Fixing septic systems is key to protecting Puget Sound shellfish -Crosscut

What happens when septic systems fail. Photo by Wa State Dept of Ecology

Since we are a county with a lot of septic systems, this might be of some interest to some of you. More work needs to be done, especially on homes along shorelines.

Keeping shellfish safe to eat will get harder without increasing repair and inspection of septic systems that can contaminate shellfish beds.

https://crosscut.com/environment/2021/12/fixing-septic-systems-key-protecting-puget-sound-shellfish

Ecuador’s Constitutional Court Applies “Rights of Nature”to Safeguard Protected Forest

What could this have to do with the Olympic Peninsula? Well, just a few months ago, our Department of Natural Resources decided that putting 80,000 bags of oysters inside a National Wildlife Reserve was a good idea, regardless of the scientific opinions of the biologists at the Reserve. Perhaps a court challenge could call into affect the “Rights of Nature” to safeguard the Spit from commercial exploitation?


QUITO, ECUADOR— In an unprecedented ruling, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador has applied Ecuador’s constitutional provision on the “Rights of Nature” to safeguard Los Cedros Protected Forest from mining concessions. The Court voted 7 in favor and 2 abstentions.

With the ruling, published on December 1st, the Constitutional Court ordered that activities that threaten the Rights of Nature should not be carried out within Los Cedros Protected Forest, thereby prohibiting mining and all types of extractive activities. Water and environmental permits to mining companies will now also be denied. 

Two-thirds of the reserve is covered by mining concessions granted to the Ecuadorian state mining company, ENAMI, and its Canadian partner, Cornerstone Capital Resources. The Constitutional Court agreed to hear the case in May 2020.

The Court’s decision also imposes a series of orders on the Ministry of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition to comply with the decision. These include orders for the Ministry to help construct a participatory plan for managing the Los Cedros Protected Forest and to ensure respect for the Rights of Nature and the right to a healthy environment. The Court also ordered the government to adopt regulations so that the future issuance of environmental records and licenses and the use of water for extractive activities avoid violating the Rights of Nature, as in the case of Los Cedros.

Overall, this decision clearly details the effects of the Rights of Nature for administrative authorities in a way that was unprecedented.

“This case is emblematic not only for Ecuador but also for the international community,” said Alejandro Olivera, senior scientist and Mexico representative at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This progressing and innovative ruling protects the imperiled wildlife, such as the endangered brown-headed spider monkeys and endangered spectacled bears, from mining companies.”

In September 2020, Earth Law Center, the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, the Center for Biological Diversity, International Rivers, and the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center (“Coalition”) filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief (Spanish; English) before the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court. The brief asked the Court to protect Los Cedros and robustly enforce constitutional provisions that establish the Rights of Nature, or “Pachamama,” including the rights to exist, to restoration, and the unique rights of rivers, especially the Magdalena River.

“This is a historic victory in favor of Nature. The Constitutional Court states that no activity that threatens the Rights of Nature can be developed within the ecosystem of Los Cedros Protected Forest, including mining and any other extractive activity. Mining is now banned within this amazing and unique protected forest. This sets a great juridical precedent to continue with other threatened Protected Forests. Today, the endangered frogs, the spectacled bears, the spider monkey, the birds, and Nature as a whole have won an unprecedented battle”, says Natalia Greene from the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. 

“It is undoubtedly good news, but the situation of Los Cedros Protected Forest is not an isolated event in Ecuador,” said Constanza Prieto Figelist, Latin American Legal Director at Earth Law Center. “This is a problem of the forests throughout the country. In recent years, many mining concessions that overlap with Protective Forests have been awarded.”

The brown-headed spider monkey, found in Los Cedros, has lost more than 80% of its original area of distribution in northwest Ecuador. In 2005, it was estimated that there were fewer than 250 brown-headed spider monkeys globally, granting the species a place among the top 25 most endangered primates in the world.

The groups note that the case is of great significance, both for Ecuador and the world, because it has the potential to establish important and influential “Earth jurisprudence” that will help guide humanity to be a benefit rather than a destructive presence within the community of life. The proposed mining is unlawful, the Coalition say, because it violates the rights of the Los Cedros Protected Forest as an ecosystem as well as the rights of the many members of that living community.

