[env-trinity] Commerce Department Yields to Pressure from West Coast Democrats to Aid Salmon Fishermen

Tom Stokely tstokely at trinityalps.net
Fri Jul 7 11:19:33 PDT 2006


Congressman George Miller, California's 7th District

Friday, July 07, 2006
Andrea Purse, 202-225-7387



WASHINGTON, DC - After months of intense pressure from West Coast Democrats, the U.S. Commerce Department announced on Thursday that it has taken the first steps in declaring a fishery resource disaster for the commercial salmon fishermen in California and Oregon.

As a result of these first steps, fishermen in affected areas will now be able to apply for federal small-business low-interest loans to help them after an early end to the fishing season because of low salmon populations.

"This is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done to help these fishermen, whose families and businesses depend on the health of the salmon populations each year," said Representative George Miller (D-CA).  "I appreciate the efforts of Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Congressman Mike Thompson and the willingness of Secretary Gutierrez to hear our concerns." 

"Now, we need to make sure that we take the next steps to help the industry recover-and that means direct financial aid, and it means an increased commitment from the Bush administration to fix the problems of the Klamath River."

Miller and other West Coast Democrats, led by Thomspon, vowed to block regular order in the House of Representatives last week because the House would not allow debate or a vote on an amendment proposed by Thompson to provide $81 million in immediate disaster relief to the salmon fishermen and women of California and Oregon and the businesses and communities that depend on them.

Republican leaders in the house eventually allowed a modified version of Thompson's amendment to be considered and it was unanimously approved by the House.  The amendment would give $2 million in aid to the fishermen from the Commerce Department Managerial Budget. Miller and Thompson are working with the California and Oregon Senators and the Department of Commerce to increase that amount.  

Background on 2006 Salmon Fisheries Crisis

The Department of Commerce announcement on July 6 comes after a lengthy history of difficulties with the salmon population along the Kalmath River. Several Democratic members co-authored legislation (H.R.5213) this year to address both the short- and long-term problems plaguing the Klamath fishery. Miller, Thompson, and others have also repeatedly asked the Department of Commerce to declare a disaster so that Congress can provide immediate assistance to the affected fishermen and women and communities.

The Klamath River runs from Oregon through Northern California, and has been badly mismanaged by the Bush administration for political gain.  In 2002, on behalf of the farm industry, the Bush Administration directed water to be diverted from the river, which resulted in a massive fish kill. This year's drastically reduced number of returning salmon is directly attributable to the 2002 fish kill and a parasitic infection resulting from poor federal management of the river.

Here's how the LA Times wrote about the Administration's actions.

"All administrations are political, of course. But never before has the White House inserted electoral priorities into Cabinet agencies with such regularity and deliberation. Before the 2002 midterm elections, for instance, Rove or Mehlman visited with the managers of many federal agencies to share polling information and discuss how policy decisions might affect key races.

"In 2002, Rove told Interior Department officials of the importance of helping farmers in Oregon whose political support was crucial to Gordon Smith, a vulnerable Republican senator. Within months, perhaps because of Rove's exhortations, the agency did just that, supporting the diversion of water from the environmentally important Klamath River for the sake of irrigating farmland. Thousands of salmon eventually died in the newly shallow waters. But the senator secured his reelection."


Andrea Purse
Press Secretary
Office of Representative George Miller
2205 Rayburn HOB
202-225-7387 (direct)
202-680-8816 (cell)
andrea.purse at mail.house.gov

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