The Status Quo and the Environment

As we grind along through the seemingly futile re-engineering of the environment we now control, it is easy to wonder if any of the normal activities we engage in are really making any difference.Are the tens of thousands of hours spent in meetings about the environment really helping? Well maybe they are, but those meetings have become part of the “status quo” of environmental protection. We have an emerging “status quo” of environment organizations that exist to restore the destroyed ecosystems that we have created that work alongside the same industries that destroy it in many cases. These organizations all do good work, but they seem to be part of this new status quo. Are any of them really standing up anymore to fight the destruction in the first place? They don’t seem to be. Old organizations like People for Puget Sound who did have been subsumed into Washington Environmental Council, an organization that appears to exist simply to fight for “east side of the Sound” issues. I guess that’s where the money is. The new status quo is to go where the grants are, and don’t make waves or you’ll be branded a ‘radical’. A few organizations, run by radicals, are fighting back, and usually winning in courts, where the status quo has to uphold it’s political decision-making in front of a judge who has a dim view of the efforts by government agencies to hide their hand in glove work with industry above their duty to protect our environment. The ‘radicals’ are ones I prefer to give my donations to, since they are actually working to stop the problem before it becomes one. I don’t want to give money to an organization that tells me to my face that they can’t “prioritize” the issues of the Olympic Peninsula at any price. And frankly, I love to see the radicals messing with the smug high priced legal teams of the status quo in open court battle. Why? Because the radicals seem to find, over and over again, that industries that want to ‘work with us’ are many times lying through their teeth. Recent court rulings against the Army Corps of Engineers and the industries that sided with them in court are a prime example.

The status quo also is that this Democratic run state is ok with converting our public beaches into aquaculture farms with no debate on where the end is going to be on this land grab. It’s also for letting the military use our public beaches and waterways, with known and documented kills of our wild animals when they train our military. The same military that seems to hold us who pay their salaries in contempt, continues to be demonstrably unable to protect us from a small group of fanatics overrunning our seat of power. It’s like they never heard of the Maginot Line in military school. We let the military fly over our quietest places, not because they really need to in that exact locale, but because they have made it the “status quo”. People who question it, as the old jazz song by Les McCann and Eddie Harris “Compared to What” goes, “have one doubt and they call it treason.” The list of what we have come to accept as status quo is a long one.

And yet the Puget Sound Partnership sees a continued worsening of the environment measurements, across the broad spectrum of their monitoring. So is the status quo working for us?

Frankly, no. But we seem to not be at the tipping point, despite the pleas of ‘radicals’ whom we love, like Greta Thurnberg. On the Federal level, President Biden has put in place a woman who just may be the answer to the “status quo” at the Department of the Interior. Representative Deb Haaland is Native American, a citizen of Laguna Pueblo, the first to head the Interior department. She brings a radically new perspective to the department. Will she make a real difference? It remains to be seen, but I am hopeful. Rarely do Native Americans not bring a fresh perspective to government. But they aren’t always on the side of radical change.

I was reading an editorial tonight in Harper’s Magazine, the Easy Chair editorial by Hari Kunzru, on “Another World is Possible”. His article was about the radical issue of defunding the police. Is it so radical, he asked, given the behavior of many police departments and the massive industry built up to incarcerate mostly people of color? But what caught my eye was a quote, used in that context, that easily could be used here. I paraphrase only a bit.

“From the outsider’s perspective, the status quo does not seem like a delicately balanced organism that would be damaged by radical intervention, but an aberration that should be consigned to history…difficult as it may be to accept, the reformist perspective-that is, the belief that change will come about through a few politically palatable reforms-is the truly utopian one. Realism demands acceptance of the complex relationships between these problems…If you grow up in a culture that does something a certain way, it can seem not just normal, but natural…It can sometimes be difficult to picture an alternative.”

Harper’s Magazine, March 2021 Page 7

All radicals that have effected change were unwilling to accept reformist efforts. MLK, Gandhi, Billy Frank Jr. They demanded radical change. Who is willing to fill their shoes today? With the little time left us before the effects of our ignorance overwhelms our ecosystems, I suggest that radical ideas come to the front, and we really start talking about solutions that can solve problems rather than pretend the status quo is going to fix them.

Thane Tienson, prominent environmental lawyer from Astoria, dies at 74

A huge loss to the environmental community in the Pacific Northwest. Our condolences to his family and friends. Who’s willing to step into his huge shoes?

“He changed water rights on the John Day River in central Oregon,” Erik Tienson said. “He was just a freedom fighter for the Pacific Northwest. His life goal was to have The Dalles Dam be blown up, and restore Celilo Falls.”

Read the whole story at:

https://www.dailyastorian.com/news/local/tienson-prominent-lawyer-from-astoria-dies-at-74/article_7a98c5f2-64e2-11eb-9d42-bbdb3ac2477d.html

Court of Appeals Backs Environmentalists: Federal Greenlight of Industrial Shellfish Aquaculture Unlawful

This is the most significant court ruling in decades and likely changes everything about shellfish aquaculture in the Salish Sea. It’s importance cannot be overstated. This blog has covered the trial over the last two years. We have been astonished at the brazen lack of science applied and found during discovery of the Army Corp. of Engineers. The time has come to start applying real science to the selling off of our beaches and virgin bays, converting them to commercial aquaculture farms with no real debate or discussion on “where will this all end”. The creation of this lawsuit was a ‘hail Mary” pass by the environmental groups that brought the suit. If they had lost, likely all future attempts at stopping this insanity would have failed. Congratulations to both the lawyers at the Center for Food Safety and the Coalition To Protect Puget Sound Habitat for their efforts. This is a win for all of us.

