Sewage Treatment Appeal Filed in State Court to Protect Puget Sound

This has been a known problem and long running battle at the State level by environmental organizations since the early 90s. Standard excuses, too expensive to do, etc.  As stated to me by a knowledgeable friend, “Muni sewage plants and industrial facilities directly discharging to the Sound are supposed to have permits re-written every five years to “rachet down” on discharge pollutants as new technologies became available. EPA didn’t make the state do much more than some minor cosmetic remedies because municipalities said they’d have to raise rates and industries said the costs wouldn’t be worth the amount of pollution reduction of secondary.”  Who was running Department of Ecology in 1991 when that happened? The environmental champion, Christine Gregoire. And so it goes. The death from a thousand cuts.

“Olympia (WA) – An environmental group sued the Washington Department of Ecology in state court today in its bid to modernize pollution removal at Puget Sound sewage treatment plants. In January, Ecology refused to update its rules that allow dischargers to use 100-year-old pollution control technology while Puget Sound faces emergency levels of toxic and nutrient pollution.
“It’s well past time for the Department of Ecology to stop relying on 100-year old technology to protect Puget Sound,” said Nina Bell, Executive Director of Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA). “We’re not driving around in Ford Model T’s so why are we still using sewage treatment technology from that era? Modern sewage treatment would help clean up Puget Sound and protect struggling populations of Chinook salmon and orca whales,” she added.
NWEA sought a change in the 31-year old rules that Ecology uses to define modern technology by filing a petition with the agency on November 14, 2018. Ecology denied the petition on January 11, 2019. NWEA appealed the denial to Governor Inslee on January 30, 2019; he has 45 days in which to respond.
The petition explains that although Ecology has identified sewage discharges as the primary cause of some of Puget Sound’s biggest pollution problems, it has taken no action. Inadequate treatment of sewage is causing widespread algal blooms, low levels of dissolved oxygen, wholesale food web changes, ocean acidification, and toxic threats to orca whales, salmon, and crab according to Ecology’s own studies.
The petition is based on state law that requires pollution sources to use the best available treatment technology. The 74-year old Washington law, referred to as “AKART,” requires the use of “All Known, Available, and Reasonable Treatment” for pollution prior to its discharge.
NWEA’s petition details the widespread use of modern sewage treatment in the United States. For example, sewage treatment plants discharging to Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound have cut their nutrient pollution by almost 60 percent. In contrast, very few cities in the Puget Sound area have modern technology, and Ecology has only required one to do so—the LOTT treatment plant in Olympia.
Today’s lawsuit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court on behalf of NWEA by Andrew Hawl y, of the Western Environmental Law Center, and Bryan Telegin, of Bricklin & Newman, LLP.”

Petition seeks upgrades to Puget Sound Treatment Plants – Kitsap Sun

This upgrade would cost cities tens of millions of dollars. While it’s a noble goal, and one that should eventually be implemented for the health of the Salish Sea, poorer counties like Jefferson and Clallam would be put in a very difficult position financially. There is no money coming out of Washington D.C. to fund these efforts anymore, thanks to the folks who elected our current President and Senate. You can’t have both an anti-environmental President and expect to get help to do such things as improve the sewage outflows of our rural cities.  As to the State of Washington providing for these upgrades, given the current demands of culvert replacement and the McCleary Decision, I wouldn’t expect any funding for this anytime soon, if ever. By the way, I’ve heard that Port Townsend is reaching the end of life of it’s sewage treatment plant, and is making plans to eventually look at tertiary treatment. But it’s really expensive.

An environmental group, Northwest Environmental Advocates, is calling on the Washington Department of Ecology and Gov. Jay Inslee to invoke a 1945 law in hopes of forcing cities and counties to improve their sewage-treatment plants.

https://pugetsoundblogs.com/waterways/

Scientific study on issues of intertidal structures that cross water

This 2017 scientific study on the issues of intertidal structures just was sent to us. Worth listing her for future reference.  Thinking about the Hood Canal Bridge here, among others.

Executive Summary
For hundreds of years, people have built water crossing structures to enable the transportation of people, livestock, vehicles, and materials across rivers and other bodies of water. These structures have often created barriers to fish passage, an issue which has recently drawn intense scrutiny due to concerns over impacts to anadromous fish. While much work has focused on the impacts of freshwater crossing structures, inter-tidal structures have received less attention. This may be due to the importance of passage for adult anadromous fish in freshwater, and that bidirectional flows in intertidal environments complicate interpretation of structures as barriers. Intertidal water crossing structures likely have adverse impacts on juvenile life stages of fish due not only to impacts to passage, but also to impacts to estuarine habitats extensively used by these species as rearing environments. Examining the impacts of intertidal water crossing structures only through the lens of fish passage therefore misses key aspects to how these structures can affect fish.
In this report we review literature on intertidal water crossing structures and how they affect fish that depend on intertidal habitats for passage during migration or for extended rearing during early life stages. Our findings are important for establishing fish passage criteria, providing design guidelines, and identifying key data gaps for future research of intertidal water crossing structures.

