From: James Waddell
Sent: Sunday, January 14, 2018 11:11 PM
To: Rep. Mike Chapman Cc: Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, Rep. Steve Tharinger
Subject: Input on House Bill 2417–Southern Resident Orca Recovery
Thanks for asking for input on this draft bill.
This is not a good investment of tax money and will not recover orca.
The reasons why:
Salmon runs are very low just about everywhere, so it is doubtful if there is enough wild brood stock or returning hatchery fish left to quickly increase production in the hatcheries noted in the bill.
So to produce another 10 million smolts means they would be using more eggs from smaller number of parents, to the point of incest you might say. This has been one of the plagues of hatcheries for decades. Or, just as problematic, importing non-native species.
The money would not be appropriated until June of 2019, at the absolute soonest and given this kind of budget issue, will likely slip. Even if started in June of 2019 it would be several years before releases would take place and another 18 months to get an orca size chinook. It is not like you can go down to Costco and buy 10 million eggs/fry that will survive in the rivers intended for these fish. So, it would be at least another 4-5 years before you get any useful food for orca’s. And this bill would have to resubmitted again to support continued production. This is not fast enough to prevent further losses in the effective breeding population. And this is the point, it is not just about doing something that might help the last stragglers of a non breeding population hang on for another 20-30 years, before they finally become legally “extinct”. The point should be to do something fast enough so that what is left of the breeding population starts having babies that can survive for many decades with numerous offspring.
Also, with the Snake runs plummeting (now its looking like Columbia too), predation on chinook elsewhere in the coastal areas by marine mammals and other predators will be tremendous, so far fewer of these new fish would be available than would be the case a few years ago.
Keep in mind that most hatchery fish die before they ever get to a dam or to the ocean, so when someone claims 10 million fish, that is likely at the fry stage. Since the average cost to raise a salmon to the size it can be released is well over a dollar, you can’t buy 10 million smolts for $1.5 million, to say so is either a bit misleading or the language needs to be corrected.
Hatchery fish, in many cases, are a big part of wild salmon declines, so this nullifies a lot of the chinook habitat work taxpayers and ratepayers have spent billions on. Obviously, river and stream habitat improvements are critical to wild fish, not so much for hatchery fish. The state is forking over more millions because of the Culvert decision. This legislation would further undermine the benefits derived from culvert removals, not to mention all the other habitat work that has been going on for decades.
That is why breaching the 4 lower Snake River Dams this year is so critical. For each dam breached the mortality of juveniles is reduced by a million or so fish at the dam. So, by starting this year with two dams you get the fastest possible survival benefits for chinook and orca.
I also do not believe that solving this problem should be left up to the State Legislature. The biggest problem with low chinook/salmon numbers are the dams which are the Federal Government’s responsibility (this includes BPA as some forget their status). As such, I believe, and have tried to express to the Governors Office, with little result, the State should be pressing hard on the Corps and BPA to remedy this problem with the only alternative they have not tried. Everything else has failed, so the State, especially the Governor should be demanding it. Especially since their own science, economics and policies currently allow them to execute an immediate breach. As a state and federal tax payer and a BPA ratepayer, like millions of others, I/we should not be asked to fork over more money on solutions that have already cost billions and thousands of jobs that are not improving salmon. Indeed they are having the opposite effect.
The task force is the same. We don’t need more studies and advisors telling us what is already known. It is very clear what the biggest problem is and that the most effective solution breaching, can be done quickly, or at least faster, with the biggest bank for the buck. And breaching does not cost the state anything, but brings jobs to eastern Washington and keeps the SRKW tourism business viable. It will also go a long way to recovering the Tribal, commercial, sport and subsistence fishing economies that are a shadow of what they once were. The task force could have some value if breaching was pushed forward and started this year, as they could then look at other opportunities for habitat, pollution, vessel traffic, harvest, etc., as these would then have a synergistic effect with breaching. If the Columbia/Snake River runs, to a large degree as in 2017, never make it to the ocean, the rest of this is nearly pointless.
I have attached two documents that I gave you when we met in November. The Salmon status has been updated a bit since then. The second document is the 5 policies that allow breaching in 2018. The first two pages are a summary.
I have a short meeting scheduled with you on the 26th of January and will let you know what I found after talking to the people you suggested in our November meeting.
Civil Engineer, PE, USACE Retired