Gov. Jay Inslee announced late last week a budget that includes investments to
save Southern Resident orca whales in Puget Sound. Much of his budget is aimed
at increasing the number of chinook salmon, the killer whales’ primary food
source, in the Columbia River basin and in Puget Sound, and includes funding a
task force to look at breaching Snake River dams.
Inslee’s budget is approved by the Washington legislature in 2019, it could
provide as much as $1.1 billion in the state’s operating, capital and
transportation budgets towards saving orcas in the next biennium (2019 – 2021),
according to Inslee’s office.
helping orcas, the investments will also have benefits for the region’s entire
ecosystem and help efforts to recover salmon, address climate change and
improve water quality, Inslee’s website says.
are undertaking a herculean effort to save these iconic creatures. It will take
action at every level of the environment across our entire state,” Inslee said.
“We need to restore the ecosystem to one that sustains orcas, salmon and the
quality of life for all Washingtonians.”
Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force delivered Nov. 16 its final
list of ways to help the whales in Puget Sound recover. The report lists 36
recommendations that the Task Force believes will be needed to add 10 more
orcas in the next 10 years to the depleted southern residents, whose numbers
are now at a 30-year low of just 74 whales.
are a number of causes for the orca decline, according to the report, but
broadly it has been due to vessel traffic, contaminants and lack of prey. Orcas’
favored prey is chinook salmon, which makes up 80 percent of the whales’ diet.
An adult male orca needs about 325 pounds of chinook salmon every day. The
problem is that the number of chinook available in the inland seas from
southeast Alaska to southern Puget Sound and along the west coast to the
Columbia River has also been in decline.
the recommendations by the task force are to consider establishing a
stakeholder process to consider removal of four lower Snake River dams and to
increase spill at lower Snake and Columbia river dams.
task force recommended the state support four broad goals to benefit orcas:
Increase the abundance of chinook salmon
Decrease disturbance and other risks posed by vessel traffic and noise
Reduce exposure to toxic pollutants?—?for orcas and their prey
Ensure adequate funding, information and accountability measures are in place
to support effective recovery efforts moving forward
his budget, Inslee includes $363 million in the capital budget for salmon
recovery, culvert removal, water quality and water supply projects, all to
improve salmon survival in the state. The $296 million transportation budget
includes an increase of $205 million to correct fish passage barriers on state
highways, which will meet the requirements of a U.S. District Court Injunction
that requires their removal. The litigation went all the way to the U.S. Supreme
Court, where a tie sent it back to the lower court.
CBB, June 15, 2018, “Tie Vote In U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Lower Court Rulings
In Washington State Fish Culverts Case,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440948.aspx)
the projects Inslee wants to fund are:
$6.2 million in the operating budget to boost enforcement and improve
compliance with state and federal habitat protection laws.
$17.8 million in the operating and capital budgets to create incentives that
encourage voluntary actions by landowners to protect habitat through the
Washington State Conservation Commission.
Nearly $12 million in the operating budget to maximize existing capacity at
Department of Fish and Wildlife hatcheries to produce an additional 18.6
million salmon smolts, which will result in approximately 186,000 additional
Capital investments totaling $75.7 million to make improvements to keep the
hatchery system operating and meet water quality standards.
$524,000 in the operating budget to examine issues related to increasing the
chinook population by reestablishing salmon runs above Chief Joseph dam on the
$743,000 in the operating budget to improve monitoring and management of forage
fish that provide a food source for chinook.
$580,000 is directed to the Department of Ecology to increase the amount of
water in salmon-bearing rivers and streams by modifying state Water Quality
Standards that will allow more spill over Columbia and Snake river dams.
$750,000 will support the stakeholder process to remove the four lower Snake
River dams. However, Inslee’s office also recognizes that the “dams support
irrigation, public water availability, recreation, navigation, energy and
hatcheries. The Snake River dams also have a very productive salmon hatchery
operating as part of their required environmental mitigation.”
The operating budget includes $4.7 million to collect additional population
information and develop management options for pinnipeds in Puget Sound and to
increase management actions in the Columbia River.
Inslee would place limits for three years on whale watching, both commercial
and recreational. $1.1 would go to WDFW for education and enforcement.
The transportation budget includes $117 million to begin converting two state
ferries from diesel to hybrid-electric and to begin constructing two new
hybrid-electric ferries. The ferries would reduce noise and greenhouse gas
To reduce toxic pollutants, Inslee’s budget includes $3 million to enhance
local source control programs, $4.2 million to speed up management of toxic
cleanups, $3.5 million to remove toxic creosote structures, $57.8 million to
clean up toxic sites, $51 million to reduce and manage storm water, $32 million
to address contaminants from waste water systems and other nonpoint sources, $2
million to test toxics in consumer products, $236,000 to reduce pharmaceuticals
in waste water and $7.3 million for chemical action plans.
The operating budget provides $1.4 million to monitor zooplankton and increase
monitoring of pollution in marine waters and $3.5 million to conduct research
$1.3 million is included in the operating budget for state agencies to support
overall recovery efforts and consultant support for the second year of the
Governor’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force.
is involved in this mission and everyone has to be for it to succeed,” Inslee
said in an interview with the Seattle Times newspaper last week. “These expenditures
have to be done now. There are lots of things in life you can put off for a
decade. This is not one of them … This is a one-time shot.”
November 20, 2018, “Orca Recovery Task Force Recommendations Include
Considering Removal Of Lower Snake Dams,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441811.aspx
CBB, September 28, 2018, “Orca Task Force Recommendations Include Focus On
Salmon Runs; Non-Native Game Fish To ‘Predatory,’” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441561.aspx
CBB, Sept. 14, 2018, “NOAA Fisheries Studying Nighttime Behavior Of Endangered
Killer Whales As Part Of Action Plan” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441483.aspx
May 11, 2018, “Puget Sound Boaters Asked To Observe ‘No-Go’ Zone To Protect
Foraging Orcas,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440697.aspx
March 16, 218, “Washington Governor Signs Executive Order To Protect Orcas,
Chinook Salmon” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440354.aspx
CBB, Jan. 15, 2016, “Study: Chinook Salmon Make Up 80 Percent Of Diet For
ESA-Listed Killer Whales In Pacific Northwest” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435857.aspx