Doors Close and Doors Open – DFW Version

Each time a door closed in my face, The Old Man would remind me that this just meant that another was about to open. I’m not sure this Fish and Wildlife business is what he had in mind, but it sure popped into my mind this week.

You have by now, no doubt, learned that WDFW has closed access to the Fiorito Lakes until further notice thanks to a toxic algae bloom. This, of course, includes the very popular North Fiorito Lake (38 acres) and South Fiorito Lake (24 acres). The lakes lie between I-82 and the county’s No. 6 Road, and are mostly accessed from the Thrall Road Exit (3) off the interstate.

Our Kittitas County Public Health Department folks informed the Fish and Wildlife folks of reports they were getting from neighboring residents whose now-sick pets and livestock had been drinking from the lakes. Others reported seeing dead fish floating in the lakes. The closure – to protect those of us who like to play in these lakes – was almost immediate.

Algae are simply microscopic floating plants in water bodies and streams across the planet – essential, beneficial and harmless. When toxic algae blooms occur, there is a wide variety of causes, depending on the location and type of water involved. Almost always, warm temperatures are an underlying cause, and virtually always the problem occurs when rapid increases in photosynthesis cause the algae to overproduce chemicals – toxins – which can be harmful to other life forms (like people and fish). In addition, decomposition of dying algae masses removes oxygen from the water, creating “dead zones’ in which other water dwellers are suddenly unable to find the oxygen they need to survive.

There are surface scummy blooms, brown and multi-color blooms. While they are often supported by runoff of nitrogen or phosphorus from nearby fields, such a cause has not been identified here. The health department’s lab work has confirmed that the toxins in our Fiorito bloom developed from a surface bloom of blue-green algae.

Once the bloom has subsided, fish will be restocked (as needed) and the joy of playing in the Fioritos will once again be ours. The door will reopen. Standby…

In the meantime, you are aware that our Department of Fish and Wildlife has been for more than a year actively pursuing public interaction and comment on its Wild Future Initiative. This initiative has been a statewide attempt to get your input on what is, good, bad or missing from the work of the agency across the state.

Wednesday evening, a handful of us from the Kittitas County Field and Stream Club of Paradise drove to Selah to hear the story to date and pass along our own thoughts.

At this point, DFW has responded to early comments by: improving a number of access sites and developing partnerships for habitat restoration; simplifying fishing rules, developing mobile apps for fishers and hunters, and cleaning up its website; seeking funding to step up enforcement, education and management activities; and few dozen local initiatives to improve recreational opportunities, land management and outdoor user safety. Interestingly, there has been little interest in closing hatcheries. (Did you know that Washington has, arguably, one of the largest hatchery systems in the world?) Through all of this discussion and comment, of course, is a push to do whatever must be done today to ensure that we have hunting and fishing tomorrow.

And a door opens to the proposed fee increases you’ve been hearing about. Frankly, I don’t have a lot of heartburn about most of them, but these will all be part of the department’s Wild Future Initiative budget proposal to the governor and legislature. All fee increases will have to be approved by the legislature – and your /comments/concerns/support will be critical to that happening.

Allow me to share just a couple general proposals, here. Your hunting and fishing licenses may rise by 10% or more – but it varies widely. Eye-opener: in an effort to focus on users, rather than all fishers, catch record cards for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and Puget Sound halibut could go from free to $11.50 per species.

And – no – there is no proposal for a paid “license” for those who enjoy watching and photographing the wildlife and habitat which hunters and fishers have provided. That is another issue to be explored here one of these days. Please note, however, that there are statewide and national efforts to more actively enroll “non-consumptive” users of fish and wildlife in its future. Note also that some 20% of DFW’s budget comes from the General Fund to which everyone contributes tax dollars, so hunters and fishers are not alone on the hook.

You will find all the details – and hours of interesting reading – at Check it out and let your voice be heard. This is about tomorrow, and our children’s children.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized