Herrera-Beutler and Blumenauer Write Bill on Fish Restoration

By Tom Bacon

A couple of northwest lawmakers from different states and different parties think that smaller is better in the on-going struggle to restore salmon in the Columbia River basin.

Washington Republican Jaime Herrera-Beutler and Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer believe the Army Corps of Engineers is too cumbersome, too unwieldy to carry out its mandate of restoring salmon habitat in the vast river system. So they've written a bill to break down the effort into smaller chunks that can be run and overseen by local organizations.

Herrera-Buetler said that over the past 13 years, more than 450 habitat restoration projects have been launched and run by local non-profit fish enhancement groups such as the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership and the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board.

Moreover, she said, land rights groups and the Washington Farm Bureau have signed on to the idea of letting local groups use federal dollars address the issue one small step at a time. The Herrera-Buetler-Blumenauer bill would designate any salmon recovery project costing less than $2-million as "small," and would direct the Corps of Engineers to hand out block grants for the work.

The director of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership said that more than a hundred groups have rehabilitated over 20-thousand acres of fish habitat in the past decade. That work includes off-channel refuges, installation of woody debris and pulling out invasive plants.

The new bi-partisan bill is called the "Fundamentally Improving Salmon Habitat Act." The acronym, naturally, is FISH.
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