Washington Governor Jay Inslee outlined a $187 million budget and policy bid to help recover salmon in a speech today ahead of the start of next month’s short session of the state legislature, including designing and permitting a new hatchery in Deep South Sound.
What are dubbed “ambitious legislative and policy proposals” would focus on the protection and restoration of fish habitat, fix fish passage barriers, address predation and “align harvest, hatcheries and hydropower with salmon recovery,” among other actions.
“Healthy salmon populations mean healthy water systems. We are updating our salmon strategy to provide a comprehensive, statewide foundation for salmon recovery,” Inslee said. “This approach is based on the latest science and tailored to address the stressors in the diverse regions of our state, spelling out the many different actions we must take to protect and restore salmon.”
He made the announcement at Swadabs Park, near La Conner, and the home of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and one key element in his plan is being called the Lorraine Loomis Act, after the longtime Swinomish and tribal fisheries leader who passed away earlier this year.
That would focus on protecting riparian areas “from development, incorporate the standard in local land use plans, and provide landowners with financial assistance to help them meet the new requirement,” and invest $123 million on it.
Four-fifths of that money would be disbursed through a grant program administered by the state Recreation and Conservation Office that would “focus on acquiring and restoring” riparian corridors to “full functioning healthy conditions.”
The focus on recovering salmon and salmon habitat has increased through federal listings, tighter and tighter fishing restrictions and the struggles of the Chinook-preferring southern resident killer whale pods.
“There is no time to waste. We have a choice between a future with salmon or a future without them. Salmon need immediate and urgent action to ensure their survival. That’s why, for the 2022 legislative session, salmon recovery is a top priority and have both policy and funding to help protect them,” Inslee said.
As for harvest and hatcheries, that work is described in a policy brief from the Governor’s Office thusly:
“Preventing overharvest of commercial and recreational fisheries is key to rebuilding critically low stocks. And it’s necessary for the state to meet its co-management responsibilities with the state’s tribes. Inslee’s budget creates a robust monitoring program to ensure recreational and commercial harvest of salmon and steelhead are within permit limits and demonstrate accountability on the state’s share of salmon harvest. It also ramps up enforcement and prosecution of fisheries crimes.”
State hatcheries provide fish for harvest and help meet our treaty obligation. However, additional work is needed to improve the survival rates of hatchery fish. While hydropower projects provide important clean power, they can also have negative impacts on water quality.
* Salmon harvest monitoring and enforcement. Expand our monitoring of recreational and commercial salmon catch in freshwaters along Puget Sound, the Coast, the marine water of Puget Sound and the ocean. Increase the number of law enforcement officers to enforce fisheries laws and to coordinate compliance efforts with federal agencies and tribes. Increase capacity to analyze salmon abundance to negotiate fisheries harvest. Expand capacity for the state to prosecute fisheries and other environmental crimes that county courts do not pursue. Implement a license buyback program to reduce the commercial gillnet fishery on the Columbia River. ($27.2 million GF-S)
* Hatchery program improvements.
Evaluate hatchery programs in Puget Sound with a focus on improving hatchery fish survival rates. Increase support for basic hatchery operations and compliance with water quality laws. ($4.9 million GF-S)
Collaborate on Columbia and Snake River hydropower impacts and participate in new hydropower licensing efforts to ensure we address the impacts to salmon and state waters. Identify whether there are reasonable means for replacing the benefits of the four lower Snake River dams should the federal government move to remove them. ($1.5 million GF-S)
Skagit River protection.
Protect the upper reaches of the Skagit River from future development. ($4.5 million GF-S)
Deschutes Watershed Hatchery.
Design and permit to build a new hatchery that would meet all Clean Water Act requirements in the Deschutes River and increase salmon production. ($2.2 million bonds)
The state legislature is set to convene January 10, 2022.