Salmon funds triple in Oregon budget

Agriculture Department budget rises 5.9 percent under plan for 2001-2003

By Ed Merriman, Capital Press

SALEM - Funding for efforts under the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds soars from $31.7 million to $90.4 million under the natural resources portion of Gov. John Kitzhaber's 2001-2003 recommended statewide budget.

Kitzhaber's biennial budget proposal unveiled Dec. 1 calls for beefed up activities to improve water quality and restore threatened or endangered salmon, steelhead and trout runs through the plan.

"This budget maintains Oregon's commitment to continuing the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds," Kitzhaber said. He and the 1997 Oregon Legislature created the Oregon Plan in an effort to comply with federal policies under the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act. Initially the plan was funded with roughly $30 million - half from timber and fishing industry groups and half from state general funds.

In 1998, however, voters directed lawmakers and state officials to dedicate 7.5 percent of lottery proceeds to additional salmon/watershed restoration efforts. That ultimately led to the tripling of salmon/watershed funding by the 1999 Legislature. While Kitzhaber's budget recommendation continues the allocation of those funds, it shifts the method of dispersing the money.

It has been budgeted to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board under a system designed by lawmakers to distribute the money without adding to the base budgets of state natural resource agencies. Kitzhaber's 2001-2003 budget proposal allocates the salmon/watershed dollars directly to agencies, which in turn would distribute part of the funds to OWEB for grants and administration expenses.

Plan activities receiving enhanced funding under the budget recommendation include:

  • n watershed council education and adoption of agriculture-area watershed basin plans (the so-called 1010 plans) administered by the Oregon Department of Agriculture;
  • inspections of confined animal feeding operations, instream monitoring and development of total maximum daily loads (a standard of pollution) plans for rivers and watersheds by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality;
  • fish surveys, technical assistance and monitoring of coastal salmon plan activities by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife;
  • stream enhancement projects, improving or decommissioning roads, replacing culverts to improve fish passage and encouraging voluntary forest practices that reduce runoff and enhance water quality and other salmon restoration activities administered by the Oregon Department of Forestry and other agencies.

Some of the additional resources will fund one additional position at the ODA to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of SB1010 watershed management plans.

Three riparian specialist positions are added at the forestry department to help implement recommendations for changes in forest practices that benefit watersheds and water quality.

Kitzhaber's budget calls for new priorities at ODFW by shifting funding from hatchery operations, fish screening and related administrative programs to fish and wildlife habitat restoration programs. Three hatcheries would be reduced or eliminated.

Fee increases at DEQ are recommended to maintain current water quality programs and to add staff needed to complete and monitor water quality plans required by the federal government.

Additional funding is also sought for the Oregon Water Resources Department to begin development of basinwide assessments for each river basin in the state. Those would include information on surface and groundwater supplies, flows, water rights and uses, and storage opportunities.

For the ODA, the governor's recommended budget for the 2001-2003 biennium of $75.6 million is up 5.9 percent from $71.4 million in 1999-2001, and represents nearly $600,000 more than would be needed to maintain current service levels. Employment would increase from 807 to 819 full- and part-time positions.

Some of the additional ODA funding is earmarked for development of a statewide prototype pesticide use reporting system scheduled for completion during the 2001-2003 biennium. Staffing for the ODA's food safety inspection program is also increased under the budget proposal.

In recent years, grocery stores and supermarkets have added take-out food options. These inspections are more complex and take longer. "The recommended budget adds positions to keep the inspection schedule similar to the past," according to the budget document.

Funding is maintained for weed control and soil and water conservation districts.

Areas of the ODA budget targeted for cutbacks include travel expenses for agricultural marketing and promotion by the ODA director; food safety laboratory services; shellfish sampling; reduced payments to federal predator control programs; and elimination of funding for county fairs.

Another proposed cut targets programs designed to reserve and promote water use for expanded agricultural production, food processing and other uses related to economic development. This service is not mandated, according to the budget document.

Other budget highlights include:

  • A boost in DEQ funding of 2.7 percent from $304.1 million to $312.2 million, adding more than 100 full- and part-time positions from 807 to 912.
  • A slight decrease of 0.6 percent in the ODFW budget recommendation from the 1999-2001 legislatively approved figure of $206.6 million to $205.4 million for 2001-2003. The governor's proposal also calls for shifting a portion of ODFW's funding from fees and lottery funds to state General Fund dollars.
  • A 9.5 percent increase from $196.7 million to $215.5 million in the Department of Forestry budget recommendation with full- and part-time staff positions increasing from 1,402 to 1,456. Additional staff are targeted for specialist positions to implement Forest Practices Advisory Committee recommendations, oversee construction of an interpretive center at the Tillamook State Forest and other projects, and work on fish passage, forest road, landslide, timber harvesting caps and various land-use issues.

All lottery funds for plan activities within forestry's budget would be replaced with general fund dollars under the governor's proposal. A reduction in the Service Forestry program is also anticipated due to declines and changes in harvest taxes.

  • Department of Land Conservation and Development budget would increase 0.4 percent from $16,805,112 to $16,869,642. That won't keep pace with salary increases and maintain current service levels, so the proposal calls for reductions in funding for the Transportation Growth Management program, the Federal Emergency Management program, the mineral/aggregate program and the Coastal Zone Management program.
  • Division of State Lands budget would decline by 30 percent from $85.1 million to $59.6 million under the governor's recommendation. That's due primarily to changes in the formula for distributing money to schools and a projected decline in timber harvest revenues from Common School Fund lands administered by the department.
  • Water Resources budget would climb 6.7 percent from nearly $27.7 million to $29.5 million despite a reduction in full- and part-time staff from 157 to 148. Several reductions were made "in order to finance two priority efforts: continuing the Klamath Basin adjudication and beginning a multi-year project to assess each river basin in the state for water supply and storage purposes," according to the budget document.
  • OWEB budget would climb 49.9 percent from $43.8 million to nearly $65.7 million with an increase of 10 full- and part-time positions raising employee numbers to 23. Reasons cited for the recommended increases include a $10.5 million carryover of grant funds for projects approved in 1999-2001 but not yet completed, a $9 million increase in federal salmon/watershed restoration funds through the National Marine Fisheries Service and an $8 million carryover in unspent federal grant funds.

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