 

greene-et-al.-2017-review-on-intertidal-water-crossing-structures-and-fish-1

Tidal forests offer hope for salmon – Puget Sound Institute

Wonderful short article that highlights a goal we can (and actually are in many places) work towards, which is estuary restoration. Small fish hang out in these places. There are just these kind of places on the Dungeness and other rivers here on the Peninsula. Not so much on the Elwha. Give it a read.

https://www.eopugetsound.org/magazine/is/tidal-forests

 

Washington court: Fish and Wildlife can regulate land to protect fish – Capital Press

An extremely important ruling has come down at the Washington State Supreme Court on Thursday. The  unanimous ruling affirmed the right of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to regulate construction on dry land above the normal tide lines in order to protect fish. This enormously expands the scope of the Hydraulic Permit Code and will likely have great consequences for Governor Inslee’s hand in making policy decisions for protecting additional salmon habitat for Orca recovery. I’m sure that the plaintiffs might wish they had never brought this before the Supreme Court. But there’s also caution for environmental organizations that may celebrate the ruling.

From the case itself. It offers a good basic understanding of what these Hydraulic Permit Applications are and when they are required.

This case asks us to determine the geographic scope of permitting authority delegated to the State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  (Department) over hydraulic projects. A “hydraulic project” is defined as “the  construction or performance of work that will use, divert, obstruct, or change the natural flow or bed of any of the salt or fresh waters of the state.” RC_W 77.55.011(11).
Entities seeking to undertake hydraulic projects must apply for and obtain permits from the  Department before commencing work. RCW 77.55.021. In this case, a coalition of  Washington State counties (Counties) challenge the Department’s statutory authority to regulate the construction or performance of work that will occur exclusively above the ordinary high-water line.
The Hydraulic Code requires anyone planning to undertake a hydraulic project to obtain a preconstruction approval permit from the Department to ensure “the adequacy of the means proposed for the protection of fish life.” RCW 77.55.021(1).
The Department can deny or condition a permit only for the purpose of protecting fish life. RCW 77.55.021(7)(a). The Department’s regulatory authority encompasses hydraulic projects, which are defined based on their effects on waters of the state rather than their location relative to those waters. See RCW 77.55.011(11).
An HPA [hydraulic project approval] is required for all construction or repair/replacement of any structure that crosses a stream, river, or other water body regardless of the location of the proposed work relative to the [ ordinary high-water level] of state waters.
An HPA is also required for bridge painting and other maintenance where there is potential for paint, sandblasting material, sediments, or bridge parts to fall into the water.
ISSUE
Did the legislature intend to limit the Department’s permitting and regulatory authority to cover only projects that take place at least partially at or below the ordinary high-water line?
CONCLUSION
We hold that under the plain language of RCW 77.55.021, the Department’s jurisdictional grant of permitting authority includes upland projects that meet the effects test set forth in RCW 77.55.011(11). We further hold that the effects test requires reasonable certainty, not absolute certainty. Finally, we defer to the expertise of the Department to determine which upland activities meet the effects test. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s order.
The findings are that WDFW has authority to require HPAs for upland projects that fit the scope of the legal codes. That the requirements can be done by reasonable certainty and not a strict legal finding of certainty,  which gives much greater leeway for WDFW to issue requirements for an HPA. Lastly, the Supreme Court defers to the expertise of the Department  to determine which activities meet the requirements.
This last finding may be a double edge sword. What if the Department is wrong in a finding, siding with a developer who has huge resources and proposes enormous or highly unusual trade offs for the idea of “no net loss”?  What if they don’t decide to force an HPA (or agree with a developer intent on massive environmental change) and an environmental organization challenges that? The ruling here seems to give much greater leeway to excesses of the Department in both directions. That may not be as positive a win for environmental organizations as it appears. It requires close oversight to make sure that the law is narrowly applied to appropriate projects, while also ensuring that bureaucrats are not simply rubber stamping inappropriate and possibly habitat destructive projects.
Here’s a link to the ruling:

Read the Capital Press story here:

https://www.capitalpress.com/ag_sectors/water/washington-court-fish-and-wildlife-can-regulate-land-to-protect/article_ea1e014c-f97a-11e8-859d-7f550b7b3843.html

 

 

 

Chinook Salmon season begins Monday in Puget Sound – KING

Get your rods and reels ready.

Chinook salmon season is always fun and exciting for anglers, but there are rules to follow to help sustain the population. This year the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife is giving recreational anglers fewer opportunities to fish for Chinook in both the Columbia River and ocean waters compared to recent years. Tribal fisheries also face more restrictions to protect the salmon. Nonetheless, anglers will be out in full force during the season and can catch and keep hatchery chinook. In certain areas, (Marine Areas 9 and 10), anglers can keep one hatchery Chinook. Michelle Li reports. (KING)

Chinook Salmon season begins Monday in Puget Sound

Getting out there…

By Al Bergstein. All photos are copyrighted, and require permission to reuse. Thanks.
Bedwell Harbor Evening

A moment of Zen

I just finished a couple of weeks of getting outside again with friends. Getting out there was something I got hooked on early. Boy Scouts and a trip to back of beyond in the Quetico Superior Lake Boundary Waters. Countless books from the library on exploring. I never made the goals I set back then, but in many ways am still living them.

