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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘There is no more time when it comes to salmon’: Inslee announces proposed investments for species recovery

Chris Gregersen carries a bucket of juvenile chinook salmon tagged with monitoring technology, looking for a place to release the fish near the Icy Creek Pond Fish Hatchery on Oct. 18.  ((Hannah Weinberger/Crosscut))

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed budget includes a continued effort to study replacing the benefits of the lower Snake River Dams, if the federal government decides to remove them.

Inslee announced Tuesday a proposed $187 million in investments for salmon recovery, as part of his policy and budget proposals for the 2022 legislative session. The plan includes correcting fish passage barriers, investing in clean water infrastructure and expanding monitoring of salmon populations statewide.

“There is no more time when it comes to salmon,” Inslee said.

The plan sets aside $1.5 million to look at hydropower impacts in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. It includes $375,000 for a Snake River mitigation study that would look at replacing the benefits of the dams, according to a policy brief.

In 2019, Inslee passed a budget that included $750,000 to study the possible effects of breaching the dams.

Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray said in October they would lead a process to consider breaching the dams. That process includes assessing what it would take to replace the transportation, hydropower and irrigation benefits of the dams. Their recommendations will be finished by the end of July 2022.

Inslee said Tuesday he continues to support the process and dialogue surrounding the four lower Snake River dams, including assessing “reasonable means” to replace the services provided by the dams.

His salmon plan also includes establishing a grant program to restore and conserve salmon habitat, including the wetlands adjacent to rivers and streams. In one way or another, everyone in the state touches salmon habitat, Inslee said.

He is also proposing the state creates an advisory group to recommend how to modernize state law to include salmon needs for cool water. The bugdet also provides grants to local jurisdictions to increase capacity to address toxic pollutants in stormwater.

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said Tuesday she supported Inslee’s “strategic and bold plan.” Rolfes, who chairs the Senate budget committee, said she and other colleagues in the Senate will share his priorities for the salmon.

“I know the investments that the governor laid out are important and are key to driving the kind of change that we need to see,” she said.

Inslee said the investments in salmon recovery need to happen this legislative session.

“We’re past the point of emergency when it comes to our salmon habitat,” Nisqually Indian Tribe Chairman Willie Frank III said Tuesday.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.