Fish habitat is destroyed along with common sense

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin


A federal judge ordered two fish ponds in Western Washington be filled in and the creek restored to its original flow even though the ponds were 100 times better as a fish habitat.

By the Editorial Board of the Union-Bulletin

When law is written it is impossible for those who write it to foresee every possible scenario. In some cases, a strict application of the law defies common sense.

It's for that reason that judges are empowered with leeway to infuse sanity into bizarre situations.

Unfortunately, a federal judge - apparently blinded by government regulations - ignored common sense in applying the law to a situation in Snohomish County.

In the late 1980s, Ron Lavigueure diverted Woods Creek to build two fish ponds. Lavigueure didn't have the proper permits to change the flow of the creek. He broke the law - no question about it.

But his illegal creek diversion was not discovered until 1996.

But something else was also discovered. The two ponds were 100 times better as a habitat for juvenile coho and Chinook salmon than the original creek. The ponds produced between 1,000 to 6,000 spring smolts each year compared to between 75 to 100 smolts in the natural stream area.

Nevertheless, Lavigueure broke the law. In 1997 he was found guilty of a misdemeanor for failing to obtain permits.

The law is the law. Lavigueure should have been made to pay a hefty fine.

But the judge ordered the ponds be filled in and the creek restored to its original flow.

Folks in Snohomish County - including the County Council and local sportsmen - were flabbergasted. Why destroy such a great fish habitat?

The county appealed to the court to allow the ponds to remain. The federal court ignored it. The ponds were filled in.

``There's no question that he didn't go through the proper procedure to gain the necessary permits,' said Bob Heirman, president of the Snohomish County Sportsmen. ``But by the time that his violation was discovered, this area had healed all up and was functioning marvelously. What it actually did was enhance the west fork of Woods Creek by actual fish counts.'

Punish Lavigueure, not the fish or the sportsmen or the people of Snohomish County. A fine for Lavigueure and maybe a healthy dose of community service would have resulted in justice for all.

The federal court destroyed common sense as well as a wonderful fish habitat.


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