Orca calf born to Puget Sound resident L pod  – KING.COM

A wait and see attitude to being thrilled about this will have to hold off until we see if it survives. Rate of survival of Orca young is fairly low.

The Center for Whale Research is celebrating the birth of an orca calf in the Salish Sea, the first one since 2012. The proud mother is 23-year-old L86, and this is her second calf. The newborn has been designated L120. Susan Wyatt reports. (KING)

http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/2014/09/07/orca-calf-born-in-salish-sea/15243635/

Agencies review Puget Sound hatchery plans – Tacoma News Tribune

This has been a highly contentious issue, with lawsuits by environmental groups trying to stop all hatchery releases and the sports fishermen and the Tribes opposed to that. The environmental groups have very solid science showing that when you compare rivers like the Skagit and the declines over 70 years to almost no steelhead, with similar rivers in Oregon, like the Umpqua, which have seen virtually no change in steelhead production over the same period in time with no hatchery fish released, it begs the question of ‘why not ban all hatchery fish for a 10 year period?” The courts seem inclined to go along with that arguement. For some of the Tribes and the sports fishermen, it  seems as if science doesn’t matter, and that they want to fish to the last wild fish. They may get their wish. As one scientist said at hearings in Olympia on this last spring, “Without wild steelhead, you will not have hatchery fish.” So if you lose the wild run, it’s game over. 

How Puget Sound fish hatcheries will operate in the future could be determined by an environmental impact statement now being developed. As part of that process, NOAA Fisheries is holding public workshops this week to discuss the draft environmental impact statement that assesses alternative operations of salmon and steelhead hatcheries around the Sound. The proposed action alternative in the draft would operate hatcheries under two state and tribal resource management plans developed jointly by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and Puget Sound treaty tribes, according to a NOAA news release. The proposed action would maintain hatchery production at current levels. Jeffrey P. Mayor reports. (Tacoma News Tribune)

http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/09/03/3359645_agencies-review-puget-sound-hatchery.html

Tarboo forest land gains protection – Port Townsend Leader

News on protection of mature forest in the Tarboo.

Eighty acres of mature forest in the Tarboo Valley was permanently preserved last week through a joint project of Northwest Watershed Institute (NWI) and Jefferson Land Trust (JLT).

http://www.ptleader.com/testing/tarboo-forest-land-gains-protection/article_0a17d40c-a242-59ed-8c4a-80a5fbec4f43.html

Signs of sea-star recovery in California but not in NW – Seattle Times

Some small good news from California, but still no signs of hope elsewhere.

The sea-star population, devastated by a wasting disease, shows signs of resurgence in California but not necessarily in Washington.

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2024394588_seastarsxml.html

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The Environment, The Transpac Partnership and the Democrats

My wife and I spent time today with the Democrats, at the annual Jefferson County Democratic Fish Fry, a 30th anniversary of a highly successful gathering to support the Democratic Party. Given that there are no stated Republicans running for office in Jefferson County this year, I guess you can call it a victory party.

With the usual stump speeches by all the candidates, there was one that stood out in contrast to the others. Derek Kilmer, the District’s well loved US House of Representatives incumbent, gave a funny, thoughtful  speech to the supportive crowd. However, one issue he touched on hit a nerve with me. He brought up the Trans Pacific Partnership and his belief in the benefits it will bestow on businesses here in Washington and the US. He sited NAFTA and how this is a logical extension of it. And that it will help bolster environmental standards (as well as labor) that we hold dear. Among the crowd, were many with anti-TPP buttons on. This is not a simple Democratic vote.

As for me, I thought Derek’s timing someone problematic. While he claims that this TPP will somehow ensure that our environmental standards are taken over “there”, we are staring at a horrible environmental catastrophe playing out a days drive from here, in British Columbia.  The Mount Polley Tailings Pond collapse, into pristine Quenelle Lake, which flows into the Fraser and the Salish Sea, along with the subsequent  absurd government comments that it’s not a problem and lack of even rudimentary cleanup in the last three weeks, points to the problem. We were told that NAFTA would bring out environmental stances to Mexico and further south. We didn’t need to mention Canada because most people believed that Canada is at least as good as we are. But the reality is that, since NAFTA, Canada has become an political monoculture of one party rule, allowing the dismantling of all environmental regulations, and those not dismantled are ignored. Just this year, thousands of lakes were removed from environmental protection, the main science library  for the country was defunded. The books with over a century of research were literally thrown in the trash, and what little passes for environmental law was reversed by small type insertions into existing laws. Their Federal Government has passed laws allowing oil and gas exploration (and subsequent drilling) in Banff and other National Parks. Can you imagine if we decided to allow such drilling in Big Sur, Yosemite, or elsewhere? Yet the average Canadian seems to be more interested in hockey than their parks, with some exceptions.  It makes the attempts to gut US Environmental laws by James Watt during the Reagan Administration and Cheney under Bush, look like amateur hour. Canada now has some of the weakest environmental laws in the industrialized world, outside China. The air quality in some cities in Alberta resemble Peking at it’s worse.

The only real possible legal remedy that the US has is not NAFTA, but the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty Act, which gives the US legal authority to negotiate with Canada over disputes on cross border waters. Since the pollution of the Fraser River with toxins from Mount Polley could create health hazards for decades for the Salish Sea, into which the Fraser flows, this could be a mechanism to force cleanup of the spill.

