It's the crazy season. State legislatures are in session, particularly here in Washington state. After a number of months of eventful natural resource disasters (fires, aquaculture pens breaking, few wild steelhead returns), the legislature is full steam ahead wanting to fix "what is broke." We have been in this business for a long time and know how sausage is made. One thing we ask of our policy makers, is to look at "low hanging fruit." Big fixes for wild anadromous fish crashes or wild fires or the demise of the South Puget Sound orcas usually ends up not working. But there are low hanging fruit, things that can be done to help fish, mitigate climate change, and protect our forests.
The picture above is a suction dredge. These are machines, essentially shop vacuums, that are used to suck up a stream, run the water and sediment through a sluice, and discharge the sediment. All of this is done in Washington state without a discharge permit under the clean water act and in areas of critical habitat for anadromous fish, there are no incidental take permits under the Endangered Species Act.
Everyone from ranchers to orchard owners to municipal water districts to property owners are making sacrifices to help salmon and steelhead. Reforming the non-existent regulations on suction dredge mining in Washington is not a big deal. It's low hanging fruit. But in a season of silliness, it would be a good thing to do one thing that might actually help.