Orcas

Orcas, also known as killer whales, travel off the coast of Washington.

The head of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association hopes to combat what she says are misconceptions about the relationship between orca recovery in the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Kristin Meira, executive director of the association, will speak at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 17 at the Red Lion Hotel in Lewiston, Idaho. Her speech is titled “Wheat, Salmon, Orcas and Dams — What Do They Have in Common?”

The population of South Resident orcas, three pods of killer whales in Puget Sound and off Washington’s coast, has declined to 74 from a peak of 98 in 1995. Two more of them are ailing and are expected to have a difficult time surviving through the winter.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s orca rescue plan includes looking at breaching four dams on the Snake River.

Emphasis on food

Meira said it’s a matter of finding the most effective means of ensuring the orcas have enough food sources and are able to reproduce and increase their numbers.

“We get really concerned when we see folks offer simplistic solutions, like breach the dams to save the orcas,” she said. “Most folks who understand species recovery and how multi-faceted it is understand the answer is never that simple.”

Meira said her presentation will arm the public with “real information,” compiled by federal agencies responsible for orca recovery.

“Rather than folks guessing or just putting out press releases and going from there, I think a lot more needs to be done (to reach) the average person who feels that connection to orcas, sees their plight and wants to do something,” she said. “The easy answers that have been put forth so far are oftentimes not the right ones, or there’s much more to the story.”

More calls of dam breaching

Meira expects critics to continue to push dam breaching.

“It’s important for all the information to get out there so we’re doing the right thing to help these animals,” she said.

Farmers and port managers have a lot to be proud of, she said. Agriculture, the ports and all activity on the rivers are all connected.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a soft white wheat farmer in southeast Washington, if you’re running a port on the lower Columbia River or if you’re running a shipping line on our river system,” Meira said. “It all has to work together and we all have a role to play when it comes to balancing that and being respectful of the environment.”

Meira’s presentation will include positives on the river system, including “first class” fish passage facilities at the dams.

“I think it’s important to remember we’ve accomplished so much,” she said. “There’s always more to do, but we are not failing. We are making important progress, and we will continue to do so.”

The event is sponsored by the Lewis-Clark Valley Chamber of Chamber of Commerce, among others. To RSVP or for more information, contact the chamber at 509-758-7712.

Pacific Northwest Waterways Association is a trade group — “a collaboration of ports, businesses, public agencies and individuals who combine their economic and political strength in support of navigation, energy, trade and economic development throughout the Pacific Northwest.”

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