Return of the Fish Farming Zombies

Though a stake was driven through the heart of the Cooke Aquaculture zombie a few years ago (with the help of the same tribe that now is in a joint venture with them!) they have returned and managed to get the State Supreme Court to side with them, with the help of the State Department of Fish and Wildlife (who neglected to properly monitor their pens that collapsed) allowing them to open for business again in the Port Angeles harbor and over near Cyprus Island. (and I would assume elsewhere).

From the Skagit Valley Herald:
The state Supreme Court published a unanimous decision by its nine judges Thursday to uphold the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s approval of steelhead farming in Puget Sound. The environment groups Wild Fish Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, and Friends of the Earth have been fighting the state’s decision to allow steelhead farming since early 2020. At issue is the plan of international seafood company Cooke Aquaculture to switch from raising nonnative Atlantic salmon at net pens in the region to raising native steelhead trout at the facilities. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

https://www.goskagit.com/news/environment/state-supreme-court-oks-steelhead-farming/article_2d16762e-56b6-5906-8b01-63ca1b534e67.html

But… let’s look at the details, that the wider press did not address. Here is the summary from the State Supreme Court website.

The Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) challenged the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) approval of a permit that allowed Cooke Aquaculture Pacific LLC to change fish species to commercially farm steelhead trout in Puget Sound. The WFC alleged: (1) WDFW’s conclusion that an environmental impact statement (EIS) was not required was clearly erroneous; and (2) WDFW violated the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) by failing to consider and disclose appropriate alternatives to the proposal under RCW 43.21C.030(2)(e). The WFC asked the Washington Supreme Court to reverse the permit approval and order WDFW to complete an EIS. The superior court found WDFW’s SEPA analysis was not clearly erroneous and the steelhead permit application did not trigger RCW 43.21C.030(2)(e). Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed.

What the courts have confirmed were:

  • The EIS not being required was a correct decision.
    • This just means that the EIS was not required for reestablishing a fish farm. I personally disagree with this part of the ruling, but it does not seem to say that if you start a new fish farm, that you do not have to do an EIS.
  • That WDFW did not violate the SEPA.
    • That part was open to interpretation, clearly.

There are still places to fight Cooke, at the local and county levels. But given that farming steelhead is a net new industry, I can see some possible openings moving forward. Any notion that the lack of proper monitoring of the failed pens by WDFW would lead to greater oversite by them seems to have gone out the window with this decision. They weren’t even willing to demand an EIS… It’s ironic, that given the battle that Tribes have made for eating wild salmon, that Jamestown S’Klallam and others are willing to back fish farming locally. What do you make of that?

Bottom line, we cannot trust the Dept of Fish and Wildlife, nor some Tribes, to protect us from commercialization of the Sound for profit. if you don’t like the notion of eating farmed fish, with their feedlot like use of mass feeding and the impact to the bottom by having tens of thousands of fish congregated together, then boycott eating them and demand that your local fish markets do too. The impact to the wider community of wildlife in the Salish Sea will need to be seen as they reopen these destructive fish pens.

By the way, if you want to know how bad it can get here, just look at Chile. They are in the process of reviewing and possibly moving hundreds of salmon farms that have been allowed to proliferate off their coasts. The 270 applications are in addition to the hundreds that already exist. This was helped by the election of a young socialist candidate that has said he is going to help the indigenous people regain their ocean.

According to the presentation, made in the senate by Subpesca Head of the Aquaculture Division Eugenio Zamorano, Subpesca estimates that some 500 salmon concessions should be relocated, out of a total of 1,320 that the industry operates, with plans to merge some farming centers. (emphasis is mine)

https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/aquaculture/chile-s-subpesca-plans-to-relocate-500-salmon-concessions-as-questions-continue-over-sector-sustainability

Are we going to end up with hundreds of farms all over the Sound? It’s up to you.

WA legislators pondering kelp protection

Kelp is a critical part of the marine habitat. Kelp has been in decline across the Salish Sea, with few exceptions. Now, after a number of years monitoring the kelp beds (some done by the local volunteers of the Marine Resources Committees) a new bill has been put forward to the legislature this year to protect it. Worth weighing in with your support at the State web site. https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5619&Year=2021&Initiative=false

Marine Resources Volunteer surveying kelp bed. Photo by Al Bergstein

It’s Senate Bill 5619 (sponsored by Senators Lovelett, Conway, Das, Hasegawa, Nobles, Pedersen, Randall, Rolfes, Saldaña, Stanford, Van De Wege, and C. Wilson; by request of Department of Natural Resources.

