Crosscut Documentaries presents: The Rising

A new film about the Quinault and their struggle with climate change and ocean level rise.

Facing climate upheaval on Washington’s coast, members of the Quinault tribe take to the sea in the canoes of their ancestors.

https://crosscut.com/2019/12/crosscut-documentaries-presents-rising

Tom Jay Walks On.

This came to me from Katherine Baril last week. It was written by a friend of Tom’s.


Tom Jay passed away in Jefferson hospital at 5:50 tonight in hospice care. High praises for the hospital, the staff, the care and the spirited compassion. Friends, who are tantamount to family were present.

Tom Jay was as close as our community could get to having our own “Watershed Shaman”  for the last 30 years.

Some knew Tom  from his nationally recognized art work, others from his poetry, more from the inspiration he gave us  with his words and the gift of reminding us we are all Salmon People. As our community grows and changes, and our ecosystems are destroyed and restored,  Tom was the holder of our flame, the hot, burning center reminding us that life was magic but short, that the job before us was big and heavy  and that the  metal of our spines needed constant strengthening and civic courage  before we would get too cold and brittle.

Some of us know Tom as the voice of Puget Sound clean up and restoration in the l980s.  It was Tom, in his  humble way that would speak to us quietly at first, paint images, and then cheer us on to invite us to  the magic and wonder of salmon.

We were each reminded of our own experience with  Tom. Some of us knew him in wet suits swimming upstream with salmon. Some worked with Tom to restore a  raise eggs in a small hatchery in  Discovery Bay under a unique agreement with State Fisheries to increase the run in one stream and then move eggs to Chimacum after a landslide that had destroyed that stream’s native runs. Tom would share  almost in a whisper. “you know that the eyes of salmon smolts would lock eyes with us and if you listen you hear them say,” give us a chance and we’ll come home,  our ancestors and elders will come home, lay eggs, and restore your streams”. Today, volunteers and students work with North Olympic Salmon to count those reds. Tom and the salmon taught us restoration is possible.

Tom also taught us, that we are all salmon people, bound together by the silver thread of returning salmon. Tom and Sara started the award winning Wild Olympic Salmon-  school children plant trees each fall, volunteers raise eggs and count redds. In November, each year, Tom and hte Wild Olympic Salmon volunteers would provided a  the clarion call with lights in dark tents to come home-  to celebrate, educate and restore. His gentle bringing together  of heavy  burnt metal and fire with little tiny fragile salmon eggs taught us that the crux of our challenge- the  privilege of being salmon people was to live in place long enough to understand our ecosystems and care enough to make a difference as if our life depended on it- Tom’s salmon are here as our teachers

Some of us will remember Tom always focusing on the salmon, telling us that as loggers, fisherman, environmentalists, young families  could work together, Many of the wonderful young leaders who are coming home after graduating from local high schools, planting trees when they were young, being raises on the annual Festival where salmon wore tails, candles lit trails to magic and music, and fall chum came home.

We, and our rivers and streams,  are all better because of Tom and Sara,  Tom’s voice is in the habitat trees that generations of students planted each winter. His voice is in the tree planting poetry of a generation of hippies that followed logging with new trees.   HIs spirit is in  the soil, the mychorizal network, the landscape, the knowledge that we share an extraordinary place and each of us as salmon people have the opportunity and the challenge to restore and preserve it. That community is about restoring ourselves as salmon people- diverse, generous, and needing a place to call home.

Tom will be  remembered in  his art, his poetry, his vision, his leadership, his belief in us. Tom called upon us to build and restore a community.  We who were lucky enough to know Tom had  a true friend.

Tonight I will go through the books, the poetry, the photos, the t-shirts from Tom and Wild Olympic Salmon.  I will remember Tom talking about the silver thread that salmon use to come home to us all. November will be the month chum return and Tom “walked into the forest”We can take long quiet fall walks and hear the returning chum.  We can reach out to gently touch Tom’s sacred bells in our watersheds.  I will remember Tom’s hands, his poetry, his quiet wisdom, his knowledge of the roots of words, his immense physical and moral  strength. Who else could pull together the vision, imagination, genius and funding to build a thirty foot bronze sculpture of a Native woman greeting Raven returning home to her in his canoe with a circle of  strong and fragile salmon swimming around them

I hate loosing you, my dearest friend, it came too soon- Its like you gave us everything you had, like the salmon, so we could swim again.

