Mason PUD 3 Representatives Testify at Southern Resident Orca Task Force Meeting

Mason PUD 3 Representatives Testify at Southern Resident Orca Task Force Meeting

by Mason PUD 3 on

October 22, 2018

Finding solutions for survival of Southern Resident Orcas will be complex, long-term, and will mean the need for a sustained funding program.

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Annette Creekpaum, Mason PUD 3 Manager

(TACOMA, WA) – Governor Jay Inslee’s Southern Resident Orca Task force continues to seek near term solutions to aid in the survival and recovery of orcas, whose range includes Puget Sound and the Salish Sea.

Years of pollution, habitat degradation, vessel noise, tourist harassment, dwindling food sources and other dangers are among the difficult issues being discussed.

Mason PUD 3 participated in the October 17 meeting of the Southern Resident Orca Task Force. PUD 3’s written, and oral comments supported a holistic approach to the issue, including harvest, habitat, hatcheries, pollution, vessel noise, hydropower management, and sustained funding.

There is not a “magic bullet” that can turn around years of neglect of the Puget Sound and Salish Sea. In a July 24 Seattle Times article Mike Ford, director of the conservation biology division of the NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center said, “One of the things that has been challenging about the whole prey problem is you can’t point to just a single stock and say, if we only fixed that, that would do it,” Ford said. “They utilize a wide variety of stocks.”

Solutions include building on the success of improved management of hydropower operations for fish passage. NOAA says Columbia River chinook are surging while other more important stocks to the orca diet are struggling. In the 1930’s less than 500,000 salmon returned to the Columbia River. In the last five years, that has grown to between 1.5 million and 2.6 million fish.

Customers who receive electricity via the Bonneville Power Administration support Columbia River Basin salmon programs with a portion of each bill they pay to Mason PUD 3. About 12 percent of a PUD 3 customer’s bill (before state and local taxes) goes towards BPA’s fish and wildlife programs.

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Michele Patterson, Mason PUD 3 Power Supply Manager

Michele Patterson, PUD power manager testified, “I cannot stand here and not say something about the Lower Snake River Dams. These dams produce a lot of energy and no greenhouse gas emissions. That is 1,000 average-megawatts of reliable, carbon-free energy – enough energy for over 800,000 average US homes. The dams have some of the most advanced and successful fish passage systems in the world and are on track to achieve standards of 96% dam survival for young spring chinook and 93% for young summer-migrating fish. We need this baseload resource to work in coordination with our wind and solar generators. With that said, in the Columbia River System Operation’s Environmental Impact Statement review, we will learn a lot about the benefits and trade-offs associated with the Snake River Dam removal. That discussion needs to continue to be within that forum. The focus here should be on immediate actions that can be taken. For me that focus should be on the health of the Salish Sea and the impacts of ocean conditions.”

Written comments from PUD 3 noted that the Southern Resident Orca Task Force this is not the forum for evaluating Lower Snake River dam breaching. That discussion is occurring as part of the Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement process.

Annette Creekpaum, PUD 3 manager added in her testimony, “the key to this is funding to take care of the problem. Another issue is the lower Snake River dams. This needs to be left to the scientists and the EIS process.”