A bill aimed at restoring salmon habitat for Puget Sound orcas struggling to find enough food to survive was approved by the Washington State Senate today by a vote of 32-16.
SB 6147, sponsored by 32nd District Sen. Jesse Salomon (D-Shoreline), would require the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to consider less environmentally disruptive alternatives when property owners look to repair or replace seawalls and bulkheads.
The 32nd District includes parts of Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.
“Bulkheads destroy near-shore habitats so that forage fish and juvenile salmon don’t have a place to spawn or hide from bigger fish,” said Salomon. “That is leading to fewer salmon, which results in orca starvation. We need to think about this issue literally from top to bottom.”
Nearly one-third of Puget Sound’s shorelines are armored with structures like bulkheads and seawalls. When “hard armor” bulkheads are installed, the natural process of beach and sand erosion is disrupted. This can cause a chain reaction of negative environmental impacts, including the disruption of fish habitats in the area.
A lack of adequate salmon population has been identified as one of the factors jeopardizing the Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Orca population.
Soft armoring alternatives can often achieve comparable results for property owners while also having less impact on the natural environment.
“Last year the Legislature took a good step in the right direction by limiting the expansion of these bulkheads,” said Salomon. “But there’s still more work to be done to protect salmon habitats and our orca population. As existing bulkheads and seawalls need to be repaired or replaced, property owners should be asked to consider alternatives that may accomplish the same goals but are less disruptive to the environment.”
SB 6147 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The 60-day legislative session is scheduled to end on March 12.