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Feds to fishermen: No funds


Salmon trollers who lost their season also lost on the political front on Wednesday: There also will be no immediate economic relief from the federal government.

When the U.S. Senate approved a $109 billion spending bill on Wednesday, no salmon disaster assistance funding was included. The emergency supplemental bill is designed to pay for ongoing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and for Hurricane Katrina relief. Other senators also tried to tack on requests for emergency funds, but very few of those requests stayed in the bill. President Bush had threatened to veto the bill if it exceeded his $92.2 billion request.

Regardless, Sens. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., requested $81 million in salmon disaster relief, a figure also requested in a Senate bill sponsored by California Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Wyden.

The Democrats' bill, S. 2649, was a companion bill to one introduced in the House and sponsored by democrats in Oregon and California.

But on Wednesday, it wasn't politics that prevented Smith's bill from going forward.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled salmon disaster request as a regulatory disaster, not a natural disaster, and thereby was not germane to the larger spending bill. The emergency supplemental bill was designed to deal with natural disasters, such as hurricanes, and therefore the salmon disaster was not pertinent.

Smith's staff argued otherwise, Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association Director Onno Husing said in an e-mail Thursday.

“(They) made valid arguments that five years of drought in the Klamath Basin created the situation, so a natural disaster did create this situation,” Husing said. “In any event, that argument was not accepted.”

Fishermen are even more frustrated than before.

“All the bills are history,” Oregon Salmon Commissioner Jeff Reeves said Thursday, his deep voice betraying his disappointment.


“Now we're going to try to work at the state level.”

The Oregon Salmon Commission held a conference call Thursday morning and one of the decisions it made was to send a letter to President Bush and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce make a formal declaration that the salmon season is a failure. That alone could clear the way for dispensation of unemployment benefits for displaced workers.

The request is now in the hands of the Commerce Department. The National Marine Fisheries Service has done its part.

“The Southwest Region (of NMFS) has been working on the economic analysis,” NMFS Northwest Senior Policy Advisor Todd Ungerecht said, “and has forwarded that along for review at NOAA headquarters in D.C.”

NOAA is one of the agencies under the Department of Commerce umbrella.

So far, it's unclear when a decision will be made. Until then, a couple other things still can be done at the federal level.

Smith's staff is working on getting another request in for the 2007 budget. Granted, funds wouldn't be available until the fall of 2006, but they could provide for better longterm Klamath River management in addition to funds designed to offset economic hardships.

The other possibility is to find money from this year's budget that hasn't been spent and could be redirected to immediate assistance to the salmon industry.

“Of course, we hope that process concludes rapidly so we know where we stand ASAP,” Husing said. “It's all about timely assistance.”




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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