Thursday, July 29, 2010

River Safety: A Quick Bit of Background

To bring some continuity and a common banner to our sundry efforts we created an entity we call the KING COUNTY RURAL JUSTICE PROJECT KCRJP)…and we write and respond in this manner. You will find earlier essays, reports and commentaries headed KCRJP from time to time reflecting past or current work.

For over a century the rivers of our good land were managed with concern for the safety of the public uppermost. That began to change…dramatically and dangerously about 25 years ago. Blossoming environmental passions produced a cadre of well-intended but seriously inept individuals who used hysteria about the plight of migratory fish…in this case…to usurp control of river management.

They invaded river-related agencies at local…state…and federal levels to impose what they thought were fish-productive alterations to our rivers. In a word they opposed and prevented the removal of dangerous trees and such…(now colloquially referred to as Large Woody Debris) from our rivers with the argument that it is “new salmon habitat” and must remain in place in accordance with the Federal Endangered Species Act, among other emerging law and policy.

The other “jaw of the vise” is their pet program of “installing LWD” in these same rivers and streams. Never mind that both of these misguided efforts have produced death and injury, and exacerbated flooding damage…the zealots have clung to their “pets”with a subtle but real defiance. That is changing, but not fast enough, for instance, for young Russelle Yap. Russelle hopped into the Skykomish up near Sultan on sunny day in July.

Russelle was with several friends, without adequate flotation and safety gear. He was soon trapped in a logjam just downstream. As his friends struggled futilely to pull him out, young Russelle lost his life.

Yes, the kids were careless about their gear, but kids will do that sort of thing. Didn’t we all?? The hard fact of the matter is that Russelle was trapped in a logjam that Snohomish county public safety troops had sought for years to remove. It was not to be.

In spite of several other near death incidents there the Washington Department of Wildlife and the State Department of Natural Resources refused to permit the removal. New salmon habitat, they said!!

How many fish do you suppose they would trade one of their kids for???

The final absurdity: They have been at this for nearly a quarter century, and they are beginning to admit that the fish runs are not significantly improved!! But…never mind!

Following then are a two earlier reports on the subject that should intrigue and inform. And more to come.

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