DNR proposes new tax for protecting Washington from looming wildfire crisis

While some politicians at the national level continue to say that climate change is a hoax, and that there is no cost to doing business as usual, our west coast natural resources managers are well aware of the rising costs to protect us from the increase in wildfires around our states. DNR head Hilary Franz has just proposed a new tax to help properly fund her department, which has been suffering from a lack of appropriate funds coming from the Trump Administration.  This is the new normal under the Trump Administration, starve the States with a lack of Federal funding, and force you and I to fund saving our neighbors. To be clear, that is a losing battle. Spreading the costs across all our States, is a cheaper way to do this.

New insurance surcharge to fight wildfires to be proposed by Washington’s lands commissioner

Determined to create reliable funding to prevent and fight Washington wildfires, the state commissioner of public lands and some Democratic lawmakers are about to make a new push for revenue.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/new-insurance-surcharge-to-fight-wildfires-to-be-proposed-by-washingtons-lands-commissioner/

 

https://www.dnr.wa.gov/about/legislative

 

Puget Sound Partnership releases “State of the Sound” 2019

Let’s just let the Press Release speak for itself. Really, not good news after being chartered to solve this problem last decade. My comments are the highlighted bits.

NEWS RELEASE
December 2, 2019

MEDIA CONTACT: Jon Bridgman, 206.276.5309, jon.bridgman@psp.wa.gov

2019 State of the Sound Report issues a Call to Action for Puget Sound Recovery

The latest biennial State of the Sound Report, released this week, stresses that “…we can still recover Puget Sound, but only if we act boldly now.” This is the scientifically informed assessment of the Puget Sound Partnership, the state agency leading the region’s collective effort to restore and protect Puget Sound.

The Report is clear that Puget Sound remains in grave trouble. The damaging effects of pollution, habitat degradation and disturbance persist. Southern Resident orcas, Chinook salmon, steelhead, and many other species are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Human well being is also affected, for example, by reducing fishing opportunities and threatening human health. Climate change impacts and continued population growth stand to increase pressures on an ecosystem already in peril.

The Report highlights the gravity of our current situation, but also emphasizes the outstanding work of our partners in recovery that has resulted in improvements in the condition of Puget Sound. As the Partnership’s Executive Director, Laura Blackmore states, “while this situation at times seems impossibly bleak, the thousands of passionate people who are devoted to seeing the return of a healthy and resilient Puget Sound give us hope.” This hope is exemplified with three inspiring stories of local communities coming together to advance recovery. The stories address 1) a project to pull up unnecessary pavement by hand at a Tacoma school, 2) a volunteer led effort to locate salmon blocking culverts in Clallam County, and 3) successful collaboration between fish, farm and flood interests in Snohomish County. Together they make a strong statement about how human well being and Puget Sound health are inextricably connected, and mutually reinforcing.

Sufficient funding for the priorities described in the Action Agenda for Puget Sound remains the biggest barrier to recovery. However, the Report’s Call to Action outlines many activities that governments and a range of other partners can do now, without additional funding. The recommendations in the Call to Action highlight how each of us must play our part, to bring the day closer when our rivers once again run clean and teem with salmon, and our shellfish are safe to harvest throughout Puget Sound.

The Report provides the latest information on the condition of the ecosystem—the Puget Sound Vital Sign indicators, made possible by the work of dozens of monitoring programs around the region—as well as statements from the Partnership’s Leadership Council and Science Panel. The Vital Sign indicators show that progress has been reported for 10 of the 52 indicators; however, only 4 indicators are currently meeting their 2020 targets.

This year’s Report also offers an enhanced website with a greater depth of content and data tools. A downloadable version includes both content from the website and further information on funding, legislative and policy developments, and other Puget Sound recovery management updates.

About the State of the Sound

The biennial State of the Sound report is intended to help our partners and decision makers better understand: (1) how well the recovery effort is going, (2) ecosystem health and progress toward Puget Sound recovery goals, and (3) the role each partner can play in achieving Puget Sound recovery. It also responds specifically to state statute (RCW 90.71.370(3)). This report reflects the work accomplished by hundreds of groups throughout the Puget Sound region, including governments, tribes, nonprofits, communities, scientists, and businesses. See www.stateofthesound.wa.gov.

About the Puget Sound Partnership

The Puget Sound Partnership is the state agency leading the region’s collective effort to restore and protect Puget Sound. The Puget Sound Partnership brings together hundreds of partners to mobilize partner action around a common agenda (Action Agenda for Puget Sound), advance sound investments, and advance priority actions by supporting partners. For more information see www.psp.wa.gov.

