Five months after twin tragedies cast a spotlight on the state’s ailing orcas, Washington plans to spend more than $1bn to stave off extinction.
If enacted, a proposal from the governor, Jay Inslee, would knock down two dams, repair habitat and place a three-year ban on orca watching. Crucially, Inslee hopes to shore up salmon runs that feed the orca while cleaning and quieting the waters in which they live.
The deaths of two young orca this summer transfixed the nation and inspired a desperate push to save the black-and-white creatures, also called killer whales, who are treasured regional symbols. A shortage of Chinook salmon, pollution, and marine noise caused by boats – which blinds their echolocation – has led to diminishing numbers of orcas. Three years have passed since an orca calf born in the region has survived.
Worries of imminent extinction prompted demands for action from state leaders. Inslee’s answer came earlier this week as the governor, a Democrat thought to hold presidential ambitions, outlined the billion-dollar, two-year proposal.
Photo: Robert Pittman/NOAA/Wikimedia Commons (CC0)
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