# # #

Earth Law Center (https://www.earthlawcenter.org) is a non-governmental organization based in the United States of America, Mexico, and Canada that promotes the application of the Rights of Nature at the local and international levels. The organization creates alliances with local organizations to recognize and promulgate laws that recognize the inherent rights of rivers, oceans, and coastal and terrestrial ecosystems. Thus, it seeks to make a paradigm shift, fighting for the formal recognition of the rights of nature to exist, prosper and evolve. Earth Law Center aims to grant ecosystems the same rights recognized to people and corporations, allowing them to defend their rights before national and international courts, not only for the benefit of people but also for nature itself.

Washington state seeks tighter wastewater rules for Puget Sound, but sewage plant operators push back  – Seattle Times

This could be quite costly for small rural communities like ours. Can we find financial support to help upgrade our plants without massive increases in sewage costs?

…The state’s Ecology Department will decide as soon as the end of the month whether to issue a new general permit for all 58 sewage plants around the Sound. Ecology argues that as more people live here, it’s imperative they not contribute more nitrogen, which comes from their urine, and worsen low dissolved oxygen levels. These levels already occur in some parts of Puget Sound, especially in the summer. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)

Seattle Times

Washington state seeks tighter wastewater rules for Puget Sound, but sewage plant operators push back 

Shore Friendly Living – Vegetation Management Webinar for Shoreline Landowners

Ever wonder how native plants can strengthen a shoreline? The Northwest Straits Foundation presented Ben Alexander of Sound Native Plants sharing his extensive knowledge of use of native vegetation for shoreline and habitat improvement. In this virtual workshop, Ben covered a range of topics including soil structures, root strength and the role of shoreline vegetation. Ben also provided details on removal of invasive species and restoration methods with native plant species. A recording of the webinar is available on the Northwest Straits Foundation’s YouTube channel. 

Contact Lisa Kaufman, Northwest Straits Foundation Nearshore Program Manager for more information: kaufman@nwstraitsfoundation.org

Part 2 – Brinnon Resort’s unpaid bills to Jefferson County

In the first part of our short series, we explored the issue of the Statesman Group, an international developer out of Canada, and it’s unpaid bills to Jefferson County for work the county did for them on behalf of approving the Pleasant Harbor Resort. The resort, a large Master Planned Resort (MPR), has been the issue of contention since it was unveiled back in the early 2000s. The County gave a green light to develop, with numerous requirements to be met. In exchange, the County, because of the lack of employees due to the financial aftermath of the real estate crash of 2008-09 offered to do a great deal of work to expedite the approvals in exchange for being paid agreed upon sums for the work. It was a reasonable thing to do, given the financial situation the County was in at that time. Though the County did do a great deal of work it was paid for between 2008 and 2016, starting in 2016 Statesman started challenging the invoices. For some reason, this dispute has gone on for 6 years, totaling over $190,000, money the County can ill afford and a situation most of us would never be allowed to do as individuals or small time developers.

Since this dispute started, Statesman has received permission by the Department of Natural Resources to log the property, and according to my sources, they have. This logging activity most likely generated revenue for Statesman.

The County has been involved in negotiations with the Statesman group for many months now, records revealed through Public Records Act requests have shown that County attorney Philip Hunsucker and County officials have been going back and forth for years seeking to receive payments from Statesman. Mr. Hunsucker has stated the following in letters to Stateman’s attorney in May of 2021:

  • “Your client previously paid without question invoices with the same sort of detail in the so-called “block bills” he is now complaining about.”
  • “…when the County tried to get your client to pay invoices in January 2017, he refused”
  • “Some of the work the County did with tribes also was necessary to address your client’s missteps with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe (PGST).”
  • “Significant work was required by the County to ensure that all MOU’s and environmental reports required by Ordinance No. 01-1028-08 were completed, including the Water Quality Management Plan and the Wildlife Management Plan. This issue also coincides with the need to coordinate with tribes. The PGST provided detailed and substantive comments to Water Quality Management Plan and the Wildlife Management Plan that had to be addressed”

Mr. Hunsucker also offered a 5% discount on the bill if they paid immediately.

The question that has been asked by many in the opposition to this MPR, is “What other business in Jefferson County would be allowed to not pay hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to the County for work done over six years and then offered a discount to pay these late bills?”

A logical follow up to this question is, “Why can’t the County issue a stop work order to Statesman until these bills are paid?

