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Salmon Recovery Bill Passes U.S. House

by Katherine Pfleger, Associated Press
Idaho Statesman - June 14, 2001

Tribes, West would get $600 million

WASHINGTON -- The House voted for $600 million on Wednesday to help Idaho and other Western states and Indian tribes finance Pacific salmon-recovery efforts.

The bill's author, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., said salmon are a key part of the Pacific Northwest culture, particularly in coastal towns that were founded around the commercial fishing industry.

"Many of these towns have been devastated by the collapse of salmon populations," Thompson said. "If we restore salmon populations, future generations -- like their ancestors -- can enjoy and prosper" from the salmon.

The money in the House bill would be spread over three years. Fifteen percent would go to qualified tribes already involved in efforts to restore threatened and endangered Pacific salmon. The rest would be allocated for Idaho, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California.

Idaho would get $40 million annually, said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, a co-sponsor of the bill.

"I believe this legislation will help states and local governments partner in the recovery of salmon and salmon habitat in the Pacific Northwest," Simpson said.

The states could use the money for a variety of regional and local projects to improve habitat, including planting vegetation near waterways, restoring watersheds or removing roads from which runoff can foul streams.

The states would be required to match federal government spending on those restoration efforts.

Twenty-six species of Pacific salmon and sea-run trout are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Federal agencies typically get tens of millions of dollars each year to help restore the fish in the budgets for the Army Corps of Engineers, National Marine Fisheries Service and for a salmon treaty between the United States and Canada.

Wednesday's bill authorizes additional money for local projects and helps with the coordination among the myriad of agencies working to restore salmon.

"Better coordination and more effective work is already happening on the state and local level, and it deserves the support of Congress," said Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter, R-Idaho, who sponsored an amendment expressing the priorities set by Pacific Northwest governors.

A key element of that strategy was that human activity is not the only cause for the runs' decline.

Republican Congressman Doc Hastings of Washington said that the bill protects the rights of states and local governments to chart their own courses but also sees an important role for the federal government to play.

Similar legislation passed the House last year but died in the Senate. It cleared the House this year on a 418-6 vote.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho has proposed his own plan for spending $688 million more annually to aid salmon. He already has support from Idaho Republican Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and Oregon Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Crapo got limited supported Wednesday from Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Crapo says the nation needs to spend the money now on a variety of programs to demonstrate the salmon can be saved without breaching dams or draining Idaho reservoirs.

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations celebrated passage of the House bill.

"This is an important investment in the restoration of tens of thousands of salmon-industry jobs in economically depressed coastal communities," Northwest Regional Director Glen Spain said. "The broad support for the bill shows that we are getting serious about salmon restoration."

Katherine Pfleger, Associated Press
Statesman reporter Rocky Barker contributed to this story.
Salmon Recovery Bill Passes U.S. House
Idaho Statesman, June 14, 2001

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