Feds seek expanded habitat protection as salmon, orcas battle climate change, habitat degradation – Seattle Times

While this is very welcome and overdue, it does, of course, exempt the military from this designation. So the Orcas can be protected against everything, except our military running secret experimental bombing, which by their own admission in their environmental review documents, will lead to death of wildlife. We consistently do not hold the military to the same environmental standards that we hold all other citizens.  Without doing that, this is just more of the same, fiddling while nature burns.

The designation requires review of federal actions within the areas that could affect southern resident killer whales, providing additional oversight by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/feds-seek-expanded-habitat-protection-as-salmon-orcas-battle-climate-change-habitat-degradation/?utm_source=referral&utm_medium=mobile-app&utm_campaign=ios

Proposed EPA Rules Could Limit State And Tribal Power To Block Infrastructure Projects -OPB

Over the last few years, since Trump came to power, I have been hearing about companies, some here in the NW engaged in shellfish farming, that have been quietly spending tens of thousands of dollars lobbying the Federal government to strip away the capability of local jurisdictions, such as county, state and tribal governments, to create local rules that could stymie the businesses operations or licensing by the federal government, under the Clean Water Act. A goal of theirs has been to take away the ability of local environmentally concerned organizations to sue, other than at the federal level.  Now, it appears the Trump administration is acting on their lobbying efforts. Think about fish farming, pulp mills, or any other activity covered under the Clean Water Act.

The rules specifically would restrict these non-federal governments’ authority to review the water quality impacts of projects that require a federal permit or license. These projects range from pipelines to hydropower facilities to dredging — any development that result in “discharge” into U.S. waters.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before October 21, 2019. ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA–HQ– OW–2019–0405, at https://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lauren Kasparek, Oceans, Wetlands, and Communities Division, Office of Water (4504–T), Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20460; telephone number: (202) 564–3351; email address: cwa401@epa.gov.

Read the whole legal document (very long, very difficult to follow if not a environmental lawyer) at

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-08/documents/cwa401certification_2060-af86_nprm_20190807_prepublication_version.pdf

https://www.opb.org/news/article/federal-water-quality-rules-energy-infrastructure/

Fish and Wildlife Commission lists pinto abalone as endangered;

WDFW advances plans to save valuable and splendid sea snail. The Washington State Dept of Fish and Wildlife have decided, with urging from a number of stakeholders including the Skagit and Jefferson Marine Resource Committees, to list the Pinto  as endangered.

Here’s the Press Release:

Date
Contact

Henry Carson, (360) 888-8494; Jason Wettstein (360) 902-2254

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is working with federal and state

Juvenile abalone
Pinto abaloneJosh Bouma/Puget Sound Restoration Fund

partners to protect and conserve a species of large sea snail with a shell, a taste, and lifestyle that led to its wide-scale destruction.

The pinto abalone — the only abalone species native to Washington — has experienced a drastic reduction in population in recent decades. From 1992-2017, the population fell by an estimated 97 percent, putting the species at risk of local extinction.

Historically prized as food and for its contrasting red and green shell with an iridescent interior, pinto abalone is a species too popular for its own good.

Overfishing over decades starting in the 1960s led to population declines. While the agency and partners acted to protect the snails, including closing the fishery in 1994, significant levels of poaching and the abalone’s distinctive reproductive cycle meant a cycle of continuing declines despite action.

“Males and females spawn directly into the water, and without sufficient population density, fertilization does not occur, and the animals fail to reproduce,” said Hank Carson, WDFW research scientist.

Now partners are expanding the pinto abalone recovery effort at conservation hatchery facilities at the Kenneth K. Chew Center for Shellfish Research and Restoration (https://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/news/features/hatchery) in Kitsap County.

“Our abalone captive-breeding and reintroduction program is a promising recovery strategy, but much work remains to achieve self-sustaining populations in the state,” said Carson.

With the listing determination in hand after the commission decision today, the agency is set to conduct this work with long-time partners such as NOAA and the Puget Sound Restoration Fund.

