From: Sonia Krishnan, The Seattle Times
Published November 27, 2004 12:00 AM

25 Seattle-Area Communities Seek Feedback on Plan to Improve Salmon Habitat

Nov. 27—The endangered chinook, mighty "king fish," which can grow to 40 pounds, tell a story of development that has steamrolled vital habitats and barricaded fish passages with road crossings and dams.





"You know that image of the kid with the big huge salmon? That icon of the Northwest? We just don't see those anymore," said Debbie Natelson, outreach and stewardship coordinator with the Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Water Resource Inventory Area 8 Watershed.





That's why 25 cities and King and Snohomish counties are asking for public feedback on a draft plan to improve the habitat of this native species.





The proposal — a collective first-time effort among the 27 local governments to save the salmon — will look at how the region can grow and still protect and restore shorelines, forests and water quality. Three open houses are scheduled during December in Bothell, Redmond and Seattle to educate the community and get responses on a draft 10-year conservation plan.





In January that plan will go to a forum of representatives from each of the local governments that will meet over the coming year and make final recommendations to the federal government.





"Instead of the federal government coming in and developing a plan, the local governments are taking the lead and putting together what they believe they're going to be able to do," said Jane Lamensdorf-Bucher, project coordinator.





The federal government listed the Puget Sound chinook under the Endangered Species Act in 1999. Four factors — loss of habitat, overharvesting, hydropower and wild salmon competing with hatchery salmon for resources in the stream — are to blame for the regional decline of chinook, said Lamensdorf-Bucher.





Counties and cities need to agree on a cohesive plan because saving the fish crosses many layers of government, she added.





"Most other endangered wildlife live in one area. But with fish, because they travel through all the rural areas and urban areas, they know no political boundaries," she said. "It's going to take a long time to recover the salmon. What we're hoping for is to first stem the decline and then increase them."





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© 2004, The Seattle Times. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.


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