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Mason PUD 3, Northwest RiverPartners Applaud Orca Task Force

Mason PUD 3, Northwest RiverPartners Applaud Orca Task Force

by Mason PUD 3 on

November 19, 2018

Bulk of Southern Resident Orca Task Force recommendations focus on habitat, pollution, land use in primary range of Puget Sound & Salish Sea

orca.jpgFocus Is on Swift, Meaningful, Actionable Steps to Help Puget Sound Orcas

(OLYMPIA, WA) – Northwest RiverPartners today commended the Southern Resident Orca Task Force for its thoughtful and deliberate efforts to devise solutions for recovering the whales and helping them thrive. In a statement released by RiverPartners, it noted that it is “united with hundreds of thousands of Pacific Northwest residents who care deeply about these iconic animals and support solutions that will help the whales as quickly as possible, not years from now.”

The 36 recommendations are now in the hands of Washington State Governor, Jay Inslee and the state Legislature to move swiftly to prioritize those actions that the state of Washington, within its jurisdiction, can accomplish quickly and in a cost-effective manner.

“We’re pleased to see that the task force did not recommend removing federal hydropower dams on the Lower Snake River, an action that Gov. Inslee and Washington lawmakers can’t take on their own. Altering this federal system requires an act of Congress,” said Terry Flores, Northwest River Partners executive director. “Clearly, task force members were not persuaded by faulty arguments and emotional appeals made by anti-dam activists. The focus on breaching dams hundreds of miles away from the Salish Sea and Puget Sound  is a distraction from what the whales really need closer to home.”

The task force called for a “stakeholder process” to study whether removing dams would help the whales. This duplicates an ongoing, comprehensive effort under the National Environmental Protection Act to review the federal hydropower system’s overall impacts. This effort is analyzing the pros and cons Snake River dam removal. Taxpayer dollars necessary to fund yet another stakeholder process would be better used to implement some of the Orca Task Force’s other recommendations, many of which would provide swifter, bigger benefits for the struggling orcas.

Mason PUD 3 provided input on the draft recommendations. “The task force took a comprehensive look at numerous contributors to the decline of Southern Resident Orcas,” said Joel Myer, PUD 3 public information & government relations manager. “For example, the task force recommended a moratorium on whale watching, reducing storm water pollution and cleaning up toxic chemicals, and restoring salmon habitat in and around Puget Sound,” Myer said. “I’m also pleased that the group recognized the limits of its authority regarding calls to remove the four Lower Snake River dams.”

Between 15 and 20 percent of a public power electricity customer’s bill goes towards fish and wildlife programs in the Columbia River Basin. This investment has increased fish returns to between 1.5 and 2.5 million over the past five years. “Compared to stagnant fish returns in Puget Sound, the Columbia River is a bright spot on the west coast,” Myer said.