Next steps include writing a formal recovery plan to reduce threats and build the species population, establishing additional satellite growing facilities to increase production, a conservation genetics and disease-risk assessment, and expansion of field work to determine the best places to out-plant these rare and distinctive creatures.

The 2019 legislature has supported funding to recover pinto abalone, including $900,000 for work through June 2021.

“When it comes to recovery of the Puget Sound ecosystem, everything is connected and attention to detail is important,” said Senator Christine Rolfes from Washington’s 23rd district. “Recovery of lesser-known species like the nearly depleted pinto abalone is critical for a healthy and more resilient Puget Sound and the salmon and orca whales we all love. I’m glad the legislature agreed to support this effort,” she added.

Carson said he is grateful for the partners and people who support pinto abalone work. “This species is far too interesting and valuable to disappear from Washington’s waters,” he said.

For more information about the pinto abalone in Washington, see WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/haliotis-kamtschatkana.

 

Also from the Skagit Valley News:
The marine snails that have been the focus of restoration efforts in Skagit County and surrounding areas for years are officially endangered. The state Department of Fish & Wildlife Commission made the decision Friday to officially list the pinto abalone as a state endangered species. Fish & Wildlife Research scientist Hank Carson said during the commission meeting that the listing has support from Skagit, Jefferson, Island and San Juan county officials as well as area conservation organizations. The state-level determination means illegally harvesting the species — prized for its meat and shiny shell — will be a gross misdemeanor for first-time offenders and a felony for repeat offenders. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald) See also: Skagit County at center of restoration effort for marine snail  Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Marine snail gains state endangered species listing

Legislation to help endangered orcas keeps moving toward approval – Watching Our Waterways

Chris Dunagan on the handful of environmental bills moving through the Olympia sausage making machine.

Members of the governor’s orca task force this week expressed hope and a bit of surprise as they discussed their recommendations to help the orcas —recommendations that were shaped into legislation and now have a fairly good chance of passage. Over the years, some of their ideas have been proposed and discussed — and ultimately killed — by lawmakers, but now the plight of the critically endangered southern resident killer whales has increased the urgency of these environmental measures — including bills dealing with habitat, oil-spill prevention and the orcas themselves. Chris Dunagan reports. (Watching Our Water Ways)

Legislation to help endangered orcas keeps moving toward approval

Tidal forests offer hope for salmon – Puget Sound Institute

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Read the Capital Press story here:

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

 

 

 

Zangle Cove Lawsuit Issues Bombshell Findings Against Aquaculture

The case moving through the courts at the present time to challenge the lack of Hydraulic Code Permits for the destruction of shorelines by aquaculture got a surprise boost yesterday.

Findings that contradict the testimony of the Army Corp of Engineers and Taylor Shellfish show that in 2017 the Army Corps had to create a Cumulative Impact Analysis that showed conclusively that there would be significant impacts from adoption of a Nation Wide Aquaculture Permit. The 117 page draft concluded that their would be significant impacts if adopted. The Corps has categorically denied such impacts.

The Corps admits that the aquaculture is likely to “adversely affect designated critical habitat for several species listed under the ESA including Puget Sound Chinook salmon, Hood Canal summer chum salmon and Puget Sound Steelhead…Given the magnitude of the the impacts in acreage the importance of eelgrass to the marine ecosystem and the scale of the aquaculture impacts relative to other stressors, the impacts are considered significant.”

The letter goes on: The proposed action is inconsistent with State requirements under the SMA to protect forage fish spawning habitat.”

The debate has been that the Army Corps of Engineers nor the State have ever considered the cumulative impact of aquaculture permitting on the overall shoreline and ecosystem of Puget Sound, focusing only on individual parcels. Now we know that they did consider the impact, and found it lacking.

The next steps on this lawsuit should be very interesting, judges don’t usually go against findings of fact such as this, and the Governor’s Orca Recovery Task force is currently about to publish it’s findings for saving habitat for the Orca and it’s food sources.

The full text of the findings are here:

http://users.neo.registeredsite.com/3/7/5/12218573/assets/2017_NWP48_Draft_Cumulative_Imapct_Analysis.pdf

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