U.S. Water News Online
GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The Bush administration has come through with the remaining $70 million of the disaster relief that Congress appropriated to help salmon fishermen and related business after the West Coast fishery collapsed last summer.
Congress appropriated $170 million, but last September the administration started handing out only $100 million. It said it wanted to use the rest to help cover costs of the census, but would supply the aid to the salmon industry once the fiscal year changed.
NOAA Fisheries Regional Director Bob Lohn said the money was released after Congress refused to go along with a request from the Office of Management and Budget to redirect it.
So far, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission has distributed about $75 million, primarily to commercial fishermen and processors, said Executive Director Randy Fisher. About 12 percent is going to Washington, 16 percent to Oregon and 72 percent to California.
This year's disaster relief is going much further than aid distributed in 2006, when only commercial fishermen and processors got money.
The fishery failure stemmed from the sudden collapse of the chinook salmon run from California's Sacramento River and of coho from coastal rivers in Oregon. NOAA Fisheries has said that a flip-flop in atmospheric conditions is producing a bumper crop of food for the young salmon entering the ocean this year, so the numbers of adults are expected to be plentiful starting in 2010.
"Oregon fishermen need these funds to be able to make house and boat payments, put food on the table and support their families in a struggling economy," said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.
"The salmon fishing industry is vital to the economy of Southwest Washington, and to the Northwest as a whole," said Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash. "Getting this aid to these commercial fishermen will not only help them survive during these tough economic times, but will help us all in the long run."