Salmon recovery milestones starting to add up

It’s raining hard today, the first heavy rain we’ve seen in a while, and it makes me feel good.

The air is clean, the fish are moving up the rivers and the dust of summer is being washed away.

The end of summer is a good time to look back at what we’ve accomplished recently in restoring and protecting salmon and their habitat here in western Washington.

I believe we are on the road to success.

The milestones are adding up.

The first bids were awarded recently for the removal of the two Elwha River dams.

Work will begin this time next year and should be completed by the spring of 2014.

Hundreds of acres of estuary at the mouth of the Nisqually River have been restored.

Dikes are being removed and land that once used to raise cattle is now providing a home for fish.

Fish passage is being restored between Lummi Bay and Bellingham Bay in the Nooksack River delta, giving juvenile salmon access to important estuary habitat.

There’s an emergency tug stationed year-round now in Neah Bay to help protect our shoreline from oil spills.

The Skokomish River watershed is being put back together.

Habitat improvement projects are helping to heal the river system and restore salmon.

We’re also learning more about the dead zones in Hood Canal and taking steps to stop them.

It has taken us a long time to reach this point in our journey.

After decades of hard work by local, state, federal and tribal governments, conservation groups, shellfish growers and many others, I believe we are standing on the threshold of a positive future for us and salmon.

We are making progress at a time when we need it the most.

Yes, we have come a long way, and we still have a ways to go, but I believe we’re going to get there if we keep working together.

Billy Frank, Jr. is chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

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