By Bill Reynolds
La Conner Weekly News 

Salmon bill adding habitat put on hold


Last updated 2/2/2022 at 2:32pm

On one issue, all in western Washington are agreed.

Saving wild salmon runs is a priority.

What is not clear cut, as testimony during a virtual State House of Representatives committee hearing indicates, is what sacrifices must be made, and by whom, to preserve Washington’s signature migratory fish.

House Bill 1838, designed to protect salmon habitat areas, is a key element in Gov. Jay Inslee’s $187 million salmon recovery program. It is named the Lorraine Loomis Act for the late Swinomish fisheries director and chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

But the bill, introduced by Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow, the lone Native American member of the legislature, was pulled following the spirited Jan. 21 Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources hearing, where repeated concerns were raised that it would take vital agricultural land out of production.

Tribal leaders and supporters of the legislation are regrouping to determine next steps.

The Weekly News has been told that a forthcoming statewide “Being Frank” column published by NWIFC will offer direction. The column is named after Nisqually environmental leader and treaty rights activist Billy Frank, Jr.

At issue is a provision calling for buffer zones along waterways – riparian habitat areas – for green, tree shaded corridors critical for the clear, cold water required by migrating salmon.

Hefty fines for non-complaint landowners coupled with the prospect of losing thousands of acres of farmland – an estimated 30,000 in Whatcom County alone – drew objections at the hearing. The bill’s promise of state aid to mitigate hardships imposed upon property owners was met with skepticism.


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