Congress increases funding for Puget Sound Geographic Program to $33 million

More good news. Thanks to all who worked to push this forward, including Olympic Peninsula House of Representatives Derek Kilmer.This continues to show how expensive it is to recover the vast resources that we have mismanaged for more than a century. This money is all about ‘green’ jobs, as important as our military budget and other supposedly ‘sacrosanct’ parts of the budget that never seem to be questioned at all. We will need billions more as climate change kicks in, in ever larger ways. Luckily, our state and federal representatives seem to get it and are fighting for the money we need.

Attached are two announcements regarding funding for Puget Sound protection and recovery efforts, including:

  • Congress increases funding for Puget Sound Geographic Program to $33 million; and
  • FFY2019 Strategic Initiative Advisory Team (SIAT) Funding Recommendations and LIO-selected NTAs for National Estuary Program (NEP) Geographic Funds.

OLYMPIA— The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed a funding bill that will provide $33 million in FY2020 for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Puget Sound Geographic Program, which is an increase of $5 million over FY2019 funding levels. The President is signing the bill into law on Friday.

The Puget Sound Geographic Program funds implementation of the Puget Sound Action Agenda, the long- term plan for Puget Sound recovery developed by the Puget Sound Partnership.

“We know what we need to do to recover Puget Sound, our salmon, and our endangered orcas,” said Laura Blackmore, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “This very welcome funding increase will help accelerate action on the ground to protect and restore this very special place.”

“We are excited to learn of the increase in federal funding for Puget Sound restoration,” said Bill Dewey, director of public affairs for Taylor Shellfish Farms and one of the business representatives on the Puget Sound Partnership’s Ecosystem Coordination Board. “The support from Congress has been instrumental in achieving water quality upgrades in shellfish growing areas all around the Sound.”

The Puget Sound Geographic Program provides funding to state, local, and tribal governments to implement projects to improve water quality, enhance fish passage, increase salmon habitat, and protect shorelines. Several Washington State agencies manage programs to address the three Strategic Initiatives for Puget Sound preservation and recovery: storm-water, habitat, and shellfish.

“It is incredibly rewarding to have the federal government support the amazing work our region is doing to restore Puget Sound,” said Heather Bartlett, water quality program manager at the Washington State Department of Ecology, which leads the Stormwater Strategic Initiative. “Our state has dedicated millions of dollars to restore this critical ecosystem and protect our iconic orca, salmon, and natural resource economy. With this additional federal funding, we will continue to make progress towards a healthy and resilient Puget Sound.”

“The Puget Sound Geographic Program has played an integral role filling a critical funding niche in our regional recovery effort,” said Kelly Susewind, director of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Through the program’s Habitat Strategic Initiative, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, in partnership with Department of Natural Resources, have slowly bridged gaps across institutional silos to achieve on-the-ground change. There is still much to be done, and this funding comes at a critical juncture for the ecosystem that supports our region’s imperiled salmon populations and Southern Resident Killer Whales. The program’s broad support really reinforces its significance to the health of our region, and this investment will continue to move the needle towards a healthier Puget Sound.”

“Many of Washington’s communities were built on our trademark salmon runs. Unfortunately, we’re seeing salmon runs decline, which is hurting our culture, our economy, and our iconic orcas,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, the director of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. “I’m heartened to see increased federal investments in Puget Sound, and thankful that our state has such strong congressional leadership fighting on its behalf.”
Additional recovery initiatives receive funding

The Battle Over Fish Farming In The Open Ocean Heats Up, As EPA Permit Looms – OPB

The Feds look to open up aquaculture into the open ocean. While this project is in the Gulf of Mexico, the threat to us here is very real. After watching the incredibly incompetent way that our legislators allowed the industry in this state to function with virtually no over-site because they fashioned the laws back in the 70s/80s to split enforcement  between two different government agencies (Department of Ecology and DNR) ending in the disastrous blow out of the Cypress Island pens. This finally led to regulation and a shutting down of the industry in this state, and we will never know the true cost of what allowing these pens into our waters meant to our endangered salmon. Old timers I interviewed talked of how wild runs collapsed in the Agate Pass area after the pens went in to the south side of Bainbridge Island. They suspected the wild fish were somehow compromised by the pens. While many other issues were simultaneously showing-up, rampant development, over-fishing in the Strait, etc. the old timers thought the timing highly suspicious. Now this. Whatever could go wrong?

