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Sublegals 15:13/01: THREE SALMON BILLS PASS THROUGH CALIFORNIA SENATE COMMITTEES

  • California State Senator Pat Wiggins has recently authored a flurry of salmon-related legislature, and three of the bills are now moving to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Wiggins represents the 2nd Senate District, which includes part or all of Mendocino, Lake, Napa, Solano, Humboldt, and Sonoma Counties.
  • Senate Bill 670 would prohibit all suction dredge mining in salmon-bearing rivers and streams until the California Department of Fish & Game (DFG) completes a long overdue and Court ordered overhaul of the regulations governing the practice to better protect salmon in those rivers. The bill would primarily impact recreational gold miners on the Klamath River, where a group called the New 49ers currently uses suction dredging equipment. If the bill becomes law, the effects of the activity would need to be evaluated using an Environmental Impact Report under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) before dredging could be resumed. In a year when the commercial salmon season has been entirely shut down, Wiggins said this bill is “about equity,” and that “we simply cannot ask an entire fishing industry to stop their work while a small group of hobbyists are allowed to continue.”
  • Senate Bill 539 directs the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) to issue a report to the California Legislature that ranks different solutions for Pacific salmon and steelhead declines and lists the cost of each option. Among the responsibilities of the OPC are coordinating the activities of ocean-related state agencies and identifying and recommending changes in state and federal law to the Legislature. The report might provide some clarity to legislators who have become accustomed to hearing alarming figures related to plummeting salmon populations but still lack an understanding of which of the proposed solutions will pack the most punch for recovery.
  • Senate Bill 778 requires the DFG to provide a thorough accounting of funds generated through the salmon stamp program. California commercial fishermen pay a voluntary tax, the “salmon stamp,” as part of their commercial fishing licenses. The money raised by this tax is used by the California DFG for restoration and recovery projects. SB 778 would ensure accountability and transparency in the DFG to make sure that the funds generated go toward priority projects. The bill would also increase the cost of these salmon permits to generate more funding for escalated recovery measures. Increased protection efforts are in response to the crisis marked by a second closed commercial salmon season in California.
  • "Salmon are not just trophy and sport fish,” said Wiggins. “They form the backbone of California ecosystems, Tribal cultures, local economies, a commercial fishing industry and a once-plentiful, wonderful food. We must work together to give these magnificent fish a chance to recover.”
  • For more information about the three bills, now in the California Senate Appropriations Committee, see a 30 April article from the Eureka Times-Standard at http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_12261490. Another 30 April article, from Bay Area IndyMedia, can be found at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/04/30/18592036.php.

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