Trump to strip protections from Tongass National Forest, one of the biggest intact temperate rainforests Seattle Times

And so it continues, the rolling back of environmental protection in some of our most critical remaining habitat. Vote Democratic and for Biden to end this madness.

President Donald Trump will open up more than half of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging and other forms of development, according to a notice posted Wednesday, stripping protections that had safeguarded one of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforests for nearly two decades.

Logging in Alaska costs U.S. taxpayers millions each year, because of a long-standing federal mandate that companies profit from any timber sale. This means the Forest Service often covers harvesters’ costs, including road building. According to a Taxpayer for Common Sense analysis of the Forest Service’s accounts, the Tongass timber program has lost roughly $1.7 billion over the last 40 years.

Seattle Times

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/nation/trump-to-strip-protections-from-tongass-national-forest-among-worlds-biggest-intact-temperate-rainforests/

Millions have been spent on orca recovery: Is it working? – Everett Herald


And a follow up to the previous story, this is a good layman’s overview of the issue of salmon and orca recovery. It focus’ on Snohomish County but also discusses Sound wide issues. Notice, no mention of hatcheries here. It’s about habitat recovery. This article appears to have come out from under the paywall at this point.

Restoring destroyed salmon habitat is the key to regaining Southern Resident killer whale numbers. Julia-Grace Sanders reports. (Everett Herald)

Everett Herald

Millions have been spent on orca recovery: Is it working?

Controversy flares up over proposed policy revisions for state salmon hatcheries -PSI

This is a never ending story, because neither the Tribes, the sports & commercial fisheries, nor the politicians of any stripe are willing to entertain what is needed, which is an elimination of most hatcheries. Why? Because science has proven they don’t work. We have had hatcheries since at least the 1940s and they have not helped produce more wild salmon, nor added significantly to anything but sports fishing and farmed at a huge cost to taxpayers. (The exception to this is to protect almost extinct runs for tribal subsistence which is a valid concern for cultural survival of our Tribes. )We once had monstrous runs of wild (and free) fish for anyone to eat that would simply go out and catch them. They provided for lower income people in times of need. We have squandered that resource for many reasons, and have infected many of them with virus’ transmitted through farmed fish. We have spent vast resources trying to produce significant runs in hatcheries. None of this has worked. The science says to end hatcheries, but the political football of this issue just won’t let it go away. The future looks like we will lose our wild salmon in favor of robo-fish, farmed and produced simply for human and animal consumption. We do this at our peril. Just look at what one virus, picine reovirus (https://raincoastresearch.org/salmon-farm-impacts/viruses/piscine-reovirus/) has done to farmed fish stocks around the world.

So with that preamble, here’s today’s story>

A state policy revision that could boost salmon production at fish hatcheries in Washington state has raised red flags among scientists and environmental groups worried about potential damage to wild salmon runs.


The proposed hatchery policy, under review by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, could derail a 20-year effort to implement critical hatchery reforms, opponents argue. Major concerns revolve around threats to the future of wild salmon populations — including declines in genetic diversity and increasing competition from large numbers of hatchery fish. At the same time, a variety of sport and commercial fishing groups have thrown their support to increased hatchery production, saying that policies to protect wild salmon have reduced fishing opportunities while doing little to save wild salmon. Christopher Dunagan writes. (Puget Sound Institute)

Controversy flares up over proposed policy revisions for state salmon hatcheries

Salish Sea Shared Waters forum wraps up third and final year of work to reduce risks of oil spills – KNKX

This work brought to you by those who fought for a stronger barrel tax in 2018, against the onslaught of money and influence from the oil refineries in the state. Representative Steve Tharinger co-sponsored this. Representative Chapman and Senator Kevin Van De Wege voted for it. They have been working to protect our Sound. Actions not words. A thing to remember as you fill out your ballot this week.


Washington has been stepping up systems to prevent and reduce the risk of oil spills, due in part to the looming expansion of Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline. It could result in as much as a sevenfold increase in the number of oil tankers traveling from Vancouver, B.C., through Puget Sound. In 2018, the state Legislature passed the Strengthening Oil Transportation Safety Act. Among its requirements, along with a barrel tax on crude oil and updates to contingency plans for oil spills, was the establishment of the Salish Sea Shared Waters forum. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KNKX)

Salish Sea Shared Waters forum wraps up third and final year of work to reduce risks of oil spills

Jamestown S’Klallam propose a commercial aquaculture operation at Point Hudson

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is proposing a commercial aquaculture operation at Point Hudson. The Tribe is asking the port to allow them to put in a FLUPSY, a device to create an upwelling of water to help young oyster spat.

