The federal government should put a limit on the amount of money to be spent restoring Northwest salmon runs, U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt said Monday.
It should cap the amount Bonneville Power Administration customers must pay for salmon and require the remainder to come from the federal treasury, the Spokane Republican said during a visit to this northeastern Washington timber and farming community.
“If there’s going to be a claim on the national ownership of salmon, the nation ought to pay,” he said after a town hall meeting at Republic High School.
If the federal government wants to continuing shifting salmon costs onto BPA customers because the power agency’s dams are thought to be a major cause of declining fish runs, the government should “let us make the decision locally” on how much should be spent on salmon, he said.
The freshman congressman said he doesn’t know what the cap should be, either for the BPA or the total costs of restoring salmon. But he said fees should not be imposed on other Columbia River system users, such as irrigators and tourists who use the recreation areas behind the dams.
Nethercutt fielded questions on salmon, the Endangered Species Act and natural resource issues at many of his stops in Republic, where he visited a mine and lumber mill and met with cattle ranchers and county commissioners.
“I predict the Endangered Species Act will be modified … to take into account the costs and benefits of species preservation,” he told a crowd of about 130 people in the high school auditorium. He then drew applause by asking: “What’s the price? How high do we go?”
On welfare reform, Nethercutt said he hopes extended families, churches and non-profit organizations can replace government programs, particularly for young unmarried mothers.
“There’s a willingness to rely on the federal government because it’s there,” he said. “I can’t tell you what specific cuts will come out of the welfare programs. I can tell you all programs will be looked at.”
An audience member suggested Congress not restrict itself to social programs but go after “corporate welfare” as well, such as subsidies and tax breaks to businesses.
Nethercutt said the new Congress is willing to look at all programs, adding he definitely would support an end to tobacco subsidies.
Although he has only been in Congress for 47 days, Nethercutt handled some questions like a veteran - seeming to answer without really answering.
One of the first people to speak at the meeting was a man wearing a cap that read: “Stamp out organized crime, abolish IRS.” He wanted to know what Nethercutt would do about getting the United States out of the United Nations, repealing the Federal Reserve Act and putting its chairman in jail for treason, changing the currency system and abolishing the constitutional amendment that set up the income tax.
“You make good points” Nethercutt assured the man, who received applause from about half the people present when he finished his long question.
Nethercutt then explained that Congress was making it more difficult for U.S. troops to be under U.N. commanders and would be vigilant about guarding U.S. sovereignty.Or maybe they could address them during his next term, if he runs and gets re-elected, Nethercutt added.