Group sues US over inaction to protect threatened species – OPB

Another day, another environmental lawsuit over the former administrations attacks on environmental protections. We’ll be seeing these for some time to come. 

Decisions by the Trump administration to withhold endangered-species protections for the northern spotted owl, monarch butterflies and other imperiled wildlife and plants could be set aside. That’s the goal of a conservation group’s lawsuit Thursday, challenging inaction on petitions to extend Endangered Species Act protections for several species that warranted them. Monica Samayoa reports. (OPB)

https://www.opb.org/article/2021/04/02/group-sues-us-over-inaction-to-protect-threatened-species/

New Challenge to Navy EIS by COER

The Whidbey Island group “citizens of the ebey’s reserve” (COER)   is continuing it’s challenge to the Navy Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). These rubber stamp items never seem to be anything more than a bureaucratic formality rather than a serious opportunity for the public to challenge Navy demands to our waters and air.


The 60-Day Letter 

Threats to Northwest Washington
The United States military is waging a war on Americans and the living environments that are located next to their military installations. Civilians, communities, and the natural environment including the entire Puget Sound estuary have become casualties of that war. In Northwest Washington, the communities and waters—known as the Salish Sea—surrounding the Olympic Peninsula, San Juan Islands, Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands, and Puget Sound are under assault by the Navy…including iconic and endangered species such as the Marbled Murrelet and the Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcas) and decreasing numbers of salmon. 

Northwest Washington communities have partnered with the military to do their part for national security. In 2018, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced its decision to vastly expand the Navy’s Growler jet program and electronic warfare training over Whidbey Island, the San Juan Islands, and the Olympic Peninsula. The impacts of more jets flying more often include deafening noise, poisoned air, land and water, livelihoods in jeopardy, and harm to threatened species in Northwest Washington. In making its decision, military leadership ignored the objections of citizens, organizations, elected officials, and public agencies. 

Because few public processes exist to ensure citizen input on military issues, SDA and its member groups (together representing 25,000 Washingtonians) have joined forces to seek a balance between the needs of the military and the needs of impacted communities. SDA encourages economic diversification and defends policies and institutions designed to preserve our land, air, water, and wildlife. 

COER, a founding group member of the Sound Defense Alliance has initiated legal action against the Navy’s Final Environmental Impact Statement, as well as other legal challenges over the past 8 years, including the attached 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue under the Endangered Species Act. 

The attached 60-day notice alerts government agencies of their violation of Section 7 of the ESA for failing to reinitiate formal consultations with regard to the NWTT SEIS and the Growler EIS.  These agencies have a duty to reinitiate consultation when “new information reveals effects of [their] action that may affect listed species or critical habitat in a manner or to an extent not previously considered.” 50 C.F.R. § 402.16(a)(2).  The duty to reinitiate Section 7 consultation in this case is triggered by Kuehne’s new scientific findings on Growler noise under water.  

These projects cannot legally go forward without new biological opinions that consider the effects of Growler noise radiating great distances in all directions from the air-water interface.  Moreover, the new biological opinions must analyze the effects of Growler noise deep underwater in conjunction with the effects of vast and increasing man-made noise affecting the underwater environment and the marine fauna that live and breed there. 

Listed government agencies have 60 days in which to consider COER’s notice and to reinitiate consultation in these projects before COER can file suit under the ESA.  

COER has offered to meet and confer with the agencies as to the violations noticed.

Citizens of the Ebey’s Reserve (COER) is represented by Bricklin & Newman, LLP, attorneys at law, 1424 Fourth Avenue, Ste. 500, Seattle, WA 98101, telephone 206.264.8600.  

For more information on COER: search “citizens of the ebey’s reserve” on Facebook; or visit citizensofebeysreserve.com/

Scramble to re-issue permits for area shellfish farms underway following lawsuit -Skagit Valley Herald

The State is working to grant updated operating permits after the fiasco of the Army Corps of Engineers losing a major lawsuit last year under appeal. It will be interesting to see how, since the judge found that the existing permits had not taken long term harm ot the environment into consideration, as to how the state will not get sued again since I don’t understand at this point what they changed about determining long term environmental damage. More to follow on this.