So there is great reason not to believe the political party line when it comes to TPP. What guarantees do we really have that any of our strong environmental protections will really be enforced ‘over there’? Who is demanding that Canada actually stop or slow it’s self destructive plunge to destroy it’s citizens health, it’s parks and it’s environment, just for the quick buck of this decades’ oil needs? Certainly not NAFTA. And as to NAFTA having created better environmental regulations in Mexico, well, just go to Mexico and see for yourself. Not happening.

Sorry Derek, I’ll likely vote for you, but on this one you are just wrong, you need to dig deeper. It appears to a casual glance that you are listening to the business interests over labor and environmental voices. TPP is not going to bring us anything that NAFTA or the other trade agreements have. It will put money in the pockets of huge multi-national corporations, who seem hell bent on moving corporate headquarters overseas to avoid paying US taxes.. If you want to prove us wrong, go get Canada to do something about the Mount Polley spill, before the mercury and other toxins reach the Salish Sea and our joint fisheries.

Thoughts on the Mount Polley Tailing Mines Disaster – What it means to us

The ongoing nightmare on Quesnel Lake from the Mount Polley Tailing “Pond”, has huge ramifications for us in Washington State and the Olympic Peninsula. This fiasco is being whitewashed by the politicians from both the Provincial and the Federal level in Canada. The official line is ‘it’s not that bad” when the truth is it’s likely far worse than anyone imagines. Huge amounts of highly toxic materials, including the possibility of radioactive material (that is now being discussed in official circles), pose grave downstream risks to the Salish Sea  and the wildlife that passes through it on their way elsewhere.

The primary talked about toxin in this stew is mercury. Lots of it. It’s used in this kind of mining and ends up being a by-product that can’t be removed,  just managed. We already deal with mercury in our fish, to a manageable degree, and it’s affects are well known and avoided. However, without knowing how much mercury might be in the tailings that are now in the Lake, the government has been suggesting that there is nothing to fear from the water. Let’s be clear, mercury ingested in significant amounts can cause Minamata’s Disease. Look it up on Wikipedia. It was highlighted in a Pulitzer Prize winning article in Life Magazine in the 1970s, photographed by Eugene Smith, when an entire village in Minamata Japan suffered from horrible birth defects because of unregulated mercury poisoning. The Canadian Government is putting it’s people at serious risk by inaction. And us too. 

To quote part of the Wikipedia article:

Symptoms (of mercury poisoning and Minamata Disease) includeataxianumbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision, and damage tohearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanityparalysiscoma, and death follow within weeks of the onset of symptoms. A congenital form of the disease can also affect foetuses in the womb.

All these were experienced in Japan in the 70s in Minamata. 

And this is just one of the toxins that was contained behind this tailing dam. 

Without immediate work to setup coffer dams and drain the areas around the spill in Quesnel Lake, we may see a huge amount of mercury, along with other toxins, enter the Salish Sea,  and undoubtably affect the Sockeye that come out of Quesnel, one of the largest sockeye spawning habitat in Canada.

These fish make up the primary food of the remaining local pods of Orcas. And our fishermen catch them and we eat them. Lots of them. In other words, our fishing industry and our Orcas could be at risk.

We need our politicians to act now, to demand that the Canadian government stop pretending this not a serious problem and begin cleanup of this spill. There has been to date, no work begun on cleaning up the spill! (as of Sunday August 24)

This is not just about the lame excuses that Victoria and their muzzled scientists gives us about how they think their untreated sewage is not affecting the Straits. This is about possibly poisoning our fish and ourselves. And if we don’t stop it soon, it may be permanent. An oozing toxic mess that’s not cleaned up will pose a threat for decades to come. Just ask the folks at Hanford. The  comments coming from high level government Canadian officials are true doublespeak.  To be clear, the simplest way of understanding this is that if the massive amounts of tailing waste were not a danger to human health and the environment why are they held behind these ponds in the first place? It’s because they have been proven, for over 100 years, to be very harmful, if not deadly, to plants and animals, including us! There is no ‘lucky break’ (as stated by a senior government official) in a dump of this magnitude, there is only a bad outcome of various magnitudes.

The mine managers and the regulators that refused to enforce the laws, have created an environmental disaster of monumental proportion that has yet to fully unfold. What matters now is protecting the entire river systems that will carry this muck to the ocean. And protect the drinking water that might be pulled out of the river for human consumption. 

What’s the possibility of the US having a significant say in this issue? Read the following excellent article about our treaties with Canada, and the power that we have to force them to change legally. And remember that it’s because we have a Democratic, environmentally supportive president that we can read something like this. In a different previous era, our government would likely have been looking the other way in support of rampant environmental degradation.

Stephen Hume: Political fallout from Mount Polley mine spill may come from U.S.

New Olympia oyster habitat created in Discovery Bay – PDN

I guess this would be considered tooting my own horn. Thanks to the PDN for covering it.

Volunteers with the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee have created a new half-acre of native Olympia oyster habitat at the south end of Discovery Bay. The group’s goal is to jump-start an expansion of the small but thriving Olympia oyster population near the project site.  (Peninsula Daily News)

http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20140820/NEWS/308209982/new-olympia-oyster-habitat-created-in-discovery-bay

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