Proposed Bush Budget Ups The Ante For Nw Salmon, Yet Still Falls Well Short
Recovery funding just over half of that requested by agency in charge of implementing federal salmon plan
Western Conservation Director
503-827-5700 x. 11
2/6/2002 -- Portland, Ore. -- Despite a rare increase in funding for endangered salmon recovery in the Columbia-Snake river basin of the Pacific Northwest, the Bush administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2003 provides just over half of that requested by the agency in charge of the federal salmon plan.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which oversees implementation of the federal salmon plan for the basin, had requested $918 million for FY ’03 according to internal budget documents obtained by conservation groups. The President’s proposed budget, released Monday, allocates $506 million to implement the plan, an increase of $68 million from FY ’02 – the first of its kind since Snake River salmon landed on the Endangered Species List in the early 1990s.
Despite the increase, however, TU officials stressed today that the salmon plan was developed by NMFS scientists as an integrated set of actions which, if aggressively implemented, would prevent extinction and lead to recovery – short of breaching four federal dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington state. Absent full funding and implementation, they said the plan also was likely to fall short, with potentially catastrophic effects on salmon.
“The NMFS plan clearly states these fish are in jeopardy of extinction, and it lays out a series of measures the scientists have determined offer the best chance to stave off that danger without bothering the dams, period,” said TU Western Conservation Director Jeff Curtis. “Not half of the measures, not two-thirds, but all of them together. Anything less brings you right back into jeopardy.”
Last year Trout Unlimited released its Doomsday Clock extinction study, which projects functional extinction for wild Snake River spring chinook salmon by 2016, unless dramatic recovery actions are taken. TU has maintained those actions must include lower Snake dam removal.
Scientists agree that a plan including lower Snake dam breaching offers the best overall hope at recovery, but in December 2000 NMFS announced its current plan, often referred to as “aggressive non-breach,” along with a 10-year timeline with check points to gauge the plan’s progress. Failure at any of those points – in 2003, 2005 and 2008 – including failure to fully fund the plan brings the dam removal option back into the picture.
The NMFS funding request documents show a total of $5.28 billion for the “aggressive non-breach” plan for years FY ’01 through ’06. Lower Snake dam removal has been estimated at about $1 billion.
“This could shape up to be a pay now, or pay later scenario for recovery of these fish,” said Curtis. “Even if you’re talking about funding only half of the plan as the administration is today, you’re still talking billions, and you’re likely to have little to show for it at the end. Then all of a sudden you’re back to dam removal, and you’ve got to pay for that as well.”
“We urge a full funding commitment now to give this plan a chance to work, or to target those expenditures toward something else that will.”