McMorris Rodgers Leads Pacific Northwest Lawmakers to Seek Answers on Decline of Puget Sound Salmon

Pomeroy, WA (August 12, 2021) — Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review federal efforts to recover salmon populations in Puget Sound and identify the factors that are contributing to the decline of salmon stocks that serve as the primary food source for the Southern Resident Killer Whale. Cathy was joined by Representatives Dan Newhouse (WA-04) and Cliff Bentz (OR-02) on the request.

In a letter to Comptroller General Dene Dodaro, the group wrote, in part:

“Numerous federal agencies are involved in the effort to restore Puget Sound salmon. Under the Endangered Species Act, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is responsible for the protection, conservation, and recovery of species. In addition, because pollution has negatively affected water quality, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also plays a major role in salmon recovery.

“These and other federal agencies have numerous programs and have spent millions of dollars in an effort to restore Puget Sound salmon, yet salmon numbers continue to decline. Of particular concern is that municipal wastewater treatment facilities in Puget Sound continue to exceed standards for water quality discharges.”

As the Lead Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Cathy is leading oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s enforcement of Clean Water Act regulations. Cathy asked the GAO to answer the following question in its report back to Congress:

  1. What are the key factors identified by NMFS as contributing to the decline of or hindering the recovery of Puget Sound salmon?
  2. What are the key programs and other efforts, and related funding, by NMFS and EPA directed at restoring Puget Sound salmon?
  3. What is the frequency and magnitude of Clean Water Act violations in Puget Sound, and what actions have EPA and Washington state taken to address those violations?
  4. What actions have EPA and Washington state taken related to Puget Sound water quality and how have EPA and the state coordinated their actions to support salmon recovery in Puget Sound?

To view a copy of the GAO request, click here.

Cathy also visited Lower Granite Dam on the Lower Snake River this week, where she received an update from the Army Corps of Engineers on the dam’s hydroelectric output, improvements being made to tag and track fish passage, and ongoing efforts to improve Chinook returns. 

Data shows that salmon runs on the Lower Snake River closely mirror the runs of rivers across the basin. The dams are neither the problem nor the solution. Dams and salmon can – and do – co-exist,” said Rodgers. “The returns of Spring Chinook through Lower Granite were encouraging this year, and the returns of Jack Chinook at this point during the summer run are also encouraging. I was glad to have an opportunity to see first-hand the work the Army Corps is doing to maximize the power and navigation benefits of the dam, while prioritizing fish passage.

Pictures from Cathy’s visit are below:



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