Broader input sought on salmon

By Brian Kelly
Everett Herald Writer

Snohomish County - 3/27/03 - The Snohomish County Council may ask a regional group that works on salmon issues to rethink its membership.

County Councilman Jeff Sax said the Snohomish Basin Salmon Recovery Forum should be reformed to include landowners who may be affected by the forum's projects.

"It's so critical that we get active landowners" on board, Sax said.

The work of the 35-member forum dates back more than five years. The nonpartisan group includes representatives from Snohomish and King counties, 13 cities from Everett to Index to North Bend, the Tulalip Tribes and interest groups such as the Boeing Co. and the Master Builders Association. The group suggests voluntary projects that help salmon recovery efforts and habitat restoration.

But some view the group with suspicion and question the forum's motives.

Last month, the Snohomish County Farm Bureau wrote a letter to local legislators claiming the forum broke state law and was planning a $2.2 million project that would flood 300 acres of farmland in the Snohomish River basin.

In the letter, farm bureau President John Postema said county residents and landowners were not represented in the forum's membership.

He also asked legislators to cut off money to the forum's "outrageous" projects, and said 28 of the 41 proposed projects would lower dikes or levees and put logjams in the river that "will endanger the lives and property of the people and the farmers in the Snohomish River Valley."

Mark Sollitto, chairman of the salmon forum, said Postema's letter was inaccurate. There was no $2.2 million project being planned that would flood farmland or remove levies.

Twenty-five of the group's 35 members are residents or own land in the Snohomish River basin, and the projects proposed must have willing landowners involved to move forward.

Salmon enhancement projects also have to comply with federal, state and local laws, including those on flooding, Sollitto added.

Members of the forum said residents' views are represented by elected officials who are members of the group.

Jim Miller, Everett's representative on the forum, said the group has tried to get residents involved in the past, but it's been hard.

"Quite frankly, they usually have other jobs," Miller said. "It's been a time issue."

Sax said he was willing to let the forum evaluate its membership, but warned that was like letting a coyote guard a henhouse.

Other council members, however, said they should be clearer in their request to the forum so it would know what changes in membership the County Council wanted. The resolution Sax proposed, which would dictate a reconsideration of the group's membership, was sent back to committee for further discussion next week.

That resolution needed work because it could be upheld by adding six homeowners in North Bend, Councilman Dave Gossett said. They could be considered landowners in the Snohomish River basin.

"I don't think that's what we had in mind at all," Gossett said.

Reporter Brian Kelly: 425-339-3422 or


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