Rep. Van Werven says Alaska’s nonprofit fish hatchery program could be replicated to save Washington’s salmon runs

Environmentalists, tribes and even Governor Inslee have suggested removing the four lower Snake River dams to restore salmon runs and feed the endangered Southern Resident Orcas. But a state lawmaker from Whatcom County may have a better solution.

 Radio Report Transcript

PAYNE: Earlier this summer, Whatcom County’s State Representative Luanne Van Werven took a tour of a very successful salmon hatchery operation in Alaska. Millions of salmon are produced through the non-profit fish hatchery program, which covers all of its operating costs by selling 30 percent of each year’s returning fish.

The Lynden lawmaker thinks it’s a model that could replenish Washington’s salmon population without removing the Snake and Columbia river dams, which are essential to the state’s power supply and agriculture.

VAN WERVEN: “We are looking at a model that is at no cost to the taxpayers, except for the initial low-cost interest loans—but of course then the taxpayers will get their money back and a little bit of interest. That is the model they employ up in Alaska at no cost to the taxpayer. And, I believe this is going to be beneficial for the taxpayers, that state hatchery program and then even for the tribal hatchery programs.”

PAYNE: Van Werven believes replicating this in Washington state would take the pressure off wild stocks, which might be favored by orcas.

VAN WERVEN: “There’s no doubt they prefer the king salmon, so we are going to bring the salmon to them. And I think it’s going to be a great benefit for the long-term survival of our orca whales.”

PAYNE: Van Werven is drafting a bill for the 2020 session that would fund a viability study to see if a non-profit hatchery program would work in Washington state. Kelley Payne, Olympia.


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