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Gov. Schwarzenegger Responds to Legislature Blocking Relief Package for Salmon Fishermen, Industry

Governor Schwarzenegger expressed concern and disappointment today with the Legislature's failure to act on SB 1127 by Senators Chesbro and Aanestad, a Schwarzenegger sponsored bill that would have provided critical relief to the salmon industry in California.  Salmon fishermen have been devastated by the federal government's partial closure of commercial salmon fishing season earlier this year.

"It is a great disappointment and mistake for the Legislature to block the passage of this important legislation that would have benefited salmon fishermen and the industry that was so hard hit by the restricted fishing season," said Governor Schwarzenegger.  "For months, joined by Senator Feinstein and others, my administration has demanded that the federal government recognize this commercial disaster and provide relief measures.  We cannot turn our back on those in need of this vital relief package or force these Californians to wait for federal help.  As I have done all along, I will continue to do whatever it takes to help the fisherman of the North Coast."

The legislation would have provided $26 million for salmon fishermen.    Specifically, the proposal provides $5 million in grants and $20 million for a zero interest revolving loan program. The legislation also proposes to expand the Small Business Expansion Fund by $1 million.

In June, the Governor ordered the Department of Finance to appropriate and maintain $778,000 as a guarantee in the Small Business Expansion Fund, leveraging up to $9.2 million in loans to prevent business insolvencies and the loss of employment caused by the partial closure of salmon season.  The Schwarzenegger Administration is currently evaluating ways to expand this program.

For several months, Governor Schwarzenegger has worked to provide relief to salmon fishermen who have been impacted by the federal government's severe restriction of salmon season along the West Coast. The federal government's conservation effort was predicated on concerns that Klamath Basin Chinook Salmon that commingle with other runs of salmon in ocean waters off of California and Oregon have been declining in abundance, due to poor ocean conditions, drought, water management issues, disease and the elimination of access to historical spawning habitat.

Chronology of Schwarzenegger Administration Efforts:

August 22, 2006 - Governor Schwarzenegger, joined by Senators Boxer, Feinstein and the Governors and U.S. Senators of Washington and Oregon, sends a letter to Congress asking for the appropriation of federal relief funding.

August 14, 2006 - Governor Schwarzenegger sponsors SB 1127 with a bipartisan coalition of legislators including Senators Chesbro, Aanestad, Maldonado, Speier and Assembly Members Berg, Blakeslee, Canciamilla, Evans, Laird and Mullin.

August 10, 2006 - Federal Declaration for Salmon Fishermen

July 7, 2006 - Governor Schwarzenegger and Oregon Governor Kulongoski send letter to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee asking for assistance on behalf of salmon fishermen.

July 3, 2006 - Governor Schwarzenegger renewed his call on the federal government to provide critical relief to salmon fishermen. The Governor joined Senators Feinstein and Boxer on a conference call with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gutierrez along with the Governor of Oregon and several members of California and Oregon's Congressional Delegation including Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Helena) and Oregon Senators Gordon Smith (R) and Ron Wyden (D).

June 29, 2006 - Governor Schwarzenegger proposed a relief package of $35 million in grants and loans for salmon fishermen and added three counties to those in which a state of emergency has been proclaimed, including San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Trinity counties.

June 29, 2006 - Governor also called for all impacted fishermen to be reimbursed their commercial salmon fishing license fees, and for next year's license fees to be waived.

June 26, 2006 - Governor Schwarzenegger sent a letter urging the U.S. Commerce Secretary to provide assistance to the salmon fishermen.

June 6, 2006 - Governor proclaimed an emergency in 10 California counties including Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, Del Norte and Siskiyou Counties.

June 6, 2006 - In his proclamation of emergency, the Governor directed the Department of Finance to appropriate and maintain $778,000 as a guarantee in the Small Business Expansion Fund, leveraging up to $9.2 million in loans to prevent business insolvencies and the loss of employment. (see link for information on existing loan guarantee program)

April 28, 2006 -- Governor Schwarzenegger and Governor Kulongoksi of Oregon sent joint letters to several members of Congress in support of efforts made to address the emergency situation posed by the potential restriction of salmon season.

April 28, 2006 - The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Services [sic], a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, adopted an emergency rule recommended by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) to restrict salmon fishing.

April 6th, 2006 - the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) voted to recommend restrictions on salmon fishing opportunities for commercial and recreational anglers along the coasts of California and Oregon.

April 5, 2006 - Governor Schwarzenegger sent a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez requesting federal assistance should salmon season be closed or restricted. By requesting an official determination of commercial fishery failure, an analysis of the financial impact and expedited funding, the Governor's letter laid the groundwork for economic assistance for the businesses and communities impacted.

