Senate Panel Approvesby CBB Staff
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved $90 million in matching federal grants for salmon recovery projects next year in Northwest and other states, including Idaho for the first time.
The Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund meets President Bush's FY2004 budget request, which was also approved by the full House in July as part of the annual spending bill for the departments of Commerce, Justice and State.
The Senate committee's version of the FY04 CJS appropriation bill has not yet been scheduled for floor action. The fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
The committee fully funded the $2.25 million annual U.S. contribution to the Pacific Salmon Commission, which administers joint U.S.-Canada ocean salmon fisheries under the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Due to a lack of funding this year from Congress and the State Department, the bilateral panel has said it may have to shut down by the end of the year.
The House bill contains less money for international fisheries commissions and did not earmark a specific amount for the Pacific Salmon Commission. That means the fate of the panel's budget is likely to be decided by a House-Senate conference committee after the Senate passes its bill.
The Senate CJS bill also met Bush's budget request for certain Columbia Basin salmon recovery plan implementation programs of the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Commerce Department agency's biological opinion for the recovery plan was struck down by a federal judge earlier this year and is being revised.
If the Senate bill fully funds Bush's budget request for NMFS' Columbia Basin salmon recovery programs, "that would be good news," Michael Garrity, a Northwest representative of American Rivers, said. Bush's $39.7 million budget request for NMFS would be a significant increase over the $26.2 million passed by Congress for FY03, but is far below the $69.8 million needed to implement the plan, according to internal agency estimates, Garrity said.
Overall, federal agencies and the Bonneville Power Administration spend over $500 million a year on the Columbia Basin plan, but environmental and fishing advocates say that nearly $1 billion is needed for full implementation.
"The need is evident" because the plan has never been adequately funded or implemented, Garrity said. U.S. District Judge James Redden's ruling in May that the recovery plan BiOp violated the Endangered Species Act because its measures were not "reasonably certain" to be implemented has further "amplified the agency's need," he said.
The committee approved $15.1 million in NMFS' budget for Columbia Basin BiOp implementation in FY04, the same as the administration budget request, an aide for Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said. Another $21.2 million was provided for endangered Pacific Salmon recovery, $11.5 million for Columbia River hatcheries, and $1.7 million for hatchery monitoring, evaluation and reform.
Exact comparisons of total funding to Bush's request are difficult to make because budget categories in the House and Senate bills differ from each other as well as from those of the administration.
In dividing up the $90 million Pacific Salmon Fund, Senate appropriators allocated $5 million to Idaho at the urging of the state's two senators, who have complained about being shut out in previous years.
Committee approval of the money is "a good initial step," Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said. Putting Idaho on a par with neighboring states for anadromous fish recovery funding "is important when you consider Idaho produces about half of the spring/summer chinook and steelhead in the Columbia Basin," he said.
Crapo and Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, are also pursuing separate legislation to make Idaho eligible for grants from the Pacific Salmon Fund. "It has never made sense for all of the salmon recovery funding to be washed downstream," said Craig. "This change to the law to recognize Idaho's role needs to be passed by the Senate."
The rest of the fund was allocated as follows: $26 million each for Washington and Alaska, $11 million each for California and Oregon, $8.5 million for coastal tribes, and $2.5 million for Columbia River Tribes. Of Washington's share, $4 million is slated for the state fish and forest agreement, and $1.6 million for mass-marking of hatchery salmon. The rest goes to the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, which will work with groups around the state to advance projects.
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