House bill is 1661 sponsored by Representatives Shewmake, Ryu, Berry, Fitzgibbon, Ramel, Springer, Duerr, Walen, Callan, Goodman, Paul, Peterson, Ramos, Rule, Simmons, Slatter, Tharinger, Kloba, Pollet, and Harris-Talley; by request of Department of Natural Resources

Here’s an edited version of the bill.

AN ACT Relating to conserving and restoring kelp forests and eelgrass meadows in Washington state; adding a new section to chapter 79.135 RCW; and creating a new section.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON:NEW SECTION.  Sec. 1. (1) The legislature finds that coastal ecosystems and marine vegetation provide an array of valuable ecosystem goods and services to deep water and nearshore environments in Puget Sound and along the coastline. In particular, kelp forests and eelgrass meadows act as three dimensional foundations for diverse and productive nearshore ecosystems, supporting food webs and providing important habitat for a wide array of marine life, including orcas and threatened and endangered salmon and salmonid species. These marine forests and meadows play an important role in climate mitigation and adaptation by sequestering carbon and relieving ocean acidification. Marine vegetation can sequester up to 20 times more carbon than terrestrial forests, and therefore represent a critical tool in the fight against climate change.(2) Washington state is home to 22 species of kelp and is a global hotspot for kelp diversity. However, these kelp forests are under threat and have declined in recent decades.

A 2018 study conducted by the Samish Indian Nation on the bull kelp beds in the San Juan Islands found a 305-acre loss of kelp beds from 2006 to 2016, a 36 percent decline in one decade. A statewide study published in 2021 by the department of natural resources found that compared to the earliest baseline in 1878, the amount of bull kelp in 2017 had decreased by 63 percent in south Puget Sound, with individual areas showing up to 96 percent loss.(3) The legislature also finds that kelp and eelgrass have important cultural value to northwest tribal nations and have provided diverse marine resources that have sustained and inspired indigenous traditions over generations. In particular, bull kelp has played a prominent role in traditional knowledge and technology and is used in fishing, hunting, and food preparation and storage.

Decline in kelp forests threatens these uses, and the cultural livelihoods of coast Salish peoples.(4) Washington state’s eelgrass meadows also provide vital habitat for many organisms, including nursery habitat for juvenile salmon and feeder fish. Eelgrass also helps prevent erosion and maintain shoreline stability by anchoring seafloor sediment with its spreading roots and rhizomes. Eelgrass is used as an indicator of estuary health, because of its fast response to changes in water quality.

Examples of rapid eelgrass loss include Westcott Bay in San Juan county, where in 2000 there were 37 acres of eelgrass meadows and 20 years later less than one acre remains. Changes in the abundance or distribution of this resource are likely to reflect changes in environmental conditions and therefore are key species to monitor and protect to ensure marine ecosystem health.

Kelp forests and eelgrass meadows also provide and enhance diverse recreational opportunities, including productive fishing and picturesque kayaking and diving. These activities are important for local economies and for promoting strong senses of place and overall human well-being in communities. There is a need for greater education and outreach to communities to promote sustainable recreational practices in and near kelp forests and eelgrass meadows.

Existing regional plans for conservation of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows, including the Puget Sound kelp conservation and recovery plan (2020) and the Puget Sound eelgrass recovery strategy (2015), identify the need to prioritize areas for conservation and restoration based on historical and current distributions.

The legislature further finds that our terrestrial and marine ecosystems are interlinked and the state must be proactive in conserving our resources from trees to seas by protecting and restoring our marine forests and meadows in concert with conservation and reforestation of terrestrial forests. Therefore, it is the intent of the legislature to conserve and restore 10,000 acres of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows by

2040.NEW SECTION.  

Sec. 2. A new section is added to chapter 79.135 RCW to read as follows:

(1) The department shall, consistent with this section, and subject to available funding, work with partners to establish a kelp forest and eelgrass meadow health and conservation plan that endeavors to, by the year 2040, conserve and restore at least 10,000 acres of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows. The plan should proactively and systematically address:(a) The potential loss of kelp forest and eelgrass meadow habitat throughout Puget Sound and along the Washington state coastline; and(b) Potential current and future stressors related to the decline of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows.