Thank you for teaching us so much, we will continue to walk the path.

A “WAKE / CELEBRATION” will take place at Finnriver in Chimacum in the afternoon on TUESDAY NOVEMBER 12

2 PM viewing of Tom in a special open casket
4 PM Wake and Celebration
PIE POTLUCK (sweet or savory)

Poems, sayings, expressions, stories, music welcome.

Bring tokens of love and blossoms to leave with Tom.

Poems, sayings, expressions, stories, music welcome.

Bring tokens of love and blossoms to leave with Tom.

Federal judge rules Army Corps aquaculture permit is unlawful in Washington State.

In a surprise ruling with wide ranging consequences, a federal judge has ruled that the Army Corp of Engineers issuance of Nationwide Permits in the lower 48 (NWP48) authorizing commercial shellfish aquaculture is illegal. The suit, brought by The Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat, a group that has been fighting large-scale shellfish aquaculture for years, and joined by the Swinomish Tribe, was focused against the Army Corp and Taylor Shellfish, along with the industry group, The Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association.

The plaintiffs argued that the Corps failed to comply with the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), and the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) when it reissued NWP 48 in 2017. They requested that the decision to adopt NWP 48 in Washington be overturned and that the Corps be required to comply with the environmental statutes before issuing any new permits  for commercial shellfish aquaculture in this State.

The court found in it’s blistering conclusions, “…that the Corps has failed to adequately consider the impacts of commercial shellfish aquaculture activities authorized by NWP 48, that its conclusory findings of minimal individual and cumulative impacts are not supported by substantial evidence in the record, and that its EA does not satisfy the requirements of NEPA and the governing regulations…the Court holds unlawful and sets aside NWP 48 insofar as it authorizes activities in Washington.” (emphasis mine)

Going beyond just the issue of the environmental consequences the judge stated that “The federal defendants state that additional …remedy should be permitted once the seriousness of the agency’s error is determined. The intervenors (the Corps and Taylor Shellfish) assert that (throwing out the permits and the Corps previous rulings) would cause disruption in the Washington shellfish farms and industry, including significant impacts to employees and the communities in which they live.Neither tact is compelling. The substantive defects in the agency’s analysis when adopting the 2017 NWP are significant.” (emphasis mine)

The case centers around whether or not the large scale conversion of natural shorelines to commercial aquaculture, happening now all around lower Puget Sound and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is more than “minimal” damage to the environment. Siting case law in relevant lawsuits in the Yellowstone Park area, the environmental group managed to persuade the judge that the Army was allowing something much more than minimal damage.

As stated by the plaintiffs, “Federal agencies are required to do an environmental assessment (“EA”) of their proposed action, providing a brief discussion of the
anticipated environmental impacts and enough evidence and analysis to justify a no-significant impact determination.  If the agency, after conducting an EA, is unable to
state that the proposed action “will not have a significant effect on the human environment,” a more detailed and comprehensive environmental impact statement (“EIS”) must be prepared. They also argued that the case law stated that if the Corps’ ruling was found to be “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion” and lacking in a scientific basis, that it must be thrown out.

The court found that , “… there is insufficient evidence in the record to
support the agency’s conclusion that the re-issuance of NWP 48 in 2017 would have minimal individual and cumulative adverse impacts on the aquatic environment for purposes of the CWA and that the Corps’ environmental assessment does not satisfy NEPA’s requirements.”

They judge then went on to point out that “the Corps acknowledges that commercial shellfish aquaculture activities can have adverse environmental impacts…marine debris is a serious impact on the marine environment…and that commercial shellfish aquaculture activities can result in conversion of substrates (e.g. mudflats to gravel bars), impacts to submerged aquatic vegetation, alteration in aquatic communities from native to non-native shellfish species, and water quality impacts from harvest activities.”

Given those findings, the judge went on to say, “Ignoring or diluting site specific,
individual impacts by focusing solely on a cumulative, landscape-scale analysis is not
consistent with the governing regulations.”