This reporter reached out to former County Commissioner John Austin, who was one of the commissioners that approved this MPR in the first place. His comment was, “It’s very distressing to me that they have not followed their agreement with the County.” He went on to state that he would likely have been reluctant to approve this MPR if he knew that this would have been the outcome.

It would be informative to get an official statement from the County as to why they have not issued a stop work order on this development until bills are paid. On Page 62 of the 2017 agreement with Statesman, it states:

(11) Violations and Penalties. The administrator is authorized to enforce the provisions of this article whenever he or she determines that a condition exists in violation of this article or permit issued hereunder. All violations of any provisions of this article, incorporated standard or permit issued. pursuant to this article are made subject to the provisions of Chapter 18.50 JCC, which provides for voluntary correction, notice and orders to correct the violation, stop work and emergency orders, and
assessment of civil penalties
(emphasis added).

https://test.co.jefferson.wa.us/weblinkexternal/ElectronicFile.aspx?dbid=0&docid=1899761&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

Additional investigations by the Brinnon Group have found the following brochure put out by Statesman. It raises the specter that Statesman does not have the financial resources to complete this project.

A redflag on Statesman finances was raised back in August, 2016, when the company distributed a flyer that proposed public financing of the Pleasant Harbor development…. Statesman proposed a $2,000,000 “Recreational Community Grant” from Jefferson County. A transfer of about 30 acres of the Pleasant Harbor site to the state for another Recreational Community Grant in the amount of $9,250,000 was proposed (a cost of over $308,000/acre of undeveloped, vacant land), as well as a $26,500,000 loan from the state. These requests totaled almost $38,000,000 in corporate welfare to Statesman. During this time in 2016, while Statesman was asking for public money for its project, it was not paying its bills to Jefferson County.

From email provided by The Brinnon Group

Additionally, according to a letter sent earlier this month to the County, raises the issue of whether the County is crossing a legal line by allowing this situation to continue. And at what point is it considered bad debt and written off?

Article 8, Section 7 of the Washington Constitution states: “No county, city, town or other municipal corporation shall hereafter give any money, or property, or loan its money, or credit to or in aid of any individual, association, company or corporation . . .” (emphasis added).

From email provided by The Brinnon Group

The Brinnon group is asking that the County take steps to ensure that Statesman can finance this project. They ask, quite reasonably it would seem to most individuals here, that the County require financial security or a bond for payment to the County, such as an irrevocable line of credit from an established financial institution. The question also might be asked, “Why hasn’t the County already done that?”

How much longer are the taxpayers of this county expected to wait before the bills that are due them are paid? Who else would get this kind of kid glove treatment by county officials?

A great deal more background on this can be found on the website of The Brinnon Group, the citizens who have been opposing this development since the beginning. http://www.brinnongroup.org/

Conservation Groups Challenge Washington’s Artificial “Fix” to  Southern Resident Killer Whale and Salmon Recovery 

This in from the Wild Fish Conservancy. After trying to move the needle with the WDF&W they have decided that the courts need to get involved. The State should not be allowed to ignore the very laws that it imposes on everyone that lives here, simply to try scientifically dubious efforts to appease special interest groups. To be clear, see the items I’ve boldfaced below to highlight the criticality of this lawsuit.


October 13, 2021— This week, conservation organizations Wild Fish Conservancy and The Conservation Angler  filed suit against the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for its repeated refusal to follow state  environmental laws when setting statewide hatchery policy, including when it recently embarked upon a massive  expansion in the production of hatchery salmon that could cause irreparable damage to fragile wild fish  populations and to endangered Southern Resident killer whales. 

Filed in King County Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges that the Department has been ignoring the requirements  of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) since 2018, when it suspended key components of a science-based  hatchery reform policy designed to prevent state hatcheries from continuing to contribute to the decline of wild  populations of salmon and steelhead and from impeding their recovery. This significant action to abandon  science-based hatchery reform was taken without any public notice and was widely criticized, including in a  letter signed by 77 prominent fisheries and orca scientists and advocates, who called on Governor Inslee to  reinstate the science-based policy recommendations and another letter delivered to the Washington legislature by  five former Fish and Wildlife Commissioners responsible for implementing the hatchery reform policy in the  early 2000’s. 

