GRANTS PASS, Ore. – The Bush administration has come through with the remaining $70 million of disaster relief that Congress appropriated to help salmon fishers 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.
Any business that can prove a loss is eligible. Commercial fishermen get $3 a pound for their best year between 2002 and 2007, and charter boat owners get $85 a person for the same period. Initially, businesses will get half the amounts they claimed. The balance will come after all initial claims are made and if there is enough money left.
The fishery failure stemmed from the sudden collapse of the chinook salmon run from California’s Sacramento River, and to a lesser degree, of coho from coastal rivers in Oregon.
Scientists are studying the causes. Possible factors are poor ocean conditions producing little food for young salmon when they left their native rivers and entered the ocean, or large numbers of young salmon being sucked into irrigation canals in the Sacramento Delta as they made their way downstream.