(2) The department shall develop the plan, in collaboration with partners, to assess and prioritize areas for coordinated conservation and restoration actions. The plan must consist of the following elements: Assessment and prioritization; identifying coordinated actions and success measures; monitoring; and reporting.(a) The department shall, together with partners, develop a framework to identify and prioritize kelp forest areas in greatest need of conservation or restoration. The framework must incorporate:(i) Conservation of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows. Utilize and build on existing research to map and prioritize areas of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows throughout Puget Sound and along the coast that are at highest risk of permanent loss, or contribute significant environmental, economic, and cultural benefits to tribal nations and local communities, including salmon recovery and water quality, and where opportunities for partnership and collaboration can accelerate progress towards the goal, and develop criteria by which an acre of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows can be considered to be conserved or restored;(ii) Map and prioritize kelp forest and eelgrass meadow areas throughout Puget Sound and along the coast where they were historically present, identifying priority locations for restoration, and where opportunities for partnership and collaboration exist that will accelerate progress towards the goal. This should include identification of sites where restoration may be possible and would most benefit nearshore ecosystem function, including where restoration could also support healthy kelp forests and eelgrass meadows, salmon recovery, water quality, and other ecosystem benefits;(iii) Identify potential stressors impacting the health and vitality of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows in prioritized areas in order to specifically address them in conservation and restoration efforts.(b) The department shall collaborate with impacted tribal nations, and other local and regional partners, to address conservation and restoration needs in the priority areas and the appropriate tools and partnerships to address them. In developing coordinated actions and success measures, the department shall:(i) Conduct an assessment and inventory of existing tools relevant to conserving and restoring kelp forests and eelgrass meadows and reducing stressors related to their decline;(ii) Identify new or amended tools that would support the goals of the plan created under this section; and(iii) Identify success measures to track progress toward the conservation and restoration goal.

(3)(a) By December 1, 2022, the department must submit a report in compliance with RCW 43.01.036 to the office of financial management and the appropriate committees of the legislature, that includes a map and justification of identified priority areas, determines an approach to monitoring the kelp forest and eelgrass meadow areas that are meeting the criteria for conservation or restoration established in the plan, and describe activities to be undertaken consistent with the plan. The kelp forest and eelgrass meadow health and conservation plan must be finalized and submitted to the office of financial management and the appropriate committees of the legislature by December 1, 2023.(b) Subsequently, each biennium, the department shall continue to monitor the distributions and trends of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows to inform adaptive management of the plan and coordinated partner actions. The department shall submit a report to the legislature that describes the kelp forest and eelgrass meadow conservation priority areas, and monitoring approaches and findings, including success measures established in the plan. Beginning December 1, 2024, and by December 1st of each even-numbered year thereafter, the department shall provide the appropriate committees of the legislature and the office of financial management with:(i) An updated map of distributions and trends, and summary of success measures and findings, including relevant information from the prioritization process;(ii) An updated list summarizing potential stressors, prioritized areas, and corresponding coordinated actions and success measures. The summary must include any barriers to plan implementation and legislative or administrative recommendations to address those barriers;(iii) An update on the number of acres of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows conserved by region, including restoration or loss in priority areas; and(iv) An update on consultation with impacted tribal nations and local communities by region.

(4) In developing the plan, the department shall:(a) Consult impacted communities using the community engagement plan developed under RCW 70A.02.050; and(b) Invite input from federally recognized tribal nations on kelp forests and eelgrass meadows with important cultural and ecological values that are threatened by urbanization or other disturbances.

Ediz Hook enhanced for salmon, public use – NWTTM

Here’s an update on the work at Ediz Hook in Port Angeles by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. They have been removing debris from the shore and planting eel grass to renew the nearshore habitat for fish and other species.

Below the surface, the tribe and partners Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Washington Sea Grant have been restoring eelgrass beds on the sand spit’s south shore for the past four years, with greater success than expected

Northwest Treaty Tribes January 2022

Read the whole story here. https://nwtreatytribes.org/publications/magazine/

Donate to orgs that protect our seas! Real results here and around the globe

My end of the year appeal is to support the work of Sea Shepard and the Wild Fish Conservancy. Both these organizations are focused on taking radically important steps to stop the destruction of our seas and take the battles into courts and governments around the world. Here is a quick overview of the incredibly important work of Sea Shepard in stopping the rape of the ocean by putting themselves physically at risk. They have been helping Alexandra Morton in our area of the world as well. Ok. You know the drill. Click and support. See you in 2022.

And here is a short video on the latest project from Wild Fish Conservancy. They have been at the forefront of legal challenges to a variety of threats to the shores and waters of the Sound and elsewhere. They have a proven track record of success at stopping monied interests from pillaging the Salish Sea.

https://wildfishconservancy.org/

The Northwest Spotted-Owl Wars: No Happily Ever After – CrossCut

NW Environmental writer Dan Chasen puts together a good look at the Spotted Owl controversy and what is in store for the endangered bird.

