzel, The Oregonian staff
Kitzhaber asks Bush to Add $500 Million for Salmon
The Oregonian, February 27, 2001

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