Washington State Legislative Session Wrap Up


The Washington State Legislative long session ended on April 23rd. Native Fish Society joined Trout Unlimited’s Washington State Advocacy Committee and volunteers to meet with legislators and ask for their support on bills, including wild fish passage, dam removal, and the governor’s budget requests for habitat, infrastructure studies, and gill net changes. Many of the bills we advocated for did not succeed this session, but we know that persistence is key when it comes to legislative efforts; we will continue to advocate for wild fish by bringing these bills back next session. 

Below is a summary of our work during the session and the proposals needing your continued help and attention next year.  We were able to be back in the capitol in person, and we expect that to continue.  Please contact me, NFS Washington Coordinator J Michelle Swope, if you want to accompany me as we meet with representatives to talk about important issues that impact wild runs of native fish. Here are a few of the key legislative initiatives that we championed during the 2023 legislative session:  

Wins for Snake River Dam Removal in the Governor's Budget.

Washington State has identified funding needed to plan for projects to replace current barging and energy infrastructure on the Snake River. Doing so is a vital step towards removal of the four lower dams. The final 2023-25 Washington State Governor’s budget includes $5 million for highway, road, and freight rail needs and alternatives; $2 million to develop an action plan to diversify and improve the resilience of the electric power system; and $500,000 in funding for irrigation availability during draw down after the lower Snake river is restored in order to maintain agricultural production and jobs.  

Conserving and reducing harvest impacts on ESA listed Salmon and Steelhead (SB 5297).

This bill would have returned non-tribal gill netting practices to lower impact side channels and out of the main stem of the Columbia River.  The bill made it to an executive session, but no action was taken.  This gill net practice continues to seriously imperil threatened wild Spring Chinook and Winter Steelhead.  The state must take steps toward increasing the number of wild fish that make it to their spawning grounds to aid wild fish recovery. While we successfully advocated for a gill net buyback process in the past, which has decreased the number of non-tribal gill net licenses in the main stem of the Columbia River,  it’s time to end this harmful harvest practice that continues to impact ESA-listed fish. 

Snake River Dams Removal and Governor's Budget Items.

Included as part of the plan to replace the current barging and energy infrastructure supplied by the four lower dams on the Snake River, we advocated for the Washington Department of Transportation budget request linked to dam removal and dam removal items in the general operating budget.   We also supported budget requests that will impact wild fish recovery with further funding for the Chehalis Basin Strategy, Streamflow Restoration Program, Salmon Recovery Funding Board, and the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program.

Protect a Steelhead Gene Bank Mining Threats.

In the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, one of Washington State’s 7 Steelhead Gene Bank streams is under repeated threat of mineral extraction.  We remain involved in the Green River Alliance petition to protect the Green River from mining activity destroying steelhead spawning and rearing habitat and clean water to downstream communities.  If you have not signed the petition, please do so now!  /petition

I will update you and include ways you can stay involved, and invite you to join me for some in-person advocacy next legislative session.  Please make plans to join me and other Washigntion NFS members as we continue to join together in actions to revive wild runs of native fish in Washignton State.  

For further discussion on these and other issues in Washington State impacting our clean water and wild fish, please contact J. Michelle Swope, NFS WA coordinator, at jmichelle@nativefishsociety.org  

Join Us for a Guaranteed Good Time for a Great Cause! Where: The Miracle Barn at 65599 Tweed Road, Bend, OR / *Virtual auction available anywhere you have wifi! When: Saturday, August 17th, 4 - 7pm What: A FREE Central Oregon benefit for our wild, native fish, free-flowing rivers, and thriving communities.