Senator Wyden, Rep. Schrader Request Release of West Coast Fishery Disaster Assistance Funding
Dear Secretary Ross:
We are writing to request your assistance in expediting the final approval of the West Coast and Tribal Fisheries Disaster Grant.
The Department of Commerce has allocated $18,919,062 to provide assistance relating to the 2013 Fraser River Sockeye Tribal and Non-tribal fisheries, the 2015 Washington Coastal Coho and Pink Tribal salmon fisheries, the 2016 and 2017 Oregon Ocean Troll Klamath River fall Chinook salmon fisheries, the 2016 Ocean Troll Coho and Chinook Tribal fisheries, the 2016 Coastal Coho Tribal fishery, and the Klamath River Tribal and Non-tribal fisheries. The grant application for this disaster relief was originally submitted in October 2019 and was reviewed by both the Department of Commerce and the Office of Management & Budget. We understand that a revised grant application was submitted to the Department of Commerce in January in response to comments received pursuant to the initial review. However, the grant and spend plans have still not been approved. After months of delay, we find this unacceptable.
These are critical fisheries for coastal and tribal communities throughout Oregon, Washington, and California. Commercial anglers across the state are being forced to make a living in a time of poor ocean conditions and drought that is impacting juvenile fisheries recruitment. Failed fisheries threaten the integrity of entire communities and the ocean economy. Congress has recognized the critical need to assist these impacted participants and communities by providing advance funding for future fisheries disasters, and the Department of Commerce must help distribute this funding.
We know that the Department is in the final stages of the review of the West Coast and Tribal Fisheries Disaster Grant, but our fishermen have been told several different timelines for when this review will be completed. They have followed the rules and waited long enough for relief. Given the length of time since the disasters, coupled with the ongoing economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are appealing to you to make the final approval an urgent priority so that the allocated disaster relief can be distributed to those in need.