The scientific documents that the Corps presented as justification for it’s actions came under blistering criticism from the judge. “According to the Corps’ own summary of the paper, the authors evaluated only the effects of oyster aquaculture activities on submerged aquatic vegetation. The paper itself shows that Dumbauld and McCoy (a supposed scientific study that the Corps and Taylor were using) were studying the effects of intertidal oyster aquaculture on the seagrass Zostera marina. There is no discussion of the impacts on other types of aquatic vegetation, on the benthic community, on fish, on birds, on water quality/chemistry/structures, or on substrate characteristics. There is no discussion of the subtidal zone. There is no discussion regarding the impacts of plastic use in shellfish aquaculture and only a passing reference to a possible side effect of pesticide use. The Corps itself does not remedy these deficiencies: although it identifies various resources that will be adversely impacted by issuance of the national permit (along with resources that may benefit from shellfish production), it makes virtually no effort to characterize the nature or degree of those impacts. The Decision Document’s “Impact Analysis” consists of little more than an assurance that district engineers will consider the direct and indirect effects caused by the permitted activity on a regional or case-by-case basis.”

The judge went on to say, “In this case, the Corps acknowledged that reissuance of NWP 48 would have foreseeable environmental impacts on the biotic and abiotic components of coastal waters, the intertidal and subtidal habitats of fish, eelgass, and birds, the marine substrate, the balance between native and non-native species, pollution, and water quality, chemistry, and structure, but failed to describe, much less quantify, these.  The Corps cites the two Dumbauld papers for general statements regarding the positive or negative effects of shellfish aquaculture on certain aquatic resources or characteristics (focusing on seagrass), but it makes no attempt to quantify the effects or to support its conclusion that the effects are no more than minimal.”(emphasis mine).

As reported on some months ago in this blog, a draft cumulative impact statement, which only surfaced due to a discovery in this case,  “…generated in February 2017 dedicated twenty-five pages to discussing the wide range of work and activities covered by NWP 48 and noting the species dependent variability in cultivation techniques, gear, and timing. These variations gave rise to a wide array of effects on the aquatic habitat, none of which is acknowledged or evaluated in the national Decision Document.” (emphasis is mine).

The judge goes on, in plain language, “A reasonable mind reviewing the record as a whole would not accept Dumbauld and McCoy’s limited findings regarding the
landscape-level impact of oyster cultivation on a species of seagrass in the intertidal zone as support for the conclusion that entire ecosystems are resilient to the disturbances caused by shellfish aquaculture or that the impacts of those operations were either individually or cumulatively minimal.” The judge sites decisions back in coal country where the cumulative impacts of mountain top removal are similar and long lasting. “The governing regulations expressly impose upon the Corps the obligation to consider the ongoing effects of past actions when conducting a cumulative impacts analysis.”

The “NEPA and the CWA were enacted because humans were adversely affecting the environment to a noticeable and detrimental extent…Noting that a particular environmental resource is degraded is not an excuse or justification for further degradation. The Corps must analyze the individual and cumulative impacts of the proposed activity against the environmental baseline, not as a percentage of the decades or centuries of degrading activities that came before.

As to the use of pesticides by the industry, the judge has additional harsh criticism,”The Corps makes a similarly untenable argument whenever the use of pesticides in a
shellfish operation permitted under NWP 48 is discussed. While acknowledging that these substances are used and released into the environment during permitted activities, the Corps declines to consider the environmental impacts of pesticides because they are regulated by some other entity… Even if the Corps does not have jurisdiction to permit or prohibit the use of pesticides, it is obligated to consider “other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non-Federal) or person undertakes such other actions.” The Corps’ decision to ignore the
foreseeable uses and impacts of pesticides in the activities it permitted on a nationwide basis does not comport with the mandate of NEPA or with its obligations under the CWA. Having eschewed any attempt to describe the uses of pesticides in commercial shellfish aquaculture or to analyze their likely environmental impacts, the decision to permit such activities through NWP 48 cannot stand.” (emphasis mine)

“The record is devoid of any indication that the Corps considered regional data,
catalogued the species in and characteristics of the aquatic environments in which commercial shellfish aquaculture activities occur, considered the myriad techniques, equipment, and materials used in shellfish aquaculture, attempted to quantify the impacts the permitted activity would likely have on the identified species and characteristics, or evaluated the impacts of the as-yet-unknown regional conditions…Faced with incredible diversity in both the environment and the activities permitted under NWP 48, the Corps effectively threw up its hands and turned the impact analyses over to the district engineers.”