Crosscut Documentaries presents: The Rising

A new film about the Quinault and their struggle with climate change and ocean level rise.

Facing climate upheaval on Washington’s coast, members of the Quinault tribe take to the sea in the canoes of their ancestors.

https://crosscut.com/2019/12/crosscut-documentaries-presents-rising

Greta and Ella. The future is here.

I was doing a lot of thinking on the ride home from Seattle after a Thanksgiving dinner with my younger son and his partner. About the future of this planet and our civilization, as we reach the tipping point, something beginning to happen now. We are entering what Jackson Browne called, back in the 1970s, “The Deluge”. I think it fits. But  I was also thinking about two remarkable young women, one from our community and one from Europe, one is  Greta Thunberg and the other is Ella Ashford. They both show us a way to a new future.

Greta sees the world as her community. She has launched a one girl crusade that has outpaced anything that Joan of Arc could have accomplished. Or perhaps it’s what Joan could have achieved with Twitter and Facebook, along with no interference from a corrupt Catholic Church and French King.

Ella has seen her community as her world. She has accomplished much through her high school years on a local level, here in Jefferson County, leading a children’s crusade to teach her siblings and friends the wonders of being able to program technology for useful robotic tasks. This technology knowledge is key to our future. As we continue to refine our  3D augmentation of robotic devices, we will find  we don’t need to (and probably can’t) send humans to live on various worlds for extended periods. These worlds may hold the possibility of offering us resources we need to survive, (whether those worlds are under our oceans here on earth or somewhere else in the universe). We will need robotics to go into places like melted down nuclear power plants, polluted lakes and rivers, and much  more.  They will be remotely driving robots into fighting fires like at Paradise, or into oceans to destroy out of balance ecosystems. Those ecoystems might be those of the California coast, where the death of starfish has led to a disastrous overpopulation in sea urchins, devastating the kelp beds, which are the forests of the sea. These next generation leaders will also need to invent new ways of creating energy, making food, creating the jobs  and moving us towards the Green Economy that is already being created right now under our feet to allow us to possibly survive “The Deluge”. Our species is nothing if not creative. It may be our defining uniqueness.

Ella has shown outstanding ability to understand how to build and program these devices. And she has taught others how to do this. With the incredible support of her parents and community, her team of teens and pre-teens have placed in the upper echelons of global competition for robotic prototypes in competition against the best of college and high school. Let that sink in. They have been among the best in the world at doing this.

Ella and Greta have both left the nest, and are (at this moment) both in Europe. Greta is rallying her troops, young and old, to overturn the complacency of the population as it relates to climate change. There is little time left to do this. It may already be too late. We are already in the opening phases and its’ only going to get worse. We need brain power, and specifically young brain power, to solve this. Think about the next Bill Gates at 25 inventing a new way of computing that changed everything. Except this time, it’s just as likely to be a woman.

Ella is touring Europe, embarking on her year off between high school and college. Gaining the perspective of seeing the world of Europe, where the best and the brightest are now flocking, given the U.S. shutting it’s doors to them. This is an immense problem that the Trump Administration and many of our peers who support him apparently cannot see. Ella is meeting her peers that will help create the future. She plans on sailing to the South Pacific after that to see first hand what the people there are experiencing. She will likely see global warming beginning the destruction of those places and the fisheries they depend on. She will hopefully be able to use her skills to come up with new ways of approaching these problems. Or teaching people there something that may help them in their hour of need. Or perhaps, she’ll be the one learning from them.

At the very moment when we need young skilled students and workers from around the world, we are shutting them out. This is economic suicide. These young people will go to Europe and Canada, where they are welcome and do their research projects there. They will advance their skills, create the next Silicon Valleys for their new countries. They will perhaps find partners and put down roots.  The U.S. will be the loser for this, and, in fact, already is.

I have no idea what the future holds for Greta and Ella. But I hope that both of them take their skills where they are most needed and continue the work to lead their peers into the rest of the century. They are the future, and we wish them all the luck in the world.

Al Latham’s Weather Report for November

Thanks to Al for continuing to let us in on the local weather stats! We love his work!


Greetings inhabitants of earth!

Here’s the November rainfall/precipitation report from your friendly www.cocorahs.org station WA-JF-1 located slightly off Center, 5.1 miles south of the bustling metropolis of Chimacum.