Today, the 3-judge appellate panel unanimously agreed with the District Court, holding that the Corps failed to support its approval of NWP 48, violating the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act. Describing the Corps’ reasoning as “illogical,” the Court focused on its failure to analyze the admitted cumulative impacts of adding industrial-scale shellfish aquaculture to an already-impaired environment, and its reliance on a “limited scientific study” to justify a much broader determination of minimal impacts.

https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/6264/court-of-appeals-backs-environmentalists-federal-greenlight-of-industrial-shellfish-aquaculture-unlawful

Federal Judge George Boldt issues historic ruling affirming Native American treaty fishing rights on February 12, 1974

On this day, history for both the NW Tribes and all Tribes across this country changed for the better. One of the most important rulings in the history of U.S.< > Tribal relations, no matter which side of this you may have been on. For the Tribes, it showed that the legal system could work for them. For non-natives, it showed that their dominance of the fisheries and other resources was over and that “honoring the treaties” was a not just a hollow phrase. Nothing would be the same again. It also represents the only way forward if we are going to continue to build a coalition that can effectively restore the salmon runs. The Tribes have been the most effective partners in doing this work, as shown by the Jamestown, Elwa and Port Gamble S’Klallam peoples. We raise our hands in thanks for this day. We have little time left to save the runs, and the small incremental progress being made needs to accelerate.



On February 12, 1974, Federal Judge George Boldt (1903-1984) issues an historic ruling reaffirming the rights of Washington’s Indian tribes to fish in accustomed places. The “Boldt Decision” allocates 50 percent of the annual catch to treaty tribes, which enrages other fishermen. At the same time Judge Boldt denies landless tribes — among them the Samish, Snoqualmie, Steilacoom, and Duwamish — federal recognition and treaty rights. Western Washington tribes had been assured the right to fish at “usual and accustomed grounds and stations” by Federal treaties signed in 1854 and 1855, but during the next 50 years Euro-American immigrants — armed with larger boats, modern technology, and the regulatory muscle of the state — gradually displaced them. The campaign to reassert Native American fishing rights began in 1964 with “fish-ins” on the Puyallup River led by Robert Satiacum (1929-1991) and Billy Frank Jr. (1931-2014), who defied Washington state attempts to regulate their fishing. (History Link)

Federal Judge George Boldt issues historic ruling affirming Native American treaty fishing rights on February 12, 1974

Two forest parcels taken off bidding sheet – PDN

Good news this week from the DNR and the NW Watershed Institute.

Eighty acres of Jefferson County forest land will not be sold to the highest bidder, said Peter Bahls of the Northwest Watershed Institute.

That had been the state Department of Natural Resources plan.

Inaugural people’s assembly invites 80 Washingtonians to discuss climate pollution

An interesting experiment in public discourse starts tonight to bring together a truly random group of Washingtonians to discuss Climate Change and what can be done to bridge the gap between beliefs to find a solution that might be acceptable to all. It’s being supported by some of our legislature. Can this work? As one of the people involved told me, “It’s an experiment being done with a rigorous framework.” Could it fail? Yes. Is it worth doing ? You bet. You can watch the assembly tonight (1/12/21) at 6PM at this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7q1_0VI71Aw\

The WA Climate Assembly will focus on answering the following question:

How can Washington State equitably design and implement climate mitigation strategies while strengthening communities disproportionately impacted by climate change across the State?

People’s Voice on Climate is the initiator and sponsor of the Washington Climate Assembly, the nation’s first climate assembly. Supported by five key State House Committee chairs, this event will gather “our state in miniature” to deliberate and ultimately answer this question: How can Washington State equitably design and implement climate mitigation strategies while strengthening communities disproportionately impacted by climate change across the State?

The Assembly itself is conducted by an independent team hired by a diverse panel of Washingtonians. People’s Voice On Climate will publicize this event and promote the Assembly’s recommendations in the Legislature and elsewhere.\\

A People’s (or Citizens’) Assembly is a democratic process that seeks to answer a question or solve a problem facing a community in a way that fairly represents the interests of people from all walks of life.

An Assembly can center around any topic; a Climate Assembly is one that centers around the problem of climate pollution.

Assemblies have been used worldwide to help shape the work of governments.  At the WA Climate Assembly, members will learn about the issue of climate pollution, take time to discuss the issue and potential solutions with one another, and then make recommendations about what should happen legislatively.​

The Assembly is an exciting event in which 80 Washington residents will come together remotely in Winter 2021 to learn about, discuss, deliberate, and recommend climate change solutions for consideration by the State Legislature. Participants will be chosen through a lottery so as to accurately represent the state in terms of demographics such as age, race/ethnicity, geographic distribution, and views on climate change. 

Assembly Meeting Schedule

Inaugural Meeting  •  Watch Live on Youtube

6:00pm – 8:00pm

Tuesday, January 12
 

Learning Session 1: 

Introduction to climate change and climate mitigation

10:00am – 1:00pm

Saturday, January 16

Learning Session 2: 

Social issues & climate mitigation

6:00pm – 8:00pm

Tuesday, January 19

Learning Session 3: 

Environment & climate mitigation

10:00am – 1:00pm

Saturday, January 23

Learning Session 4: 

Economic issues & climate mitigation

6:00pm – 8:00pm

Tuesday, January 26

Learning Session 5: 

Technology issues & climate mitigation

10:00am – 1:00pm

Saturday, January 30

Learning Session 6: 

Political issues & climate mitigation

6:00pm – 8:00pm

Tuesday, February 2

Learning Session 7: 

Climate action and just transitions / Bringing it all together

10:00am – 1:00pm

Saturday, February 6

Puget Sound Partnership Legislative Agenda

A good way to follow and perhaps participate in the upcoming legislative session.

