Request for salmon forum to add farmers and owners

By Emily Heffter
Seattle Times Snohomish County bureau


EVERETT, WAŚ Fish have more advocates than property owners do on the Snohomish Basin Salmon Recovery Forum, the Snohomish County Council said yesterday.

The council is requesting the 35-member forum take a second look at its membership and add more farmers and riverfront-property owners. The group doesn't have to do what the County Council asks, but the county provides many of the funds for the projects the forum recommends.

The County Council voted 4-0 to make the request yesterday. Councilman Kirke Sievers was absent.

Forum Chairman Mark Sollitto said the group will do what the council asked, but he said he thinks current representation is fair.

"In my mind, given the range of members that exist on the forum, there is not a problem," he said.

The forum includes representatives of city and county governments, public-

interest groups and companies in King and Snohomish counties. It oversees a watershed area that is approximately half in Snohomish County, half in King County, but Snohomish County surface-water management employees staff the forum.

Snohomish County Councilman Jeff Sax, R-Snohomish, the county's representative on the forum, initiated the request. About 20 forums like the Snohomish Basin's exist for watersheds across the state.

The forum chooses its own members. When Puget Sound chinook salmon were proposed for listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1998, cities and counties with interests in the Snohomish Basin watershed chose the original members. Under state law, the forums prioritize local salmon-recovery projects, such as replacing culverts and restoring native vegetation and recommend them to the state.

"They're recommending projects that are good for the fish, but those projects aren't always good for the scope of the entire environment out there," Sax said. The projects don't consider farming, sport-fishing and transportation interests, he said.

Sax said he proposed changing the forum's membership in January 2002. The forum initially refused, then appointed Mark Craven, a pumpkin farmer, but Sax says Craven doesn't share dairy farmers' concerns.

Sollitto said Craven will be replaced with Andy Werkhoven, an Arlington-area dairy farmer, because of scheduling conflicts. Sax said he will submit six property owners' names, including Werkhoven's, to the forum at its meeting tomorrow.

Emily Heffter: 425-783-0624


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