Shellfish farms in the state and the agencies that issue them operating permits are scrambling to complete farm-by-farm paperwork following litigation over whether a former permitting system ensured adequate protections for the marine environment…State Department of Ecology spokesperson Curt Hart said the agency has received 446 applications for shellfish farm permits and has issued public notices for decisions on about 150 of them under Clean Water Act requirements. A public notice was issued this week for one of 16 applications for shellfish growers in Skagit County. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Scramble to re-issue permits for area shellfish farms underway following lawsuit 

The never ending Spotted Owl saga

Once again, after the Trump Administration tried to roll-back the laws protecting the last remaining old growth on the Olympic Peninsula, the Biden Administration will take a look at whether science played any role at all. Likely not. Even if it goes through, it won’t bring back the one log trucks that helped wipe out virtually all of the habitat for old growth species. That ship sailed with the passage of shipping whole logs to Japan in the late 1970s, and that was about the time the last one log truck ran on the Peninsula.. Long before the Spotted Owl was the issue. Blame it on the desire to cut every last old growth for profit. The Spotted Owl issue was simply a logical outcome of wiping out the forests that they depend on.


The U.S. Interior Department is delaying and reviewing the Trump administration’s last-minute roll-back of federal protections for the imperiled northern spotted owl, which called for slashing protections from millions of acres of Northwest forests. On Jan. 15, just days before leaving office, the Trump administration published a final rule revising Endangered Species Act protections for the northern spotted owl. The rule lifted critical-habitat protections for the bird from 3.4 million acres in Oregon, Washington and California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s had proposed a far more modest revision, seeking to remove critical habitat status from a little over 200,000 acres in 15 counties in Oregon. Monica Samayoa reports. (OPB)

OPB

Biden administration will reconsider northern spotted owl forest protection rollbacks

EVENT: WDFW hosts online meeting to hear public input on fish passage and screening rule

February 16, 2021
Contact: 
Gabrielle Stilwater, fishpassagerules@dfw.wa.gov

WDFW hosts online meeting to hear public input on fish passage and screening rule

OLYMPIA — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is working to create new rules surrounding fish passage and screening improvement work. The public is invited to an online meeting on Thursday, Feb. 25 from 1 to 2 p.m. to learn more about the topic and provide input. No registration is required to attend.

The rulemaking effort is rooted in recommendations from Gov. Inslee’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force. In 2018, the task force published its report identifying lack of prey as a key threat to Southern Resident Orcas. Recommendation three of the report endorsed agencies to apply and enforce laws that protect salmon habitat.

The task force specifically noted that WDFW should develop rules to fully implement Chapter 77.57 Revised Code of Washington (RCW), better known as the fishways, flow, and screening statutes.  

“Barriers that block fish from swimming upstream or fish movement instream, such as deteriorating culverts, outdated bridges, and diversion dams undermine the state’s salmon recovery efforts and impact other aquatic species,” said Margen Carlson, Habitat Program Director at WDFW. “We want to help landowners protect fish by creating rules that provide clear guidance.”

WDFW has drafted the first version of rules for comment. For more information, visit wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/habitat-recovery/fish-passage/rule-making.

People with limited internet access can call the Habitat Program at 360-902-2534 to learn how to participate by phone and request print materials.

Although fish passage and screening requirements for new construction has been codified through Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) rules, rulemaking for fish passage and screening will focus on compliance standards used for current and future fish passage and screening improvement projects, such as climate adapted water crossings. New rules are anticipated to go into effect in 2022.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish, wildlife, and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and other recreation opportunities.

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

Democrats urge investigation into removal of owl protections – KNKX

In badminton the thing you hit to the opponent is called the “shuttlecock”. In the game of “blame something for the destruction of Northwest virgin forests and the subsequent loss of the old fashioned timber industry” the shuttlecock has been the indicator species, the Spotted Owl. It’s again back in play this year.

The Trump administration took the side of the rural timber industry, who has blamed the Spotted Owl on their industry’s decline, despite huge amounts of evidence to the contrary (i.e. starting with no real limits on old growth logging for the last 100 years until it was too late, the advent of the chain saw and other high yield mechanical harvesting starting in the 1940s, and the real death knell, the decision of Congress in the 1970s to allow raw logs to be shipped to Japan), the industry continues to believe that if only we allowed this indicator species to die off, we could return to the heyday of one log trucks plying highway 101. That idea flies in the face of the reality that less than 1% of old growth forest in the Pacific NW still exists. So what is the fight about, really?