After neutralizing the safeguards provided by this hatchery reform policy, the lawsuit alleges, the Department  began to massively increase hatchery production of Chinook, coho, and chum salmon at state run facilities,  purportedly to provide more food for Southern Resident killer whales. However, the Department did not support its hatchery expansion plan with any evidence that the Southern Resident killer whales would actually eat or be  sustained by hatchery salmon. Killer whale scientists agree the whales subsist primarily upon older and larger  Chinook that are found almost exclusively in the native Chinook populations that hatcheries have failed to  produce, protect, or restore.  

Even worse, the Department refused to engage in the SEPA process, including drafting an environmental impact  statement that would have assessed any and all potential adverse impacts of the proposed hatchery expansion on  both threatened wild salmon and steelhead populations and on the starving Southern Resident killer whales.  Hatcheries have long been recognized as one of the four primary threats to wild fish populations.  

“The Department took a big gamble, with the only certain payoff going to Washington’s fishing industry, while  all the risks are borne by our orcas and wild salmon populations,” said David Moskowitz, Executive Director of  The Conservation Angler. “But state environmental law does not allow the Department to risk the future of our  fish and wildlife on such an unproven strategy—it requires our agencies to make well-informed decisions based  

on a careful analysis of the potential adverse environmental impacts of their actions.” 

In 2020, at the same time the Department was actively implementing massive hatchery increases without  environmental scrutiny, the Department released a report titled ‘A review of hatchery reform science in  Washington State’ that found “hatcheries have potential for large magnitude ecological impacts on natural  populations that are not well understood, not typically evaluated and not measured” and that “…a focus on  efficiency and maximizing abundance prevents widespread implementation of risk reduction measures.”  

What’s more, the report recommended that prior to increasing hatchery programs, more environmental review  was necessary to evaluate cumulative hatchery effects and to ensure increases wouldn’t harm wild fish recovery,  warning large-scale hatchery production “can magnify the political pressure to take advantage of abundant  hatchery runs at the expense of natural populations” and concluding that increasing program size can raise both  “ecological and genetic risks”. The authors warned that “a rigorous justification for program size is essential for  implementing scientifically defensible hatchery programs.” 

“No doubt, many people supported the state’s ‘Orca Prey Initiative’ with the best of intentions, because it  was presented to the public as a scientifically-credible and rigorously vetted solution to feeding the  starving population of Southern Resident killer whales. The problem is that scientists know that producing  more hatchery fish is not going to solve the problem, and will likely make this crisis worse”, said Kurt  Beardslee, Executive Director of Wild Fish Conservancy. 

“As ridiculous as it sounds, reducing overharvest of the whales’ primary food wasn’t even considered as  an acceptable solution by the Governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force and other resource managers.  Instead, the plight of the Southern Residents provided an opportunity for powerful commercial and  recreational fishing interests to push for massive increases in hatchery production, putting our orcas and  wild salmon at even greater risk”, Beardslee says. 

### 

Wild Fish Conservancy is a conservation ecology organization dedicated to conservation, protection, and  restoration of wild fish ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. wildfishconservancy.org 

The Conservation Angler fights for the protection of wild Pacific anadromous fish populations throughout the  Northwest, all the way to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. theconservationangler.org 

Wild Fish Conservancy and The Conservation Angler are represented in this matter by Animal & Earth  Advocates, PLLC of Seattle, Washington.

Swan-saving project complete at Kirner Pond – PDN

Good news of groups working together to protect habitat for birds.


A multi-agency, private-public effort to help trumpeter swans safely depart from their seasonal home on Kirner Pond is complete…Local bird advocates came together to start a GoFundMe fundraiser that kicked off on Jan. 25, and it quickly raised more than the goal of $65,000. Those funds, along with in-kind labor and efforts from Clallam PUD, helped fund the work to bury the power lines clearing the way for the trumpeter swans to take off from the small pond located about a mile west of the Woodcock/Sequim-Dungeness Way intersection. Michael Dashiell reports. (Peninsula Daily News) Subscription required.

https://bit.ly/3ANwnY4

://bit.ly/3ANwnY4

Inslee says Lower Snake River dams report should be ready by this summer. NW News Network

It will be interesting to see what conclusions this comes to. Remember, it will be coming prior to a mid term election.