  leg-update

January 4, 2021
Greetings, friends of Puget Sound!   The 2021 State Legislative session will begin January 11, 2021 and run 105 consecutive days. This email contains helpful resources to navigate this unique session and opportunities to engage with the Partnership during session.    
A COVID-19 Session Here are a few helpful resources prepared by the legislature to help you navigate this unique session due to COVID-19 restrictions. Click here to download a fact sheet that describes remote access for this session. Click here to download the House COVID-19 Sessions Operation Plan. Click here for the Senate session guidelines. As always, the legislature’s website is rich with additional information to help you navigate session.    
Opportunities to engage with the Partnership During the 2021 Legislative Session, the Partnership will offer multiple opportunities to help you (and us!) stay informed about legislative activities that affect Puget Sound protection and recovery efforts.
Legislative Updates. Sent via email and posted to our website periodically during session, the Update summarizes the priority topics we’re following.
Legislative Calendar. Sent via email and posted to our website every Thursday, the Calendar lists upcoming committee meetings involving legislation and information about issues that affect Puget Sound protection and recovery. Calendars will include public hearings where testimony may be offered. Legislative Information Call-In. Jeff Parsons, our Legislative Policy Director, will conduct a call-in meeting on Fridays, from 11:30 a.m. to no later than 12:30 p.m., to review the most important legislative issues we’re following, answer questions, and discuss partner perspectives. The first call will take place this Friday, January 8, 2021. Attendees will receive an agenda each week in advance of the call, usually on Friday mornings. If you are receiving this email, you are already signed up to receive updates by email on one or more of the above topics. If you would like to verify/update your subscriptions (each of the above opportunities has a separate subscription), please click here and follow the prompts. To participate and receive agendas for the weekly calls, please send an email to Don Gourlie at don.gourlie@psp.wa.gov. (If you signed up for this last year, you are already on the list and will receive the call-in instructions and agenda before our first call). If you have questions or concerns about the legislative priorities for the Puget Sound Partnership, please contact: Jeff Parsons, Legislative Policy Director, 360.999.3803. jeff.parsons@psp.wa.gov

Thank you for your contributions to help recover and protect Puget Sound. Connect with the Puget Sound Partnership for breaking news and other events affecting Puget Sound on Twitter and Facebook.  

Puget Sound Partnership Legislative Agenda The Partnership’s Legislative Agenda supports implementation of the 2018-2022 Action Agenda for Puget Sound and reflects priorities that were established in collaboration with our partners, as well as aligning with the Governor’s operating and capital budget requests and the findings and recommendations of the Southern Resident Orca Task Force.      

“Three Seconds” #Film4Climate Winner

The grand prize winner of #Film4Climate. A powerful 4 minutes from Prince Ea and Spencer Sharp. Pass it on. Will there be a fourth second?

To see all the winning entries.

https://www.connect4climate.org/article/film4climate-competition-winners-announced

And more of the organization that brought this to you. Connect4Climate.org

The Challenge. Our network. Your Community.

Communicate change and accelerate real-world solutions through partnerships, competitions, events, and knowledge sharing.

  Take on climate change. Ending extreme poverty is impossible without tackling climate change. Now is the time to face the defining challenge of our generation.

  Collaborate for impact. Forge creative partnerships to advance solutions and bring new audiences into the climate change movement. Share experiences and knowledge.

  Communicate for action. Join an ever-growing community. Hear how others are taking on climate change and inspire by sharing your own stories. Contribute online and in person to grow the climate movement. Contribute by adding your voice to our community, and add your climate change content to our Connect4Climate Facebook Knowledge Group and our Facebook Student Group.

  Get involved. Play your part in the global climate change movement by sharing your experiences, resources, and knowledge. Have your say. Talk to us about developing innovative campaigns that will inspire, enthuse and reach new audiences.

  Go social. Contribute to our blogs and post on our Facebook page. Tweet your thoughts and ideas. Taken some good pictures or video? Upload on Instagram, Vimeo or YouTube, then tag us to let us know.

Support Lorna Smith for Jefferson Co District 2 County Commissioner

We are extremely lucky to have two very capable women running for District 2 in the County Commissioner race. While both have extensive background in our community,  I’m supporting Lorna Smith. Here’s why:

In 1979 I met and started working with Lorna, covering her work with Seattle Audubon as liaison to Eleanor Stopps in the fight to protect Protection Island. Over the years, I’ve worked with Lorna on a variety of environmental causes and watched her on the Planning Commission, crafting a Comprehensive Plan.

I have always valued experience as well as good intention over friendship when it comes to people running for governmental positions. While I consider myself a good friend with Lorna and her husband Darrell, I am supporting  her because I believe she brings the best experience and proven results to the position. She will not need on the job training to step into the role and start producing positive outcomes for our county and her district.

She is a three term Jefferson County Planning Commissioner. She spent 8 years on the Jefferson County Conservation Futures Committee and Planning Commission, protecting thousands of acres of farm and forest lands. She took a hard and ultimately correct stand on the controversial shooting range.

She is the only candidate to have worked in management for county government. That experience counts. She had a 25-year career as a Snohomish County lands use manager.  In that role she worked in planning, transportation, public works and budgeting.

She was the governor appointment to the Washington State Economic Development Board.

She has been  on the board of the Olympic Forest Coalition, the Washington Environmental Council, Seattle Audubon and the Snohomish County Wetlands Alliance. She speaks fluent Spanish and has been a volunteer on the Jefferson County Immigrant Rights Advocates.

Lorna worked on conservation issues impacting the Peninsula and the Salish Sea for her entire career. Her family roots here go back generations. Her grandparents were lighthouse keepers on Destruction Island and Dungeness light.

Most recently she was part of the coalition to protect our native salmon from the harmful diseases found in Atlantic salmon raised in pens in our marine waters, protecting the jobs of our local fishers. She co-authored one of the first Habitat Conservation Plans prepared by a local jurisdiction in Washington state and also authored one of the country’s first local ordinances for wetland and stream protection.