So, where does this leave us? The most prominent environmental battle of the late 20th century; the most ambitious ecosystem management plan ever attempted; the most acres of critical habitat for a listed species; the only environmental conflict that has been the subject of a conference led by the President and attended by a good deal of the Cabinet; a species in a steep, scientifically-acknowledged and widely-reported decline — even with all those factors the FWS can’t find time to boost its status from “threatened” to “endangered?” This is bizarre. But hardly surprising.

https://www.postalley.org/2021/12/17/the-northwest-spotted-owl-wars-no-happily-ever-after/

Navy releases jet noise monitoring study

As you read this article, it’s worth noting that the Skagit Valley Herald did not print any input from the people who are suing the Navy. Only what the Navy said. I looked up the Citizens for Ebey’s Reserve web site and found the information that I posted below.

First a bit of the Skagit Valley Heralds story. Please read the whole story if you need get more info.

On the heels of a U.S. District Court critique of the Navy’s environmental review for increasing its EA-18G jet fleet and related flight operations at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, the Navy has released a noise monitoring report that was requested by Congress…The Navy’s noise monitoring report that is dated Nov. 30 concludes that the modeling it used to predict the impact of aircraft noise, such as for the EIS for NAS Whidbey Island, is accurate. In fact, according to the report, monitoring data shows jet operations often create less of an impact than modeling suggested. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

s://bityl.co/AFer

Now for the feedback from the opposition:

The Navy describes noise exposure using the Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL). The DNL metric expands daily noise events into a 24-hour average for an entire year. DNLs do not tell us what the loudest event is in a 24 hour period, nor how many noise events there may be in a 24 hour period. Our ears, unfortunately, do not average noise events or duration. So yes; averaging the noise level of a deafening explosion over 24 hours, and then again for an entire year, would seem to indicate that the explosion was really quiet… statistically.

https://citizensofebeysreserve.com/citizens-of-ebeys-reserve-about-us/

New Support for Game Wardens on Washington’s Coastal Rivers

Good news: The Wild Steelhead Coalition just helped out WDFW do a better job of going after poachers.


FISHERY CONSERVATION GROUPS JOIN FORCES TO PROVIDE CRUCIAL TOOLS TO WDFW LAW ENFORCEMENT

In 2019, the Wild Steelhead Coalition donated a collection of trail cameras, spotting scopes, and a new raft and oars to the Washington Department of Fish and Game (WDFW) Law Enforcement Detachment responsible for safeguarding the rivers, coastal waters, and forests of the Olympic Peninsula and Hood Canal. These game wardens are responsible for vast amounts of territory and the equipment was immediately, and effectively, put to use by the team.

This summer the new rafts were used to great effect, providing the means to effectively patrol smaller rivers. On a day when a number of citations for violations were written, Officer Patrick Murray holds up a wild chinook an angler had kept after cutting off the adipose fin. Photo courtesy WDFW Police

Over the following two years, the cameras and raft allowed law enforcement officers to greatly expand their reach and led to increased enforcement against illegal fishing, hunting, logging, and other wildlife violations and numerous poaching arrests. Encouraged by this success, the Wild Steelhead Coalition reached out to our colleagues at the Wild Salmon Center and Wild Steelheaders United of Trout Unlimited and our friends at Simms, Outcast Boats, and Sawyer Paddles & Oars to expand the impact of the original donation with a larger, additional gift in 2021.

After working with WDFW Law Enforcement staff to ensure we provided helpful tools to enforce regulations and find poachers, our group of conservation organizations and business partners have donated a new collection of equipment that includes a pair of small one-person rafts, multiple sets of waders and boots for game wardens, new oars for an existing drift boat, almost forty trail and security cameras, and a drone. Combined, the equipment has a retail value over $20,000 and gives WDFW Law Enforcement – especially with the drone – the ability to survey a much wider geographical area, and many more miles of river, than might otherwise be possible.

This larger inventory of gear also means the cameras can be spread further afield. The new cameras will be utilized on the Olympic Peninsula, Hood Canal, and throughout the Chehalis River Basin. A few will also go to North Puget Sound where they may be deployed on the Skagit and Sauk Rivers, and other watersheds depending on the need, as well.