States control up to three miles offshore from their coastlines, but between three and 200 miles falls under federal control. Attempts to introduce aquaculture in federal waters have so far been stymied by concerns about aquaculture’s impact on ocean ecosystems and wild fisheries.

https://www.opb.org/news/article/npr-the-battle-over-fish-farming-in-the-open-ocean-heats-up-as-epa-permit-looms/

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/

EVENT: State attorney general Ferguson, DNR commissioner Franz to speak Aug. 25 at Democrats’ annual Fish Feast

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, undefeated in 22 lawsuits so far against the Trump administration, will be one of two keynote speakers Sunday, Aug. 25, at the 25th annual Fish Feast in Port Townsend of the Jefferson County Democrats. Its theme this year: “There’s a Lot on the Line.”

Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, who spearheaded the development of a 10-year statewide plan to fight and prevent wildfires, will be the other keynote speaker.

Tickets for the event at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds are available for $60 at jeffcodemocrats.com and by mail at Jefferson County Democrats, P. O. Box 85, Port Townsend, WA 98368. Tickets will also be available at the door (cash, check or card).

Doors open at 4 p.m. for the bar and socializing in the Erickson Building. Dinner starts at 5:30 p.m., and speakers begin at 6 p.m. The party donates one dollar of each ticket to the Jefferson County Fair Board.

“The Fish Feast is our major fundraiser of the year,” said party Chair Marty Gilmore. “Each ticket purchase supports the vital work we do year-round to elect Democrats! It’s also an opportunity to hear the latest on current issues from our guest speakers – and fun time to see friends.”

Recent successes by Ferguson’s office include the largest-ever trial award in a state consumer protection case, debt relief from predatory lending for hundreds of students, and defense of the constitution by defeating the Trump administration’s attempt to add a discriminatory citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Franz’s office has led state efforts to make Washington’s lands resilient in the face of climate change, investing in carbon sequestration and clean energy with wind, solar and geothermal infrastructure. Her office has also allocated millions of dollars to struggling rural communities to spark economic opportunities.

Fish Feast attendees will also hear from U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, state Sen. Kevin Van de Wege, state Reps. Mike Chapman and Steve Tharinger, state party chair Tina Podlodowski, and local Democratic elected officials.

Before the feast is served, guests can mingle with candidates, campaigns, and organizations in Campaign Alley outside the Oscar Erickson Building.

Rep. Kilmer has sponsored tickets for 20 Young Democrats (under 35 years old). Contact Libby Wennstrom (360-301-9728) or Chelsea Pronovost (425-256-0626) to pre-register as a guest.

“We’re also offering 20 discounted tickets at our cost,” said Fish Feast organizer Claire Roney. “$25 each – first come, first serve.” For more information—or to volunteer for the Fish Feast, contact Roney at (360) 531-1177.

The Fish Feat menu will include sockeye salmon from Key City Fish, BBQed by chef Larry Dennison; shellfish from Taylor Shellfish; greens and veggies from local farms; rolls from Pane d’Amore; and cake. Beverages will include wine from the Wine Seller and beer from Port Townsend Brewing Co.

For more information about the Jefferson County Democrats, visit its website at jeffcodemocrats.com or its Facebook page, @jeffcodemocrats.

