Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, State Senator Brian Hatfield (D-19), State Representative Brian Blake (D-19) and State Representative Dean Takko (D-19) today sent a joint letter to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board requesting that they defund a controversial plan by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to remove the levee systems on the Lewis, Porter Point, and Reikkola units at the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in Pacific County.
The levee removal was the first step outlined in the implementation of management Alternatives 2 and 3 for the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, effectively ruling out Alternative 1 before a formal decision has been made on the Preferred Alternative.
Herrera Beutler, Hatfield, Blake and Takko sent the letter to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board because it is responsible for allocating the funds USFWS would use to begin the levee removal process.
"In this time of deep budgetary limitations, we are extremely concerned at the burden this project will place upon our taxpayers," they wrote in the letter. "Just as importantly, the possibility of serious environmental consequence from this project on other wildlife has recently come to light."
The full text of the letter follows:
April 20, 2011
Donald "Bud" Hover, Chairman
Salmon Recovery Funding Board
WA Recreation and Conservation Office
PO Box 40917
Olympia, Washington 98504-0917
Dear Chairman Hover and Members of the Board,
We are writing to respectfully request the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to abide by the recent, unanimous vote of the Willapa Bay Water Resources Coordinating Council for withdrawal and re-allocation of the funding for the Bear River Estuary Restoration Plan (Project 10-1652).
Through public meetings and numerous contacts with our respective offices, the citizens of Pacific County have voiced their growing alarm regarding the scope and cost associated with this project. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the total price tag for removing the levee systems on the Lewis Point, Porter Point and Riekkola units will be upwards of $15 million. In this time of deep budgetary limitations, we are extremely concerned at the burden this project will place upon our taxpayers.
Just as importantly, the possibility of serious environmental consequence from this project on other wildlife has recently come to light. Community members, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), have voiced strong concern regarding the impact of levee removal on the threatened Dusky Canada Geese due to the resulting permanent loss of upland foraging habitat.
Removal of the levees will also force the elk from their traditional pasturing lands with an expected increase in depredation to local cranberry bogs and private pasture lands. When combined with the fact that the streams in question are naturally non-productive for salmon because of their non-gravel, sediment bottoms, there is not only questionable ability of this project to reach its restoration goals, but also genuine concern of environmental impacts that can never be reversed.
Thank you for your attention, and we look forward to your response.