The meeting with the Port Commissioners to discuss this proposal is online on WEDS. SEPT 23rd at 5:30 PM.

Zoom instructions and agenda are here: https://portofpt.com/event/regular-business-meeting-2-2020-04-22-2020-09-23/

While on the surface this seems benign, it has raised a number of issues that Karen Sullivan, who has a boat in Point Hudson, researched. The following information comes from a letter she wrote the Port Commissioners. The questions are quite intersesting in that they raise issues that many of us might not think to raise. One example is the Wooden Boat Show. Here’s all of the letter. Draw your own conclusions. Zoom in on Wedsnesday if you have comments. Will likely be earlier on the agenda. It’s the first major order of business after the introductory issues.


To:  Port of Port Townsend 

From:  Karen Sullivan and James Heumann, Port tenants 

Date:  September 21, 2020 

Subject: Concerns about proposed commercial aquaculture operations in Point  Hudson Marina 

We are writing to express our concerns about the proposal to establish oyster  aquaculture operations at the Point Hudson Marina. It was surprising to see this potentially controversial item listed so ambiguously on the Port’s agenda for the  September 23 meeting: “Jamestown S’Klallam presentation: FLUPSY and upland use  at Point Hudson.” 

How many of the Port’s constituents would know that a FLUPSY is a Floating  Upweller System, and how many would recognize it as an in-water aquaculture  project? Use of a cute, innocuous-sounding acronym with reference only to upland activity requires readers to know what a FLUPSY is, downplays its potential impacts,  and fails to acknowledge potential public interest. Without public scrutiny, project approval would fail standards of fairness, impartiality, and prevention of conflicts of  interest. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe said it is working with the Port; now the  Port needs to work with the public.  

Our concerns include environmental, financial, social, procedural and legal  compliance issues. We believe these and other questions and concerns must be fully  answered before the Port can approve such a project. 

1. Size and impact of floats/barges: Currently, an oyster spat-raising operation by  the project proponent exists at the John Wayne Marina. These “floats,” which are  also called barges, are not “small” as is claimed in news accounts. A Google Earth  screen capture shows their placement and size at that marina. They are much larger  than any of the surrounding boats. 

2. Noise/smell: The paddlewheel in the right photo above is the mechanism for  producing upwelling in these barges. We are concerned about levels of noise and/or  smells from operations in close quarters with marina tenants. 

3. Wooden Boat Festival: Point Hudson is a small and very popular harbor  destination, not to mention the home of the Wooden Boat Festival, so the impact of  one or more FLUPSYs on available slip space as well as on the Wooden Boat Festival is likely to be disproportionately large. It also raises more questions: 

Would these barges remain in place during the Wooden Boat Festival? 

If so, how would matters of public safety and liability be handled with the  large crowds we get at the festival? 

What would be the financial and/or other impacts to the festival of lost  berthing space? Have festival organizers been consulted? 

4. Marina/tenant concerns:  

What is the cost-benefit of reducing slip space for boats whose owners  patronize local businesses, for the sake of a commercial tenant whose  operations do not benefit and may even harm the local community?  

What hazard and liability assessments have been done for scenarios in which  a storm breaches the weakened Point Hudson jetty and large waves enter the  marina? What protections are proposed or in place for potential damages? Could the Port be sued for damages by the project operators? 

How often is the spat harvested? It is our understanding that large semi trucks are needed in order to deliver the oyster seed and to transport the  harvested product. What disruptions can be expected to the marina’s docks  and/or parking or walking access? Where does the Port propose to park  these trucks in a marina already squeezed for space?  

It’s our understanding that the tanks are brightly lighted 24/7. How could  this not impact marina tenants and Northwest Maritime Center activities? Residents of Quilcene Bay have complained about glaring night lights from an  oyster operation that have driven herons and eagles from their roosting  trees.  

