Last week, the West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle dumped 11 million gallons of raw sewage into Puget Sound. This wastewater is dangerous to families and communities, and it is also harmful to our species that inhabit the Puget Sound, including native salmon species and southern resident orcas.
Unfortunately, this is just the latest incident in a series of catastrophic sewage spills that have occurred in the past few years in Puget Sound. Salmon have been found contaminated with cocaine and Prozac, and mussels are testing positive for opioids. If this is what is happening to our marine life in the Sound, can you imagine the threat these spills pose to the overall health of our ecosystem? It is no wonder the species in our nation’s largest estuary are facing extinction.
Yet, instead of focusing on their own backyard when it comes to salmon and orca recovery efforts, leaders and self-proclaimed “environmentalists” in Western Washington point fingers by hyper-focusing on tearing down Central and Eastern Washington’s dams.
Every few months, a group of mostly Seattle-based environmental scientists send a letter to Congress calling for the removal of the federal dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers in order to protect Washington’s native salmon and orca species. I reject these calls because their views are rooted in a partisan, ideological approach – not a scientific, solutions-oriented one.
If one storm, in the wettest region of the country, can send millions of gallons of waste into the Puget Sound, it is clear that significant improvements are necessary to improve Seattle’s wastewater infrastructure. This fact, and any substantive attempt to address it, remains absent from their calls to action.
Last year, I spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives to urge a comprehensive, science-based look at salmon and orca recovery. I called out the hypocrisy of my colleagues from the west side and asked them to take a hard look in their own backyards – at factors in and around the natural habitats of Washington’s salmon and orca species that are affecting their populations.
Breaching or removing the dams that provide countless benefits to the communities and economy of Central and Eastern Washington is not the answer. We need responsible solutions – not hyperbolic ones from misguided and radical environmentalists. So long as I am serving in Congress, no one will be tearing down our dams.
Governor Inslee wasted $750,000 of state taxpayer dollars on an inconclusive study that focused solely on effects of our dam infrastructure on salmon species, which found what we already know to be true: breaching the dams is divisive. The federal Environmental Impact Statement, conducted over several years by federal agencies who own and operate the dams, found that the benefits of the dams are too precious for our region to go without.
We must continue addressing all impacts – not just those that are politically or regionally convenient. From species management efforts to control populations of predatory sea lions to continued innovation at our hydroelectric dams to improve the 93% fish passage rates like those we are seeing at Ice Harbor Dam and others, we are doing our part.
Now, it’s time for Seattle to do theirs.
Our Native salmon species and the southern resident orcas hold a strong cultural and historical significance to the Pacific Northwest, and they are critical to our region’s ecosystem. We must devote our resources to real solutions that will improve conditions, aid in recovery, and ensure healthy populations for generations to come.