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$1.1 billion in orca funding pitched to Washington lawmakers

Governor Jay Inslee's staff and Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force members presented their financial requests Tuesday to the state House Capital Budget Committee.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Budget requests and 36 recommendations to save orcas from extinction were presented Tuesday to the state House Capital Budget Committee.

Of those recommendations from the Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force, 16 are related to prey, 10 are related to vessels, and 10 are related to contaminants.

"Due to capital budget constraints, we knew that the Governor would not be able to fully fund all the task force recommendations, so we gathered a list from state agencies of all orca-related projects and evaluated them for timeliness, effectiveness and affordability," said Governor Jay Inslee's Senior Budget Assistant Jen Masterson.

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The natural resources-related projects make up between 23 percent and 28 percent of the proposed investments. Orca-related projects equal about 12 percent of capital budget investments.

"This is an ambitious package of science-based recommendations that we believe if enacted will make significant progress in recovering our beloved Southern Resident orcas," said Task Force Co-Chair Stephanie Solien.

The Governor's budget includes the following for killer whale recovery: $66.3 million for the operating budget; $594.8 million for the capital budget, and $408.7 million for the transportation budget, totaling $1.1 billion.

Salmon advocates recently criticized the Governor's budget for not requesting enough money for habitat restoration, claiming that it will make little if any difference to pressing projects that need immediate attention for fish recovery.

Inslee's budget and the task force have also faced criticism for recommending more studies of the four lower Snake River dams, arguing that decades of studies have already been done and any further research would be a redundant waste of money.

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The capital budget includes $30.1 million for local culvert removal, $121.1 million for water supply, $152.4 million for salmon recovery, and $60.1 million for other habitat protection.

The budget also includes $75.7 million for salmon hatchery production and habitat protection and restoration.