All around Washington, salmon are returning from years in the Pacific Ocean to their home rivers. Lower Granite Dam saw more than 57,000 fall chinook as of Tuesday, exploding the 10-year average of a little more than 22,000 during the same time period. The Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office is unveiling a 10-minute video that documents the state’s effort to bring the salmon back from the brink of extinction. The video is titled “State of Salmon: Restoring a Washington Icon.” The Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office also is releasing six, two-minute videos that focus on those affected by the decline of salmon populations and those working to restore salmon and salmon habitat. “These videos help us tell the story of why salmon are important, why they are in decline and what we are doing to stop that decline,” said Kathleen Cottingham, director of the recreation and Conservation Office which oversees the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office. “Salmon are so important to Washington and hopefully these videos will give people a better understanding of why,” she said. Cottingham said salmon populations are important to Washington as a source of food for people and animals, such as Orca whales, as a cultural icon and as an economic driver. Many businesses, such as bait and tackle shops and charter fishing companies, rely on the world-renowned Pacific salmon. Recreational salmon fishing alone creates nearly $130 million in economic activity each year. Salmon populations have been declining as Washington’s population has grown. In 1991, the federal government declared the salmon in the Pacific Northwest as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. In the next few years, it listed 17 more species of salmon as either threatened or endangered. By 1999, some salmon populations had disappeared completely and salmon were listed as threatened or endangered across nearly three-fourths of the state. The Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office was established by the Legislature through the Salmon Recovery Planning Act and charged with coordinating a statewide salmon recovery strategy. It recently launched an interactive web site, www.StateofSalmon.wa.gov that allows people to see how salmon are doing in their community’s streams and rivers. “The web site shows that Washington is beginning to see some increase in the number of salmon returning to its rivers and streams. A lot of work is happening in communities around the state to help recover salmon populations,” Cottingham said. “It’s so exciting in the fall to see salmon return to their native streams and to see thousands of people come out to celebrate that fact. Salmon matter to people and people matter to salmon. Without communities pulling together, we’d be seeing salmon continue to decline instead of some salmon populations on the rise.”
By Sally Ousley Gazette Reporter Steptoe area farmer Randy Suess said it’s not unusual for him to seed when there’s been little or no rain. “For the last eight, nine to 10 years, I’ve dusted in the seed,” he said Monday. He added the grain he has planted is already sprouting, coming back on pea ground. According to the National Weather Service in Spokane, Whitman County has received less than half of the normal rainfall as of Monday, .18 of an inch compared to .42 normal for the Oct. 13 date. Whitman County recorded 1.67 inches less in rainfall for the crop year which started Oct. 1. Normal rainfall for the crop year is 16.89 inches, and the year ending Sept. 30 finished at 15.22 inches at the Pullman NWS station. Suess said farmers, particularly on the west side of the county, are almost done seeding and typically seed with very little moisture in the ground. Suess now is concerned that the young sprouts won’t have enough moisture to survive if rain doesn’t come soon. “I hope the forecast is for rain,” he said. “I’m concerned it’s going to stay dry.” Suess pointed out farmers are taking a gamble if they wait until the end of October to seed. Steve Van Vleet, WSU Regional Extension Specialist, Associate Professor of Agricultural and Natural Resources based in Colfax, estimated 65 percent of Whitman County farmers had seeded winter crops as of the middle of last week. “Some are still waiting for rain, but some farmers have dusted it in,” he said. “We need a good half inch to inch of rain first off,” he said. Van Vleet added that any heavy rainfall could result in run-off because the ground is hard and baked. “No-tillers will have more moisture in the ground, because the ground is not worked as much,” he said. Van Vleet also said most livestock producers are already feeding hay because pastures have dried out early from lack of moisture. Van Vleet said most pastures have gone into dormancy because of the lack of rain and at that point ranchers take livestock off pastures. He said yields of alfalfa and hay have been less than normal later in the summer because of less moisture. “We’re just waiting for moisture and hoping for better yields next year,” he said.
Hank Hanigan, chief operating officer at Whidbey Island General Hospital for the past five years, began his first day as new administrator of Whitman Hospital Monday. Hanigan fills the position vacated by the retirement of Debbie Glass last spring. Hanigan spent his first days at the hospital this week meeting with staff members and residents. He said his wife Karen plans to join him here after she wraps up a business she operates in Whidbey Island. Hanigan said most of his career in hospital administration was at PeaceHealth Hospital in Longview where he was on the administration staff for 15 years. Hanigan earned undergraduate degrees in accounting and business at Gonzaga University and a graduate degree in business administration at Washington State University. Two of the Hanigan children are also now on course to enter the health profession. Oldest son Henry is starting a career as a nurse at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. Daughter Allison is now a student in nursing at Gonzaga. Twins Blake and Bryce are attending Western Washington University at Bellingham and so far have not decided on their major field of study. Hanigan was born in Walla Walla, but he was raised in Cathlamet. He is a graduate of Wahkiakum High School which is the county high school in Cathlamet. A reception to welcome the new administrator will be today, Thursday, from 2 to 4 p.m. across from the Harvest Home Cafe at the hospital.