5. Spat or adult oysters? Another concern is the wording in the Peninsula Daily  News article, “When the oysters are mature enough, they will be relocated to  another facility.” That facility is not named. But because the article also states the  oysters would be sold in the proposed Point Hudson commercial store and bar, it  means they could be raising the oysters here and not relocating them. We are  concerned about the possibility of commercial feed being used if the latter scenario is accurate. Ecosystem effects of raising oysters to maturity, including using  commercial feed in such an enclosed space as Point Hudson harbor, would be far  more impactful. 

6. Consultation with agencies: With the slip-filling size of these semi-permanent  barges comes additional shading of the seabed, something that for dock  construction triggers permits. Being semi-permanent as opposed to the smaller  transient vessels, barge-sized shading impacts to the seabed would be more like  those of docks. Permits generate consultation with state or federal agencies.  Consultation with either one triggers a public process such as an Environmental  Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement under State or Federal  environmental policy laws. Federal funding also triggers this, and according to the  Tribe’s 2017 Report to Tribal Citizens, federal funding was used to purchase FLUPSYs. In cases where the federal nexus is present, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is  obligated to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental  Assessment. A public process with adequate comment periods would be proper and  necessary. 

7. EIS or EA required: Given the wide array of concerns along with the federal  nexus mentioned above, it would appear that this project cannot be said to have no  significant or cumulative impact on the quality of the human environment;  therefore, it would require an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental  Assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

8. Discharge of waste into water: Washing the tanks after spat is harvested would  discharge waste materials into marina waters. This is a “discharge into waters of the  United States,” meaning that whether or not it falls into the category of point- or  nonpoint source pollution, it would trigger the need for a permit and monitoring  under the Clean Water Act.  

9. Historic Preservation conflict: In February 2020, the Port met with  representatives from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation to discuss  preservation of the historic Point Hudson Marina and its surrounding buildings. The  purpose of a partnership agreement between the two agencies was to “…work  together to maintain Point Hudson’s historic waterfront character.” How do  commercial aquaculture operations fit into such plans for a seaport city with a  National Historic designation that is world-renowned for its traditional maritime  character? Is it worth it for the Port to make such a radical change in community established purposes for Point Hudson? 

10. National Historic Preservation Act issues: In keeping with the  aforementioned concern, there should be a formal consultation under authority of  the National Historic Preservation Act. 

11. Leased building purpose: What is the nature of the proposed leased building  operations beyond an “oyster bar,” and would it include any processing operations and/or storage of equipment, live product, chemicals, hazardous materials, or would  it house non-food-bar related activities? We are concerned that if chemicals are to  be stored on premises and were spilled, that potential environmental non compliance issues could shut down neighboring business such as Sea Marine. 

12. Partners with Cooke Aquaculture: The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is in  business partnership with Cooke Aquaculture, whose operations have been  problematic to the environment and the subject of state shutdowns and litigation.  We are concerned about the possibility of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe running or  expanding its aquaculture operations at Point Hudson in concert with a company  whose stewardship for the environment has been questionable. 

13. Oyster aquaculture not harmless: The negative effects of oyster aquaculture,  including the raising of seed or spat, are well known. Oyster spat operations pull  nutrients from the water including nitrogen; nutrient removal can have a  detrimental effect on eelgrass beds. Port Townsend uses buoy markers to  discourage anchoring in its eelgrass beds. We are concerned about harm to these  ecologically important eelgrass beds. 

14. Paying bills on time? Conversations with the marina manager at John Wayne  reveal that the Tribe has sometimes delayed payment for moorage as much as six or  more months. This seems like a high risk for little benefit.  

Thank you for your attention to these matters. We write because we care about  maintaining the traditional maritime values of Point Hudson and the health of our  marine environment. We cannot see how the proposed project would be compatible with either. 

Sincerely, 

Karen Sullivan and Jim Heumann

US Senate Passes Funding Boost To Conservation Fund, Help For National Parks – OPB

Jefferson County Wally Bowman Bridge Photo by WA State Land & Water Cons

Thanks to Maria Cantwell and many others who have been fighting for this funding for a long time. As many of you long time readers will know, this has been a battle that has seen funding for local conservation districts threatened. The funds for these are applied locally, in efforts that help local farmers and environmental efforts that are determined by the local population.

