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Murray Trying to Save Salmon Funds

by John Trumbo
Tri-City Herald, June 26, 2009

Millions of dollars deleted this week from the Pacific Salmon Recovery Fund for 2010 may be restored in the U.S. Senate.

North Central Washington last year received more than $2 million in grants for projects ranging from the Cashmere Pond, Icicle Creek and Entiat River to protecting fish habitat along the Twisp River.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she has included $80 million for the salmon fund in the fiscal year 2010 Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill that passed the subcommittee Wednesday.

It now moves to the full Appropriations Committee, where Murray is a senior committee member as well as a member of the Senate leadership.

"When it comes to salmon recovery, ignoring the specific needs of the Northwest is unacceptable. Our region's economic, historic, cultural and recreational well-being is tied to a sustainable salmon population," Murray said in a statement.

The money would be used to support state, local and tribal programs to improve habitats and restore salmon populations. Murray's efforts to restore the program came after it was eliminated Tuesday in the House version of the spending bill.

Efforts to save the Pacific Salmon Recovery Fund have been a political fight for several months.

Last month Murray led a bipartisan effort with Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and 28 senators and representatives to save the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Program from potentially devastating cuts. The administration's original budget request had proposed eliminating it.

But even winning President Obama's support wasn't enough when the bill came to the House, where the money was deleted in a final version.

House Democrats blocked a last-minute attempt this week by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., to amend the spending bill for fiscal year 2010 to preserve the money.

"I appreciate Senator Murray's strong leadership on this issue and applaud her successful efforts to restore funds needed to protect endangered Pacific Northwest salmon," Hastings said in a statement.

Murray's efforts set the political stage for a conference bill that will need approval of both houses of Congress before going to the president.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire expressed gratitude for Murray's leadership on the issue.

"This funding will not only protect salmon habitat and restore fish populations, it also protects critical employment opportunities for hundreds of Washingtonians," Gregoire said in a statement issued by Murray's office.

The Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund helps restore endangered and listed stocks of Pacific salmon by improving and expanding salmon habitats. It also supplements existing state, tribal and local programs that foster partnerships in salmon and steelhead recovery.

In Washington state, the program works through the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, which has provided more than 900 competitive grants to Washington projects since 2000.

John Trumbo
The Wenatchee World contributed to this report.
Murray Trying to Save Salmon Funds
Tri-City Herald, June 26, 2009

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