Lorna combines a strong administrative and fiscal management background with passion, persistence and a respect for science and nature.

I’m hoping you will support her also. And thank you to all three talented women who decided to put themselves and their families in the harsh spotlight of a campaign race.

VOTE.

Pebble Mine Alaska- Army Corps denies permit

The Army Corps of Engineers just denied the permit for Pebble Mine! The proposed mine threatens Bristol Bay, Alaska — home of one of the last great wild salmon runs and Indigenous communities who rely on it.

The Army Corps of Engineers found that the mine would likely result in significant degradation of the environment. So it officially rejected the permit under section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

This is a huge victory for communities near Bristol Bay, the salmon fisheries, our environment, and our climate. It sends a message loud and clear to corporate polluters that they cannot destroy our pristine wild places.  It does not end the project, but is a serious setback for it, easily carrying the decision over to a new President Biden if Trump is not re-elected.

If the mine is built, it could generate more than 10 billion tons of dangerous waste, wipe out 90 miles of salmon streams, and pollute more than 5,000 acres of wetlands, ponds, and lakes. It would likely decimate the local salmon populations — in turn impacting the local communities that depend on them.

More than 65 percent of Alaskans, and 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents — including Native people — strongly oppose the mine. The only ones who would benefit are Pebble Limited Partnership and their affiliates. Together, we stood up to the powerful advocates for the mine — and we won.

The Pebble Mine fight isn’t over yet. The EPA could still advance the project. But this victory is a huge step in the right direction — proving that people power works and we can stop polluters from harming the planet.

Army Corps of Engineers ends aquaculture activities under court order

The Army Corps of Engineers has issued a ruling to stop much of the commercial aquaculture farming in Puget Sound. This draconian move is the outcome of decades of the local Army Corps of Engineers ignoring their own nationwide rules. This didn’t need to happen if they followed those rules. Instead, it took a court case that they and Taylor Shellfish lost due in part to the findings during discovery that there had been significant scientific information written finding destruction of the shoreline by these activities that was never published by the Corps. This web site at the time said that the findings were a fiasco for the Corps, and undermined any statements they made saying that they had the environment at the top of the priorities. They simply wanted to rubber stamp as much aquaculture as possible, and turn as much of our shorelines into factory farms for Chinese bound geoducks. This hurts the industry at the worse possible time. This industry includes many small farmers and Tribes who relied on that small income stream. The industry should not be blaming the environmentalists that brought this suit, they should be blaming the Corps. This whole shameful situation will not bring back the shorelines and virgin bays of the South Sound that have been destroyed. But it will set an example that the law can still come through. The next battle is coming next year, especially if Trump is not beaten in November. The whole permitting process is under attack, egged on by some of the industry actors we know so well and their contributions to the Trump administration.


SHELLFISH AQUACULTURE AND 2017 NATIONWIDE PERMIT 48
On June 11, 2020, the District Court for the Western District of Washington issued final orders (Order) invalidating authorizations for commercial shellfish aquaculture operations under the 2017 Nationwide Permit (NWP) 48, Commercial Shellfish Aquaculture Activities, in the state of Washington. In accordance with that Order, beginning on August 11, 2020, activities currently authorized under 2017 NWP 48 will no longer be authorized.

However, for those with verifications under the 2017 NWP 48, the Order allows certain activities to occur if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District (Corps) receives a new permit application for the project by December 11, 2020. Specifically, 2017 NWP 48 verification holders, who submit a new permit application by December 11, 2020, may:

a. Continue seeding and planting new shellfish crops until December 11, 2020 in areas of the project that do not contain mature native eelgrass beds; and
b. Until the expiration of their current 2017 NWP 48 verification, continue maintenance and harvest activities for shellfish planted or seeded on or before December 11, 2020.
c. Commercial shellfish aquaculture verified under 2017 NWP 48 that provides treaty harvest in furtherance of adjudicated treaty rights, may continue in accordance with the terms of the verification, provided that a request for authorization is submitted to the Corps by December 11, 2020.

At this time, the Seattle District is processing shellfish applications as individual permits and will continue to process such applications as expeditiously as possible. Some growers are combining multiple NWP 48 actions into one individual permit application, depending on the specific circumstances. Operators should reach out to their Corps Project Manager if they have questions about whether combining previously verified operations would be appropriate. On your individual permit application please include your Corps permit reference number should have a previous NWP 48 verification. For ease of application, we have developed procedures for applicants to electronically submit permit application materials. Please see our web page for instructions.

The Seattle District established an Aquaculture Permitting web page to answer frequently asked questions and provide updated information as it is developed. The link to this web page is:
https://www.nws.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Regulatory/Shellfish-Aquaculture/
The Seattle District will periodically update the information on this web page as more questions are received and future special public notices are published. Should you have questions not listed on the FAQ, please submit them via the “Contact Us” link on the left side of this web page.

Court of Appeals Retains Protection for Washington’s Iconic Coastlines and Wildlife from Industrial Shellfish Aquaculture 

Court Denies Stay of Decision Setting Aside Unlawful Permit for Commercial Shellfish Aquaculture

Seattle, WA — Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied shellfish growers’ motion to stay the recent district court decision nullifying the defective Nationwide Permit 48 (NWP 48) covering tens of thousands of acres of shellfish aquaculture activities in Washington. On June 11, 2020, the District Court for the Western District of Washington set aside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ unlawful permit, in response to lawsuits brought by Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat (Coalition). The court also partially stayed that order to allow some harvest and planting activities to continue pending issuance of new, lawful permits. The Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association (PCSGA), an intervenor in the case, appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit on June 18, 2020 and sought a stay to allow all activities on all acres in both 2020 and 2021.