 

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would further protect public lands and recreation across the country. The legislation would also help relieve a massive maintenance backlog on federal lands.

Washington conservation groups say this funding will help promote access to nature across the state.

This blog reported on the Republicans defunding of this crucial program back in 2015. It was led by Utah Representative Rob Bishop.  Thankfully for the country, he is retiring from the Congress this fall and running for a Utah state position.

https://olyopen.com/2015/10/05/republicans-kill-the-land-and-water-conservation-fund/

I stated then

The LWCF state assistance program provides matching grants to help states and local communities protect parks and recreation resources. LWCF funding has benefited nearly every county in America, supporting over 41,000 projects. From building hiking and biking trails, to improving community parks, playgrounds and ballfields, this 50:50 matching program is the primary federal investment tool to ensure that families have easy access to public, open spaces.

I also stated that:

Closer to home, here on the Olympic Peninsula, this program has funded, over the last 50 years, the Bogachiel River Boat Launch repair, maintenance at Clallam Bay, Clallam Bay Spit development, Freshwater Bay development, Snow Creek Renovation, Salt Creek County Parks renovation, and the Shane Park Playground in Port Angeles. Remember, Clallam County usually votes Republican, and this is what you are getting folks for your support of that party, which now controls the purse strings at the Federal Level.

In Jefferson County, Fort Worden State Park was funded with over $156, 000, The Hoh River Boat Launch, Kai Tai Park, Fort Worden Breakwater, and the Point Whitney (south in the county on Hood Canal) acquisition all were supported by funding from this program. You can find the entire list of funded projects here: http://www.nps.gov/lwcf/index.htm

What did Congress want to use the funds for? They want to give this money to the oil and gas industry for employee training. You read that right. They want to give the money to private enterprises to offset their employee training, which will make them more profitable by not having to spend that money themselves.

Read the whole story here.

https://www.opb.org/news/article/us-senate-funding-bill-conservation-fund-national-parks/

If you are curious about the details of this little known governmental effort, see this webpage.

https://rco.wa.gov/grant/land-and-water-conservation-fund/

 

New Jefferson County Shooting Range Ordinances Passed

From the Tarboo Ridge Coalition today

The Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed two new shooting range ordinances at the conclusion of 5 hours of deliberations during their meeting on Monday, February 24. The new ordinances are vastly different than the 2018 versions which the Growth Management Hearings Board invalidated in early 2019.

The BoCC followed their Planning Commission’s recommendations that all new commercial shooting ranges be located indoors in commercial and industrial zones and not be allowed in Jefferson County forests. The commissioners carefully scrutinized the proposed ordinances to clarify language and eliminate previous loopholes that had been exploited by Fort Discovery Corporation in 2018 when the company began building an outdoor paramilitary training center at Tarboo Lake without environmental review or obtaining permits.

The Tarboo Ridge Coalition, which appealed the 2018 ordinances, will meet with the County and the Growth Management Hearings Board in late March to discuss whether the current effort complies with the Washington State’s Growth Management Act.

Lobby Day (again!)

After our snow canceled the Environmental Lobby Day events last month, it’s been rescheduled this week. (ironic, isn’t it?) This is an excellent way to meet your legislators on their ground and let them know what is important environmentally. Mad about the net pens? Oyster farms in our National Wildlife Refuge? Believe me,the folks from Seattle aren’t fighting that.

Or want to support one of the great bills being promoted by the Coalition for Environmental Priorities?

So get out from behind Facebook and Next Door and get a group together to car pool to Olympia and participate! You get to schmooze with the best of them while you watch high paid and  well dressed lobbyists argue that environmental rules are too expensive! What could be funnier than that!

And while you are there, just to show that I’m not a total bummer of a date, where does one eat? My favorite place for lunch or dinner is Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar They have superb clam chowder and lots of other great eats. You can pretend you are one of them being plucked by a walrus and carpenter. But no, I’m serious, this is one of the finest restaurants in the state IMHO. Just go. You are on a field trip.

Also try Wagner’s European Bakery And Cafe for great lunches. More budget oriented. Or pack your own bag of goodies! Actually if you sign up you get a healthy lunch.

