In its new budget request to Congress this week, the Obama
administration has included some money for Washington and four other
Western states to restore salmon habitat. The $65 million for the
Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund is a lot more than zero, which is
what the Bush administration had offered for 2009, but it's only half
of what was originally budgeted when the fund was created in 2000.
Glen Spain, northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, says thousands of jobs in his industry have already been lost, because fish populations are not recovering quickly enough.
"The West Coast salmon fishing industry is facing potentially a third
year of closures - complete closures in California and Oregon, that
will also affect Washington. We really need these funds on the ground,
The money is used to match state, local and tribal funds for fish
habitat projects, and has been credited with improving almost 4,300
miles of streams in the West. Spain hopes Congress, when it considers
the fund, will look at it as a step toward economic recovery.
"The more we have, the more this is an investment in habitat
restoration and restored salmon runs, which provide jobs and dollars
for all of our local and coastal communities. Right now, when we need
it the most, is not the time to be cutting back on those investments."
In 2008, Washington received almost $24 million from the fund. In past
years, it has been as much as $34 million. Congress could approve the
recommended total, or even increase it. Either way, it is part of the
2011 federal budget, which means the money probably would not be
available until October of this year, at the earliest.