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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) led a group of Senators from Washington, California, and Oregon in writing to Senate colleagues to urge them to block an attempt by the Bush Administration to eliminate $70 million in funding for West Coast salmon disaster assistance. The Administration recently asked Congress to eliminate the funding which is part of the $170 million Congress approved in the 2008 Farm Bill for alleviating the economic impacts of declining salmon populations. The letter was sent to the leaders of the Appropriations Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science that oversee salmon disaster funding.

"Our fishermen are facing financial ruin because of the record-low salmon populations we are seeing in the West," said Senator Murray. "For the Administration to say that this money is not needed is another example of their disregard for the struggles of hard-working Americans. My colleagues and I included this money for a reason, and we will not back down from an Administration that clearly doesn't understand the importance of the fishing industry to our states' overall economic health."

The Secretary of Commerce recently declared a federal fishery disaster for West Coast salmon after the Pacific Fishery Management Council closed the entire West Coast fishery this year and estimated $82 million in economic impacts. The governors of California, Washington and Oregon have indicated that the fishery disaster will have $290 million in overall economic impacts along the West Coast.

Senator Murray has also worked to include $75 million for fishery disasters around the country, including West Coast salmon in the 2008 Supplemental Appropriations bill.

Today's letter was signed by Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

The full text of the Senators letter follows:

The Honorable Robert Byrd
Chairman
Senate Committee on Appropriations

The Honorable Thad Cochran
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Appropriations

The Honorable Barbara Mikulski
Chairwoman
Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

The Honorable Richard Shelby
Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

June 13, 2008

Dear Chairman Byrd and Ranking Member Cochran and Chairwoman Mikulski and Ranking Member Shelby: 

As you prepare the fiscal year 2009 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill, we ask you to reject the Administration’s proposed amendment that was included in its June 9, 2008 revisions to the FY09 Presidential Budget.  Specifically, the Administration requests you to permanently cancel $70 million in salmon disaster funding that was included as part of the Farm Bill.  This funding is intended to alleviate the severe economic impacts along the West Coast from the unprecedented closure of the West Coast salmon fishery.  The governors of California, Washington and Oregon have indicated that the fishery disaster will have $290 million in economic impacts along the West Coast, so the funding that was included in the Farm Bill, while critically important, addresses only a portion of the entire economic need. 

We also note that the Administration’s proposed amendment comes mere weeks after Congress overrode the President’s Farm Bill veto to allocate the disaster funding in the first place.  To suggest that Congress somehow did not intend $70 million to be used for salmon disaster purposes or changed its intent immediately after enacting the provision is cynical and a disservice to our fishing communities. 

We thank you for your continued support of our fishing communities along the West Coast and for your assistance in addressing this critical issue.

Patty Murray
U.S. Senator
Diane Feinstein
U.S. Senator
Barbara Boxer
U.S. Senator
Ron Wyden
U.S. Senator
Gordon Smith
U.S. Senator
Maria Cantwell
U.S. Senator