Eight Democratic lawmakers called Tuesday for an investigation into “potential scientific meddling” by the Trump administration in its rule to remove critical habitat protections for the imperiled northern spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest.

KNKX.ORG

Read the latest Spotted Owl badminton game overview and all it’s sordid details, here.

https://www.knkx.org/post/democrats-urge-investigation-removal-owl-protections

State Senator Van de Wege introduces bill to ban seabed mining.

This idea is a good start to protect the seabed from mining efforts and I’m glad to see Senator Van de Wege getting ahead of this issue before it becomes a problem.Too often in the past we have allowed bad environmental practices to go on until science shows us the error of our ways. This bill is working off the science done elsewhere so we don’t have to repeat the same mistakes.

It’s unclear at this point as to who will be opposing this bill. But it will be worth following to see who shows up to testify against it. It’s slated to go to a public committee meeting on 26 January.

Press Release from State Senator Van de Wege.


Dear friends and neighbors,

It’s great when we enact laws to correct or eliminate activities that are causing harm. What’s even better is when we can address a problem before it even becomes a problem.

That’s the goal of my legislation to ban seabed mining, a growing industry that ravages natural habitat to extract minerals and deposits from the ocean floor. Simply put, seabed mining sucks up the ocean floor to capture metals, minerals and gemstones. This gouges the seabed, creating plumes of sediment that resettle in surrounding areas and can smother deep sea vents. The threat to marine life is obvious — locally we could see serious disruption to crabbing, fishing and shellfish. But the risks extend as well to scientific progress — some of these species are uniquely adapted to the lack of sunlight and intense pressure of deep water, and might prove critical to the research and development of medicines, protective gear and other applications.

So far, seabed mining has not been practiced in our state — and Senate Bill 5145 will ensure that it never is. The legislation would prohibit our state Department of Natural Resources from issuing permits or leases for mining on state-owned aquatic lands along our coast from Cape Flattery south to our state’s southern border, as well as in Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, and the Columbia River downstream from the Longview bridge. The bill will be heard Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks.

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.

REPAIRS OF BULKHEADS, DOCKS AND OTHER STRUCTURES NOW INVOLVE HABITAT ASSESSMENT – PSI

This is a huge change to the proposal, hopefully for the good. However, in reading this article I find that it may cause more problems than it solves. While I applaud the idea, the implementation seems problematic. I urge those of you interested in seeing this implemented or those seeing issues with the implementation to attend this meeting. Now is the time to tweak the process so that it helps people do the right thing.

NOAA Fisheries will hold online public workshops on Jan. 26 and Jan. 28 to explain the conservation calculator that the agency developed to assess the value of nearshore habitat. Both workshops will run from 9 to 11 a.m. Details will be posted on the webpage Puget Sound Nearshore Habitat Conservation Calculator.

Conservation common thread for new members of Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission -PDN

Michael Carmen writes of his interview with new Fish and Wildlife’s Commissioners, Lorna Smith and Fred Koontz. These two long time environmental conservationists bring years of experience to the job. These folks will help make things better if possible. They are up against giant bureaucracies that have been very resistant to change in the past.

Read the whole story at the Peninsula Daily News and subscribe while you are there. Support local journalism on the Olympic Peninsula.

Sea otter reintroduction to more of the Pacific Coast gets a nudge from Congress – KNKX

Some good environmental news! Tom Banse writes about the successful efforts to get money inserted into the newly passed budget to help continue the reintroduction of sea otters to the west coast. Info on Washington counts of sea otters also in this story.

“I’m very pleased. This is very timely,” Bailey said in an interview. “It will definitely help U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service develop a strategic approach for how best to conserve and protect sea otters on the Pacific Coast.”

https://www.knkx.org/post/sea-otter-reintroduction-more-pacific-coast-gets-nudge-congress

How Trump tried, but largely failed, to derail America’s top climate report – NY Times

More fallout of the destructive force of Hurricane Trump. In this instance, scientists managed to hold off his flunkies from essentially gutting the report. As he leaves we can only look forward to rebuilding this nation’s science credibility world wide. Why is this important? Because the output of this report guides decision making for years to come.

