Orca task force releases draft of recommendations; public comment period begins

SEATTLE -- Gov. Jay Inslee's orca task force released an updated draft of recommended actions Wednesday aimed at saving the southern resident killer whales from extinction.

The 36 recommendations are a product of several months of meetings between dozens of stakeholders throughout Washington. The public has through Oct. 29 to comment on them.

    The draft focuses on three goals: Increasing Chinook salmon abundance, the orca's main prey; decreasing vessel noise and disturbance; and reducing the orca's exposure to contaminants.

    While task force members reached consensus on the majority of recommendations during a two-day meeting in Tacoma last week, there are still three outstanding actions that will need to be addressed before the final report comes out. Those include:

      "We have recommendations and the majority of those are supported -- wholeheartedly -- by the members of the task force," task force co-chair Stephanie Solien said. "So the fact that we only have three left to wrestle with - and they are important ones - I'm very heartened by the progress we've made for the orca."

      Task force members will meet once more on Nov. 6 to go over public comment and hammer out the final details. The final report is due on Nov. 16.