UPDATE, March 13, 2013, 8 p.m.
Some people have asked me about spending for salmon in Nevada, as Sen. McCain mentions in his news release about wasteful spending. While it is true that Nevada became eligible for funding in 2009 (based on the understanding that salmon once migrated to the area in pre-settlement times), I can’t find anything that says Nevada has ever gotten any salmon money. Check out the graph I’ve posted at the bottom of this page, or download “Report to Congress: Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, 2000-2010.”
U.S. Sen. John McCain has thrown together a list of “egregious pork-barrel projects” found in the Democrats’ proposed spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. To my surprise, his list is topped by funding to restore Northwest salmon runs.
In a news release, McCain said he couldn’t understand why such funding wasn’t cut from the proposed continuing resolution to fund the government until the end of the fiscal year.
The news release says salmon restoration was a program “that even President Obama mocked in his 2011 State of the Union address.”
Of course, those of us who live in salmon country know that Obama has always supported salmon restoration. The president’s budgets always include dollars for salmon, though the levels of funding were often bolstered by former Rep. Norm Dicks of Belfair with the support of other Northwest delegates to Congress.
It is true that Obama joked about redundancies in the administration of natural resources. He found it funny that one agency administers salmon when they are in freshwater and another administers salmon when they are in saltwater. His joke was a little off-base, as I pointed out at the time, but he was making a serious point about duplication in government. See Water Ways, Jan. 25, 2011. He was not, however, speaking about the value of salmon restoration.
While listening to the radio this morning, I was kind of shocked to hear McCain scoffing about spending money for salmon recovery. I understand the desire to cut the federal budget, but I’m more accustomed to hearing people talk about the need to find more money for ecosystem restoration in the face of severe budget problems.
If you recall, one of the greatest disappointments of former Gov. Chris Gregoire was that she couldn’t find more money to fund Puget Sound recovery during the ongoing budget crisis. Here’s what she told me before she left office:
“I think we have held our own and made some improvement, but not the improvement we should have. We have to kick it up. The population continues to grow. We’re going to have to kick it up or we are going to lose ground. I’m not proud of the fact that we are kind of treading water right now.” (See Water Ways Jan. 30, 2013.)
Gregoire and others have talked about some kind of permanent funding source, something they call a “flush tax” in the Chesapeake Bay area. And we know that funding to restore salmon is coordinated with the effort to avoid ecological collapse in Puget Sound and throughout the Northwest.
I understand that McCain has no stake in what happens to our Northwest salmon, and I would not be surprised if he wanted to cut this money. But how can he consider the effort to save salmon from extinction to be a total waste, worse than military projects that even the military does not want?
John Bennett of “Defense News” has more to say about this topic (along with an overload of puns) in his blog “Intercepts.”