Congressional Spending Billsby CBB Staff
Federal funding for recovery of Columbia Basin and other Pacific salmon runs would be flat for next year under two key spending bills being considered by the House.
The House Appropriations Committee this week approved budgets for the two largest programs for FY2004.
In the energy and water appropriations bill, which the full House was expected to pass late today (Friday), the Army Corps of Engineers budget for fish mitigation projects at Columbia and Snake river dams was set at $85 million. That is the same as current year spending, but $10 million less than President Bush sought in his FY04 budget.
Also, the committee rejected Bush's request for a $4 million increase in the Bureau of Reclamation budget for Columbia salmon recovery. Instead, it kept the spending level at $15 million.
Likewise, the Department of Commerce appropriation bill would maintain the Pacific Salmon Fund at $90 million, the same as this year and matching Bush's budget request. The fund provides matching grants to four states (but not Idaho) and West Coast and Columbia River tribes, for salmon habitat restoration.
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council and Northwest members of Congress sought increases in all three major budget items to implement the Columbia Basin salmon recovery plan.
But Bush's FY2004 budgets for the Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation posed problems for appropriators by underfunding construction projects sponsored by members of Congress. House committee leaders said they were forced to find money to continue those projects in other parts of the agencies' budgets.
Energy and water appropriations subcommittee Chairman David Hobson, R Ohio, said he hoped to "start a dialogue" with Bush administration officials on the need to increase the civil works budgets of the Army Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation.
"We're not investing enough in our economic infrastructure," Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., the top subcommittee Democrat, agreed.
The bill, which the committee approved on Wednesday, allocates the Pacific Salmon Fund as follows: $28 million to Washington(but not Idaho); $22 million to Alaska; $14 million each to Oregon and California; $9 million for Pacific coastal Indian tribes; and $3 million for Columbia River tribes.
Of Washington's portion, $4 million would go for implementation of the state Forest and Fish Report and $1.6 million for purchase of mass marking equipment for salmon at federal hatcheries in the state.
A fifth state would become eligible for a share of the fund, under legislation being pushed by Idaho members of Congress. Acknowledging that effort, the House Appropriations Committee said it would consider reallocating the $90 million if the bill becomes law this year.
The committee set the National Marine Fisheries Service's operation budget at $545.1 million, a cut of $131.3 million from this year and $75 million less than Bush sought.
NMFS' budget for Pacific salmon recovery would total $35.8 million in FY04, a cut of more than $2 million from this year. Spending for Columbia River hatcheries would be $12 million, with an additional $1.7 million for monitoring and reform.
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