Salmon Economic Analysis and Planning Act Tackles Urgent Fiscal and Environmental Crisis

New Legislation Will Restore Sound Science and Fiscal Responsibility to

Federal Salmon Recovery Efforts

Mar 13, 2007, 01:00 ET from Save Our Wild Salmon

    SEATTLE, March 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Representatives of a
 broad- based coalition of conservation groups, sport and commercial fishing
 organizations, and taxpayer and energy advocates today lauded new
 bi-partisan Congressional legislation that would restore sound science and
 fiscal responsibility to failing federal salmon recovery efforts in the
 Pacific Northwest.
     Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) introduced the
 Salmon Economic Analysis and Planning Act (SEAPA) in the House of
 Representatives today. The bill authorizes independent economic and
 scientific review of federal salmon restoration efforts in the Pacific
 Northwest by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Government
 Accountability Office (GAO).
     Challenging the status quo while calling for an approach that puts all
 recovery options, including lower Snake dam removal, on the table,
 Congressman McDermott said, "I'm not willing to practice the politics of
 extinction, doing nothing until there is nothing left to do, until there
 are no more wild salmon left to save. I'm willing to listen, but I'm not
 willing to wait."
     Failure to protect and restore endangered wild salmon in the Columbia
 and Snake River Basin to healthy, sustainable levels has cost United States
 taxpayers and Northwest ratepayers billions of dollars over the past two
 decades. Declining runs have curtailed fisheries and hurt regional
 economies throughout the Pacific salmon states of Alaska, California,
 Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
     "We have a responsibility to make sure that the wild salmon of the
 Snake River and the rest of the Columbia Basin in the Pacific Northwest
 survive and thrive for future generations. Current efforts appear to be
 inadequate, despite being costly," said Congressman Petri. "We have to be
 willing to do some fresh thinking and take the right actions before it's
 too late."
     Federal recovery efforts have been stymied and taxpayer dollars
 misdirected, in large part, due to incomplete and outdated information.
     "Much of the data we are relying on today to make critical decisions
 for the future of the region and the nation is nearly a decade old," said
 Nicole Cordan, policy and legal director for the Save Our Wild Salmon
 Coalition. "We need updated, comprehensive and unbiased information so we
 can evaluate, on a level playing field, all potential salmon recovery
 options, including but not limited to lower Snake River dam removal. This
 legislation would provide just that."
     The bill calls for an updated analysis by the GAO of previous studies
 on lower Snake Dam removal, including the 2002 Army Corps Environmental
 Impact Statement, in order to better understand the impact on local
 communities, freight transportation, irrigation, energy production, boating
 and recreation, and salmon recovery. It does not endorse or authorize lower
 Snake River dam removal, and provides no new authority to the Corps to call
 for such action.
     The proposed NAS study would examine the effectiveness of various
 federal salmon recovery actions (including all four "H's:" habitat,
 harvest, hatchery and hydro), and other factors that may impact salmon
 populations, such as ocean conditions and global climate change.
     "It is time for a critical, impartial review of our current salmon
 recovery policies and scientifically credible options, so that we may
 advance a sound recovery plan for the future," said Congressman Earl
 Blumenauer (D- OR), one of the original co-sponsors of the bill. "We have
 spent more than $8 billion dollars over 25 years to improve the Columbia
 and Snake River systems for fish, and still they are losing ground."
     Thirteen stocks of Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead, including all
 four remaining Snake River stocks, are currently listed as endangered or
 threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Populations of wild Snake
 River salmon have shown little improvement since being listed in the 1990s;
 most are hovering well below levels required for recovery.
     "The continuing downward trend is devastating rural communities.
 Fisheries are closing, recreational tourism is declining, businesses are
 laying off workers, and communities are suffering," said Liz Hamilton,
 executive director of the Northwest Sportsfishing Industry Association.
 "This is a real problem that needs real, honest solutions. We're heading
 for a political and economic train wreck if we don't stop pretending the
 status quo is working. We need to take a full and fair look at all our
 options for salmon recovery."
     The economic and scientific studies called for in SEAPA will also
 better prepare the federal government to ensure that it meets treaty
 obligations with Native American tribes and with Canada, as well as its
 legal obligations under the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts.
     "If we don't alter our current course, taxpayers will continue to foot
 the bill for costly salmon recovery and will shoulder the massive cost of
 extinction as well," said Autumn Hanna, senior program director for
 Taxpayers for Common Sense. "We need an effective, fiscally responsible
 federal salmon recovery strategy that is based on an examination of all
 available options including lower Snake River dam removal. We urge Congress
 to support this bill and authorize the necessary studies to vet this option
 and protect taxpayers from billions more in wasted dollars."

SOURCE Save Our Wild Salmon