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Salmon aid intact in war-funding bill

By David Whitney - Sacramento Bee May 24, 2007

(KBC Note: In fall 2002 Klamath irrigators wrote letters to keep the feds from releasing HOT water down the Klamath River that would be toxic to the fish, but tribes insisted and feds complied, and the Trinity River fish died when they hit the Klamath. The National Academy of Science said "low flows" were not to blame, but the Tribes, enviros, agencies and media continue to repeat the myth until it is widely accepted. And last yr, as we understand it from some Oregon salmon trollers, it was not lack of salmon, but lack of "wild-spawned fall Chinook", that caused management to shut down the Pacific Coast fisheries. In the end, only 5% of the 2006 ocean catch was Klamath fish. It's hard to justify them shutting down the fisheries for those reasons.)

WASHINGTON -- Congress will soon send President Bush a funding bill for the Iraq war that also will deliver $60.4 million in disaster assistance that desperate West Coast salmon fishermen have been seeking for nearly a year.

This time it looks like they will get it.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, a leading House advocate for the disaster money, said Thursday that the spending bill presents "the best chance so far" for the money being dispersed.

The relief is the result of the closure of almost all the commercial salmon season last year off the coasts of Oregon and California.

The closure was necessary to protect poor runs in the Klamath River after massive fish kills in 2002 and 2003 that critics blamed on federal agricultural water policy in the Upper Klamath Basin on the Oregon-California border. Progeny of those fish would have spawned the 2005 and 2006 runs.

Last year's commercial harvest was slashed to 88 percent of normal, idling commercial boats from Portland, Ore. to California's Central Coast, and emptying North Coast resorts and other businesses that depend on a sports fishery.

After initially balking at issuing a disaster finding, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez declared a fishery failure in August and appealed to congressional leaders to allocate $60 million in relief. That action followed letters from Oregon and California governors and lawmakers, the California Chamber of Commerce and others asking for the emergency aid.

But Congress adjourned late last fall after passing only temporary spending authority for most of the federal government, and when it returned to work in January under Democratic control, Congress passed only a pared-down funding bill for the rest of the 2007 fiscal year with no money for add-ons like the salmon disaster assistance.

Thompson and other West Coast lawmakers won a provision on a war spending bill for the disaster assistance, but Bush vetoed that measure because it called for a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. That timetable was dropped this week, clearing the way for enactment of the war spending bill in a form the president is likely to sign into law

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