Yup, you’re right, November was dry!  Only 1.17″ found in the rain gauge with 5.1″ being the average at this place.

With only 2 months accumulation in the new water year (started Oct 1) the total is 3.26″ with 7.9″ being the average.

November is often our wettest month – not this year!

In fact, it’s the driest November recorded here since 1981- the next driest was 2013 with 1.32″.  That was followed by a very dry December and much wetter Feb & Mar.  We’ll see what happens this winter.

A bit disconcerting to be going into December with the ditches dry and the pond at it’s lowest level.

The coho will be having a hard time getting into the upper watershed of Chimacum Creek with these low water levels.

The NOAA climate prediction center is guessing that Dec-Feb will be warmer and slightly wetter than “normal” – but forecasts out more than 10 days are more art than science – not that art is bad of course!

That’s it for this edition of Weather – or not!   Al

 

“Imagine a Thanksgiving dinner of your great grandchildren a hundred years from now.  

In the center of the table is a bright silver salmon locally caught and cooked in the practiced way of long enjoyment and reverence.

At the end of the feast will be a simple ceremony – a long walk to the creek with neighboring families, each with a wooden bowl of salmon bones,

to return the remains to the waters of their creation in gratitude and respect.

Perhaps there will be mention of the ancestors, if that is who we decide to be – the old ones who stayed put, who gave the salmon shelter in their hearts

and found their own way home”.

(excerpt from “Homecoming”  by our chum Tom Jay  – one who stayed put.)

Cooke Aquaculture pays 2.75 Million dollar fine for net pen collapse

The company responsible for the net pen collapse that released large numbers of Atlantic Salmon into Puget Sound has settled out of court in advance of a Monday court date.

Cooke Aquaculture has reached a settlement to pay $2.75 million in legal fees and to fund Puget Sound restoration projects, putting an end to a Clean Water Act lawsuit that followed the 2017 collapse of one of the fish-farming company’s net-pen structures. – Seattle Times. Read the full article here and consider subscribing to the Times and keeping local reporters working.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/cooke-aquaculture-settles-lawsuit-with-wild-fish-advocates-over-net-pen-collapse/

These funds will go to help pay legal expenses, and the rest of the funds will go to the Rose Foundation to fund environmental projects to protect wild salmon and killer whales in Puget Sound, as well as WFC’s litigation expenses. Cooke also agreed to change their practices and address additional dangers identified in the course of the lawsuit, according to Wild Fish Conservancy, who brought the lawsuit.

“This is truly a victory for the future of our sound,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “Open water net pen aquaculture is a risky business, and thanks to this settlement we are one step closer to getting this dirty industry out of Puget Sound once and for all. This was long in coming. Last year, the public demanded an end to Atlantic salmon net pens. Just last week, thousands of people spoke out against switching these farms to different species. Now a federal judge ruled that Cooke broke the law. It’s time for this industry to leave Puget Sound.”

Cooke’s operations continue to put wild salmon and the health of Puget Sound at risk. Just weeks ago, one of the Bainbridge Island net pens began sinking due to a hole in a flotation pontoon; luckily, the damaged portion was not stocked with Atlantic salmon at the time but may have resulted in an escape were the pens occupied. Marine engineer Tobias Dewhurst, an independent expert testifying on behalf of Wild Fish Conservancy, reviewed conditions at each farm site and determined “conditions at each of its eight sites exceeded the maximum rated conditions specified by the net pen manufacturer,” and that as a result “pens and cages operated by Cooke were at risk of failure.” Even given subsequent changes, Dewhurst concluded, “certain remaining sites appear to be operating in conditions that exceed those specified by the net pen system manufacturers,” and therefore “may be at risk of partial or catastrophic failure.”

http://www.wildfishconservancy.org/cooke-aquaculture-to-pay-2.75-million-ending-wfc-lawsuit-over-net-pen-collapse-1

