Governor Inslee proposes to fix decline in salmon threatened by rising temperatures and toxic runoff

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In response to the critical condition of 14 species of salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act, Governor Inslee described his administration’s actions vision for the future of Washington salmon recovery efforts.

The policies aim to address a number of key issues responsible for their decline, including:

  • Lack of canopy in watersheds that maintain optimum temperature for migration and spawning
  • Discovery of chemicals latent in the rubber used to make car tires, which has been identified by environmental scientists as a contributing factor to the precipitous decline of coho salmon
  • Inconsistent fish passage through rivers in Washington State (hydroelectric dams, including those on the Skagit River, have recently come under pressure due to their lack of infrastructure to facilitate the movement of salmon)

Habitat restoration is addressed in the proposal. Titled the Lorraine Loomis Act – after a prominent salmon advocate and elder of the Swinomish tribe – the legislation standardized the minimum height required for trees in riparian areas, green corridors along rivers and streams.

The canopy of trees isolates rivers from dramatic fluctuations in temperature that disrupt spawning and migratory behavior. The EPA reports that the optimum spawning temperature for salmon is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and increases of 10 degrees and more can be potentially fatal.

The legislation would update land management policy and set standards for tree height, allocating funds to public and private lands to ensure compliance.

Other proposals include infrastructure for improving and maintaining the quality of watersheds.

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The initiative would allocate grant dollars to local jurisdictions to identify and eliminate threats to stormwater quality. The policy mentions filtration systems attached to storm water systems that filter chemicals such as 6PPD, created by car tire residues that inevitably seep into the water supply through natural wear and tear. These renovations to stormwater treatment facilities would occur statewide.

Governor Inslee’s proposal then addresses the issue of barriers to salmon migration. The state is littered with culverts that obstruct the movement of fish. The state is also grappling with the issue of hydroelectric facilities blocking the passage, some of which were permitted in the 20th century without adequate infrastructure for transit passage.

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The dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers are mentioned as potential beneficiaries of studies to modernize and / or mitigate fish passages.

The governor’s extensive wishlist calls for $ 187 million in total investment in the operating and capital budget for new salmon recovery efforts.

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