March 22, 1999
Last week's announcement that placed seven species of Washington wild salmon on either the threatened or endangered list came as no surpise to state lawmakers, local governments, environmentalists, or timber and building companies.
For the past few months, these groups have been crafting recovery plans to restore the diminishing stock of salmon, which in turn will affect just about everyone in the state, one way or another. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, this is the first time an endangered or threatened species act has ever hit an urban area.
Under the Endangered Species Act, a species that is likely to become extinct is listed as endangered. One that is likely to become endangered is labled as threatened.
The only run of salmon that received an endangered listing was that of the Upper Columbian Spring Chinook, which are at their lowest number in 60 years. Other species in danger include the sockeye, chum, and steelhead.
"The species will be lost unless there is a change," Woodinville Water District general manager Bob Bandarra said. "Hopefully, by making them endangered, more people will have to get involved. When they are threatened, it's a warning. Now they're endangered. This will affect everybody, even here in Woodinville and Bothell."
Bandarra's concern for the salmon stretches far beyond that of human kindness, but also to the quality of life Northwesterners have come to cherish economically. "Our concern here at the water district is where the heck are we going to find other water resources when we can't tap into our regular supply?" Bandarra said. "Can you imagine if we had to build a whole new infrastructure? The rates would drastically increase. The quality of life we are used to will change. No one knows what all the implications would be since this is the first time a species in an urban area has been on the list."
However, one thing is for sure. If the local governments and state fail to come up with a viable plan, the federal government will waste no time stepping in.
Gov. Gary Locke, who wants a recovery plan in place by July, is seeking $101 million from the state and $100 million from the federal government. Locke has already proposed legislation to alter the way water and logging are regulated in the state. Lock is emphasizing the need for a state plan over federal intervention.
"The overriding goal of our strategy is for Washingtonians to restore healthy and abundant runs of wild salmon and to control our own destiny," Locke said in a statement. "It is imperative that the Legislature support a salmon plan if we want to solve this problem ourselves."
So far, the logging industry is negotiating a plan with federal and state governments to leave more trees along salmon-bearing streams and creeks. In return, the industry would receive tax breaks and assurance that regulations would not get more stringent.
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, it will be at least six months before it formally announces rules that will affect local governments and residents within the habitat of listed species.