EPA Finalizes rule to limit science behind public health standards – WA Post

As the Trump Administration burns all it’s bridges behind them in a scorched earth environmental policy, the latest outrage is the long anticipated culling of real science behind future decisions to protect our food, water or air. Or perhaps you would rather ignore the findings of scientists that don’t agree with your company’s toxic product. Wonder how they will do it? Read the article referenced below. The Biden administration will have it’s work cut out for it reversing these disastrous acts.


The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a rule to limit what research it can use to craft public health protections, a move opponents argue is aimed at crippling the agency’s ability to more aggressively regulate the nation’s air and water. The “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule, which the administration began pursuing early in President Trump’s term, would require researchers to disclose the raw data involved in their public health studies before the agency could rely upon their conclusions. It will apply this new set of standards to “dose-response studies,” which evaluate how much a person’s exposure to a substance increases the risk of harm. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report. (Washington Post)

EPA finalizes rule to limit science behind public health safeguards

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.      

Hotly debated national permit for shellfish farms could be passed to Biden Administration – Puget Sound Institute

This is an important article to help one understand the forces at play over this issue. The Army Corp of Engineers current proposal, described in this article, would lead to more destruction of the remaining virgin bays it wants for commercial activities and likely lead to ever more lawsuits. The Corps and the industry are in this mess because a group challenged the Corps and unearthed the fraud behind the science they have been putting out for decades. Now we hold our breath and see if we get a push into the next administration for update to the process, but will they send it back for changes or approve it to get the industry back working?

But as they leave, the wrecking crew of the Trump administration is doing it’s best to destroy any and all environmental protections.

Legal protections for marine shorelines, streams and wetlands could be revised just before President Trump leaves office, as the Army Corps of Engineers updates 52 “nationwide permits” that allow for a variety of water-related projects. …”Another growing concern is the effect of shellfish operations on spawning habitat for so-called forage fish, considered critical to salmon and other important species”, said Laura Hendricks, executive director of the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. Two key species, surf smelt and sand lance, spawn in the intertidal area where shellfish grow and where activities can affect their populations, she said.

Hotly debated national permit for shellfish farms could be passed to Biden administration | Puget Sound Institute

Climate Action for Christmas? Omnibus bill includes biggest policy shift in years.

Good news being reported by NPR. This blog will check into the details and come back with a more comprehensive overview later.

“The massive spending package just passed by Congress includes the most significant climate legislation in more than a decade, along with significant changes in energy policy. It was easy to miss, nestled among pandemic relief payments, the annual spending bill, new Smithsonian museums and protection from surprise medical billing. But pull out the energy provisions alone, and the bill is remarkable: It includes $35 billion in funding for basic research, extensions of tax credits for renewable energy companies, and a long-delayed mandate to reduce the use of a particularly damaging greenhouse gas. The fact that Congress managed to pass climate legislation at all is noteworthy in and of itself. For years, thanks to gridlock and an administration actively hostile to climate action, legislators have struggled to set new climate policy, even on measures that enjoy widespread bipartisan support. Camila Domonoske & Jeff Brady report. (NPR)”


Climate Action For Christmas? Omnibus Bill Includes Biggest Policy Shift In Years

Lawsuit launched over stalled habitat protection for endangered west coast orcas

It’s about time, the Trump administration has been stalling long enough.


The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government today [12/16] for its failure to finalize expanded habitat protections for critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales, whose population has dipped to just 74 orcas. The National Marine Fisheries Service proposed designating 15,627 square miles of new critical habitat in September 2019. The rule would expand current protections in Washington’s Salish Sea south along the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California to Point Sur. The proposed rule followed an April 2019 court-ordered agreement after the Center sued the Trump administration in 2018 for failing to issue habitat protections required by the Endangered Species Act. The Act requires agencies to finalize proposed rules within one year. Today’s notice letter gives the Fisheries Service 60 days to comply. (Center for Biological Diversity News Release)

Lawsuit Launched Over Stalled Habitat Protection for Endangered West Coast Orcas

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