The fate of the four controversial Lower Snake River dams will be a topic of study this summer. Washington politicians said they plan to weigh in then on the fate of the four controversial Lower Snake River dams. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says a report should come out this summer on the four controversial dams on the Lower Snake River. Courtney Flatt reports. (NW News Network)

Inslee says Lower Snake River dams report should be ready this summer

Loans for septic repairs and replacement now available to entire state – WaDOE

Heads up for all of you needing to properly maintain your septic systems, especially those close to waterways and streams. This was legislation passed by the efforts many years ago of a number of environmentalists, including those in Jefferson County, to convince the legislature that not everyone along the shores of Puget Sound with a septic tank was a rich person who could afford the maintenance. It was shocking that even solidly liberal legislators did not understand this issue at the time. You can thank the work of organizations like People For Puget Sound, the Northwest Straits Initiative, our Marine Resources Committees and many others who banded together to get this subsidy passed. Then Senator Lynn Kessler was a good supporter of this. Now it seems like it’s been here forever.


Approximately a third of Washington homes use septic systems for wastewater treatment. Well-functioning and properly maintained septic systems can effectively treat household wastewater for many years. Failing septic systems can result in sewage backing up in the home or entering local waterways and groundwater supplies– posing a public health threat. As of Sept. 1, the Regional On-Site Sewage System Loan Program has expanded state-wide, adding 17 counties to this successful program. (Washington Dept. of Ecology)

https://ecology.wa.gov/About-us/Who-we-are/News/2021/Sept-21-Septic-Loans

New study of studies highlights cell phone risk of brain cancer

An online publication of a long term look at studies of cellular use and it’s possible correlation to brain cancer was published recently. There is apparently increasing evidence that long term use of cell phones pressed against the ear may be statistically significant. While only one data point, I have had a couple of friends who died of brain tumors and were long term heavy cell phone users. On the other hand, I have used cell phones heavily since their introduction and have not yet encountered any cancer. But here’s some suggestions from the authors of the study.

Use texts, a phone’s speaker, or wired headphones. Keeping a smartphone 10 inches (25cm) from your body instead of one-tenth of an inch reduces your radiation exposure to 1/10,000th as much as when it’s pressed against your head. When moving about, store your phone in a bag or purse. If you must carry a phone in your pocket, temporarily turn on airplane mode, which disables the transceiver and sends your incoming calls to voicemail.

Cellular Phone Use and Risk of Tumors: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

ABSTRACT

According to estimates from the International Telecommunication Union, the number of worldwide mobile cellular subscriptions increased from 68.0 per 100 inhabitants in 2009 to 108.0 per 100 inhabitants in 2019 [1]. With the increasing use of cellular phones, concerns have arisen over the carcinogenic effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted from cellular phones [2]. Since 1999, observational epidemiologic studies, specifically case-control studies have reported inconsistent findings on the association between cellular phone use and tumor risk, and several meta-analyses [3,4,5,6] of case-control studies on this topic have been published before 2011.


Among these studies, Myung et al.’s meta-analysis [5] of 23 case-control studies concluded that mobile phone use was associated with an increased tumor risk in high quality studies and studies conducted by a specific research group, and that long-term mobile phone use of 10 or more years increased the risk of tumors regardless of methodological quality or research group. Similarly, Khurana et al. also reported that cellular phone use of 10 or more years doubled the risk of brain tumors in 11 epidemiologic studies [6].


Based on evaluation of the available literature including experimental animal studies and epidemiological studies in humans, in 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO)/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs) associated with cellular phone use as possibly carcinogenic to humans [7]. Recently, an advisory group of 29 scientists recommended that IARC prioritize a new review of the carcinogenicity of RF-EMF by 2024 due to mechanistic evidence of the carcinogenicity of cell phone radiation published since 2011 [8].
Although many case-control studies and several meta-analyses have been published regarding the association between cellular phone use and tumor risk, the findings remain inconsistent.

Conclusions


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the associations between cellular phone use and tumor risk using a systematic review and meta-analysis of case-control studies according to various factors including differences in response rates between cases and controls, use of blinding at interview for ascertainment of exposure, methodological quality, funding sources, type of case-control study, malignancy of tumor, and dose–response relationship.

In sum, the updated comprehensive meta-analysis of case-control studies found significant evidence linking cellular phone use to increased tumor risk, especially among cell phone users with cumulative cell phone use of 1000 or more hours in their lifetime (which corresponds to about 17 min per day over 10 years), and especially among studies that employed high quality methods. Further quality prospective studies providing higher level of evidence than case-control studies are warranted to confirm our findings. (emphasis by Olyopen.com)

https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/21/8079/htm#B7-ijerph-17-08079

A more “consumer friendly” wrap up of this can be found at AskWoody.com, a tech magazine.

