Tag Archives: habitat

Inslee Directs State Agencies To Increase Salmon To Help Puget Sound Orcas

Harkening back to fishing in the San Juan Islands as a lad and hearing the booming breath of orcas in the fog, Washington Governor Jay Inslee today launched a new initiative to save the imperiled species.

He issued an executive order that in part calls for increased hatchery production of Chinook — the primary feedstock for southern resident killer whales.

A SCREENSHOT FROM TVW SHOWS WASHINGTON GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE SPEAKS BEFORE SIGNING AN EXECUTIVE ORDER ON ORCAS AND CHINOOK TODAY. (TVW)

But since it will take several years before those salmon make it to saltwater, he also asked the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to tweak this year’s recreational and commercial fisheries to make more available in key orca foraging areas and called on the region’s other salmon managers to help towards that goal.

It remains to be seen how 2018 seasons might be affected by the governor’s directive, signed at a tribal cultural center at Discovery Park moments ago, but in the short term, it could restrict salmon fishing in some parts of Puget Sound, though in the long term might boost it overall.

Inslee’s order also asks for more and sharper focus on habitat and fish passage work that directly benefits Chinook, as well as increased policing of waters where boaters and orcas cruise.

The just-passed state operating and last year’s Capital Budgets provide funding for the hatchery ($1.5 million) and enforcement ($548,000) pieces of that puzzle.

But the governor also gave WDFW a deadline of January 2019 to figure out the most important habitats for orcas and their prey, with an eye towards guiding the overall effort to bring orca numbers back up from their three-decade low of 76 and improve their health.

That could help fill in the blanks about which actions actually might be the most productive over the long haul.

Earlier this month, in a guidance letter to West Coast fishery managers, regional National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Barry Thom wrote that recent studies have linked killer whales’ low reproduction rates of late to “nutritional limitations.”

Part of Inslee’s executive order is for more focus on cleaning up Puget Sound contaminants, which get into the flesh of salmon as they feed on other fish and organisms and is passed up the food chain to long-lived killer whales.

Another strategy will be to do as much as can be under federal laws to manage the increasing bite that sea lions and harbor seals are taking out of Puget Sound orcas’ breakfast, lunch and dinner.

HUGH ALLEN SNAPPED THIS PIC IN FEBRUARY 2015 OF A HARBOR SEAL STEALING A RESIDENT CHINOOK OFF THE LINE OF A SAN JUAN ISLAND ANGLER’S LINE. (HUGH ALLEN)

A task force will make further recommendations.

Inslee said that the fate of orcas, Chinook and Washingtonians are intertwined, and said the order committed the state to actively recover killer whales.

Other speakers today included Leonard Forsman of the Suquamish Tribe who called the effort a “vital and important mission” that would take “some pain” and sacrifices to ensure its success.

During the signing ceremony, Inslee pointed outside and jokingly said that J-pod was swimming past at just that moment, then told a phalanx of agency directors and others to “Get to work.”

$53 Million For Salmon Habitat Projects In 29 WA Counties Awarded

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE

The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Puget Sound Partnership today announced the award of more than $53 million in grants for projects that will protect and restore salmon habitat statewide.

EXAMPLES OF PAST STREAM RESTORATION PROJECTS INCLUDE REMOVING PERCHED CULVERTS THAT MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR SALMON AND OTHER STOCKS TO SWIM UPSTREAM … (WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE)

“Salmon are vitally important to Washington’s economy and to our way of life. They are one of our state’s most precious resources,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “These projects will help tackle some of the fundamental problems that are destroying our salmon populations. By making these investments we are taking steps to increase the number of salmon so there will be enough fish for future generations, orcas and for the communities and jobs that rely on the fishing industry.”

… REMOVING INVASIVE JAPANESE KNOTWEED AND REPLACING IT WITH NATIVE VEGETATION … (WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE)

With the Legislature’s recent approval of the capital budget, grants are being distributed for 163 projects to organizations in 29 of the state’s 39 counties. The grants will be used to remove barriers that prevent salmon from migrating, increase the types and amount of habitat for salmon, protect pristine areas and restore critical habitat so salmon have places to spawn, feed, rest and grow.

