Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Getting Our Priorities Straight

By Chris Olson, Outreach Coordinator

On Sunday afternoon my roommate and I strolled through the Ballard Farmers Market on our way down to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. After five months of living in Ballard, we decided it was high time to check out this local attraction. We arrived at the perfect time to see both a large ship and a number of smaller boats pass through. Growing up in Wisconsin I was only a few hours from the Mississippi and had seen lock and dam systems before. It was fun explaining what was happening to my roommate though, as she had never encountered locks in Colorado. Moving over the dam itself, we made our way to the fish ladder and into the viewing chamber below the water level. If you haven't been down there I would definitely suggest it. Although we didn't see any salmon moving up the ladder, we could imagine hundreds of fish fighting their way against the current to get to the calm water above.

While we were reading the educational displays throughout the room, an automated tour guide began telling us all about the locks and how the fish ladder works to protect four salmon species. The guide also explained about the technological improvements that have been added to the impressive facility for the safety of the fish. I have to say I was quite enjoying myself. But then the automated guide lost me. He mentioned that there was a growing effort to protect the decreasing numbers of smolt from sea lions that wait at the bottom of the dam in the spring. While I admit I don't know much about the plight of the salmon or the conservation efforts surrounding them, this just didn't make any sense to me. I went home and did some research and found out that there were problems in the past with sea lions camping out at the base of the locks to eat the salmon that passed through. The whole experience got me thinking about the increasing multitude of hazards facing the salmon each year.

One of the 2009 Environmental Priorities in Washington is the Invest in Clean Water initiative. I wholeheartedly believe that this is the type of legislation that will help protect the future of the wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
2009 Environmental Priority: Invest in Clean Water
A polluter-pays fee levied directly on oil companies would fund critical water quality projects across the state. Oil companies should pay their fair share to clean up and prevent the pollution caused by their products. The fee would be based upon the quantity of petroleum products possessed by companies in Washington.This bill would raise over $100 million dollars every year for clean water, new jobs and healthier communities across the state. From the Spokane River to Puget Sound, it will fund the creation of new clean water infrastructure. By raising money directly from the polluting industry, the bill will provide financial relief to local governments and cash-strapped taxpayers who would otherwise be stuck footing the bill for these critical water quality projects.
We are at a point in our planet's history when we must examine, diagnose, and take action on the roots of our environmental problems. Sea lions may have some impact on the salmon population but increasingly across the region pollution, contamination from erosion, and habitat destruction are wreaking havoc on our native wildlife. Supporting the Invest in Clean Water priority is one way that we can take a proactive step toward ensuring that Washington's waters and waterways are a healthy place for generations of salmon to come. For an easy way to tell your legislators that you support the Invest in Clean Water priority and that they should too, please call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000. Also, remember to join us in Olympia on February 19th for Environmental Lobby Day and March 17th for Faith Advocacy Day. Hope to see you there!

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