With rollback of Trump proposal, new Biden plan cuts just 2% of spotted owl protections -OPB

Good news as the Biden Administration works to reverse the damage done by Trump.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to withdraw the previous administration’s rule that slashed millions of acres of critical habitat protections for the northern spotted owl. The proposed new rule would reduce the protected habitat area in Oregon by 200,000 acres — leaving far more land protected for the threatened owl than called for by the Trump administration. This comes after the Biden administration’s U.S Interior Department delayed and reviewed the Trump administration’s Jan. 15 rollback of 3.4 million acres of designated critical habitat protections for the imperiled species in Washington, Oregon and California. Monica Samayoa reports. (OPB)

With rollback of Trump proposal, new Biden plan cuts just 2% of spotted owl protections

New short video by Pacific Wild

Pacific wild opposes wolf culling. The have been doing some beautiful short 30 second spots. No message, just the beauty of the wolf.

https://vimeo.com/572671100

Company drops plan for $2.3B methanol plant in southwest Washington – AP

Thanks to those who stood up, used lawsuits and pressure on our legislators to end this debacle. If we are going to get to a clean energy future, we need to end the continued expansion of products and jobs that rely on them. Then there were the possible effects of shipping disasters. We are going to end up paying for this choice in higher costs of plastics we continue to use, but there is no free lunch. 

A company backed by the Chinese government on Friday ended its seven-year effort to build one of the world’s largest methanol plants along the Columbia River in southwestern Washington, following a series of regulatory setbacks and a long debate over its environmental footprint. Northwest Innovation Works proposed a $2.3 billion project to take fracked natural gas from Canada and convert it into methanol, which it would then ship to China to make ingredients for plastics used in everything from iPhones to clothing to medical devices. The state Department of Ecology denied a key permit for the project in January, saying it would create too much pollution and have negative effects on the shoreline. On Friday, the company notified the Port of Kalama it was terminating its lease, saying the regulatory environment had become “unclear and unpredictable.” Gene Johnson reports. (Associated Press)

https://www.knkx.org/post/company-drops-plan-23b-methanol-plant-southwest-washington

Lawsuit Adds New Protections and Increased Foraging Opportunity for Starving Southern Resident Killer Whales – Wild Fish Conservancy

Wild Fish Conservancy put out this update on their work last week. It is interesting to note the details of what we are told about the government desire to protect and restore wild salmon versus the actual regulations that they are creating. I’ll reproduce the whole email here. But first, why is this information important to us here? 

Our Governor and fisheries management people publicly state that they are fighting to protect wild salmon stocks. Wild Fish Conservancy spends the time to be in the meetings and review the actual laws that are being passed, both state and federal to bring these goals to a reality. 

It appears that even with the best of intentions, the goals are washed out in the process, eventually continuing the practices that have led us here, with what seems like ‘greenwashing’ the work. Why? 

That a 10 year agreement between the U.S. and Canada of over 100 pages of work governing our joint salmon stocks would not include any reference to Southern Resident killer whales or their forage needs seems more than an oversight. 

We cannot rely on government to take a strong stance in their efforts to save the wild stocks. The pressures (in terms of real dollars) on them are too great to expect them to have the backbone to accomplish them. While so many organizations talk about actually taking the steps to restore salmon Wild Fish Conservancy is willing to sue to make sure the science is implemented in law. I dislike lawsuits, but at times, they are the only tool left, before all the salmon are gone forever.

As Kurt says at the end of this email: Despite NOAA’s acknowledgement that the current harvest rates are harming both ESA-listed Chinook and orcas, they continue to authorize the fishery to operate business as usual, citing speculative and unproven plans to mitigate this harm. To date, this hypothetical mitigation has yet to be implemented, yet the fishery continues to harvest at the expense of both protected species.

I applaud their efforts in an era when too little is being done to stand up to industry and government inaction and hope you will support their work as you can.

__________________________________

NEW PROTECTIONS
This week, as the result of a lawsuit by Wild Fish Conservancy and the Center for Biological Diversity, federal fisheries managers announced a proposal to increase protections and foraging opportunity for the starving Southern Resident killer whale population.