In looking at the problem of plastic pollution in aquaculture the judge was additionally critical.”The Corps’ analysis with regards to plastic debris discharged into the marine environment is even more problematic. The Corps acknowledges the many public comments raising concerns about the introduction of plastics into the marine food web, but relies on the fact that “[d]ivision engineers can impose regional conditions to address the use of plastics” in response to these concerns. The Seattle District, for its part, declined to quantify the impact of plastics, instead noting that “it would not be a practicable solution to regionally condition NWP 48 to not allow the use of PVC and HDPE gear as there are no current practicable alternatives to use of the materials…The CWA requires the Corps to make minimal adverse effect findings before issuing a general permit. If, as appears to be the case with regards to the discharge of plastics from the permitted operations, the Corps is unable to make such a finding, a general permit cannot (be) issue(d). The Corps has essentially acknowledged that it needs to individually evaluate the impacts of a particular operation, including the species grown,
the cultivation techniques/gear used, and the specific location, before it can determine the extent of the impacts the operation will have.”

The decision is not trivial. It rips apart industry arguments made over the last decade that eelgrass recovery in aquaculture farms is a minor issue. The aquaculture industry and Taylor Shellfish in particular has put itself at the head of county agencies supposedly in the business to protect the nearshore from harm and then used these faulty scientific studies to promote their position.  The Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee, which claims on it’s web page to have the mission, “to protect and restore the marine environments of East Jefferson County by raising community awareness of issues…” has been chaired by an aquaculture industry spokesperson who routinely has used these same discredited arguments to suppress any discussion of negative impacts on the nearshore the MRC claims to protect.  The Committee has meekly gone along with the bullying tactics of the Taylor representative at public meetings, unwilling to push back on what the spokesperson has claimed to be ‘scientific  studies’.  The Committee in fact sponsored a ‘aquaculture educational day” to promote these same, now discredited scientific studies, offering no substantial criticism to the statements of the industry. The lack of any counter balance to the industry’s PR blitz angered many in the environmental community on the Olympic Peninsula toward this committee that had a long history of standing to protect the nearshore. The decision to not include substantial criticism of the industry led the long time environmental representative on the committee to resign.

The outcome of this case is unclear at the time of this writing. However, it will likely have a substantial effect on future shellfish farm permits, and may force the closure of some larger farms that were recently permitted, until such time as adequate scientific study on their effects is done. The ruling ends with the judge throwing out the Army’s ability to issue permits in Washington. However, the judge does say to Taylor and others that they can apply for individual permits. The Court has the ability to allow a “period of time in which growers can avail themselves of the process before the existing permits would be invalidated or to fashion some other equitable remedy to minimize both the risks of environmental harm  and any disruptive consequences.” So there is some wiggle room for the growers to get some activities going to mitigate the effects of this ruling.

This case also fully vindicates the environmentalists’ concerns over the ever expanding industry, it’s conversion of pristine shorelines to monoculture farming and the allies of this industry in city, county and state government. The industry is not down and out yet. It’s worth noting that Taylor has apparently spent tens of thousands of dollars lobbying back in Washington D.C. and is likely to support Republican efforts to roll back the Clean Water Act to eliminate the local nature of permitting to favor national ones. Given this ruling, that likely is a losing tactic.

This blog will continue to follow this breaking story with further updates as we receive them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blueback closure latest in Quinault climate change impacts – North Coast News

And as if to put a fine point on the previous article, commercial fishing is being closed on the Quinault River for sockeye.  If I’m not mistaken, while the Quinault is not dammed, it has been greatly affected by widespread logging of the hills all around it. A look at the satellite images of the river from Google Earth https://earth.app.goo.gl/uDneeP shows that between currently logged areas and second and third growth areas the habitat for salmon has been seriously compromised over the last 100 years. The buffers along the river, likely clear cut long ago, have been allowed to grow back and gain some modicum of protection for the river, but appear to be very small, compared the vast logging operations allowed all around it. Take a look and explore the overview of the area. Likely the increased temperatures from global warming, overharvest at sea, sea water warming and the increasing upflows of cold water known as the “Blob” have all added to the problems.  Have a different opinion on what’s causing all this? Feel free to add them to the comments below. I don’t claim to know it all, just cursory looks and 40 years seeing the endless logging of the west end proceed with virtually no stopping nor real effort to protect the watersheds which are the habitat of the salmon that spawn there.

