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Congressman passed over for post
Interior secretary to be named by Obama this week

by Lee Juillerat, Herald and News 12/16/08

A California Congressman who gained national media attention by dumping 500 pounds of dead salmon on the steps of the Bureau of Reclamation in Washington, D. C., was on the short list for Interior Secretary.

Rep. Mike Thompson represents California’s 1st Congressional District, a region that includes Del Norte County, where the Klamath River reaches the Pacific Ocean, and was the choice of many Klamath River Basin stakeholders for the seat.

But a transition official with President-elect Barack Obama said Monday that Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado, a former environmental lawyer, will be named Interior Secretary later this week, rounding out Obama’s environment and energy team.

Secretary duties

The Interior secretary is responsible for several natural resource agencies, including the Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management , National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Spokesmen for Thompson had no comment Monday night.

Thompson’s dumping of the dead salmon in 2002 focused national attention on the Klamath River and took place after about 70,000 salmon died near the river’s mouth.

Policies criticized

He also criticized Bush policies benefiting farmers, supported removal of Klamath River dams, and led efforts to get disaster relief funds to Pacific Coast commercial fisherman and related businesses affected by fishing closures on the Klamath.

Thompson had support of Native American tribes, Klamath Basin farmers and various environmental and conservation groups, several California congressmen, and sportsmen’s organizations.

Steve Kandra, a Malin area farmer, said Thompson was the one candidate who had enough background regarding the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the potential dam removal agreement with PacifiCorp to act in a prompt and favorable manner.

Greg Addington, Klamath Water Users Association executive director, had endorsed Thompson despite some reservations.

Understanding issues

“KWUA has certainly had our share of significant disagreements and political battles with him over the years,” he said. “That said, he and his staff have always communicated with us and have actually solicited our input on several occasions … Of the names being considered, nobody knows or understands Klamath issues better.”

Thompson, 57, won re-election in November and will start his sixth term in January. He serves on the Ways and Means and Intelligence committees and co-founded the Wine Caucus when he arrived in Congress in 1999.

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