Less overfishing, more overfished: NOAA report reveals environmental impacts to stocks

The toll to the fisheries of the Northwest is included in this report. While fisheries in general seem to be harvested at “sustainable” levels, a number are not, and some it is, as usual, the result of international fleets not adhering to sustainable harvests. A caveat to all this is that given the current administration and it’s habit of misrepresenting facts to fit their goals, suspicion of these findings might be normal. Research shows that the an in charge of this report has been a long time NOAA sustainable fisheries expert, and was originally put in a leadership role after a scandal of his managers from the Bush Administration. It appears he and his data are trustworthy. If you have any issue with this data, please let me know and some facts to support your position.

The 2018 NOAA report on the status of U.S. fisheries has been released, and reveals that environmental factors are having the most impact on stocks that are overfished.

The report, which NOAA puts together every year, indicates that less species were subject to overfishing in 2018 than in 2017 – 28 versus 30 – a year that saw all-time low numbers of overfishing and overfished stocks. That means more than 90 percent of stocks are being fished at a sustainable level.

 

https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/environment-sustainability/less-overfishing-more-overfished-noaa-report-reveals-environmental-impacts-to-stocks?utm_source=marketo&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_content=newsletter&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTkdWbVpERXdOakprTVdGaSIsInQiOiJXZ1dvRHJrZUI3MXNnNnhJXC9ET2VXS2did3dZeDZhbTQ0M2pyZ241RVhtcGtcLytGcllidlArYUNncTNXM0NINFo0cGNQdkJDZExmQ1VsbnJTT1ZxeFJQd0JhV2x1Q3VMUVlTS0xXUk1XMjBtbE1DU0RKQXROQ2J1MDVtVVQzUmtpIn0%3D

 

E.P.A. Plans to Curtail the Ability of Communities to Oppose Pollution Permits – NY Times

More work being done by the Trump Administration to limit citizens ability to appeal.

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to weaken rules that for the past quarter-century have given communities a voice in deciding how much pollution may legally be released by nearby power plants and factories. The changes would eliminate the ability of individuals or community advocates to appeal against E.P.A.-issued pollution permits before a panel of agency judges. However, the industrial permit-holders could still appeal to the panel, known as the Environmental Appeals Board, to allow them to increase their pollution. Coral Davenport reports. (NY Times)

Governor Inslee Signs Slew of Orca Protection Bills – Seattle Times and others

This week saw the signing of a variety of bills that came out of the Orca Task Force, put together by Governor Inslee to identify issues that could theoretically help save the resident Orca pod from extinction. While these bills are not the radical (yet realistic) idea of breaching the Snake River dams as many (including this blog) would like to see, they do address a group of problems that are facing recovery and protection of the Salish Sea.

Senate Bill 5135 was written to allow Department of Ecology to ban certain PCBs and PFAs which cause cancer and are found in high amounts in Orca bodies. They may be hampering the ability for them to have healthy  offspring and also may impact their health. Toxic-Free Future was a champion of this bill. Congratulations to them and their supporters. This has been a long hard fight for many years.

Senate Bill 5577 pushes boats farther away from whales, mandating 300 yard exclusion zones. This is not as far as many in the Orca task force wanted, but is at least better than it is currently. There is huge pressure from whale scientists to push back even further, but the whale watch industry is too powerful for Inslee to override.

The bills digest is as follows:

Finds a person guilty of a natural resource infraction if the person causes a vessel or other object to: (1) Approach within four hundred yards of a southern resident orca whale; or(2) Exceed a speed greater than seven knots over ground at any point located within one-half nautical mile of the whales.

Prohibits commercial whale watching operators from approaching or intercepting within six hundred fifty yards in the direction of the whales.

Requires a commercial whale watching license for businesses engaged in commercial whale watching activities.Requires the department of fish and wildlife to implement a limited-entry whale watching license program for the inland waters of the state for all whale species.

What you don’t see is an implementation of even greater enforcement in this bill. It is understood though that Fish and Wildlife may be getting a bigger budget do that.

