From: Mountain Coalition []
Sent: Saturday, December 08, 2007 2:16 PM
Subject: Saving ? Salmon - Pat Neal PDN Column 12-05

Perplexed over fish restoration effort

Pat Neal

            HANG ON TO your wallets.

            A new chapter of the millionaires club is forming up out in the West End of "Calamity County."

            These are the new millionaires.

            They spend other people's money in an attempt to save the salmon by restor­ing habitat.

            They call them­selves the North Pacific Coast Lead Entity or NPCLE, an unpronounceable acronym for an impossible task.

            "Lead entities are local, water­shed-based organizations that solicit, develop, prioritize, and sub­mit to the Salmon Recovery Fund­ing Board (SRFB) habitat protec­tion and restoration projects for funding consideration," according to the state Recreation and Conser­vation Office.

            I attended a public meeting of this group's Forks chapter last week.

            Since 1999 the Lead Entity has spent more than $300 million in salmon recovery efforts across the state of Washington, according to a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire from the Lead Entity.

            These salmon recovery efforts have also paid for the construction of new bridges across the Dunge­ness River and the acquisition of riverfront property from so-called willing sellers.

            Apparently the old bridges over the Dungeness were just too darned narrow for the threatened and/or endangered bull trout, spring chi­nook, summer chum salmon, hump­back salmon and steelhead to swim under.

            It is a mystery how the hundreds of thousands of fish that once swam up the Dungeness ever made it under the old bridges.

            Even more baffling is the fact that these ungrateful fish continued to go extinct even after we built them the new bridges.

            Fisheries are not an exact sci­ence, but as Dr. Phil would say, is fish restoration working for us?

            The Lead Entity has purchased real estate along the Dungeness River from these willing sellers.

            These are people whose homes are in areas that have been declared bull trout habitat, such as Rivers End Road in Sequim and Kincaid Island in the Dungeness River.

Many cannot get permits for their septic tanks or to maintain dikes to protect their homes from floods.

            They are suddenly willing sellers - willing to see their homes munched up by an excavator and trucked off to the landfill, all for the good of the bull trout.

            Despite these heroic efforts, the fish in the Dungeness River remain so threatened and endangered that the river is closed to fishing much of the year.

            In fact, the Dungeness steelhead was just declared as "threatened."

            This will open up another flood­gate of funding for the Lead Entity.

            It's almost as if the more money we give the Lead Entity, the more fish go endangered.

            Future plans for the Dungeness include taking out the dikes.

            This will create even more will­ing sellers among the flood victims.

            Meanwhile, the mouth of the Dungeness has become a septic mess of silt and dead trees.

            If habitat is the answer to fish restoration, why are there endan­gered species inside Olympic National Park, among the most pristine habitats in the county?

            That's because the fish in the park are forced to migrate outside to a hostile environment to return to their ocean home, said Tyler Jurasin, a biologist with the Hoh tribe.

            In addition, from my experience as a fishing guide, a major reason they never make it is what I call nylon pollution, a generic term that applies to too much fishing.

            No amount of habitat restoration can mitigate an overharvest.

            We must change this harvest by using the traditional Native Ameri­can way of harvesting fish.

            In the summer of 1861, James Swan canoed up the Quileute River.

            He talked of weirs, fish fences made of cedar limbs stretched across the river and used to harvest fish.

            Weirs are now used in Alaska to count fish going upriver to spawn.

            No one fishes until enough spawners have passed upriver.

            I know this system is just too simple to work here, so hang on to your wallets.

Pat Neal is a fishing guide and writer. His column appears on this page every Wednesday. His new book, The Fisherman's Prayer, is on sale at Jim's Phar­macy in Port Angeles and Forks Outfitters in Forks. Cost: $12.95 plus tax.

Contact Pat at 360-683-9867 and at PO. Box 1806, Sequim, WA, 98382; or you can e-mail him at


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