Port Orchard Independent: Two steps forward, three steps back is the story of salmon recovery

A great oped by the Port Orchard Independent takes a straight shot at the sometimes rose colored glasses assessment of salmon recovery:

According to the report, rivers and streams being assessed by monitoring stations have stable or increasing flows. That’s good — having enough water in rivers and streams is important for keeping the water cool enough for salmon to thrive. But shoreline armoring, through bulkheads and riprap, is increasing at a rate of about a mile a year — more than the amount of shoreline being restored. That’s bad — hardening shorelines deprives young salmon of food and shelter.

In addition, salmon recovery involves many agencies and jurisdictions, but those efforts are often not in sync; in fact, they frequently conflict with federal salmon habitat-recovery goals. According to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission report, “State of Our Watersheds,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued permits for shoreline structures that salmon recovery goals seek to remove. In the state’s Shoreline Management Act, homes are considered a “preferred” shoreline use, although shoreline home development often is accompanied by the construction of bulkheads and docks. Shoreline armoring and riparian vegetation removal are within the jurisdiction of National Marine Fisheries Service’s policy governing enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, but “there appears to be only one instance of NMFS exercising its enforcement authority over these activities during the past decade,” according to the fisheries commission.

Until that changes, our steps back in salmon recovery will continue to outnumber our steps forward.

You can view the tribes’ 2012 State of our Watersheds report here.

The Independent points out the hard truth about our more than decade-long effort to restore salmon: we are losing salmon habitat today faster than we can restore it:

The pages of the State of Our Watersheds report are filled with examples of a single, repeating trend: key habitat attributes, such as streamside vegetation, habitat connectivity and stream flows are imperiled by human activities. This extensive loss and degradation of habitat threatens both salmon and tribal cultures and treaty-reserved rights. The principle findings in this report illustrate this alarming trend, but it is ultimately the realities contained in each tribe’s watershed review that provide the most accurate depiction of habitat.