July 20, 1998
Overfishing and predator protection are to blame
So, it begins. On the July 15 King County Council's budget committee meeting agenda is a proposal calling for a surcharge on all development permit applications in unincorporated King County. Development includes vegetation cutting and earth grading as well as building and remodeling permits.
In addition to the proposed permit surcharge, which is for fish, we have King County Executive Ron Sims calling for $250 million from a new storm water fee for fish habitat preservation/restoration. Will we King County taxpayers who have been paying a fee "to control surface water runoff" since the mid-1980s be credited for those payments? And don't forget the 1997 quadrupling of the per-parcel charge for King Conservation District funding which was also for fish habitat, plus the millions in Waterways 2000 funding and other open space funding already spent. To say nothing of the value of volunteer labor that has pulled blackberries and reed canary grass along streambanks and planted something else.
It wouldn't be so bad if the King County millions and the Bonneville billions spent on fish habitat had resulted in improved fish runs. But there's been no bang for the buck.
Worse, the continuing emphasis on HABITAT, which has resulted in 65% uncompensated lockup of land belonging to rural King County landowners who can't clear the brush for crops or pasture, has deluded the public into overlooking the real problems, which habitat focus ignores.
Those real problems are modern-technology overfishing and fish predator protection. Factory trawlers guided by range finders and depth sounders and spotter airplanes have decimated the oceans; tribal river netting for commercial sales without state oversight have decimated the rivers. Add to that the protected seals, sea lions, raptors and other birds such as the Caspian tern a recent study found consumed up to 20 million juvenile salmon at the mouth of the Columbia River. Plus there's El Nino.
King County is going to sink all our money into land lockup and pre-Europeanizing stream corridors (one King County fish biologist said people shouldn't be allowed in those corridors and others nodded in agreement), and still it will not be the answer.
Maxine Keesling, Woodinville