Recently, Cooke has partnered with the Jamestown S’Klallam to reopen the net pens in Port Angeles to raise native, but genetically modified steelhead. While the danger of these fish escaping and somehow altering native stocks is dramatically lessened, there is still the issue raised by Wild Fish Conservancy, of destruction of the environment in and around the feeding pens, along with possible affects of raising large quantities of fish in a small enclose. Virus and parasites are traditionally the concern, yet the Tribe has claimed that they are working on mitigation techniques. The Tribe has been researching raising these steelhead at the NOAA research facility at Manchester for the last few years. Their goal is to do this as environmentally responsibly as possible giving current scientific best practices. Many in the environmental community remain unconvinced that this won’t become another problem.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued a mitigated determination of non-significance, which allowed only  a 21-day comment period. This requires neither a full environmental assessment nor environmental impact statement under the State Environmental Policy Act. Such an assessment would have considered the risks of diseases, pollution, further escapes and collapses, and the potential harm to federally-listed native steelhead. Kurt Beardsley of Wild Fish Conservancy said of the lack of EIS, “The 2017 collapse revealed that these pens are dramatically under-built for conditions in Puget Sound, and that Cooke’s recovery plan in the event of escapes was woefully inadequate. More escapes would directly threaten our wild salmon, steelhead trout, and endangered killer whales. Without a full EIS, the state cannot address the evidence from their investigations and WFC’s.

The Tribe at least brings a local group that has a a track record of being  concerned with long term viability of the resource, and is not going to be moving operations like many international corporations do.

Just to the north, on the Canadian Coast, a long running battle over farmed fish has pitted environmental scientist and activist Alexandra Morton against the fish farming industry. She has been working with the local tribes in documenting a horribly destructive virus that has appeared from Norway in both the local wild fish and the farm raised fish.

While Washington state passed legislation banning PRV-infected farm salmon, it is still an unknown as to whether the virus is affecting the ever decreasing numbers of wild chinook that are the primary food of the resident orcas. Reopening net pens here could provide a vector for fish carrying the disease that could be passing through the infected waters to the north on their way here.

(more on this story at The Georgia Straight News)

In October, Cooke paid another large fine in Maine for multiple violations of their laws for fish farming.  https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/aquaculture/cooke-to-pay-fine-for-overstocking-maine-salmon-farms-not-conducting-environmental-testing

In April, Cooke paid over $300,000 for water quality violations here in Washington.

Bill Ruckelshaus Dies

One of the the legends of the Northwest environmental movement, William Ruckelshaus, died Wednesday at his home in Seattle, at the age of 87. He was not only the first head of the EPA ( as a Republican) but also guided the Puget Sound Partnership and many other environmental efforts both here and around the country. He was considered a visionary in environmental issues by many in this area.

Beyond his incredible early years in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, as the first and fifth administrator of the EPA,  in 2005 he was appointed by Governor Gregoire to co-chair the Puget Sound Partnership to organize the cleanup of Puget Sound. This effort is still struggling to succeed, though the date that they assigned to achieve it is only a few years away. It has been a noble goal, but one that has been plagued with a variety of mismanagement, unrealistic timelines, a lack of appropriate funding for public education on the issues, and endless bureaucratic meetings that have not accomplished a great deal by the very measures that the Partnership has put in place. The Partnership has acted more as a monitoring, prioritization and a channel to hand out funds to groups working on restoration, rather than championing laws that could more quickly produce results. The continued collapse of Chinook and resident orca whales has been an example of the ongoing controversy in recovery efforts. None of this is because of Bill, but reflects the problems with achieving the vision that he created and his low key efforts to placate all sides.

Ruckelshaus’ legacy is well documented in a variety of obituaries, which I list below. What I could sum up as someone who has been involved in the environmental movement for many years, is that everyone respected Bill Ruckleshaus, no matter which side of the issue you may have been on.

I interviewed him for an epilogue to my film, “Voices of the Strait”, the first film funded by the Puget Sound Partnership, in 2010. He was gracious and intelligent. My interview with him starts at 15:52 on the video found here. https://vimeo.com/20621992

We will miss his guidance in working out solutions between factions of polluters and protectors of the Salish Sea. Those of us who are firm in wanting to protect  the vanishing habitat of our wildlife, need someone like Bill who can sit in the endless meetings with the opposition and craft something of value.  As a moderate Republican in favor of supporting environmental protection, he was the last of a breed.

One of the better quick reads on Ruckelshaus.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/william-d-ruckelshaus-who-refused-to-join-in-nixons-saturday-night-massacre-dies-at-87/2019/11/27/e089e474-113a-11ea-bf62-eadd5d11f559_story.html

https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/27/william-ruckelshaus-first-epa-chief-dies-at-87-074237

NY Times version. More balanced on his achievements and some of the controversies surrounding his various stages of life.

A version that minimizes his work here in the Puget Sound.

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/william-ruckelshaus-who-refused-to-join-in-nixons-saturday-night-massacre-dies-at-87/

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: