Feds' fish aid plans pending
Amber Nobe Headlight-Herald Staff 5/6/08
WEST COAST - If the $500,000 in aid to be distributed by Gov. Ted
Kulongoski's office didn't sound like much to Oregon salmon
fishers who have been left without a season, the figure $45
million may be more appealing.
That's how much the Governor's Office has estimated the state will
lose because of the closed season. The number includes not just
commercial fishers but processors, sport anglers and charters and
all support business, from retail shops to gas stations.
And that's how much Oregon's congressional delegation is seeking
from colleagues in the Senate and House, along with $208 million
for California and $36 million for Washington.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez declared a
commercial fishery failure for the West Coast salmon fishery on
Thursday, May 1, because of historically low salmon returns.
That same day, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Fisheries Service issued regulations to officially close or
severely limit recreational and commercial salmon fishing on the
West Coast based on earlier recommendation from the Pacific
Fisheries Management Council.
With these official declarations, Congress can now appropriate
money for the three West Coast states suffering from the
The questions now include exactly how much Oregon can expect, and
NOAA offered an economic analysis last week that projects a loss
of $60 million in personal income impacts associated with
commercial processing and commercial and recreational trip
expenditures for all three state. That number is significantly
lower than the $290 million put forth by Oregon, California and
Washington's governors. That's because the estimate does not
reflect the effect on businesses that provide major equipment to
processors, major boat repair services or sell boats to
recreational fishermen, or any of the other support businesses the
states have taken into account.
Oregon's Congressional delegation is already pursuing two funding
bills for disaster aid. The Farm Bill, which could come to the
floor in the next few weeks, includes $170 million specifically
for aid to the West Coast.
There is also the Iraq war supplemental funding bill, expected to
reach the floor even before the Farm Bill, possibly this week. The
delegation is working to include domestic emergency aid in the
bill despite President Bush's wishes that it only address the war,
according to Sen. Gordon Smith's office. The total amount of aid
to be included in this bill has not yet been decided.
No one seems to know when Oregonians can expect to see a check
from the federal government arrive in their mailboxes. After the
less-extensive 2006 fishery closure, it took more than a year.
Considering the much quicker response on all sides this year, many
expect that timeline to be shortened, though it all depends on
what and when funding bills are passed. The process may be modeled
after that in 2006, though it will have to be altered to include
recreational fishermen and perhaps support businesses as well.
Oregon's delegation said it will continue to pursue other funding
options as more legislation comes up.
Jim Coon, who fishes for salmon out of Garibaldi, received federal
aid after the 2006 fishery failure and plans to apply for aid
again if he qualifies. "It was quite a while later, but it was
nice to get it," he said of the check.
That year, fishermen could be eligible to receive the equivalent
of the amount earned in their best year between 2002 and 2006, up
to $75,000. Coon said some fishers didn't qualify for the aid
because of certain technicalities, but overall he thought people
were satisfied with the help given.
For more information about the NOAA economic analysis, visit the
archived story linked below.