 

The initial ruling on the merits was in October 2019, when the court ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ commercial shellfish aquaculture general permit was unlawful, based on the agency’s failure to adequately consider the impacts—including cumulative—of commercial shellfish aquaculture to Washington shorelines and wildlife habitat when it issued the permit. Today the court issued a ruling on the remedy that was needed to address the unlawful actions by the Corps.

 

“The Court’s decision ensures protection for Washington’s iconic wildlife and special places from the largely ignored impacts of industrial shellfish aquaculture pending the growers’ meritless appeal,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at CFS, based out of its Pacific Northwest office. “The district court’s partial vacatur was already a major compromise, allowing some shellfish aquaculture activities to go forward despite the Corps’ serious errors of law when adopting the permit and failure to protect Washington’s environment and the public interest, and we are pleased the permit will remain null and void.”

 

Activities that may continue pending new permits include: harvest of shellfish planted before today’s Order; limited seeding and planting of shellfish for the 2020 season but only in areas without mature native eelgrass; maintenance activities for the same; and shellfish activities conducted pursuant to and to provide treaty harvest in furtherance of treaty rights, all conducted in accordance with the conservation measures applicable under the NWP 48 and the 2016 Endangered Species Act programmatic consultation. These limited activities may only go forward if the growers apply for new permits within six months of the order. The court further ordered the Army Corps to process new permits as expeditiously as possible, but made it clear the Corps could only do so in accordance with Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act requirements that the court had outlined in its October 2019 Order finding NWP 48 unlawful.

 

Coalition Executive Director Laura Hendricks said: “This is good news for Puget Sound and it’s marine environment. We are pleased the Ninth Circuit saw fit to put an end to ‘business as usual’ for the destructive practices of the commercial shellfish industry during the industry’s appeal of Judge Lasnik’s extraordinarily thorough decision.”

 

Background on NWP 48 and the court decision ruling it unlawful:

 

For over two decades, Washington State agencies and most counties have ignored citizens’ concerns, as shellfish aquaculture lobbying paved the way for the unlimited proliferation of this industrial conversion of Washington shorelines. NWP 48, issued by the Trump administration in 2017, would have allowed an enormous expansion of an over $100 million dollar-a-year industry without sufficient marine wildlife or water quality protections for these unique and sensitive ecosystems. Industrial aquaculture already threatens Washington’s iconic, invaluable shorelines and bays, which are home to numerous marine species including endangered salmon. Without any proper cumulative impact analysis of the existing tens of thousands of acres of industrial shellfish aquaculture, the 2017 NWP 48 opened the door to doubling that acreage—to an estimated 72,300 acres or a third of all Washington shorelines—including critical spawning and feeding grounds for forage fish, birds, invertebrates like Dungeness crab, and finfish like salmon and green sturgeon.

 

As the evidence before the Army Corps showed, many of these species rely on eelgrass and other aquatic vegetation. Eelgrass also helps to mitigate the effects of climate change on oceans. Industrial shellfish aquaculture is known to reduce or eliminate eelgrass, including through the industry’s intentional the use of pesticides. Yet the new permit did not place any restrictions on impacts to eelgrass, through pesticide use or otherwise. The permit also failed to restrict the enormous use of plastics by the industry, like the 42,000 PVC tubes per acre that are covered in plastic netting and used to grow geoducks (a type of clam grown almost exclusively for the luxury export market). Netting can trap and entangle wildlife, and the plastics break down into microplastics that are hazardous to marine organisms, including the very shellfish being grown for human consumption.

 

In its October 2019 Order granting summary judgment to CFS and the Coalition, the court found that “the Corps acknowledged that reissuance of NWP 48 would have foreseeable environmental impacts on the biotic and abiotic components of coastal waters, the intertidal and subtidal habitats of fish, eelgrass, and birds, the marine substrate, the balance between native and non-native species, pollution, and water quality, chemistry, and structure, but failed to describe, much less quantify, these consequences.” But because the Corps refused to evaluate these various impacts—and their cumulative impact—at the outset, and relied on cherry-picked data to support its minimal impact determination, its adoption of NWP 48 in Washington was unlawful under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act.

 

After additional briefing and oral argument on the appropriate remedy, the court found the Army Corps’ legal errors went to the heart of the federal laws protecting our water and environment. The court further found the environmental impacts of commercial shellfish aquaculture outweigh any economic consequences from vacating the permit, given that the Corps cannot issue the same permit again. Rather than allow the industry to “conduct shellfish operations under a defective, unlawful permit regardless of the environmental impacts for an unspecified period of time,” the court partially stayed the vacatur for limited harvesting and seeding activities according to suggestions from plaintiffs, including the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and Amici tribes.

 

CFS was represented in the case by Amy van Saun and George Kimbrell. The Coalition was represented in the case by Karl G. Anuta and Thane Tienson.

 

https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/6097/court-of-appeals-retains-protection-for-washingtons-iconic-coastlines-and-wildlife-from-industrial-shellfish-aquaculture

Conservation and Food Safety Groups Winning Over Washington’s Shellfish Industry and Army Corps of Engineers

The Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat and the Center for Food Safety won another step in their case to stop a flawed nation-wide permit for the shellfish industry in Washington’s waters. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the shellfish industry’s attempt to stop a lower court decision from taking effect while the Circuit considers an appeal of a lower court decision.

As discussed in this blog in 2016, this case is one of the most serious attempts to slow the growth of the shellfish (and primarily the geoduck) industry from converting almost all our remaining beaches that can grow geoduck into industrial farms forever.  This reporter reached out to Taylor Shellfish for comment, but they did not get back to me before publication.

What is at stake: NWP 48 – the 2017 “nation-wide permit” granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to commercial shellfish aquaculture to intensify operations including authorizing “discharges, structures and works” in Washington’s coastal marine habitat. The NWP 48 was issued in 2017, and in just two years, 898 shellfish industry projects impacting 35,800 acres of marine habitats were greenlighted in Washington State.

