House Panel Approves Salmon Fund;by CBB Staff
The House Resources Committee on Wednesday approved legislation making Idaho eligible for federal grants to restore salmon habitat.
The Pacific Salmon Recovery Act would authorize $200 million per year for three years for the restoration of salmon and steelhead habitat in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Idaho. The House committee reduced the authorization from $250 million in the original bill.
The measure would make permanent the Pacific Coastal Salmon Fund, which has provided up to $110 million per year in matching grants for states and Indian tribes. Last year Congress approved $90 million. About 85 percent of the money goes to states and the rest to coastal and Columbia Basin tribes.
The House of Representatives has passed similar authorizing legislation twice in the last few years, only to have it die in the Senate.
The House committee approved the bill by voice vote after making several changes. One amendment set equal funding for each state at $40 million per year. Since the Pacific Salmon Fund was created in 2000, Congress has appropriated different amounts for each state, with Washington and Alaska receiving the lion's share and Oregon and California, lesser amounts. Idaho has not been included.
Another change dropped a requirement for states to develop salmon conservation and restoration plans. Instead, a state would have to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the federal government. Also the bill would direct states to maintain their current levels of funding for salmon recovery activities and not to substitute federal money for currently funded state salmon programs.
The bill was introduced by Reps. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Mike Thompson, D-Calif. Simpson said he expects the House to pass the legislation, as it did in the 106th and 107th Congress.
"I am hoping the third time will be the charm for passing it into law," Simpson said. "I'm grateful the House Resources Committee has moved quickly in support of this important legislation."
Under the bill, Idaho's funds would be transferred to the Idaho Office of Conservation and Species, directed by the Governor's Office.
In 2001, senators from Oregon, California and Idaho agreed on a bill to make Idaho eligible for funds and to authorize up to $350 million per year. But the Senate did not act on the measure or the House-passed bill.
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