Federal budget cutters are merging the two West Coast administrative regions of the National Marine Fisheries Service, a move that could leave California at a disadvantage.
The merger will create one administrative region for the West Coast, saving an estimated $3 million in management costs. Currently the agency has two West Coast regions: The Southwest, headquartered in Long Beach, oversees California. The Northwest, based in Washington state, covers Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
The merger, included in recent congressional budget language, was initially proposed by the Obama administration as one of several consolidations within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Many of the fisheries issues addressed by these two regions (e.g., Pacific salmon) overlap and, therefore, this merger will improve coordination in areas where there is currently joint decision-making,” President Obama's budget proposal stated.
Kevin Chu, deputy southwest regional administrator, said the staff cuts would be achieved through attrition and retirement, mainly at the senior level. The merger will take place over the next 18 months.