My December letter to the editor compared the needs of starving southern resident orca whales with the desires of Snohomish County PUD to develop hydropower on the south fork Skykomish River at Sunset Falls, which produces 20 percent of Snohomish basin chinook salmon that southern orcas need to survive.
In response, a senior PUD engineer replied that the project is “not anticipated to harm fish and wildlife based on review of scientific data by fishery/wildlife experts,” and that it would “greatly enhance conditions for salmon migrating upstream at the existing trap and haul operation.”
The Tulalip Tribes, respected fishery/wildlife experts, have concluded otherwise.
In April 2016 the Tulalip and Snoqualmie tribes formally requested that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission deny PUD’s application based on anticipated harm to juvenile salmon and steelhead. Specifically:
“The project will impair downstream fish passage as well as degrade and reduce fish habitat necessary for spawning salmon and other native fishes in the South Fork Skykomish River system, by reducing median monthly flows 63 percent to 90 percent.”
“The productivity of the ESA-listed natural origin Skykomish chinook salmon population has substantially declined over the past 15 years to well below the replacement level, meaning the population is currently in steep decline.”
“Chinook and coho salmon populations are at or near historic lows, and adding a new source of mortality is not appropriate. The project threatens to do irreversible damage to chinook salmon.”
PUD must avoid even the appearance of complicity in the extinction of chinook salmon and orca whales.