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House members urge Cheney fish probe

All Bay Area House members except Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, were among 36 California and Oregon lawmakers who wrote yesterday to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.V., requesting a Congressional probe of Vice President Dick Cheney‘s role in the diversion of water from the Klamath River Basin. The diversion preceded the largest commercial salmon fishing disaster in U.S. history and devastated commercial and recreational fishing in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties in 2002.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Cheney had pressured mid-level bureaucrats in the Department of the Interior to divert water from the Klamath River Basin to benefit Republican political prospects among Oregon farmers.

“This smells as bad as 80,000 dead salmon,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, a House Energy and Commerce Committee member. “Those who depend on salmon for their livelihood, including many of my constituents, deserve to know exactly what the Vice President did to implement a water policy that circumvented the Endangered Species Act and devastated commercial, sport and tribal fishing in California and Oregon.”

The call comes even as the White House refuses to comply with Congressional subpoenas for documents and testimony relating to the firings of federal prosecutors last year, setting up a potential constitutional confrontation over its claim of executive privilege.

The 2002 salmon die-off still resonates; in 2006, low salmon eturns to the Klamath forced the closure of most Pacific Coast commercial and recreational salmon fishing, hurting fishermen at San Mateo County’s Pillar Point Harbor. Lawmakers pressed Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez to declare a fishing disaster for the West Coast, and last month secured $60 million to help the industry recover.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.