The action comes in the form of a newly proposed amendment to the Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery Management Plan, which guides the management of all salmon fisheries in Federal waters off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Once adopted, the newly proposed ‘Amendment 21’ will finally acknowledge and address the complex prey needs of the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whale population by limiting non-tribal commercial Chinook salmon fishing in years of low Chinook salmon abundance to protect foraging opportunities for the orcas. Killer whale scientists have identified lack of available prey as the primary cause of the Southern Resident’s decline.

These new protections are the result of a 2019 lawsuit challenging NOAA Fisheries for failing to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that the current management plan governing these West Coast fisheries is harvesting prey critical to the survival of the Southern Residents, especially in years of low Chinook abundance.

The fisheries’ impacts on the protected orca population had not been formally analyzed since 2009. Our lawsuit called for the agency to conduct a new analysis, as required by the Endangered Species Act, that considered over a decade of new scientific information about the reason for the population’s decline, their relationship to salmon, and the impacts of prey depletion on their survival and recovery. NOAA Fisheries finally agreed to conduct a new analysis which confirmed current management was not sufficient to meet the needs of the endangered Southern Residents and that actions would need to be taken to improve foraging opportunities for the starving whales, leading to the proposed new amendment.

SETTING A NEW PRECEDENT
As an action alone, the new amendment is a small step forward when considering the scope of the crisis facing the Southern Resident killer whales. At the same time, this action represents the beginning of a fundamental shift in how federal agencies should be managing commercial salmon fisheries. 

Amendment 21 sets a new precedent that says it is no longer acceptable to fundamentally ignore the prey needs of federally-protected killer whales when managing commercial salmon fisheries.

 

Below we’ve shared information about another lawsuit filed by Wild Fish Conservancy in 2020 over harvest practices in Southeast Alaska that are contributing to the decline of both Southern Resident killer whales and Puget Sound Chinook. Amendment 21, and the underlying litigation, have set in motion important momentum critical to the outcome of this second ongoing lawsuit.

A COASTWIDE THREAT
The Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery Management Plan is not unique. For decades, commercial salmon harvest plans authorized by federal and state officials throughout the coast have ignored or failed to adequately address the prey needs of the Southern Residents. When fishery managers come to the table to make critical salmon harvest and allocation decisions, the whales are often not considered as a “stakeholder”, despite the population’s continued decline toward extinction and federal protected status.

A primary example is the Pacific Salmon Treaty, an international agreement between the United States and Canada that governs the management of all Pacific salmon stocks of mutual concern and is the most consequential and far-reaching management plan governing commercial salmon fisheries in Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. In 2018, the public had the opportunity to review the Pacific Salmon Treaty’s new 10-year agreement, which will be in affect through the year 2028. In the over 100 page document, there is not a single mention of the Southern Resident killer whales, let alone their foraging needs.

Last month, Wild Fish Conservancy submitted our summary judgement motion in another lawsuit against NOAA Fisheries launched in 2020 over the authorization of harvest in the Southeast Alaska Chinook troll fishery that is pushing both Southern Residents and wild Chinook populations in the northwest closer to extinction, a conclusion NOAA acknowledges in their own 2019 analysis of the fishery.

The Chinook troll fishery operates 10-months of the year outside of Southeast Alaska and is considered a mixed-stock fishery, meaning a fishery where Chinook are indiscriminately harvested regardless of their protected status, age, hatchery or wild origin, and what river they originated from.

Nearly all of the fish harvested in this fishery will go on to be marketed as sustainably-certified, wild-caught Alaskan Chinook. However, data confirms 97% of the Chinook harvested in the fishery originate from rivers in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. If given the opportunity, these Chinook would migrate back down the coast serving as the primary prey for the Southern Resident killer whales as the Chinook pass through the whale’s key forage areas. Instead, these fish are being harvested outside of the range of the whales and at levels that federal fishery managers acknowledge are unsustainable for the long-term survival and reproductive success of the Southern Resident population.

At the same time, wild Chinook are being harvested regardless of their origin and status under the Endangered Species Act, which further impedes the recovery of critical Chinook populations throughout the Pacific Northwest the whale’s depend on. 

Despite NOAA’s acknowledgement that the current harvest rates are harming both ESA-listed Chinook and orcas, they continue to authorize the fishery to operate business as usual, citing speculative and unproven plans to mitigate this harm. To date, this hypothetical mitigation has yet to be implemented, yet the fishery continues to harvest at the expense of both protected species. The insufficiency and hypothetical nature of the mitigation is at the heart of Wild Fish Conservancy’s arguments in this case. We will be sure to continue to update you as this extremely consequential lawsuit moves forward over the coming months.

