Tacoma, WA –Today, a coalition of fishermen and sport fishing associations, partnering with salmon conservation groups, asked a Washington State appeals court to help the downstream migration of endangered salmon.
The appeal seeks to overturn a Superior Court ruling to ensure that Washington's water quality standards effectively protect salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The groups have asked the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) to heed the best available science and revise Washington's existing Total Dissolved Gas (TDG) limits to assist young salmon making their journey to the sea. Ecology has thus far refused to do so, despite scientific support for the revision. Making revisions to Washington’s TDG standards could increase survival rates of migrating salmon by up to nine percent (9%), a significant improvement in light of the crisis endangered salmon currently face.
"The issue of whether we do more for salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers is synonymous with whether we're serious about protecting fishing families,“ said Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association (NSIA) Executive Director Liz Hamilton. “It's not just about salmon; it's also about our businesses and all the people salmon employ. The Department of Ecology should not be allowed to ignore mounting science on the benefits of spill for increasing salmon returns."
Ecology's repeated refusal to update its standards has failed endangered salmon by limiting beneficial water releases over dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Releasing -- or "spilling" -- water over the dams, rather than forcing it through turbines and complex bypass systems, is the safest and best way for young salmon to get to sea.
"Safe spill is a proven, effective action that will help to ensure there will be sustainable salmon runs for the people and communities that depend on them," said Glen Spain of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA). "The chance to take a single administrative action that could get us up to 9% more salmon survival is significant and should be a no-brainer. Ecology's refusal to make this standard more beneficial to salmon is a missed opportunity."
"It's unfortunate that we're still arguing with Ecology about this when every fisheries manager in the region – including Ecology's counterpart agency in Oregon – agrees that making the standard more protective is necessary to help endangered salmon," said Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda. "We're continuing the fight despite their repeated refusals and hope Washington will finally adopt a common-sense, biologically-sound approach to give endangered salmon a better chance of surviving."
A ruling in the appeal filed today could occur in early to mid-2012.