Simpson Pushes for Share
by Eric Barker
Idaho would gain $40 million per year if Congress adopts bill
Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, ushered a bill that would allow Idaho to receive a portion of the Pacific Salmon Recovery Fund through the U.S. House Resources Committee Wednesday.
The bill authorizes Idaho to receive $40 million a year to help recover salmon and steelhead. The coastal states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California are allowed to draw from the fund, but Idaho has never been included.
The exclusion of the state has been a sore spot for the Idaho congressional delegation because many of the salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Ocean begin their lives in Idaho. The state, along with the entire West Coast, is grappling with recovering threatened and endangered stocks of the anadromous fish through a series of harvest and hatchery reforms, and habitat improvement projects.
"I'm grateful the House Resources Committee has moved quickly in support of this important legislation," Simpson said.
The bill still needs to be approved by the entire House, which approved similar legislation each of the past two years.
The effort to include Idaho has stalled in the Senate the past two years, where senators from other states were unwilling to include Idaho as a recipient of the money.
Earlier this year Sen. Mike Crapo was able to add $60 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) budget with the idea that $20 million would later be added to the Pacific Salmon Recovery Fund, and Idaho would be allowed in separate legislation to draw from it.
Crapo said Wednesday that passing such legislation is one of his highest priorities. In order for Idaho to share in money with the other states, Crapo said the amount of the fund will have to be increased.
"We get positive signals, but we've gotten positive signals in the past, and the budget problems have always been a hurdle that has stopped us."
Even though Crapo was able to add $60 million to the NOAA budget, senators on appropriations committees still have to move the money into the fund, and senators on authorizing committees have to agree to allow Idaho to receive part of the money.
"We are working hard to make sure each of these states authorized in the fund is not hurt by adding Idaho," Crapo said.
If the effort is successful, Idaho's Office of Species Recovery could receive 85 percent of the state's $40 million. The remaining 15 percent would be allocated to Indian tribes in the state.
Language in Simpson's bill would require states to continue to invest their own money in salmon recovery and forbids them from substituting the federal money for state money.
His bill would also split salmon recovery dollars evenly among the five states. In the past, Alaska and Washington have received larger shares than Oregon and California.
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