The Court’s decision in October 2019 was a scathing rebuke of the U.S. Amy Corps Engineers process issuing NWP 48 without “adequate” (or any) scientific review of impacts. The Court found that the U.S. Army Corps had no basis to determine that NWP 48 would have “minimal impact” to marine habitat.

The Court rejected the Corps conclusion that the shellfish industry impacts are “no more than minimal, however, (a) when considered on a landscape rather than a site-by-site scale, (b) because the relevant ecosystems are resilient, and (c) because the impacts are “relatively mild” in comparison “to the disturbances and degradation caused by coastal development, pollution, and other human activities in coastal areas.” The Corps argued that when you make the landscape big enough, the operations would have ‘minimal’ impact, that the waters are so resilient that they would fix themselves, and that there is already pollution by other human activities and these additional impacts are minimal by comparison. The Court bluntly stated that “Noting that a particular environmental resource is degraded is not an excuse or justification for further degradation…The record is devoid of any indication [emphasis added] that the Corps considered regional data, catalogued the species in and characteristics of the aquatic environments in which commercial shellfish aquaculture activities occur, considered the myriad techniques, equipment, and materials used in shellfish aquaculture, attempted to quantify the impacts the permitted activity would likely have on the identified species and characteristics, or evaluated the impacts of the as-yet-unknown regional conditions.”

 

The Court also did not agree with the shellfish industry and the U.S. Corps argument that because the impacts of the various types of waters, habitats, and operations were so disparate across the country, that a nation-wide permit should stand based on allowing local district engineers to evaluate the impacts on a case by case basis. At face value that may seem reasonable and even desirable – that local offices would know more and be able to evaluate impacts and operations: “Faced with incredible diversity, the Corps effectively threw up its hands and turned over impacts analysis to district engineers.” The Court said the agency violated both the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) by its action issuing NWP 48. The Court then could vacate the permit, which would essentially revoke Washington shellfish industry permits that were granted as a result of NWP 48. Interesting, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, having made extensive efforts to ensure its shellfish operations were carried out in an environmentally sound manner unlike other operations, had also challenged NWP 48 but asked the Court to consider not completely vacating NWP 48.

 

In June 2020, the Court vacated the NWP 48, but stayed the effect of its decision and gave the Corps and the shellfish industry 60 days to appeal to the 9th Circuit. Noting how serious the action to vacate NWP 48 is – affecting the 898 projects in Washington State alone permitted under NWP 48, impacting 35,800 acres of Washington’s marine waters, the Court looked carefully at the district engineers impacts analysis.  In one instance, the Court found that “the Corps’ failure to take a hard look at the environmental impacts of shellfish aquaculture (other than, arguably, the potential impacts to endangered or threatened species under the ESA) was not corrected at the District level. In fact, the District declined to require any mitigation for the expected loss of eelgrass because the Corps permitted, on a nationwide basis, operations affecting submerged aquatic vegetation as long as the area had previously been used for commercial shellfish aquaculture.”  The Corps allowed operations where shellfish activity had occurred at any time in the previous 100 years. The shellfish industry asked that the Court not take any action, and to allow NWP 48 to stay in place and not disrupt business until the Corps could correct its errors. The Corps said it could not correct its errors until 2022, which is the next time when the Corps would issue a new NWP in any course. The Court said no but allowed some activities to continue while the case is under appeal. The shellfish industry tried to stop even the limited effects of the Court’s decision. The 9th Circuit rejected their motion while it considers the appeal. The case is not over – one could ask what has been the role of the Washington Dept. of Ecology? The Court was equally not impressed with Ecology’s role in remedying the defects of NWP 48. The parties have until October 2020 to submit briefs on the appeal.

 

 

 

Wild Fish Conservancy submits lease proposal to take back public waters from the commercial open water net pen industry

Just when I thought that our environmental coalition was bankrupt of ideas and people willing to really fight for the environment, along comes this. The future of environmentalism. Let’s just buy out the economic exploiters destroying these sites. Get behind this. Tell Hilary Franz you want this done. She’s up for re-election and wants your donations. You have the power in you pocket. You will have plenty of wealthy businesses fighting this.


July 15, 2020: After the catastrophic collapse of Cooke Aquaculture’s Cypress Island open water net pen in 2017, the public came together to pass Washington’s landmark law banning nonnative Atlantic salmon net pen aquaculture in Puget Sound after the expiration of Cooke’s existing leases. Taking advantage of a loophole in the law, the company submitted a new proposal in fall 2019 to transition their facilities to native species in order to avoid the phase out of their Puget Sound net pens and to qualify for new leases for all sites.

The continued use of public waters for commercial net pen aquaculture directly undermines the will of the public who have fought tirelessly to protect Puget Sound from this industry and invested significantly in the recovery of wild salmon, steelhead, orcas, and the health of Puget Sound.” says Kurt Beardslee, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy. “The expiration of these leases comes less than once in a decade and offers the public a rare opportunity to work together to take back our sound and restore these waters after thirty years of rampant pollution and industrial use.”

In accordance with existing public-use regulations and in concert with obligations to fulfill tribal treaty rights, the campaign’s alternative, the Taking Back Our Sound Restoration Project, seeks to hold these lands in trust for the sole purposes of restoring these industrialized aquatic lands to their natural state for the restoration and conservation of threatened and endangered species, water quality, and the overall health and function of Puget Sound’s ecosystem; and restoring full access to 130 acres of aquatic lands to the public for their benefit, use and enjoyment.

