WHITE HOUSE BUDGET A MIXED BAG FOR RIVERS
Submitted by Ted Williams on Wed, 02/15/2006 - 09:16.
WHITE HOUSE BUDGET A MIXED BAG FOR RIVERS “Open Rivers Initiative” Among Bright Spots in a Dark Picture WASHINGTON – American Rivers today hailed several important advances in the administration’s 2007 budget, including a first-ever request for small dam removal funds in the Open Rivers Initiative, a request for significant increases in funding for restoration of the Elwha River in Washington State, and big cuts proposed for harmful Army Corps of Engineers projects. The organization noted, however, that proposed reductions in Clean Water Act budgets and locking in devastating cuts to the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF) could do significant damage to rivers all across the country. In particular, the group hailed new funding of $6 million proposed for the Open Rivers Initiative, the first-ever infusion of funds into this small but important program to help communities remove small, obsolete dams. “We are thrilled that the president’s budget recognizes how important it is to help communities get rid of these outdated dams,” said American Rivers President Rebecca Wodder. “There are tens of thousands of these relics blocking rivers across the country, and this initiative reflects the growing consensus that free flowing rivers are good for communities, and good for local economies. We appreciate the administration’s leadership in requesting funding for this program for the first time ever.” The Open Rivers Initiative will focus on community-driven small dam and river barrier removals in coastal states. According to NOAA budget documents, “These efforts are expected to provide an economic boost for communities, enhance public safety, and improve populations of key species such as striped bass and salmon.” American Rivers also backed the administration’s request for $85 million in funding to restore the Missouri River, and $20 million for the Elwha River in Washington State, and noted that reductions in the Army Corps of Engineers budget could result in a net benefit for rivers across the country. At the same time, the budget proposes locking in congressional cuts in funds for salmon habitat restoration that would stall community efforts to bolster imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead from California to Alaska and inland to Idaho. After proposing at least $90 million for the PCSRF the first five years of his term, President Bush cut that request by to $67 million for the upcoming fiscal year, or a cut of $23 million from last year's proposal. Since the fund peaked in fiscal year 2002 at $110 million, it has been cut $43 million. American Rivers estimates that to meet the needs of salmon recovery plans up and down the West Coast, the PCSRF should be funded at no less than $200 million per year. In the past, Sens. Wyden (D-OR), Smith (R-OR), Crapo (R-ID), Craig (R-ID), Feinstein (D-CA), and Boxer (D-CA) have supported legislation authorizing the fund at $350 million per year. "Salmon recovery means improving the health of rivers and streams in communities up and down the West Coast and inland to Idaho, but the president's budget is going to make accomplishing that goal more difficult," said Michael Garrity, associate director for Columbia Basin programs at American Rivers. # For more information, go to www.americanrivers.org