October, 2004 - Governors Schwarzenegger and Kulongoski signed the Klamath River Watershed Coordination Agreement along with the responsible federal agencies to address the impacts to the fisheries in the region and to develop a long-term management approach, common vision and integrated planning associated with the Klamath Basin.

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http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/n/a/2006/08/29/state/n210742D97.DTL

Prospects dim for relief bill to help California salmon fishermen

By AARON C. DAVIS, Associated Press Writer                                                                                         

San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, August 29, 2006

(08-29) 21:35 PDT SACRAMENTO, (AP) --

A relief package backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to send millions of dollars to California's salmon fishermen and coastal communities appeared doomed Tuesday in the Legislature.

The bill would have provided $5 million in grants to salmon fishermen and $20 million in zero-interest loans to fishermen and coastal businesses such as ice houses, bait shops and others that depend on the beleaguered industry. The money would be on top of emergency funds they already are entitled to under a recent federal disaster declaration.

Most West Coast salmon fishermen are expected to land just 12 percent of their normal harvest this year after the federal government imposed severe restrictions.

In a statement, Schwarzenegger blasted the Legislature for not taking action on the relief package.

"It is a great disappointment and mistake for the Legislature to block the passage of this important legislation," Schwarzenegger said. "We cannot turn our back on those in need of this vital relief package or force these Californians to wait for federal help."

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, said the governor's office had waited too long to work out an agreement with opponents of the bill. As a result, lawmakers would need to grant the bill a rare rule waiver and other exceptions to bring it to a vote.

Lawmakers have not done so in at least two years, spokesman Steve Maviglio said.

He put the blame squarely on the administration. He also called the bill a poor attempt by the administration to make up for Schwarzenegger's inability to more quickly secure federal relief for salmon fishermen.

"The administration typically didn't do their homework and waited until the 11th hour to address this," Maviglio said. "This speaks more to their ineptness in securing federal funds than fixing the problem. If the governor had spent a little more time in the Capitol or in Washington, D.C., lobbying, we'd have already solved this problem."

Ryan Broddrick, director of the California Department of Fish & Game, said he was surprised Tuesday to learn Nunez and others would not grant the rule waiver. He said he believed the administration had reached a deal with legislative leaders to bring the measure to a vote.

On Aug. 10, after months of prodding by Schwarzenegger, Oregon's governor and members of Congress, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez declared commercial salmon fishing a failure off Oregon and California.

Salmon returns have diminished due to drought, poor ocean conditions, water management issues, disease and the elimination of access to historical spawning habitat.

The federal government in April sharply reduced the commercial salmon fishing seasons off Oregon and California to protect struggling returns of wild fall chinook salmon in the Klamath River.

There is no commercial fishing on 400 miles of coast straddling the mouth of the Klamath and strictly limited fishing on another 300 miles.

The move earlier this month by the commerce secretary enabled states to seek federal aid. Some officials said that assistance could top $80 million, but Broddrick said Congress has yet to appropriate funding for the fishermen. He said they may not receive any aid until next year.

"Our plan is broader and reaches into the community deeper" Broddrick said. "We don't think we're crying wolf on this issue. The impact on the fishermen has been getting progressively worse over the past three to four years and is very significant and is happening now."

The bill's author, state Sen. Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, remains hopeful the legislation will be heard before the current legislative session ends Thursday, spokeswoman Annette Porino said.

Absent the state relief package, Schwarzenegger said his administration would look for ways to expand a small business loan program to help the fishermen.

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http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/08/29/national/main1947954.shtml

Bush OKs $800M For Drought Relief

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2006 (AP) The Bush administration will give nearly $800 million to farmers and ranchers devastated by drought, The Associated Press has learned.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns planned to announce the aid Tuesday afternoon in South Dakota.

The drought aid includes:

  $50 million in block grants for hard-hit states.

  $18 million from emergency conservation funds.

  $11 million from a grassland conservation program.

The department would accelerate $700 million in planned payments to cotton, grain, sorghum and peanut farmers.

Two sources confirmed the details on condition of anonymity because Johanns had not yet announced it.

The administration has resisted a $4 billion drought-aid plan in Congress because it would go only to those who already get government subsidies, about four in 10 farmers. House leaders and President Bush have opposed the aid, but senators in June added the aid to a farm spending bill.

Drought has hit farmers in western Corn Belt states particularly hard.

Last month was the hottest July since the Dust Bowl in 1936. Dryness also approached records in many parts of the country, which saw the driest conditions from May through June since 1988.

The western two-thirds of Nebraska is in severe drought or worse, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center.

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