County council needs to ‘step up’ to protect orcas | Letter

For years, Friends of the San Juans has been advocating for protection of critical habitats for forage fish and salmon. We were not very successful in the critical areas ordinance process and only partially successful in the county’s shoreline master program update.

Friends appealed seven elements of the shoreline master program update that we felt did not adequately protect the critical biological and geological processes necessary to provide food and a safe environment for juvenile salmon, particularly Chinook salmon. The growth board agreed with us on three of those elements and required the county to readdress them.

A council hearing was held, Monday, Oct. 8, to address compliance issues. We were greatly disappointed by the actions of two council members, Hughes and Stephens, who clearly stated they only wanted to do the minimum necessary to meet the growth board requirements.

The board and staff of the Friends are disappointed because our starving orcas need more Chinook salmon. Only bold targeted actions have a chance of reversing the decline in our orca and Chinook populations.

Minimum compliance is only going to contribute to more habitat decline from the cumulative impacts of development, just as it has over the past many decades.

Our councilors’ statements and actions are not what the public has been asking for, nor are they adequate to the monumental task of recovery of forage fish, Chinook and orca. Instead, bold actions by our county are essential to address key factors in orca and Chinook recovery, namely a more abundant food supply of insects, crustacean larvae and forage fish.

Is “doing the minimum” in the spirit of the governor’s task force to take bold robust actions? No, it is not. Instead, we urge our county councilors to step up to protect and restore our islands’ shorelines. Stewardship of our islands’ shorelines is critical for the recovery of Chinook salmon. Without recovery of Chinook salmon, our beloved orca whales will continue their tragic decline.

San Olson

Lopez Island