What bills are being supported? Take a look at my right hand top tab, where I’ve conveniently cut and pasted the Coalition Priorities. Or go to the URL listed a few paragraphs up above.

So sign up, read up on the bills being promoted, and learn how to effectively lobby your elected officials! It’s fun and is far better than watching an impeachment any day!


Date: Thursday, January 30, 2020 Time: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm Location: Temple Beth Hatfiloh, 201 8th Ave. SE, Olympia, WA 98501

Join the Environmental Priorities Coalition and hundreds of activists to push for key environmental legislation in Olympia on January 30th!

During lobby day, you will team up with other activists to speak up for the environment and gain the skills to be a persuasive constituent. You’ll have the opportunity to attend issue briefings, learn how to lobby, hear from environmental champions, attend breakout sessions, and meet face-to-face with your elected officials to advance the Environmental Priorities Coalition’s 2020 priorities.

For the 2020 legislative session, we have adopted four priorities essential for healthy communities and a thriving environment: Clean Fuels Now, Healthy Habitat Healthy Orcas, Climate Pollution Limits, and Reduce Plastic Pollution.

Registration required. Schedule TBA.

Check out the video from 2019 Environmental Lobby Day!

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

Click to access cwa401certification_2060-af86_nprm_20190807_prepublication_version.pdf

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

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/

Environmentalists see key window of opportunity to help Orcas survive – KUOW

I have no idea whether these bills will  actually be enough to save the Orca, but they are progress. They represent thousands of hours of people’s work (many volunteering their time) to come up with solutions from their specific subject expertise.  They offer some hope but ultimately, the food is needed now. Time will tell whether 1579 will lead to behavior change in WDFW, but they are the ones that signed up for it.

Four bills making their way through the legislature seek to lessen the biggest threats facing the killer whales: water pollution and noise from boat traffic, dwindling salmon runs, and the risk of oil spills in the Salish Sea.
HB 1579, “Implementing recommendations of the southern resident killer whale task force related to increasing Chinook abundance,” which is expected to cost $1.1 million in 2019-2021.
HB 1578, “Reducing threats to southern resident killer whales by improving the safety of oil transportation,” which is expected to cost $1.4 million in 2019-2021 and over $2 million every two years after that.
SB 5135, “Preventing toxic pollution that affects public health or the environment,” which is expected to cost $1 million in 2019-2021.
SB 5577, “Concerning the protection of southern resident Orca whales from vessels,” which is expected to cost close to $1.6 million in 2019-2021. Anna Boiko-Weyrauch reports. (KUOW)

Environmentalists see key window of opportunity to help Orcas survive

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

Massive public-lands bill passes Congress with big implications for Washington state – Seattle Times

Some very good news for a change.

The U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday passed a wide-ranging public lands bill with big implications for Washington state, including measures that would greenlight federal involvement in a multibillion-dollar Yakima water project, reauthorize a key conservation fund and prevent new mining in the Methow Valley.

Read the whole story here.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/massive-public-lands-bill-passes-congress-with-big-implications-for-washington-state/?utm_source=referral&utm_medium=mobile-app&utm_campaign=ios

 

 

The orca recovery plans that could become state law – KCPQ

Three bills hit the floor for supporting Orca recovery. More on this soon.

After a year of task force meetings, it’s time to find out if the governor’s ambitious plans to save the endangered southern resident orcas will turn into state law. It’s in the hands of state lawmakers now as they introduced several bills in Olympia Wednesday. The legislation is based on several of the governor’s orca task force recommendations. Some will be a harder sell than others. [Read about House Bill 1580 and Senate Bill 5577 which deal with aspects of vessel noise; House Bill 1578 and Senate Bill 5578 which deal with improving oil transport safety; House Bill 1579 and Senate Bill 5580 which increase habitat for Chinook and forage fish.]  Simone Del Rosario reports. (KCPQ)

The orca recovery plans that could become state law

EVENT: Environmental Lobby Day 1/29 Olympia

In the 2019 legislative session, we have the best chance in over a decade to make real change to protect and sustain Washington’s environment!

Join the Environmental Priorities Coalition and hundreds of activists to push for key environmental legislation in Olympia on January 29.

