Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Orca territory

[click for enlarged image]

Nature writer Brenda Peterson has an excellent piece in the most recent issue of the National Park Conservation Association's magazine focusing on the Puget Sound's endangered orcas. Regular readers here may enjoy noting that it provides a slightly different perspective on the annual OrcaSing event at Lime Kiln State Park I described here. (Peterson, it's clear, actually heard the concert on land.)

She mentions something of special note that I managed to neglect discussing in my feature story on orca recovery for Seattle Weekly: the imminent removal of dams from the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula, which it's hoped will provide a fresh bounty of salmon for the orcas:
Clearly, things need to change if orcas are to remain in the waters of the Pacific Northwest for future generations. Fortunately, there is reason for hope, including a growing demand to restore healthy populations of salmon to the waters off the coast.

"The removal of two dams on Washington’s Elwha River, beginning in 2009, will be one of the most significant river restoration projects of our time and a boon for resident orcas," says Josh Walter, Northwest rivers coordinator for the National Parks Conservation Association.

These dams should have come down a long time ago, and would have if not for the running interference from former Republican Sen. Slade Gorton, whose fetish for blocking conservation and recovery efforts of all stripes played a big role in his ultimate defeat in 2000. With Gorton out of the way, state and federal officials were finally able to complete a removal plan in 2004.

As it stands now, it will probably take at least another decade before we start to see the Elwha River salmon return to any significance, and a full 30 years before they beging to near their historical levels. We just have to hope it's not too late to help the orcas by then.

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