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Salmon Rules may be Delayed

by John Hughes, Associated Press
Spokesman Review, May 6, 2000

Environmental groups threaten suit if enforcement not timely

OLYMPIA -- New salmon-protection rules may not be enforced until December so the National Marine Fisheries Service can better inform the public what the rules will require, fisheries officials said.

The concern for the possible delay came after "tens of thousands of comments" -- many critical -- swamped fisheries service mailboxes, fisheries spokesman Brian Gorman said. State and local officials also have lobbied hard for a federal delay, among them Gov. Gary Locke, who took his concerns to Washington, D.C.

Several environmental groups have put the government on notice they will sue if there is a delay.

"No final decision has been made on when," Gorman said. "But the delay is a reflection of the complexity of the rule and the need to inform people about what its effect will be."

The Puget Sound chinook were listed as "threatened" with extinction in 1999 under the federal Endangered Species Act. The act prohibits activities that could kill or hurt such vanishing runs of fish.

In the case of chinook salmon, the regulation that spells out those activities, plus some exceptions, is known as the 4(d) rule. A 25-page draft 4(d) rule published in the Federal Register in January stressed habitat conservation, but some have criticized its lack of clarity and specifics. The final rule is due out June 19.

That date hasn't changed, said Gorman and other fisheries officials. But the rule may not be enforced right away.

"We are trying to postpone implementation for a few months while we and the states do some serious public education on just what's in the rules and how they would be affected by them," Gorman said.

"I just don't think a lot of the public is ready for the 4(d) rules," said Curt Smitch, Locke's special assistant for natural resources.

Associated Press
Salmon Rules may be Delayed
Spokesman Review, May 6, 2000

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