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NMFS Praised for Fish Planning

by Chris Mulick, Herald staff writer
Tri-City Herald, May 7, 2002

OLYMPIA -- Legislators from four Northwest states Monday praised and grilled the new regional chief of the federal government's top fish agency over his plans for developing collaborative recovery plans.

They also remained unsettled about where the money to carry out those plans will come from.

The Northwest division of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Northwest Power Planning Council are organizing a regional planning process that in Washington will be run through three boards of area stakeholders. NMFS Regional Administrator Bob Lohn had a simple message to stakeholders: Produce scientifically credible recovery plans and the often-hated agency will get off their backs.

"You coming here saying you want to help instead of putting the hammer to us is something we can put our arms around," Sen. Bob Oke, R-Port Orchard, said at a meeting of the four-state Legislative Council on River Governance.

"You are a breath of fresh air," said Rep. Dave Mastin, R-Walla Walla.

That new planning effort will incorporate a handful of other ongoing efforts, including Washington's watershed planning activities done by local boards, in an attempt to prevent duplication.

"Right now, Congress sees us as a bit of a black hole," Lohn said, referring to various shotgun fish recovery plans. "We're basically doing random acts of kindness, and they're having random benefits."

While the federal government will pay for developing the plans, it's unclear how the bulk of the recommended recovery projects will be paid. Mastin said he's concerned the planning boards will be required to demonstrate a guaranteed funding stream even as they apply to governments for grants.

And planning council Chairman Larry Cassidy, whose agency seeks to balance energy production with fish recovery efforts, said he could not guarantee federal money for all proposed projects.

Lohn said he supports continuing to spill water over dams to help migrating fish as a part of the solution and reiterated an earlier policy shift allowing some returning hatchery salmon to count as wild.

"If you stand to your word, you are a real relief to us," said council President Tom Beck, a Montana legislator.

Related Sites:
2001 Progress Report

Chris Mulick
NMFS Praised for Fish Planning
Tri-City Herald, May 7, 2002

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