OUTDOORS: Salmon habitat could get a boost from riparian bill

A wide-ranging habitat restoration and riparian habitat bill that would earmark $90 million for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife had its first reading in the state House of Representatives on Wednesday.

HB 1838, Protecting, Restoring and Maintaining Habitat for Salmon Recovery has the support of treaty tribes, including the Jamestown S’Klallam and Makah, representatives of which both spoke in support of the bill in front of the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.

Also known as the Lorraine Loomis Act, in honor of the Swinomish Tribe’s fisheries leader, the bill is expected to offer “commitments for funding, habitat recovery and reducing stream temperatures that are too hot for salmon, with an emphasis on best available science and monitoring.”

Riparian areas are crucial for the shade, increased nutrient levels and cover provided to fish and wildlife, increasingly important as more and more miles of rivers and streams have seen rising summer temperatures which threaten salmon survival.

Fish and Wildlife would be tasked with developing riparian management zone maps for salmon and steelhead rivers and streams, be required to provide impacted landowners in priority systems with grant funding and to ensure compliance of requirement in key watersheds.

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal CEO Ron Allen said the bill was more than meets the eye. “[It’s] more than an Indian bill, but a Washington bill. And that tribes would work to find solutions with those impacted.

Opposition to the bill has largely come from farming interests and counties with large agricultural output such as Yakima, Skagit and Lewis counties.

Rivers, streams and creeks also create some of the most productive farmland, especially near the mouths of these watercourses as soil is deposited.

There was some heated discussion regarding “unconstitutional taking of private properties” and the potential for these disputes to end up as part of long court battles.

Protections for smaller farmers and cost-sharing to those who agree to take land out of production in perpetuity.

Parks commission in PT

Those itching for an in-person, public meeting of a governmental agency can look ahead to Thursday’s meeting of the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission at 9 a.m. at Fort Worden State Park’s Commons Conference Space, 200 Battery Way in Port Townsend.

Items of local interest on the agenda of Thursday’s meeting include the commission making a final decision regarding obligations of the Fort Worden Public Development Authority under its master lease that were temporarily waived due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commission will be asked to provide a one-time waiver of the PDA’s requirement to provide camping reservation services, camping front desk and check-in services and park pass sales. To maintain campus grounds in a satisfactory condition until an ongoing mechanism to fund this work can be secured, staff also recommends providing the PDA one-time financial support to offset the cost of grounds maintenance, not to exceed $150,000.

Written public comments can be sent by 5 p.m. today to [email protected].

The meeting will be televised at www.tinyurl.com/PDN-TVWJan27.

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