… CONSTRUCTING LOGJAMS SO RIVERS CAN REVERT TO MORE NATURAL FLOWS AND PROVIDE FISH PLACES TO REST AND HIDE … (WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE)

Grants were given to projects in the counties below. Click to see details on each project:

Asotin County……………………….. $150,110

Chelan County………………….. $1,368,201

Clallam County………………….. $6,142,176

Clark County…………………………. $240,570

Columbia County……………………. $22,000

Cowlitz County…………………… $1,567,061

Garfield County………………………. $83,300

Grays Harbor County……………. $483,911

Island County……………………….. $825,533

Jefferson County……………….. $1,693,673

King County…………………….. $11,671,127

Kitsap County……………………….. $520,558

Kittitas County………………………. $862,119

Klickitat County…………………….. $598,787

Lewis County…………………….. $1,000,794

Mason County……………………. $4,549,648

Okanogan County………………… $487,599

Pacific County………………………. $357,679

Pend Oreille County……………… $342,000

Pierce County……………………. $3,528,850

San Juan County…………………. $745,591

Skagit County…………………….. $5,392,282

Skamania County…………………. $521,548

Snohomish County……………. $2,986,311

Thurston County………………… $1,254,429

Wahkiakum County………………. $507,612

Walla Walla County…………… $1,052,637

Whatcom County……………….. $2,934,300

Yakima County……………………… $228,000

Multiple Counties………………. $1,096,161

“Salmon are the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest,” said Sheida R. Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. The Partnership’s Leadership Council is the regional salmon recovery organization for most of Puget Sound’s salmon species. “They feed our families, support our culture and fuel our economy. They are also a critical link in the entire food web of the Puget Sound ecosystem. These funds support projects that will help to renew our salmon populations.”

… ADDING WOODY DEBRIS BACK INTO STREAMS, MANY OF WHICH WERE CLEANED OF WHAT TURNED OUT TO A BE KEY INGREDIENT, PER SE, FOR FISH SEVERAL DECADES BACK … (WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE)

What is the Problem?

As people moved to Washington and built cities and towns around the water, many of the places salmon live were destroyed. In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon as threatened with extinction. By the end of that decade, salmon populations had dwindled so much that salmon and bull trout were listed as threatened or endangered in three-quarters of the state.

… AND INSTALLING WIDER, MORE FISH-FRIENDLY CULVERTS TO OPEN UP MILES AND MILES OF LOST OR POTENTIAL SPAWNING HABITAT. (WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE)

“These projects are keeping us from losing salmon entirely,” said David Troutt, chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “Salmon are in trouble, but we know what to do. We have federally-approved recovery plans in place and the people to make them happen. We must continue these investments if we are to return salmon to healthy and sustainable numbers.”

How Projects are Chosen

Funding for the grants comes from the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration fund, the state capital budget and federal sources. The projects all are linked to federally-approved recovery plans.

“Projects are thoroughly reviewed by local citizens and regional and state technical experts,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the grants. “This multi-level approach ensures we invest the money in projects that we will know will make a difference and help us recover salmon.”

With Passage Of Capital Budget (Finally!), $74 Million For Hatcheries, Habitat, Access On Way To WDFW

With Washington’s 2017 Capital Budget finally approved by lawmakers yesterday and now on Governor Inslee’s desk for his signature this afternoon, tens of millions of dollars worth of repairs and upgrades to Washington hatcheries are set to begin.

THE JUST-PASSED 2017 CAPITAL BUDGET INCLUDES $2 MILLION FOR IMPROVEMENTS AT THE WALLACE SALMON HATCHERY NEAR GOLD BAR WHICH REARS COHO, SUMMER CHINOOK AND STEELHEAD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The package also includes $5 million to improve the health of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s forestlands, $1.5 million for Tucannon River floodplain restoration, $1.2 million for elk-damaged fencing, $1 million for Lake Rufus Woods access and $600,000 for waterfowl habitat across the state, among other projects.

