Bush Releases Spending Proposals for Basin Salmon Effortsby CBB Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - February 7, 2003
President George W. Bush in his budget for fiscal year 2004 is asking Congress for less spending by federal agencies on Columbia Basin salmon recovery than he requested last year.
Last year, Bush requested a total of $506 million for FY03, but a catchall spending bill now moving through Congress would cut that by more than $50 million
A total Columbia Basin salmon budget for FY04 was unavailable. Unlike last year, Bush's new budget, which was released on Monday, did not provide a separate, combined total of salmon-related spending by 10 federal agencies that are implementing the recovery plan.
Northwest environmental and fishing groups warned that inadequate federal funding and possibly up to $47 million in cuts being made by Bonneville in its ratepayer-funded fish and wildlife program will jeopardize the non-breaching recovery plan. FY04 will be the fourth year in a row that the plan has received about half the money needed to implement it, the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, American Rivers and other groups said.
"It's up to this administration to prove that salmon recovery does not require removing the four lower Snake River dams," Michael Garrity, a Northwest representative of American Rivers, said. "Failing to fund the salmon plan won't help their case, and it should get stronger salmon recovery actions back on the table."
The conservationists accused Bush of hiding bad news by not including a combined salmon plan in his latest budget. Also, they urged the administration to direct financially troubled BPA to find other places in its budget other than the fish and wildlife program to cut costs.
Bush administration officials said they remain committed to implementing the non-breaching plan although tough budget times have limited funding increases. No explanation for the omission of a combined salmon budget was given.
The FY04 budget includes a significant $3.1 million increase for National Marine Fisheries Service implementation of the Columbia Basin plan, said Bill Hogarth, assistant administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes NMFS. It would raise the implementation budget to $15.1 million.
"This is additional money to try to kick start this a little more, to really get it going," Hogarth said. "So $15.1 million is a big chunk of money to spend there."
Of the increase, $1.6 million would be used to meet the research, monitoring, and evaluation of salmon stocks and habitat requirements under the federal hydropower system biological opinion and Basinwide Recovery Strategy. The rest of the increase would enhance NMFS efforts to promote subbasin planning, enhance salmon recovery planning, and review passage and screening enhancements in priority watersheds.
Another $2 million increase is proposed to meet a court-ordered timeline to conduct Endangered Species Act section 7 consultations on pesticides with the Environmental Protection Agency in California and Washington state.
Last year, Bush's budget for FY03 called for a $12 million increase in NMFS implementation, but Congress rejected it.
Conrad Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, said the agency had to balance many competing demands in a very tight budget. "We're looking to try do what's right," he said.
The FY04 budget also includes $98 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to improve fish passage and related programs at Columbia-Snake dams, compared to $128 million requested in the FY03 budget. Congress's catch all spending bill would provide $85.5 million for FY03.
Hydropower system projects that would be funded in the Army Corps' FY04 include:
The Army Corps' FY04 budget does not proposed any funding to begin deepening the lower Columbia River shipping channel, but provides $2 million for ecosystem restoration projects. Only one new construction project in the nation would receive funding under the budget - a $900,000 gas abatement project at Chief Joseph Dam on the mid-Columbia River in Washington state.
The Bureau of Reclamation budget includes $19 million for the Columbia Basin plan, the same amount as last year. Most of the funding goes to lease water from irrigators to provide additional flows and spills for migrating salmon.
Environmental groups and some Northwest members of Congress argue that major budget increases are needed each year to implement the Columbia Basin salmon plan's habitat, hatchery, hydropower system and other improvements, to comply with the Endangered Species Act. Continued lack of funding will undermine the Columbia Basin salmon recovery plan and biological opinion, which was adopted in December 2000 by the regional heads of NMFS, BPA and other federal agencies to comply with the law without removing four federal hydropower and navigation dams on the lower Snake River.
Based on internal NMFS documents developed at the time, conservation groups estimated the cost to fully implement the federal at $932.7 million for FY04. Congress is considering a spending package for the current fiscal year, FY03, that would provide less than half the $918 million that NMFS calculated would be needed. For FY02, the federal Salmon Plan received $439.8 million from Congress.
As previously reported, Bush's budget proposes a 16 percent increase - or $8.1 million - for national fish hatcheries, including those involved in Columbia Basin salmon recovery.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages refuges and hatcheries, would receive a $3 million increase to address endangered species listing actions required by court order or settlement agreement. Another $2 million increase was included for recovery actions.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton traveled to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Washington state to highlight Bush's proposal to boost spending for the national refuge system, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The $402 million budget would be a $25.5 million increase.
Norton said at Nisqually an additional $260,000 will be used to tackle pressing projects such as working with the Nisqually Tribe to replace dilapidated fences needed to keep cattle out of fragile estuaries vital to juvenile chinook salmon.
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