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Oregon Lawmakers Warn: Drought Has Cut the Salmon Haul in Half

The feds are now tasked with making a determination whether the declaration is necessary, and then Congress can decide whether to allocate dollars for relief.

Much of Oregon’s congressional delegation is asking the federal government to declare the effects of three consecutive years of drought a disaster for Chinook salmon fishing.

The lawmakers, led by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, asked Oct. 21 that the U.S. Department of Commerce approve Gov. Kate Brown’s request that the feds greenlight a “catastrophic regional fishery disaster declaration” for commercial salmon fishers.

The letter, signed by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, warns that drought in 2018, 2019 and 2020 has reduced the scale of salmon runs.

“In 2018, 2019, and 2020, the commercial ex-vessel value of Chinook was $2.3 million, $2.0 million, and $1.4 million respectively,” the delegation writes. “This is a significant decrease from the average 2013-2017 value of $6.3 million.”

Gov. Kate Brown initially requested the declaration on Oct. 4.

Federal lawmakers said communities largely reliant on commercial salmon fishing are hurting: “Federal aid is urgently needed to mitigate the negative impacts of three consecutive years of steep declines in revenue generated by this fishery and provide support to these economically distressed communities.”

The feds are now tasked with making a determination whether the declaration is necessary, and then Congress can decide whether to allocate dollars for relief.