House Bill 1578 – This bill strengthens our oil-spill prevention portfolio. As some may remember, this author and many dozens of other environmentalists helped push through the rescue tug at Neah Bay in the last decade, with the help of then Representative Van de Wege. This time, Representative Tharinger was part of the sponsors of the new bill. It’s digest reads:

Creates new requirements designed to reduce the current, acute risk from existing infrastructure and activities of an oil spill that could: (1) Eradicate our southern resident killer whales;(2) Violate the treaty fishing rights of federally recognized Indian tribes;(3) Damage commercial fishing prospects;(4) Undercut many aspects of the economy that depend on the Salish Sea; and(5) Harm the health and well-being of residents.

Declares an intent to spur international discussions among federal, state, provincial, and industry leaders in the United States and Canada to develop an agreement for the shared funding of an emergency rescue tug available to vessels in distress in the narrow Straits of the San Juan Islands and other boundary waters.

Currently tankers bigger than 125k dead weight tons are forbidden inside the Strait, past Dungeness Lighthouse. Tankers from 40 to125K tons dead weight are allowed to operate with tug escort. Currently a huge threat is to tugs towing bunker and other fuels. Some have sunk, such as the barge that spilled out on the coast near Neah Bay some years back.

The new law forces these tankers and tug towing barges to have escort tugs starting in 2020. If the tug or tanker is empty,  they do not need an escort tug.

The bill also strengthens the existing work being done on oil spill preparedness and establishes a new oil spill emergency response system with coordination between the State, U.S. Federal, Tribal and Canadian agencies. While there has been coordination before, this system is new.

There is a new reporting regime for oil processing facilities receiving crude oil shipments by rail, which will require them to report to the state these shipments and their routes. This may end up getting taken into court by the oil industry, as it’s unclear to this author whether the State has authority to require this under current Federal law.

Bill 1579 – While part of this bill allows greater catch limits on predator fish:

The commission shall adopt rules to liberalize bag limits for bass, walleye, and channel catfish in all anadromous waters of the14state in order to reduce the predation risk to salmon smolts.

The real teeth in this bill is the work done by Sound Action and other environmental and tribal lobbyists, along with the Department of Natural Resources to implement much stronger rules and penalties for implementing bulk heads along the nearshore of the Sound.  (full disclosure: this author is Board President of Sound Action as of this writing).

The conversion of shoreline to bulkheads  has been going on with little scientific understanding of the scope of damage to the spawning habitat of forage fish. Forage fish are food for salmon and other larger fish. Sound Action has existed specifically to challenge improper or incomplete Hydraulic Permit Applications (HPAs) from DNR that affect this habitat.

UPDATE BASED ON GOVERNOR’S VETO OF ONE SECTION: While The bill was also helped through by a section on a series of three ‘demonstration’ projects inserted by Senator Van de Wege on behalf of farmers coping with flood plain issues in Watcom, Snohomish and Gray’s Harbor County. Governor Inslee decided that these projects did not come out of the Orca Task force recommendations and were not in alignment with the needs of protecting fish habitat, but rather protecting farm land and exploiting river gravel. His veto of that section was in alignment with the opposition  by environmentalists and Tribes because of the stated intention of the backers of the language to ‘extract gravel’ from these rivers. What is needed in the future to address these problems should involve something similar to  a version of the highly successful Dungeness River Management Team, which brought together all the stakeholders on that river for the last 20 years to identify and then come up with appropriate solutions rather than leap to conclusions not based on science.

Anyone wanting to understand the work that the Dungeness River Management Team has done can view the short video I did for them a few years ago, on their 20th Anniversary.

 

The language that the proponents of Senator Van de Wege’s bill wanted, was to simply move to solution, based on assumptions and not science. They need, as the governor pointed out in his veto to at least have to go through the process to create a team of stakeholders, not just from the farm community, but from individuals and state scientists to come up with appropriate solutions.

So all in all, congratulations to the organizations that spent hundreds of hours in the Orca Task Force, and thanks to Governor Inslee for getting this done and helping drive these key bills into law! We still have a long way to go to save the resident pod, and there is no guarantee any of these bills will actually turn the tide to restore them to health.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/gov-inslee-signs-range-of-bills-aimed-at-helping-endangered-orcas/

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