Lawsuit seeks more review of projects that ‘armor’ Puget Sound shoreline – Seattle Times

Good independent overview of the lawsuit filed yesterday  by Sound Action, Friends of the San Juans and Washington Environmental Council (WEC).

Restoring the natural shoreline at the Elwha River where it meets the sea is part of an ongoing battle to heal Puget Sound — along with a lawsuit to achieve better environmental review of new shoreline projects.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/lawsuit-seeks-more-review-of-projects-that-armor-puget-sound-shoreline/?utm_source=marketingcloud&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Morning+Brief+5-22-18_5_22_2018

Groups Challenge Army Corps of Engineers’ Refusal to Protect Puget Sound Shorelines

Corps’ Seattle District violates Clean Water Act, endangers Sound recovery
May 21, 2018

Seattle, WA —A lawsuit filed today against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) charges that the agency has refused to assert its Clean Water Act jurisdiction over most shoreline armoring in Puget Sound, and that endangered species and Sound shorelines are suffering the negative impacts of the Corps’ continued inaction.

Washington Environmental Council, Sound Action and Friends of the San Juans filed the suit after the Corps rejected a science-based government recommendation to correct its unlawful definition of the Seattle District Corps’ jurisdiction over shoreline armoring projects.

The coalition, represented by Earthjustice, is calling for federal oversight of shoreline armoring by raising what the Corps’ Seattle District considers the “high tide line” in order to better protect at-risk species and the shorelines themselves. The lawsuit also calls for a response to the groups’ 2015 petition asking for jurisdictional decisions on four shoreline armoring projects. The groups contend a strong federal policy to protect shorelines is critical to Puget Sound recovery.

“Shoreline armoring impairs the health of Puget Sound by damaging nearshore habitat important for forage fish that feed salmon,” said Mindy Roberts, Puget Sound director for Washington Environmental Council. “Currently, federal agencies don’t consider impacts from these structures, because their definition of what constitutes ‘the shoreline’ is too lax.”

Background

Armoring is the placement of hard structures — boulders, jetties, seawalls — on shorelines to help prevent erosion. 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.

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.

Further, the Corps recently rejected an interagency recommendation to use a higher tidal marker, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, which prohibits arbitrary and capricious agency actions. In rejecting the recommendation, the Corps ignored sound science and the law.

“The Corps has known for years that its high tide line marker in Puget Sound is unlawfully low,” said Anna Sewell, Earthjustice attorney for the plaintiffs. “But the Corps put its head in the sand and rejected a science-based recommendation from three regional federal agencies — including the Seattle District Corps itself — to protect 8,600 acres of shoreline area by raising that marker.”

This troubling lack of federal support puts Puget Sound shorelines at risk of further deterioration, particularly when shoreline armoring is well documented to be one of the most significant risks to the Sound.

“Puget Sound is already on the brink of collapse due to continued habitat loss, and it’s critical that the laws put in place to protect nearshore ecosystems are both followed and enforced,” said Sound Action Executive Director Amy Carey. “Unless we act now, the forage fish, the salmon and the orcas that are so desperately struggling to survive will be lost forever. It’s up to all of us to ensure this doesn’t happen — and it starts by holding the permitting agencies accountable for doing their jobs.”

“By disavowing its statutory authority, the Corps has shielded harmful projects from a review of their impacts on critically endangered and culturally vital Northwest species,” added Kyle Loring, staff attorney, Friends of the San Juans. “Its high-tide interpretation also leaves state and local governments on their own, at a time when our publicly-funded agencies should be working together to do everything in their power to protect what remains of our region’s rich heritage.”

The Corps must respond to the lawsuit within 60 days.

Reporter Resource

Read the brief.

Governor slated to sign oil spill prevention act.