“We very much welcome the Legislature’s action,” said Tim Burns, who heads up WDFW’s Capital and Asset Management Program. “The budget includes $74 million in direct appropriations and grant authority that will enable WDFW to continue making major improvements at our hatcheries, wildlife areas, and other facilities across the state.”

The budget wasn’t passed last year due to disagreements over how to address the state Supreme Court’s Hirst Decision and its impacts on rural landowners.

But this week saw a breakthrough compromise from lawmakers. It involves a mix of limiting how much water new small wells can withdraw, $300 million for inbasin conservation work and shifts the onus of permitting back to the Department of Ecology instead of counties, per the Tacoma News Tribune.

Among WDFW’s fish hatcheries that will benefit from the deal and the work it funds:

Naselle: $8 million for renovations
Minter Creek: $6.5 million for work on intakes
Clarks Creek: $6.35 million for rebuilding
Hoodsport: $4.756 million for holding pond renovations
Forks Creek: $2.425 million for work on intakes, diversion
Wallace: $2.001 million for replacing intakes, holding pond
Soos Creek: $2 million for renovations
Eells Spring: $1.4 million for renovations
Kalama Falls: $816,000 for work on raceways
Dungeness: $615,000 for replacing main intake
Samish: $350,000 for work on intakes

The Capital Budget also includes grants for habitat, recreation and fish passage barrier removals, including:

South Coast: $7.242 million for 14 Coastal Restoration Initiative projects
Buford Creek (Asotin Co.): $4.7 million for a fish passage barrier removal project
Lower Chehalis River: $4.079 million for surge plain protection project
Chico Creek: $3.875 million for fish passage barrier removal project
Woodard Bay: $3.233 million for wetland restoration project
Big Bend Wildlife Area: $3 million for critical habitat project
Cowiche Watershed: $3 million for critical habitat project
Klickitat Canyon: $2.4 million for critical habitat project
Simcoe Wildlife Area: $2.14 million for critical habitat project
Kennedy Creek: $2.111 million riparian project
Sinlahekin Wildlife Area: $245,000 for a campground project
Samish River access: $182,000 for parking, recreation project

NMFS Highlights How White R. Levee Fix Helps Homeowners, Salmon, Habitat

THE FOLLOWING IS A NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE STORY

Puget Sound salmon got a boost this summer from a redesigned levee in Pacific, WA. While local leaders were determined to reduce frequent flooding of neighborhoods and businesses, NOAA and partners provided expertise in habitat restoration, as well as a portion of the funding. The results? King County improved resilience to flooding along the unpredictable river, and restored much-needed salmon habitat in the process.

AN ENGINEERED LOGJAM, PART OF A “BIO-REVETMENT” LEVEE ALONG THE WHITE RIVER IN PACIFIC, IN SOUTHWEST KING COUNTY. (NMFS)

The White River Chinook are among the local fish listed as Threatened. Decades of degraded habitat and overfishing have diminished wild salmon numbers. Since salmon need specific conditions for successful reproduction, habitat restoration is a critical priority. More off-channel habitat means the young fish are bigger and stronger when they head out to sea, thus more likely to make it home to their river for spawning.

The old White River levee, built in 1914, ran along the narrow channel of the river, cutting off the floodplain. With today’s knowledge of nature-based infrastructure, project engineers are able to reduce flooding and benefit salmon. Young fish gained an additional 121 acres off-channel habitat, more than a mile of natural shoreline, and thousands of sheltered places to eat, rest and grow. Eighteen acres replanted with native flora reinforces a protective riparian border.

NOAA Fisheries is committed to conserving and protecting listed species like the Chinook. This is one of multiple projects funded under the Commencement Bay Natural Resources Damage Assessment settlement that resulted from NOAA’s joint effort cleaning up after a nearby hazardous waste release.

“NOAA and partners provided $4.8 million dollars toward protecting the community,” said NOAA technical monitor Jason Lehto. “But salmon and other wildlife get substantial benefit, too.”

