News Briefs from the WA State Farm Bureau


GREENWIRE REPORTED TODAY THAT IDAHO GOV. DIRK KEMPTHORNE IS THE White House's top choice to replace Christie Whitman as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. A Kempthorne spokesman said President Bush had not yet offered the position to the former senator, but confirmed the two met on June 11 to discuss several issues, including what type of person should be picked to run the EPA. As a senator from 1993-98, Kempthorne tried unsuccessfully to reform the Endangered Species Act.

BASED ON THE NUMBER OF JACKS THIS SPRING, NEXT YEAR'S RUN OF SPRING chinook on the Columbia River could top 300,000 salmon - making it the second-largest count ever recorded at Bonneville Dam. (NW Fishletter, June 13) Jacks are male salmon that return to spawn a year earlier than the rest of the run. Fisheries biologists said this year's spring run, which officially ended June 1, was 196,000. That was about 100,000 less than last year, and less than half the record 400,000 in 2001. But it was still five times the spring run of just four years ago. Hatcheries in the Snake River basin also released about one-third fewer salmon in 2001 than the previous two years.

OREGON AND NOAA FISHERIES HAVE REACHED AN AGREEMENT THAT COULD result in removing coastal coho from the threatened species list under the Endangered Species Act if the agency finds the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds provides adequate protection. (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 14)

THE 10TH U.S. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS LAST WEEK RULED THAT THE Endangered Species Act takes precedence over water contracts between cities and farmers and the federal Bureau of Reclamation. (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, June 13) The court ordered the bureau to provide 50 cubic-feet per second for the silvery minnow in the San Acacia stretch of the Rio Grande, even if that means releasing water from a reservoir for Albuquerque and the Middle Rio Grande Conservation District. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said the decision "threatens to undo water law throughout New Mexico and much of the West," and Bureau Commissioner John Keys III said it could ultimately affect every reclamation water storage project "where there is an endangered species. You name the state."

THE 4TH U.S. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS RULED LAST WEEK THAT FEDERAL agencies have the authority to regulate culverts, drainage ditches and isolated wetlands under the Clean Water Act. (Greenwire, June 16) Although the Clean Water Act applies to navigable waterways, the court ruled that federal authority extends to any water that has a hydrological connection to navigable waters. The court also said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the authority to decide what constitutes a tributary.

A CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP IS CHALLENGING THE GOVERNMENT'S "No Surprises" rule for habitat conservation plans. (Greenwire, June 17) Under the "No Surprises" policy adopted during the Clinton administration, landowners who manage their property according to an HCP are given assurances against regulatory action under the Endangered Species Act and assurances that the government won't later demand greater species protections. But the Sprit of the Sage Council told a U.S. District judge that the assurances are illegal because they provide certainty for the landowner rather than certainty for the species. The National Association of Homebuilders argued that HCPs are useless without the guarantees.
* 2003 Washington Farm Bureau. NewsWatch is a periodic update on news of interest to agriculture. Contact Dean Boyer, director of public relations, 1-800-331-3276 or, to receive NewsWatch by fax or e-mail.


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