Lack of Funding Drowns Salmon Planby Editors
Salem Statesman Journal, August 1, 2000
Northwest lawmakers should work together to solve the problem.
The federal government’s salmon-restoration plan is inadequate.
People can, and will, debate whether the plan is fatally flawed because it avoids a decision about breaching four Snake River dams.
But there’s an even more critical weakness in the plan: finding the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to pay for the steps recommended by federal officials last week.
No matter what eventually happens with the Snake River dams, the plan outlines far-reaching changes that will be needed in hatchery, hydropower, farming, fishing, logging and residential practices throughout the Northwest. The efforts to save northern spotted owls will seem like small potatoes in comparison.
As Gov. John Kitzhaber said last week, “Without adequate funding, we will never restore the health of the Columbia River Basin ecosystem. Any credible recovery plan must have a detailed budget through which the administration and Congress can demonstrate their commitment to the effort.”
That is why Northwest politicians should focus on building cooperative, bipartisan political and financial support for an effective federal plan. That should include backing from presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Without that commitment, from the president and the public, it may be easy for the federal government to ease enforcement and financing of salmon-restoration efforts.
Unfortunately, some Northwest politicians, such as Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington, are vowing to block congressional funding for studies of dam breaching.
Such a stance may be politically popular in the inland Northwest, but it does nothing to improve restoration of salmon.
Instead, the Northwest’s politicians should speak with a united voice in seeking long-term federal funding.
We cannot let our inaction and uncertainty lead to the demise of some species of Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead.
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