Washington’s laws direct DNR to protect state-owned aquatic lands as a public trust and to strive for uses that ensure environmental protection, encourage direct use, and provide a balance of benefits for all citizens. As Cooke reapplies for each of its expiring or recently terminated leases, DNR will need to compare both applications and proposed uses against the state’s goals and philosophy for managing public lands, creating an unusual competition and leaving DNR with a precedent-setting choice to make—continue to lease these waters for the restoration of Puget Sound and use by all, or the degradation of public waters and profit of a few.

“To date, Commissioner Franz has shown exceptional leadership when it comes to holding Cooke Aquaculture accountable for our environmental laws and protecting Puget Sound from this industry” said Beardslee. “By choosing the Taking Back Our Sound proposal, Commissioner Franz will guarantee the public that these lands, currently degraded and restricted for private profit, will be restored and managed for the public’s benefit and use by all citizens.”

Throughout the coming months, the newly launched Taking Back Our Sound campaign will offer the public opportunities to make their voices heard on this important issue and to call on Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and DNR to make the Sound choice for Puget Sound and current and future generations.

Taking Back Our Sound is a new Our Sound, Our Salmon campaign to engage the public in a social movement to take back our waters from the commercial open water net pen industry to protect Puget Sound and restore the ecosystem for the use and benefit of all. Our Sound, Our Salmon is facilitated by Wild Fish Conservancy.

Wild Fish Conservancy is a nonprofit conservation ecology organization dedicated to preserving, protecting, and restoring the northwest’s wild fish and the ecosystems they depend on, through science, education, and advocacy.

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For More Information visit: oursound-oursalmon.org/taking-back-our-sound

PDF of cover letter to Commissioner Franz.
PDF of this press release.

Contact:
Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director, Wild Fish Conservancy (206) 310-9301 kurt@wildfishconservancy.org
Emma Helverson, Director of Campaigns, WFC emma@wildfishconservancy.org

Greta Thunberg’s Summer – BBC Radio

 

Where in the world has Greta Thunberg been, while the world has struggled with COVID-19? Putting together her radio broadcast of her remarkable last year on the road. She ties it all together with how climate change and COVID are interrelated, and what must come next. Don’t miss this incredible radio broadcast, but give yourself some time. It’s an hour and a twenty minutes long. You can download it from this link at the BBC. A great production.

Things may look dark and hopeless, but I’m telling you there is hope. And that hope comes from the people, from democracy, from you. From the people who more and more themselves are starting to realize the absurdity of the situation. The hope does not come from politics, business or finance. And that’s not because politicians or businesspeople are evil. But because what is needed right now simply seems to be too uncomfortable, unpopular and unprofitable.

Public opinion is what runs the free world, and the public opinion necessary is today nonexisting, the level of knowledge is too low.

But there are signs of change, of awakening. Just take the metoo movement, blacklivesmatter or the schoolstrike movement for instance. It’s all interconnected. We have passed a social tipping point, we can no longer look away from what our society has been ignoring for so long. Whether it is sustainability, equality, or justice.

If you don’t want to listen to it, or don’t have the time, you can find the whole thing on Time Magazine. https://time.com/5863684/greta-thunberg-diary-climate-crisis/

The radio download is here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p08kbsm0

 

The Profoundly Radical Message of Earth Day’s First Organizer – NY Times

We are fortunate to have Denis in Seattle. His message now?

“Covid-19 robbed us of Earth Day this year. So let’s make Election Day Earth Day.” He urged his readers to get involved in politics and set aside national division. “This November 3,” he wrote, “vote for the Earth.”

Denis Hayes, Earth Day, climate change, renewable energy and the challenges ahead. John Schwartz reports. (NY Times)

The ‘Profoundly Radical’ Message of Earth Day’s First Organizer 

A real time global warming experiment

We have entered totally uncharted territory lately, as we all know, due to a virus that may or may not have started in a wet market in a Chinese city most of us have never heard of before this event.  We had been warned about viruses becoming more frequent as global warming accelerates.  and also here. (https://www.livescience.com/55632-deadly-diseases-emerge-from-global-warming.html)

Our current President has dismissed science, the scientists  that could have helped prevent it, the budget for them, our global alliances that we rely on for support and almost any mention of a science based approach. We have one of the most ignorant men of the modern era leading us at the most important time of the last twenty years. Those that elected him were fools then and now will likely follow him into the hospital as they listen to his lies and misinformation. Many innocent people will die from this. We are in free fall and are racing to find a way to stop the pandemic. Most likely we will, but at what cost?

I have been busy setting up remote at-home workstations for clients, complete with video conferencing, using the remote access tool TeamViewer. (highly recommended). So I apologize for not having kept up on this blog, which so many tell me they rely on for local environmental news. It’s been amazing to watch as people who have resisted virtual communications as it has grown, suddenly find themselves needing to become proficient with it to survive. People can change when they have to. It’s a lesson worth noting as we face the future.

The only good news out of all of this, is that we are seeing in real time, what the Green New Deal may have accomplished on a orderly basis, which is the radical slowing of our green house gases into the environment. Certainly there will still be coal fired electrical generation happening, but with the vast bulk of petroleum based engines being idled, we will gain some insight into what it means to stop oil use globally.

We can now watch, in real time, as we see how much impact a major shift away from oil will have. I’m looking forward to seeing the data.

I’m still hopeful. As Mindy Lubber, the CEO of Ceres, a sustainability non profit organization said in a recent Forbes article,

One thing that history has shown us is that a crisis can produce real change. The power of collective action will become evident. True leaders will emerge. The impossible will become inevitable. Innovative ideas and policy solutions will take hold, save lives and eventually get the economy back on track.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/mindylubber/2020/03/26/coronavirus-climate-change-and-our-community/#2d4b2fa84f78

Stay strong, get out and get a walk. Protect yourself and stay healthy. We’ll need all of us after this is over to move back into real change for the next crisis that our warming world is creating.

