[env-trinity] Sacramento Bee - Thompson Legislation
bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri Apr 28 09:57:58 PDT 2006
Democrats' SOS for fishermen; Lawmakers seek help for commercial salmon
fleets, inhospitable Klamath River
Sacramento Bee - 4/28/06
By David Whitney, staff writer
WASHINGTON - California and Oregon Democrats are rallying behind commercial
salmon fishermen facing drastic reductions in their season because of poor
runs in the Klamath River.
The 32-member California House Democratic caucus and Oregon's four
Democratic House members joined in legislation introduced this week by Rep.
Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, that directs $81 million in emergency relief to
the commercial fishermen. It also calls for spending another $45 million to
make the Klamath River more hospitable to the prized fish.
Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Barbara Boxer
and Dianne Feinstein, both California Democrats, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.,
making the call for federal aid a unanimous Democratic initiative.
So far, no Republican member has joined on the legislation. But Sen. Gordon
Smith, R-Ore., has introduced a much narrower bill that includes the $81
million for emergency assistance but does not seek any funds to improve
river conditions. Wyden is also a co-sponsor of that bill.
The political jousting showcases a huge divide over Bush administration
environmental policy. It comes as Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez is
about to act on a recommendation by the Pacific Fishery Management Council
to drastically reduce the commercial salmon harvest this summer from
Monterey to the Columbia River in an effort to protect the low numbers of
fish migrating back to the Klamath River to spawn.
More than 30,000 adult salmon died in the lower portions of the Klamath in
the fall of 2002 when the river was running low, the water was warm and a
fatal parasite spread. Poor runs last year and this year are related to that
die-off, and continuing water quality issues in the river have been blamed
for tens of thousands of additional fish dying either as they head out to
mature in the ocean or as they return to lay their eggs as part of their
three-to four-year life cycle.
Fishermen blame federal water policy, saying the Bush administration's
management decisions favor water for agricultural irrigation in the Upper
Klamath basin north of the California-Oregon border. A federal court
recently ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service to redo its
biological opinion on water needs for the Klamath salmon.
Glen Spain, Northwest regional spokesman for the Pacific Coast Federation of
Fishermen's Associations, said the $81 million included in the legislation
in aid for commercial fishermen, Indian tribes and fishing communities
reflects what Oregon and California estimate the economic damage will be
from the proposed season closures.
Democrats held a press conference with fishermen in San Francisco on Monday
to announce the introduction of the bill.
"The Bush administration's gross mismanagement of the Klamath River has led
to this year's and last year's shortened salmon seasons," Thompson said.
"Yet the administration isn't offering any assistance."
Last year, Democrats, again unanimously, wrote the administration seeking an
economic disaster declaration after the commercial season was shortened by
60 percent. The Commerce Department recently rejected such a declaration,
however, saying that high prices paid for salmon last year canceled out the
effects of the shortened season.
Thompson has filed a Freedom of Information Act request in an effort to
evaluate the information the agency used in reaching that conclusion.
Thompson said the situation is so dire this year that the dock price for
salmon would have to top $280 a pound for commercial fishermen to break even
under the expected closures.
The prospects of economic damage are serious enough that representatives of
Boxer and Smith said separately Thursday they will try to persuade
congressional leaders to include money for the fishermen in an emergency
spending bill for hurricane relief and the war in Iraq nearing completion in
Even with the pared-down bill Smith proposes, however, the chances of
passage seem grim.
According to Spain, without the additional funding for improving the Klamath
River included in the Democrats' version of the bill, there's not much hope
for reversing the conditions that make the Klamath problematic for fish.
"We can't solve the problem just with disaster assistance," Spain said. "The
river itself is the problem."
Under the Thompson bill, the Commerce Department would have six months to
write a recovery plan for the salmon. Once done, the $45 million would be
allocated for monitoring equipment, fish passages and more fisheries
biologists to study the problem and issue annual progress reports to
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
Advisor, California Trout, Inc
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 ph
415 383 9562 fx
bwl3 at comcast.net
bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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