This week, the Senate is expected to pass the Interior Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2000.
This year, as in previous years, a great deal of media attention has been placed on the more controversial measures contained in the bill, such as Gorton's efforts on behalf of timber dependent communities and families, for example.
Lost in the debate, but of critical importance to Washington State and its future however, are Gorton's considerable (some would say unprecedented and historic) salmon recovery efforts contained in the legislation.
Gorton, the senior senator of our delegation, and chairman of a key appropriations committee that wields considerable influence over the issue of salmon recovery, has used his position to focus on ways to empower local decision making in the area of salmon recovery. Accordingly, when he crafted this bill, Gorton placed specific emphasis on local salmon enhancement groups and organizations that best know how to restore salmon in their own area.
The following is a list of some of the specific allocations for local salmon recovery:
- Mountains to Sound Greenway $5,000,000
The Greenway Project was established to protect an area of important land and water resources centered on Interstate Highway 90 from Elk Hills westward across the Cascade Mountains to PUget Sound. This 130 mile long scenic corridor includes a number of important salmon spawning areas and wildlife habitat. For the last two fiscal years, Gorton secured $10,000,000 each year to complete acquisitions on the west side of Snoqualmie Summit. This third-year appropriation of $5,000,000 will begin funding acquisitions on the east side of the summit.
- Washington State Salmon Recovery Fund $4,000,000
The Washington State Salmon Recovery Fund will be available to award to local organizations in the state for on-the ground projects that may include consevation and restorarion of instream habitat, wetland areas, creek and stream restoration, and fish passage projects.
- River CPR, Puget Sound Drain Guard Campaign $451,000
(earmarked in the $4 million)
River CPR, a local river habitat enhancement group, will use this funding to establish a campaign to place drain guards on storm water drains in parking lots around the Puget Sound region. This project will be co-funded with state and local government appropriations and private donations. The drain guards trap 90 percent of oil and sediment before it can enter the storm water system which contribute to salmon habitat degradation in Puget Sound streams.
- Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group $143,000
(earmarked in the $4 million)
This funding will allow the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group to operate six wild salmon conservancies for chinook, summer chum, and steelhead, plus design and engineering for correcting fish barriers in the Hood Canal system.
- Washington State Hatchery Improvement Project $3,600,000
Communities in the Puget Sound area and along the Washington coast will receive funding to improve their hatcheries. This funding will go towards improving hatchery management practices, promote recovery of natural spawning populatioins, purchase scientific equipment and the like.
- Pacific Northwest Streams - Bonanza Queen Mine $3,000,000
The Pacific Northwest streams land acquisition proect is the number one land acquisition priority for the Forest Service. This proposed package includes the acquisition of Bonanza Queen Mine, a 306 acre parcel located within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and in Snohomish County, Washington. Deer Creek flow through Bonanza Queen Mine, and serves as critical salmon habitat.
- Hatchery Marking and Tagging $500,000
The listing of endangered and threatened salmon species in the Pacific Northwest has created problems for sports fishermen attempting to distinguis hatcher fish from wild species. The state of Washington has developed an innovative program to clip the fins of hatchery fish before release ito Washington streams and rivers. This system allows fishermen to catch and keep hatchery fish, while releasing wild stock. Expansion of this program is vitally important to maintaining a sport fishery in Washington state in the face of the many ESA listing. This grant to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife will allow officials to expand the marking progrram to more hatcheries in the state.
- Long Live the Kings $300,000
This funding will allow Long Live the Kings to continue operation and development of captive reariing and supplementation programs for threatened steelhead and summer chum. Long Live the Kings also plans to use the funding to implement a summer chum recovery plan through community-building and other development activities.
- Methow Valley Irrigation Ditches
Th Interior Appropriations bill contains a provision that asks the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to give priority to requests submitted b the Methow Valley irrigators for salmon passage projects. Methow Valley irrigators are working to develop a lone-term water strategy that will address salmon restoration without depriving farmers adequate allocations of water for their crops.
Gorton's position on salmon recovery is quite clear. He has said, time and again, "After listening to Washingtonians from all corners of the state, one thing is clear: we must restore our vibrant salmn fishery. The debate on how we restore our salmon runs is the question. I believe that Washingtonians and local salmon restoration organization -- not bureaucracies in Washington, D.C. -- are in the best position to make decisions that will return salmon. My salmon vishion sends the money and decision-making authority back to Washington state communities, so they can decide how to restore the fisheries. It's time for the federal government to let those who will be affected by the decsions make these decisions."
Earlier this year, a member of the media reported that Gorton's foray into the area of salmon recovery is his attempt to "take a more peaceful stance" on a key environmental issue in light of an upcoming re-election.
Gorton's stance is neither peaceful nor hostile. Rather, it's sensible. Local communities - rather than DC bureaucracies - do know best. This is Gorton's philosophy on issues as wide-ranging as salmon recovery and river governance and education.
In addition to his specific Interior Bill efforts, Gorton has spent an extensive amount of time and energy on the salmon recovery issue. In fact, it is fair to say this issue is one of Gorton's top priorities in the 106th Congress.
Note: Timeline of Gorton's salmon recovery efforts is in press release but not included here.
by U.S. Senator Slade Gorton
Gorton's local salmon recovery efforts in the Interior Bill and throughout the year
Press Release - September 20, 1999
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