We started by rafting on the Grande Ronde in Eastern Oregon and ended with a sail to Campbell River from Port Townsend including a few stops in Desolation Sound.

It once again reinforces my basic belief that no matter where you go, at their core, most people are good folks, wanting to do the best to protect the wild and the scenic. While there is a resource extraction industry that our current administration wishes to give total run of doing what they want with the wild, there is also a huge industry that makes it’s living on recreation. It can’t be either or, it has to be a middle way, not an ultimatum.

On the Grande Ronde and around it,  a network of businesses supply the river rafting and fly fishing crowds. Even though we left the put-in with at least a dozen other boats, there were still lots of places to camp, and the feeling of being in the wilderness was quite complete. There was very little trace of anyone else having been there before us, though we knew there had been thousands. Good work folks.

grand ronde putin

Grande Ronde put in

Grande Ronde

On Admiralty Inlet, though, we twice had to capture birthday balloons that had left their parties and ended up floating around where wild creatures could eat them or get entangled in them. The folks letting the balloons loose likely never imagined that they were turning them into ocean garbage.  At the same time we were retrieving the lost balloons, a sailboat racing team on their way to Hawaii in a very competitive race lowered their sails and took the time to free a turtle they passed entangled in human ocean debris. In both cases, it was people stopping their forward motion for just a few minutes to do a small thing to save our ever diminishing wild resources. Read to the end of the story on the sea turtle to get the dramatic punchline.

Along the way to Dodd Narrows, we passed orcas breaching and spy hopping. We were drenched in a torrential downpour in Dodd Narrows. We saw a whale (likely Minke) feeding off our beam in the middle of the Strait of Georgia and more orcas crashing and splashing nearer to Powell River. We were tricked by the sea numerous times, thinking we saw something that was a tug boat, no, a lighthouse, no a tug, and in the end, a lighthouse in the middle of 600 feet of water. The top of a mountain sticking out of the middle of the Strait of Georgia.

We had an exhilarating downwind run with a pulsating following sea for hours from Naniamo to Hornby, as fine a day as I’ve ever had under sail. After arriving at Hornby, we helped two young power boaters get their boats safely to the dock, and for our efforts they rewarded us with fresh salmon they caught that afternoon. We played music for some of our neighbors on  the dock, including Debbie Bowles and her husband Marc. Debbie is an outstanding illustrator it turns out. Here’s two of her pieces of work, with her permission.

cr=w 1200,h 750,a cc

cr=w 1200,h 750,a cc

 

All serendipity. Would have never happened unless we put ourselves there, purposely.

Desolation Sound is still there, in all it’s glory. The site of two young paddle-boarders we passed, with guitar on one of their backs and full packs strapped to the boards heading off into the wilderness shows that you don’t need an expensive boat to go do something you’ll never forget.

We sailed through coves with people living on floating shacks, their sailboats tied alongside. Trudged for hours to find a decent meal, just because we wanted a change from the boat food for a night while in harbor.

We trolled the junk stores of Campbell River. After swapping the boat for my car, so my friend’s partner could join him, I stopped by the Campbell River museum and saw an outstanding exhibit of native masks and narratives on their story.  It was the first time I really understood how the masks were used in ceremony and storytelling. The exhibet that describes how the tribes lost 90% of their people to disease and other factors is amazing.

Lastly, as the Black Ball “Coho” crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca on a picture perfect sunset, we were treated to spouting whales in the near distance.

Work is how we get ourselves out there. It’s means not the ends. The wild is what’s left of a world that once dominated us and fed us. Now we increasing think we dominate it, or so some of our so called ‘leaders’ think.  Tell that to our neighbors in Puerto Rico, or any of  dozens of other places around the globe. As the planet heats up and the poles melt we may find we have made a deal with a devil that was not what we bargained for. For thousands of years, here in the Northwest salmon were a free food that sustained humans and wild systems alike. Native nations are right in worshiping the fish.  What more could you ask for than a constant supply of high quality protein swimming by your front porch almost all year?  We have squandered that and are now struggling to save what’s left. There are hard decisions needing to be made. This week, Canada imposed a 200 meter distance to keep boaters away from Orcas with up to a $100K Cdn fine for violators. It’s causing huge backlash and no one really knows if it’s going to help. But it’s only a small symbol of the hard decisions that we as a society will have to make to actually save ourselves, let alone our planet’s current ecosystem.  And if we fail, the planet will heal itself again without us, as it has over hundreds of millions of years. Just float down the Grand Canyon to get a sense of scale and how easily we can find ourselves as fossils in layers in the rock.

We can’t change what’s happening, we can only develop the tools to cope with it. As most of humanity always has. It’s part of what gives me a small amount of hope.

So do it. Get out there. Recharge. And when you come back, get back in the fight. There is more at stake than ever.

Paddleboarders in Desolation Sound

Paddleboarders with guitar and packs head into Desolation Sound.

 

 

 

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