Some positive news on the oil spill protection front.
SB 6269-S2.E – DIGEST
Addresses oil transportation safety. Finds that the department of ecology’s oil spill program faces a critical funding gap due to the lack of adequate revenue to fully fund the prevention and preparedness services required by state law, including the 2015 oil transportation safety act.
Declares an intent to: (1) Provide adequate revenue to fully fund prevention and preparedness services required by state law;
(2) Direct the department of ecology to specifically address the risks of oils submerging and sinking; and (3) More extensively coordinate with our Canadian
partners in order to protect the state’s economy and its shared resources.
Requires the department of ecology to: (1) Establish the Salish Sea shared waters forum to address common issues in the cross-boundary waterways between Washington state and British Columbia such as: Enhancing efforts to reduce oil spill risk, addressing navigational safety, and promoting data sharing; and (2) In consultation with the Puget Sound partnership and the pilotage commission, complete a report of vessel traffic
and vessel traffic safety within the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound area that includes the San Juan archipelago, its connected waterways, Haro Strait, Boundary Pass, Rosario
Strait, and the waters south of Admiralty Inlet.
Provides a July 1, 2021, expiration date for the Salish Sea shared waters forum.

Governor to sign bill improving halibut monitoring.

More money for halibut monitoring and management.
States that a catch record card for halibut is five dollars. Requires the funds that are received from the sale of halibut catch record cards to be used for monitoring and
management of recreational halibut fisheries including expanding opportunities for recreational anglers

Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill No. 6127
Relating to improving the management of the state’s halibut fishery.
Primary Sponsor: Kevin Van De Wege

Governor Slated to Sign Bill Helping Marbled Murrelet Information Today

Mike Chapman  and Steve Tharinger sponsored the bill. Governor to sign it today.

Requires the department of natural resources to provide a report to the legislature by December 1, 2018, and each December 1st until the year after the United States fish and wildlife service issues an incidental take permit on the state trust land habitat conservation plan for the long-term conservation strategy for the marbled murrelet. Requires the report to include: (1) An economic analysis of potential losses or gains from any proposed marbled murrelet long-term conservation strategy selected by the board of natural resources; and (2) Recommendations relating to actions that support family-wage timber and related jobs, strategies on loss of revenues to the trust beneficiaries, financing county services, and conservation measures for the marbled murrelet that also provide economic benefits to rural communities. Requires the commissioner of public lands to appoint a marbled murrelet advisory committee to assist the department in developing and providing the report. Requires the standing committee with jurisdiction over state trust land management from the house of representatives and the senate, each regular legislative session, to each hold a meeting on the report and on the habitat conservation plan update process.

Engrossed Substitute House Bill No. 2285
Relating to establishing a reporting process for the department of natural resources
regarding certain marbled murrelet habitat information.
Primary Sponsor: Mike Chapman

Legislative deal reached in water dispute that stalled new construction – KOMO, AP and others

The Democrats finally found a way forward on the contentious Hirst Decision after our Senator Kevin Van de Wege and others came to the table with a well thought out alternative . This doesn’t solve the problem of rural counties continuing to  oversubscribe aquifers because of  the pressure of runaway development. But it does get things moving again, allows for the counties to take on monitoring and studying the aquifer carrying capacity and throws money at the problem, which sometimes leads to better governing.

Top state lawmakers have reached a deal on a rural water dispute that has held up approval of more than $4 billion in new school and other construction projects for months, officials said Thursday.

http://komonews.com/news/local/legislative-deal-reach-in-water-dispute-that-stalled-new-construction

Local legislators to host town halls on Peninsula in December – PDN

Upcoming events to allow you to communicate directly with our state and federal legislators. It would be a good idea to tell them how you feel about the proposed ban on net pen aquaculture, Navy jets, the new tax bill and other thoughts.

State Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, Rep. Steve Tharinger and Rep. Mike Chapman will host a town hall tour of the northern 24th District in December to listen to the ideas, concerns and comments of people before the start of the 2018 legislative session.

http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/local-legislators-to-host-town-halls-on-peninsula-in-december/

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