The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has classified all of Puget Sound as critical orca habitat. However, orcas are starving in Puget Sound. Orcas use echolocation to forage for chinook salmon. Cavitation from ship propellers creates a deafening underwater sound that travels over a mile. At 120 decibels, rock-band loudness, orcas are blinded by this sound, preventing successful salmon foraging.
The Washington State Ferries of Central Puget Sound (Bremerton, Bainbridge and Kingston) create an orca deafening and blinding wall. Cavitation rates scale exponentially, so slowing ferries from 17 knots to 10 knots would mitigate this sound.
Ferries and orcas are Washington-state icons. We may have to choose only one. The spotted owl has shut down much of the Northwest forest industry.
An environmental or Native American lawsuit to protect the orcas could drastically slow our ferries.
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Bob Ortblad, Seattle