Dear Dr. Koenings,
I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the recent illegal destruction
of critical salmon habitat along the Sauk River.
The Sauk is one of the most important salmon and steelhead producing rivers
in the Northwest and one of only three Wild and Scenic rivers in Washington.
It is home to Chinook salmon and bull trout that are listed under the Endangered
Species Act. By bulldozing a quarter-mile-long stretch of the river, the perpetrators
destroyed critical fish habitat. In addition, this illegal activity will worsen
erosion problems for downstream properties.
Threatened salmon and other species must be protected from such egregious violations
of the laws that protect our natural resources. This requires that your agency
exercise its enforcement authority by conducting a thorough investigation of this
illegal activity and meting out an appropriate penalty that will deter others
from similar conduct.
I would appreciate a response to this letter explaining the action that your
agency intends to take. Thank you for your consideration.
March 29, 2004
Thank you for your e-mail concerning the hydraulics violation on the Sauk River. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Enforcement Officers and Habitat Biologists began to work on this case immediately upon receiving information the violation had occurred on February 26. A WDFW Enforcement Officer was immediately assigned to work full time on this case.
Our investigation has thus far determined a major excavation of a side channel to the Sauk River, creation of a berm and movement of rock and woody debris occurred without the required local, state, or federal permits. An estimated 12,000 cubic yards of streambed was removed along 1,200 to 1,400 lineal feet of stream.
Spawning steelhead, and chinook, chum and pink salmon uses the portion of the Sauk River where this work occurred. Coho salmon and Dolly Varden/bull trout also are present in the river.
Since the discovery of this violation, WDFW staff has been vigorously and aggressively investigating this crime. With the publicity generated on the violation, WDFW hoped any potential witness's would come forward who may have observed the actual work. To date no one has contacted us. We are working cooperatively with other regulatory agencies investigating this crime, including the Department of Ecology, NOAA Fisheries, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Corp of Engineers and Snohomish County, who also have jurisdiction over these illegal activities.
Let me assure you I have placed the investigation of this case as a high priority. I am concerned that these actions are a threat to one of our state's most treasured river systems. I am committed to conducting and completing a thorough and factual investigation. As soon as our investigation is concluded, the case will be presented to the Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office for criminal charging decisions.
Jeff Koenings, Ph.D.
THE NEWER CHIEF of E.P.
Real Steelhead Don't Eat Pellets!!