Response from Alexandra Morton on yesterday’s article

Yesterday, I published an article here about new research findings of the spread of Picene Orthoreovirus from farmed salmon to wild stocks. In it, I described some of the work that Alexandra Morton had done to bring this to the attention of the world. After reading the article, a local radio host has reached out to her to have her on and discuss her work. During the email exchange, Alexandra talked about the history of the attacks by the salmon farming industry on her, which I had mentioned happening in our local Marine Resources Committee. Here is an excerpt of her response. Unfortunately my blog entry does not allow me to publish PDFs, so I am posting a link to the folder on my web site to download and view the documents if you are interested. 

From Alexandra: “Yes, they like to say I am not a scientist, and yet I was the first to publish that the PRV in British Columbia was a match for PRV in Lofoten Norway (attached), and now 8 years later it would appear I was right.  I have also published on the spread of the virus into wild salmon…  The trouble with these claims is that I am published in some of the top scientific journals in the world, and despite their efforts to get my papers retracted, they have failed.

They have been completely silent about my new book wherein I detail internal DFO/industry communications.”

 

The link to the files is here. I’ll leave it up for 14 days, and then if you want it contact me directly. The radio interview will come out later this month or next. I’ll post when it does. 

https://mountainstoneconsulting-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/p/alb/Eq-IeJs3chpCj8Yfjm_uR1wB84-GXNSLL7D4LgWy7pF54A?e=2eQO35

Dabob Bay Public Hearing canceled. New date to come.

Friends of Dabob Bay,
DNR announced today that the Public Hearing scheduled for tomorrow May 13 in Quilcene has been canceled and will be rescheduled:

DNR has received requests to include remote internet access for this meeting due to concerns regarding COVID-19. DNR is rescheduling this meeting in order to address this request, and will send out new notice when the date and time have been chosen.

The public hearing will likely be rescheduled in July or later, because DNR will need time to provide public notice.

For those of you who have already submitted comments of support – THANK YOU – they are showing DNR and our County Commissioners that there is a lot of support for Dabob Bay conservation – but consider it a draft run. You will need to resubmit comments when the public hearing is rescheduled. If you have not yet submitted comments – save your energy! I will keep you posted!

Seabed mining opponents off WA Coast find win in legislature – Public News Service

Finally we have a ban on seabed mining off the coast. Thanks to everyone who pushed this bill. Sad it took a Democratically controlled legislature to pass it. This article explains why it’s a good thing.


Gov. Jay Inslee signed a seabed mining ban into law Monday. The measure prohibits mineral extraction within three miles of Washington’s coastline. It received nearly unanimous support in the Legislature, except for two “no” votes in the House. Lee First, co-founder of Twin Harbors Waterkeeper, helped mobilize businesses and conservation organizations to support the ban. Eric Tegethoff reports. (Public News Service)

Seabed Mining Opponents Off WA Coast Find Win in Legislature

Puget Sound Days on the Hill -Puget Sound Partnership

We’d like to remind you to register by 1:59 p.m. Pacific Time tomorrow, Thursday, May 6, for the third of this year’s virtual Puget Sound Days on the Hill sessions, which will be held on Friday, May 7, from 1:00–2:00 p.m. Pacific Time, hosted by the Puget Sound Partnership and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

Please click here to register for the May 7 session. The confirmation email will provide the unique Zoom link for the session. 

At this session, we’ll discuss Puget Sound restoration and protection, salmon recovery efforts, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and infrastructure, among other topics, with Representative Dan Newhouse. We will also host a panel discussion, “What’s Happening in D.C.?,” with Morgan Wilson, director of Governor Inslee’s office in Washington, D.C., and Rich Innes of the Meridian Institute. Wilson and Innes will discuss the appropriations process and give an overview of potential upcoming legislation, such as the infrastructure package.

Representative Newhouse will speak for about 25 minutes, including a Q&A component, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Advance registration is required.

We will send regular announcements with confirmed speakers for the week as well as a registration link for each event. You can also check https://www.psdoth.org for the latest information.


Week 3:

Friday, May 7, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time

With Representative Dan Newhouse and panelists Morgan Wilson (Governor Inslee) and Rich Innes 

The Good News: Puget Sound Herring

Good primer and update on herring stocks in the Salish Sea. By my friends at the Rainshadow Journal.

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/

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