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WA Salmon: Swimming Upstream?

April 29, 2010

SPOKANE, Wash. - More than 50 Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho businesspeople are asking Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray to back a new approach to saving Columbia River salmon. They want the two Washington senators to support a new round of discussions with everyone at the table - from farmers and fishermen to utility companies.

Chris Kopczynski, who owns a Spokane construction company, signed the letter to the senators. He says an uncertain future for salmon also means an uncertain future for the region.

"I think I speak for a lot of people who are afraid to speak because it's such a sensitive issue, with power. None of our elected leaders has taken a stand - it's a gutsy stand. We've got to get rid of our arrogance and realize that we have to give back a little bit to this ecosystem."

Sam Mace, inland northwest director of the coalition Save Our Wild Salmon, notes that groups facing similar challenges to endangered fish in the West have managed to reach agreements. She thinks all sides in Washington would also be willing to talk.

"There are costs and benefits to any path that we take, and we have not had any sort of honest conversation that can actually bring certainty, not just to the fishermen and recreational businesses, but also farmers and shippers and others."

Both Washington senators have been supportive of salmon recovery efforts, but neither has championed any recent plan or legislation. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says hatchery fish will be abundant this year, but wild salmon, particularly Columbia River coho numbers, are down. The letter appeared as a full-page ad in this week's Pacific Northwest Inlander.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA