Submitted by Sen. Steve O’Ban’s Office.
The federal government announced Friday it will support restarting a federal project for a downstream fish passage system at Howard A. Hanson Dam (HAHD) in King County, following the lead of Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County and the state congressional delegation.
The decision comes mere months after O’Ban wrote a letter to Washington’s congressional delegation encouraging it to take this step to provide safe passage for chinook and steelhead.
In the letter, O’Ban referred to a National Marine Fisheries Service opinion concluding that since operations at HAHD would jeopardize salmon and steelhead, a “reasonable and prudent” alternative would be for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and build a permanent downstream fish passage for the dam.
“It is the Service’s view that the recommended fish passage system would open 40-50 percent of the best quality spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead in the Green River basin,” O’Ban wrote. “…improving fish passage at a federal flood-control dam in Western Washington makes sense because it has a low regulatory impact on Washington residents, and promises far better cost-benefit results than other, politically contentious proposals that are only tangentially related to recovering fish.”
The Seattle Times reports that the project will “double the amount of spawning habitat available to salmon and steelhead in the watershed — and open all of the best of it for the first time in more than a century.”
“Removing dams in the Pacific Northwest is simply not a viable plan to increase the salmon population in Puget Sound. The impact on our way of life, the cost of our energy, the survival of our agricultural communities and the health of our economy is just too great,” said O’Ban. “Even if people can’t agree on dam removal, though, I’m thrilled that the federal government recognizes the benefit from improving fish passage at Howard A. Hanson Dam. This plan will be critical for rebuilding the salmon habitat in the Green River. The strong bipartisan support among the delegation bodes well for the orca.”
The original project to improve fish passage at HAHD, which started in 2003, was halted in 2011. Restarting the project now requires a new design and new authorization. The dam is located 35 miles southeast of Seattle. Local officials, such as the mayor of Tacoma and the executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, also support the plan.