THE WHITE RIVER OVERTOPS AN OLD LEVEE FOLLOWING AN OCTOBER 2017 AND SURGING INTO A RESTORED FLOODPLAIN THAT HAD BEEN DRY FOR A CENTURY. (NMFS)

In October, a sudden storm pushed the river up and over the old levee, which breached as planned. The excess water spread over reconnected lowlands without flooding any nearby property. With more unpredictable sea levels and weather ahead, communities are turning to nature -based infrastructure solutions to find solutions like the White River/Countyline levee. The neighborhood is safer, and the White River Chinook have one more edge against extinction.

Washington DNR Rolls Out 20-year Forest Plan

A just-announced plan to improve the health of Washington’s dryside forests and reduce catastrophic wildfire risk to local communities may also help improve deer and elk habitat.

The Department of Natural Resources’ 20-year Forest Health Strategic Plan aims to use a mix of restoration and prescribed burning on 1.25 million acres of state-owned land east of the Cascades, potentially opening up the woods and making them more productive for the kinds of plants ungulates eat.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

And that could benefit those of us who like to hunt said big game on public land.

That’s not the main goal of the plan, which was rolled out today near Cle Elum, the Central Washington town threatened by this summer’s 57-square-mile Jolly Mountain Fire.

Because of long-term fire suppression and timber production, forests have become choked with fuels, while large-scale insect infestations in recent decades have made them even more prone to burn.

It’s a problem affecting not only state land but also federal and private ground — some 10 million acres are at risk — and Washington lawmakers have put increasing focus on the topic, especially following the massive wildfire seasons of 2014 and 2015.

The plan identifies goals and priority watersheds to work in, and while acknowledging that the loss of mills makes it tougher to apply treatments, it also aims to identify opportunities to help rural economies.

“We now have the plan and the partners necessary to treat our high risk forests with scientifically sound, landscape-scale, cross-boundary projects. With long-term partnerships and commitment we can begin to stem the severe damage from overgrowth, mismanagement, disease and intense wildfire that so many of our forests are experiencing,” said Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, in a press release.

The strategy was crafted by DNR and WDFW, which own most if not all the state land in Eastern Washington, as well as federal agencies, several tribes, local forestry coalitions and collaboratives, mill operators, private timberland owners, NGOs, universities and others.

Westside Beaver Bill Eyes Up Gov. Inslee’s Desk

While Washington’s toothsome aquatic engineers may be hunkered in their lodges this blustery morning, today happens to be International Beaver Day, according to WDFW.

It may one day be known as Evergreen State Beaver Week.

READY FOR WORK. (ODFW)

Yesterday saw HB 1257 clear the Legislature, and the bill which would allow WDFW to begin releasing beavers in Western Washington now heads for Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

Up until now, the agency has had to either translocate Westside beavers to the 509 or, well, permanently revoke their dam-building license.

The bill was consponsored by a bipartisan, west-east mix of state lawmakers (Reps. Blake, Buys, Fitzgibbon, Kretz and Taylor), sailed through both chambers of the legislature with only one nay (we’ll give Sen. Baumgartner of Spokane a pass because his last name translates to tree gardener auf Deutsch), and had strong support from WDFW and Western Washington tribes.

Mike Sevigny of the Tulalip Tribes gave lawmakers a pretty powerful pitch about how beaver habitat is strongly correlated to salmon and steelhead habitat.

But they don’t just help out the fishes.

Earlier today on Facebook, WDFW posted these notes about what they do for other critters:

1. Deer and elk frequent beaver ponds in winter to forage on shrubby plants that grow where beavers cut down trees for food or use to make their dams and lodges.
2. Weasels, raccoons, and herons hunt frogs and other prey along the marshy edges of beaver ponds.
3. Migratory waterbirds use beaver ponds as nesting areas and resting stops during migration.
4. Ducks and geese often nest on top of beaver lodges since they offer warmth and protection, especially when lodges are formed in the middle of a pond.
5. The trees that die as a result of rising water levels attract insects, which in turn feed woodpeckers, whose holes later provide homes for other wildlife.

Yes, beavers can make messes where messes aren’t wanted, but as we’ve reported in the past here, they stand to be a cheap, natural way to improve habitat.