B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee pledged Wednesday to do their part to protect chinook salmon habitat, the main diet for southern resident killer whales that have been a focus of concern on both sides of the border.
“We are united in our efforts to save our orca population, and we are going to be active in that regard, and we are glad British Columbia will be an ally in that effort,” Inslee told reporters at a conference in Vancouver on developing the Cascadia region that includes both B.C. and Washington.
Horgan said their next stop is a meeting with Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who has jurisdiction over tidal waters, salmon and ocean fishing in Canada. Horgan and Inslee pledged to continue work on inland areas, including logging protection for the Skagit River and the Columbia, which lost most of its salmon runs due to hydro dams on the U.S. side of the border.
Horgan said he has given assurances to Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan that the B.C. government will carefully review the impact of logging in an excluded area between Manning Provincial Park and Skagit Valley Provincial Park on the B.C. side of the Skagit River watershed. B.C. Timber Sales, the province’s harvesting company, received permits under the previous B.C. Liberal government to log in the so-called “doughnut hole” area of the park, which was opened to industrial use for a mining claim more than 30 years ago.
Inslee referred only briefly to his state’s biggest salmon challenge, the devastation of chinook and other runs due to damming of the Columbia River. U.S. speakers at a recent conference on the Columbia River Treaty described the upper Columbia as a “sacrifice zone” of flooding and salmon destruction by the U.S. government to protect downstream urban areas in Washington and Oregon.
Inslee praised B.C. for its increasing carbon tax, and decried the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump for dismantling climate change efforts.
“We can do all the things we can about chinook, habitat in the upper rivers, eelgrass efforts, flows in the Columbia River,” Inslee said. “And all will be for naught if climate change swallows us whole by making the rivers too hot for spawning salmon, the oceans too hot to supply the food chain they depend upon, and acidifying the waters.”
At the conference, Horgan and Inslee signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the “innovation economy” with partnerships in life sciences, financial and retail innovation and new technologies like artificial intelligence.
In March, B.C. contributed $300,000 towards a business case study of a high-speed rail link between Vancouver, Seattle and Portland.