In a report released by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress says, "Federal agencies have spent more than $3.3 billion in the past two decades to help the Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead recover - with little success."
Investigators said it is clear that the Columbia River salmon and steelhead are in deep trouble. An estimated 16 million returned annually to spawn in the mid-1800s. Over the past 25 years the average has been about 660,000.
It must take a politician to disregard the fact those 12 dams on the Columbia River and the four fish killing dams on the Snake have had a tremendous impact on fish survival. The lack of continued funding under the Mitchell Act to pay for salmon and steelhead hatcheries has got to be the second major factor.
The report released yesterday said four federal agencies accounted for most of the money spent in the last five years. The lead spender was the Army Corps of Engineers, at $590 million. Most of the money was used for elaborate screens and bypass systems to help juvenile fish pass safely through the Columbia Basin Dams (so they say).
Would it not be reasonable to finance additional hatcheries below the dams to eliminate the "kill" ratio of going through the dams? What about floating hatcheries located on barges, strategically placed along the length of the river to foster the recreational fishery with returning fish.
Other leading spenders included the U.S. Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and another $537 million went to non-federal groups, mostly state and tribal governments, the report said.
The real weakness, in my estimation is the vast bureaucracy. A total of 11 federal agencies, led by the National Marine Fisheries Service which are needed to manage the Columbia River Basin Project. Several agencies reported weaknesses in the federal effort, including lack of unified strategy and funding plan. Better coordination is needed to effectively implement salmon recovery measures.
A taxpayers group called the GAO report alarming. "We are sending billions of dollars down the river with no clear results and no accountability for how these agencies spend our money."
Wise up! Federal government, eliminate the 11 federal agencies, put one agency in charge of distributing the money to contracted private companies to accomplish specific projects, allow state fisheries the monies to build and refurbish fish hatcheries, overturn the 1975 Bolt Decision (50 percent of the fish) for less than 1 percent of the states population. Get real, things change and we are now living in 2002.
Wendell Wood of the Oregon National Resources Council said it best, "This speaks for the fact that in our political system we solve problems with money, not with restoring habitat."