 

Lobby Day (again!)

After our snow canceled the Environmental Lobby Day events last month, it’s been rescheduled this week. (ironic, isn’t it?) This is an excellent way to meet your legislators on their ground and let them know what is important environmentally. Mad about the net pens? Oyster farms in our National Wildlife Refuge? Believe me,the folks from Seattle aren’t fighting that.

Or want to support one of the great bills being promoted by the Coalition for Environmental Priorities?

So get out from behind Facebook and Next Door and get a group together to car pool to Olympia and participate! You get to schmooze with the best of them while you watch high paid and  well dressed lobbyists argue that environmental rules are too expensive! What could be funnier than that!

And while you are there, just to show that I’m not a total bummer of a date, where does one eat? My favorite place for lunch or dinner is Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar They have superb clam chowder and lots of other great eats. You can pretend you are one of them being plucked by a walrus and carpenter. But no, I’m serious, this is one of the finest restaurants in the state IMHO. Just go. You are on a field trip.

Also try Wagner’s European Bakery And Cafe for great lunches. More budget oriented. Or pack your own bag of goodies! Actually if you sign up you get a healthy lunch.

What bills are being supported? Take a look at my right hand top tab, where I’ve conveniently cut and pasted the Coalition Priorities. Or go to the URL listed a few paragraphs up above.

So sign up, read up on the bills being promoted, and learn how to effectively lobby your elected officials! It’s fun and is far better than watching an impeachment any day!


Date: Thursday, January 30, 2020 Time: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm Location: Temple Beth Hatfiloh, 201 8th Ave. SE, Olympia, WA 98501

Join the Environmental Priorities Coalition and hundreds of activists to push for key environmental legislation in Olympia on January 30th!

During lobby day, you will team up with other activists to speak up for the environment and gain the skills to be a persuasive constituent. You’ll have the opportunity to attend issue briefings, learn how to lobby, hear from environmental champions, attend breakout sessions, and meet face-to-face with your elected officials to advance the Environmental Priorities Coalition’s 2020 priorities.

For the 2020 legislative session, we have adopted four priorities essential for healthy communities and a thriving environment: Clean Fuels Now, Healthy Habitat Healthy Orcas, Climate Pollution Limits, and Reduce Plastic Pollution.

Registration required. Schedule TBA.

Check out the video from 2019 Environmental Lobby Day!

How to Stop Freaking Out and Tackle Climate Change – NYT

Many people ask me about what they can do to really personally affect climate change. In this article today from the NY Times, Author Emma Marus presents the most concise overview of what’s really needed by individuals.  A five point plan for you to use in your everyday life. Hang this on your fridge door. Look at it daily. Everything beyond these ideas, like eating vegan, buying electric cars, etc. are all nice things to do, can make you feel better, but will not change the equation. Start here. Expand with whatever else you feel you want to do. And stop stressing. Climate change is here and we just have to deal with it as best we can.

My point is that the climate crisis is not going to be solved by personal sacrifice. It will be solved by electing the right people, passing the right laws, drafting the right regulations, signing the right treaties — and respecting those treaties already signed, particularly with indigenous nations. It will be solved by holding the companies and people who have made billions off our shared atmosphere to account.

www.nytimes.com/2020/01/10/opinion/sunday/how-to-help-climate-change.html

Army Corps of Engineers loses another court case. This time affecting bulkheads and more.

Another major but little noticed lawsuit has been concluded with the Army Corps of Engineers. This time, a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmental groups, including Sound Action, Friends of the San Juans, Washington Environmental Council (WEC) and Earthjustice argued that because the corps arbitrarily decided to determine that the high water mark was closer to the water than in other jurisdictions over which it has authority, that this was a capricious rule. The judge agreed.

This will mean that the Army will have to spend more time determining environmental issues before issuing a bulkhead permit. It will also likely mean a lot less bulkheads being permitted.

According to an article by the Spokane News Review, “Rock or concrete walls have been erected along about one-quarter of Puget Sound’s 2,500 miles of shorelines. Nearly a mile of Puget Sound shoreline is built up each year. ”

“The Corps has known for years that its high tide line marker in Puget Sound is unlawfully low,” Anna Sewell, Earthjustice attorney for the groups, said in a statement.

The groups say that if the Corps, which regulates structures or work in U.S. navigable waters, used the true high tide line, more shoreline armoring projects would come under its review.

The lawsuit notes that an interagency workgroup that included the Army Corp’s Seattle District and two other federal agencies recommended changing the Corps’ tidal jurisdiction. That change would have brought about 8,600 acres of shoreline habitat under the Corps jurisdiction.”

The Earthjustice overview of this case stated:

The Corps is required by law to review proposed armoring projects up to the “high tide line,” which is generally the line at which land meets the water. But the Corps’ Seattle District uses a much lower tidal marker (known as the “mean higher high water” mark). As a result, the Seattle District does not review the majority of armoring projects in Puget Sound.

Since the 1970s, the Seattle District of the Corps (“Seattle District”) has defined its Clean Water Act (“CWA”)  jurisdiction in the Puget Sound region to extend only up to the“mean higher high water” mark, which is an average of the higher of the two high water marks each tidal day observed over a nineteen-year period.Under the CWA’s implementing regulations, however, the Corps’ jurisdiction extends to the “high tide line.” Approximately one quarter of high tides in the Seattle District exceed the mean higher high water mark, meaning the Seattle District’s CWA jurisdictional marker is significantly below the high tide line.

The Corps’ failure to assert jurisdiction means there has been no federal oversight of whether most armoring projects in the Sound meet the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act or any other federal requirement.

The original lawsuit can be found here.

Click to access 01_Enviro_Complaint_05-21-2018.pdf

 

We will continue to cover this story as it evolves with the Corps implementation of this ruling.

 

 

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