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