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Court Rejects Senator's Bid To Eliminate Fish Agency

By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 25, 2007

SEATTLE, Jan. 24 -- In a slap at the power of a single U.S. senator to change federal policy, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit struck down today an attempt by Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) to eliminate a small agency that counts endangered salmon in the Columbia River.

Craig tried to eliminate all funding in 2005 for the Fish Passage Center, which is based in Portland, Ore., and has 12 employees, because he said its data were "cloaked in advocacy."

The Fish Passage Center has documented how the federal Columbia-Snake River hydroelectric system has killed salmon and pushed several species to the brink of extinction. It is a primary source of information for the federal judge who oversees the protection of endangered salmon in the Columbia, as well as for fish agencies in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Craig, who has received large campaign donations from the hydroelectric industry, has long regarded the center and its findings as suspect. He inserted a sentence in a spending bill that directed the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), which sells power generated by federal dams, to stop funding the center, which has a $1.3 million budget.

The San Francisco-based appeals court said that the BPA "acted contrary to law in concluding that the congressional committee report language carried the force of law." It ordered the BPA to honor its contractual agreements to provide money to the center.

Through a spokesman, Craig said he was "disappointed" with the decision. He added that the implication that report language in a spending bill carries no weight with funded agencies "completely disrupts decades of congressional oversight and direction."

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