The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should extend the public comment period regarding the proposed expansion of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge and the removal of the dikes around the Porter Point, Lewis and Riekola units.
Enough serious concerns have been raised to warrant further discussion. Plain and simple: people are worried about loss of public access for bird viewing and hunting, loss of food and freshwater essential to waterfowl populations, and the expenditure of federal tax dollars on a project which may or may not be beneficial in the long term.
Federal officials answer these concerns with vague assurances. Last week, Project Leader Stenvall said in response to loss of freshwater: There are several beaver ponds and other freshwater ponds on the Peninsula and they (waterfowl) can go there. Stenvalls response isnt based on science. Its political rhetoric aimed at getting the subject changed/closed. This fall, the Ducks Unlimited biologist assigned to Washington estimated 50,000 pintail ducks were in the Lewis Unit alone. It will take some fairly substantial beaver ponds to accommodate just one species.
I understand that the USFWS has grant money in hand for this project and in true governmental fashion, if you dont use it, you lose it. Well, maybe this money should be returned to the federal coffers, or at the very least, hold off on spending it until more of the taxpayers concerns are addressed.
One thing in this whole mess is certain: once the dikes are breached, they are gone for good. And the birds? Well, maybe theyll go too.