Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has signed several bills last week that is aimed at helping the Pacific Northwest’s endangered orca whales.
The Puget Sound Orca population have been sharply declining and numbers are estimated to be in the 30’s. Total population have been driver down due to a number of factors but most the most significant being the Chinook salmon, a cornerstone of the whales diet.
Chinook salmon populations have been absolutely devastated after the building of dams have impacted the their ability to spawn and make their annual migration. Scientists have longed argued the single best thing to help the orca population is to restore wild salmon by removing the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental and Lower Granite Dams on the lower Snake River.
Other factors impacting the orca population include bad water quality caused by the growing Puget Sound population, pollution, and habitat degradation.
The new measures just signed into place include requiring more oil shipments near the San Juan Islands to have tugboat escorts to prevent spills, allow anglers to catch more walleye and bass that prey on young salmon, and giving state agencies the authority to ban toxic chemicals in consumer goods.
Other important parts include improving the state’s ability to enforce permit requirements for work that hardens shorelines, such as by installing bulkheads near homes, and making vessels stay farther away from orcas and go slower when they’re near them.
“These bills are helping to improve the ecosystems that sustain both salmon and orcas, quiet the waters in which the orcas hunt and provide them more prey,” Inslee said as he signed the bills in Olympia. “While there will be more to do next session, these bills give me hope that we can protect these iconic species for decades to come.”
The measures taken were formed out of recommendations made by Inslee’s orca recovery task force.
While the steps being taken are welcomed as conservation needs to be on the forefront of all issues, the government in Washington continues to fail to move on policies that would address the root of the problem with the dams.
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has asked for $1.1 billion to help save a critically endangered population of killer whales. The $1.1 billion is included in Inslee’s budget proposal. To pay for it, Inslee has called for a new capital gains tax and an increase in business taxes.
Much of the money would go toward reviving the chinook population by removing culverts that prevent salmon migration, allowing more water to spill over Columbia and Snake river dams, and boosting hatchery production, according to the Seattle Times. Funds would also be used to create plans to move or kill seals and sea lions that feed on Columbia River salmon.
There are those who are opposed to the breaching as they believe the Lower Snake dams provide low-cost hydroelectric power and play a role in the region’s economy.
The fate of the Puget Sound orca population may be a sign of the times to come as climate change and the increase of human populations cause more strain and damage on the planet. With that in mind, it will be up to the citizens of Washington to push and the people across the world to request and demand the dams be breached.