Inslee proposes $1.1B to help starving orcas

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing $1.1 billion in spending — and a partial whale-watching ban — to help support the recovery of Puget Sound’s critically endangered orcas.

Inslee detailed the plans as part of his announcement Thursday of his priorities for the 2019-2021 state budget cycle. He says the money will go toward protecting and restoring habitat for salmon, the orcas’ favored prey; boosting production from salmon hatcheries; storm-water cleanup; and easing noise pollution from vessel traffic.

Inslee also said he intends to ban whale-watching of the local endangered orcas — known as the southern residents — for three years. He stressed that whale-watching will be allowed for other whales in Washington waters, including other orcas that pass through.

Inslee’s proposal followed recommendations from an orca recovery task force he convened last spring.