For the 2019 legislative session, the coalition has adopted four priorities essential for healthy communities and a thriving environment:

Attend Lobby Day
  • 100% Clean Electricity
  • Orca Emergency Response
  • Oil Spill Prevention
  • Reducing Plastic Pollution

During lobby day, you will team up with other activists to speak up for the environment and gain the skills to be a persuasive constituent. You’ll have the opportunity to attend issue briefings, learn how to lobby, hear from environmental champions, and meet face-to-face with your elected officials to advance the Environmental Priorities Coalitions 2019 priorities.

What: Environmental Priorities Coalition Lobby Day
When: Tuesday, January 29, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Where: United Churches of Olympia, 110 11th Ave SE, Olympia
Register now during general admission to save your spot!

Ticket Rates:

We offer several rates of tickets to accommodate different financial needs. All tickets include a small breakfast, coffee, materials, and legislative activist training as well as contribute to funding the Lobby Day venue and materials. A boxed lunch can be purchased for an additional cost.

Scholarship tickets are available. The Environmental Priorities Coalition strives to be welcoming and accessible for all Washington residents. To request a scholarship ticket please email Kat at kat@nwenergy.org.

Transportation: Find a carpool with other attendees in your area.

Let me know if you have any other questions, and I look forward to lobbying with you on January 29!

Tony Ivey
Field Organizer

Senator Ranker chosen to chair new Senate Environment & Tourism Committee and lead on environmental budget

This will be an important position in the upcoming legislative session.


OLYMPIA – Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) was selected by his peers in the Senate Democratic Caucus to chair the new Environment & Tourism Committee in the 2019 Legislative Session.

“From our Salish Sea to our orcas to plastic pollution to community health and climate change, our environment and our children’s future has never been at greater risk,” said Ranker. “While the federal administration denies science and institutes reckless policies, Washingtonians want to protect and sustain the incredible quality of life in our communities. I am honored to help lead a powerful environmental agenda in both this new committee as well as our capital and operating budgets to make sure that we don’t just survive the next two years, but put in place incredible environmental policies that protect our environment and our future for generations.”

Recognizing the incredible environmental opportunities before us, the Senate is restructuring environmental oversight by establishing a new committee with general oversight of environmental protection and policies. The committee members will also work to boost our state’s tourism industry. A 2015 study showed that Washington’s outdoor recreation industry generates more than $20 billion annually.

Ranker will also serve as vice-chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee for the environment for both the capital and operating budgets where he will play a leadership role in the development of the critical environmental and natural resources budgets.

 

Cantwell helps secure $25M increase in the Land and Water Conservation Fund

From Cantwell’s office:

As the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Cantwell fought back against the Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the country’s most successful conservation program, and secured a $25 million increase in funding over last year’s levels. The funding also includes specific allocations for Washington state projects, including $1 million for Lake Chelan Natural Recreation Area, $5 million for Okanagan National Forest, $6.3 million for the Forest Legacy program in South Puget Sound, and $2 million for the Dewatto Headwaters. Cantwell has long promoted the program, touting its importance for conservation and its positive economic affects for Washington state. In March of 2017, she introduced a bill to permanently authorize and fully fund the LWFC, and she has steadfastly defended the program in the face of attacks.

Puget Sound cleanup survives Trump attempt to kill it -Seattle PI.com

Glad to hear that we continue to get money for the clean up of Puget Sound, a project that will take probably as long as it’s taken to pollute it. But the work will continue.

Of course the trade off is that the military budget was given more than ever. And the Navy will likely continue it’s expansion throughout the northwest Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The Trump administration failed in its efforts to wipe out money to clean up Puget Sound and other waterways from Chesapeake Bay to the Great Lakes, as Congress has refused to dry up spending on water programs. Puget Sound gets $28 million as part of $8.08 billion in funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  The Trump administration had wanted to slash EPA’s budget to $5.7 billion, in real dollars its lowest spending in 40 years. The money is contained in a mammoth omnibus federal spending bill, passed Thursday by the House of Representatives and due for final action Friday in the Senate. [The bill passed the Senate and awaits the President’s signature.] Joel Connelly reports. (SeattlePI.Com)

 https://www.seattlepi.com/local/politics/article/Connelly-Puget-Sound-cleanup-survives-Trump-12775110.php

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