The decision to close commercial fishing for Quinault River blueback (sockeye) salmon for conservation purposes this year is part of the ongoing effort by the Quinault Indian Nation to deal with the very tangible costs of climate change. After announcing the blueback closure on the river last week for 2019, Quinault President Fawn Sharp traveled to Washington, D.C. with a message for Congress about how the entire Quinault ecosystem from the glacier to the ocean is being harmed by climate conditions that have major impacts, economically as well as environmentally. Angelo Bruscas reports. (North Coast News)

Blueback closure latest in Quinault climate change impacts

Canadian First Nations, U.S. tribes form alliance to stop oil pipelines -Thomson Reuters

Tribes rising. It’s time to leave it in the ground and continue aggressive moves to a carbon free future. This decision by the Tribes to oppose any and all pipelines and tanker/rail projects is a huge step towards forcing this move. As painful as this is, the economic consequences are going to be bigger. As shortages of fossil fuels become greater, due to a lack of political will to fund the conversion to solar/wind/battery, the inevitable brown outs and lack of fossil fuels is likely to lead to a backlash against the environmental supporters. It’s already happening, funded by organizations backed by the oil consortiums.
First Nations communities from Canada and the northern United States signed a treaty on Thursday to jointly fight proposals to build more pipelines to carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands, saying further development would damage the environment. The treaty, signed in Montreal and Vancouver, came as the politics around pipelines have become increasingly sensitive in North America, with the U.S. Justice Department intervening last week to delay construction of a contentious pipeline in North Dakota. The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion was signed by 50 aboriginal groups in North America, who also plan to oppose tanker and rail projects in both countries, they said in a statement. Targets include projects proposed by Kinder Morgan Inc, TransCanada Corp and Enbridge Inc. (Thomson Reuters)

http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/montreal/montreal-vancouver-indigenous-oil-sands-1.3774444

Angry anglers protest closure of Skokomish River – Kitsap Sun

Fish wars continue long Skokomish river. Recent closure of fishing by the tribe based on federal lawsuit crates protest from nontribal sports fishermen. well the protesters were concerned that this may be the start of a trend by the tribes, it’s been my experience that other tribes in the area are not interested in taking this type of action. As the fisheries continue to decline from a variety of reasons, the unfortunate reality is that they may be forced to do so. And in interviews that I’ve done with oldtimers of all political stripes on the Olympic Peninsula, a common thread running through them,regardless of whether they are tribal or non-tribal people is that the fishery should be closed for an extended period,to help replenish the stocks. 

http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/angry-anglers-protest-closure-of-skokomish-river-38ce4140-5d01-643b-e053-0100007faefe–388763471.html

Robert Paine, UW ecologist who identified ‘keystone species,’ dies at 83 – NY Times

Goodbye to another Northwest legend.

Robert Paine, a groundbreaking, hands-on ecologist who found that removing what he called a “keystone species” from an environment could profoundly affect the fortunes of neighboring species, died Monday in Seattle. He was 83…. Dr. Paine demonstrated in his field work that certain species exert a disproportionate impact on their ecosystems and that their elimination — as a result of climate change, pollution or some other natural or man-made factors — can produce unexpected and far-reaching consequences for the local environment. A teacher and researcher at the University of Washington for 36 years, Dr. Paine propounded his keystone theory in 1966 after studying ochre starfish, or sea stars, as they preyed on the mussel population along the rocky shore of Makah Bay, on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. After he pried the starfish from rocks with a crowbar and hurled them into the sea, the mussels proliferated along the shore, displacing algae and limpets. He found a similar chain reaction — or “trophic cascade,” as he called it — when sea otters vanished or were removed from an environment because of fur trading, pollution or marine predators. With the otters gone, sea urchins, which the otters had preyed upon, were free to gobble up a larger share of kelp, food that would otherwise have sustained fish and crabs. Sam Roberts reports. (NY Times)

http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/robert-paine-uw-ecologist-who-identified-keystone-species-dies-at-83/

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