NW Leaders Petition House
by Rocky Barker
Eight Pacific Northwest Democrats have asked a House chairman to save a fish agency targeted for elimination by Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig.
A provision that would prevent the Bonneville Power Administration (the agency that markets power from federal dams) from funding the Fish Passage Center was included in the energy spending bill approved by the Senate. The Fish Passage Center collects and analyzes information on salmon migration.
Twelve stocks of salmon and steelhead are listed as threatened or endangered in the Columbia Basin and all of them must migrate through federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. They are important icons of the region's wildness and bring millions to the economy.
But the dams provide cheap electricity and barge transportation inland to the sea from Lewiston. The Fish Passage Center has often angered dam operators and their supporters by showing how many fish are killed passing the dams.
Craig said the center, with a staff of 11 and an annual budget of $1.3 million, is duplicative of research conducted by the University of Washington and "a tool of the environmental community," according to his staff.
"Senator Craig still supports the Senate's language and will work in the conference to ensure it stays there," said Dan Whiting, Craig's spokesman.
But the eight representatives said the center actually reduces the costs of salmon recovery and offers invaluable information to the states and the tribes. It notes an audit in 2000 praised the work of the center.
Adam Smith, D-WA., circulated the letter asking David Hobson, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House subcommittee on energy and water, and Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., the ranking Democrat, to strike the provision in conference. The conference committee could take up the bill as early as this week or as late as September.
"The congressman believes in scienced-based recovery solutions and the Fish Passage Center provides that," said Lars Anderson, a spokesman for Smith. With its fairly small budget it's a good investment."
Others signing the letter were Earl Blumenauer, David Wu and Darlene Hooley of Oregon and Jim McDermott, Jay Inslee, Brian Baird and Rick Larsen of Washington.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs