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Aug. 13, 2020

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WDFW hosts online meeting about fish passage rules

Discussion to include resident orcas, salmon

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will host a digital meeting on July 29 to discuss and take comment about potential improvements to fish passage and screening for construction projects in state waterways.

The rulemaking effort relates to recent recommendations from Gov. Jay Inslee’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force, which identified lack of prey as a key threat to the endangered Puget Sound whale population.

Puget Sound’s southern resident orca population, once numbering 200, now is 74, a 30-year low. Orcas’ diets consist primarily of chinook salmon, which also are listed on the federal Endangered Species Act.

Many conservationists point to water infrastructure, such as dams, as one reason for dwindling fish populations.

The task force specifically noted that WDFW should develop rules to fully implement the so-called fishways, flow and screen statutes.

These laws govern requirements for fish passage in construction projects in state waters.

“The ability of salmon and steelhead to migrate to and from their traditional spawning grounds is vital to their recovery in Washington,” WDFW Habitat Program Director Margen Carlson said in a prepared statement. “Barriers that block fish from swimming upstream or fish movement instream, such as deteriorating culverts, outdated bridges, and diversion dams undermine the state’s salmon recovery efforts.”

At this point, WDFW is still in the scoping phase for the rulemaking process and has not yet drafted rules.

The digital meeting will allow the public to learn more about the fish passage topic and make suggestions for rules, according to a news release.

No registration is required to attend. A link to the meeting is available online at wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/habitat-recovery/fish-passage/rule-making.

People with limited internet access can request a printed copy of the public meeting presentations by calling the Habitat Program at 360-902-2534.

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