Legislation Could Hurt Canadian Fish Treatyby Associated Press and Herald Staff
Tri-City Herald - November 2, 1999
WASHINGTON - The Pacific Salmon Treaty between the United States and Canada is in jeopardy because of legislation in Congress that underfunds the plan, and because of language that exempts Alaska fishermen from the Endangered Species Act, a Clinton administration official said today.
The 10-year treaty, signed June 30 after years of negotiations, divides salmon harvests among Canadian and U.S. fishermen and takes steps to ensure healthy salmon runs.
It is a key to efforts to rebuild salmon runs in Washington and Oregon.
But the deal is now threatened because Congress approved only $15 million to implement the plan, even though President Clinton requested $60 million for 2000, said Terry Garcia, an assistant secretary at the Commerce Department.
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, also included provisions in a funding bill that would exempt Alaska fishermen from further salmon harvest constraints as long as the fishermen comply with the salmon treaty.
Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles also has called for the Endangered Species Act exemption, and earlier this week said the "killing fields" of the Columbia-Snake river dam system should be ended before the states look to further reduce Alaskan fish harvest.
That statement drew the controversy over breaching Snake River dams into the international salmon debate.
The objectionable measures were part of a massive funding bill that President Clinton vetoed this week. The administration cited the funding and Stevens provision in the veto message.
"This small (funding) amount calls into question the integrity of our commitment to implement the agreement," Garcia said in testimony before the House fisheries conservation, wildlife and oceans subcommittee.
The administration is negotiating with Stevens and other legislative leaders for changes in the vetoed bill that funds the Commerce, Justice and State Departments.
The treaty with Canada was signed with the Canadians believing the American measures would be fully funded, Will Stelle, Northwest administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, told the Tri-City Herald's editorial board Thursday.
NMFS has been discussing the situation with Alaska's state fisheries staff members. And Stelle voiced optimism that Alaska's fisheries staff members might be convinced that complying with the Endangered Species Act won't drastically harm Alaska's fishing industry.
Alaska fishing fleets' compliance is needed to help boost salmon recovery efforts in the Columbia and Snake rivers, Stelle said.
Lawmakers from Oregon and Washington at Thursday's House Resources Committee panel meeting urged the administration to be strong in negotiations over legislation involving the U.S.-Canada agreement.
"I don't want to be part of a Congress that at the 11th hour killed a treaty," said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.
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