[env-trinity] Delay in salmon fisheries aid prompts anger

Tom Stokely tstokely at trinityalps.net
Wed Jun 28 07:38:32 PDT 2006


http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/14272475p-15082798c.html

Delay in salmon fisheries aid prompts anger
By David Whitney -- Bee Washington Bureau
Published 12:01 am PDT Wednesday, June 28, 2006 
Story appeared on Page A4 of The Bee

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WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration said in a heated meeting with West Coast House members Tuesday that there will be no economic aid until at least February for salmon fishermen idled because of the collapsing Klamath River fishery. 
"This is NOAA saying to the fishermen of California and Oregon: Drop dead," snapped Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, after the closed meeting with Conrad Lautenbacher, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 


  The virtual closure of the West Coast salmon season is affecting fishermen from Monterey to Portland. 
"This has hurt communities just as seriously as Hurricane Katrina," said Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara. "We have fishermen in San Luis Obispo suffering, not being able to make their boat payments, not being able to continue their family businesses. Our communities need help, and they need it now." 

Thompson and Capps were among a half-dozen House members appealing directly to Lautenbacher and the Commerce Department for $81 million in disaster aid for the fishermen and dependent communities. The meeting followed a letter from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Bush administration Monday expressing deep frustration over the delay. 

"I am at a loss as to what further information you need so that our fishing-dependent communities can become eligible to receive disaster assistance," the governor said. 

The House members said they were told no disaster declaration would be coming until at least February, after the closure of the season and enough time for the administration to calculate actual damages. 

Lautenbacher declined to confirm that, saying the agency was "still working with the congressional delegation." 

But that's not what the angry House members said. 

"We have fallen into a bureaucratic black hole," sighed Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. 

The Commerce Department announced in May that it was slashing the commercial salmon season by 80 percent because of poor returns of fish to the Klamath River, where a huge die-off three years ago was blamed on Bush administration policies that favored farm irrigation over downstream water quality. 

Despite a regional office approving a disaster declaration, top officials in Washington have held up a final decision. Many believe that their decision is influenced at least in part by the fact that a disaster declaration would implicate the administration's controversial water policy. 

According to a Congressional Research Service memo to Thompson, there are no formal established procedures for fishery disaster declarations and the time for making them varies dramatically. For example, it took less than a week to issue such a declaration for fishermen affected by Hurricane Katrina. 

Thompson said he and fellow lawmakers would try to add $81 million in disaster aid to a 2007 spending bill for the Commerce Department this week, but that effort is likely to be challenged in the Republican-led chamber. 


  About the writer:
    a.. The Bee's David Whitney can be reached at (202) 383-0004 or dwhitney at mcclatchydc.com.



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