As fishery groups, we are particularly interested in this new equipment’s ability to provide important, necessary protections for Washington’s struggling populations of wild steelhead and salmon, but in the off-season it will all also assist WDFW Law Enforcement in their work to protect big and small game animals and non-game wildlife, prevent illegal timber harvest, and discover and document unpermitted hydraulic projects that damage watershed and shoreline habitat.

Read the rest of the story and see additional photos at:

Merry Christmas to those that celebrate it!

Hope you have a great day and get out in the outdoors for some of it!

Tribe: Court of Appeals Ruling Won’t Stop Fish Farm Attempt – PDN


The Tribe has been expanding shellfish and fin fish aquaculture in the last few years. This latest push, is an interesting issue. While the Tribe supported shutting non-native salmon fish farming, they never said they supported shutting down native salmon fish farming. This farm is for black cod, also known as Sablefish or Butterfish. It is native to the Pacific Northwest, but farming it by feeding it pellets, as they do with salmon, makes it not that appealing. Wild caught black cod is delicious, widely served in the Pacific NW. But I certainly will be asking if my black cod is wild caught or not. Not interested in eating fish raised in the backwater of Port Angeles harbor, near the pulp and paper mill.

It will be interesting to see how Ron Allen gets around the ruling. They likely would have to end the relationship with Cooke, which is a financial boon to the Tribe. We’ll continue to follow this as it unfolds.


Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Chairman Ron Allen vowed Tuesday to move forward with plans to establish a fish farm in Port Angeles Harbor despite a recent state Court of Appeals decision upholding the termination of its business partner’s lease. The three-judge panel Dec. 14 affirmed a Thurston County Superior Court decision that struck a blow to the joint plans of the tribe and Canadian aquaculture company Cooke Pacific LLC. Paul Gottlieb reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

A Second Court Rejects Cooke Aquaculture’s Challenge Over Termination of Port Angeles Net Pen Lease

Port Angeles Netpen managed by Cook Aquaculture – Photo provided by Wild Fish Conservancy

Cook loses another one. Very good news.

Media Contacts: Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director, kurt@wildfishconservancy.org

DECEMBER 17, 2021—In another legal defeat for Cooke Aquaculture, a second Washington state court has rejected efforts by the seafood giant to sue Washington state over the termination of the company’s lease for their Port Angeles netpen operation. On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming a lower court ruling upholding the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) decision to terminate the lease.

The Court’s decision represents another major step forward in the public’s hard-fought efforts to remove this dirty industry from Puget Sound waters,” says Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director. “I applaud the Courts for putting our natural resources and the interest of the public ahead of this powerful corporate interest.”

The court said:

We hold that the superior court properly applied the arbitrary and capricious standard of
review because DNR’s decision to terminate the lease was administrative, and that DNR’s decision to terminate the lease was not arbitrary and capricious. Accordingly, we affirm the superior court’s final order upholding DNR’s lease termination decision.

This week’s decision concludes a nearly four-year appeal process that began in early 2018 when Cooke filed suit against DNR, arguing the agency had wrongfully terminated the lease ahead of the 2025 expiration date. In 2020, a Thurston County Superior Court Judge rejected Cooke’s challenge and the company appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals which issued the opinion this week.

DNR terminated the lease in December 2017 after an investigation revealed various violations at the Port Angeles facility,including operating outside of its boundaries, failure to pay rent timely, and not operating the facility in a safe condition.Shortly following the termination, the net pens were completely removed from Port Angeles Harbor.This week the Court overwhelming rejected Cooke’s opinion that the decision to terminate the lease was arbitrary and capricious, finding DNR’s decision “was based on facts supported by substantial evidence, pursuant to plain terms of the contract, was well reasoned and made with due regard to the facts and circumstances.”Cooke is also suing DNR in a separate ongoing lawsuit over the early termination of the company’s Cypress Island lease.The lease was terminated following the 2017 catastrophic collapse of a Cooke net pen that released over 260,000 nonnative Atlantic salmon infected with an exotic virus into Puget Sound. A comprehensive investigation by Washington agencies found Cooke at fault for the collapse and Cooke was also required to pay $2.75 million in Clean Water Act violations in a lawsuit brought by Wild Fish Conservancy. The collapse also resulted in Washington passing a landmark and widely celebrated law banning all nonnative Atlantic salmon finfish aquaculture, Cooke’s only enterprise at the time.“I hope the public will join me in thanking Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and her department for their unwavering commitment to protecting Puget Sound in the face of Cooke’s meritless, costly, and time-consuming lawsuits,” says Beardslee. “Under Commissioner Franz’s leadership, DNR has a proven record as the only regulatory agency in Washington willing to take bold action to hold this dangerous industry accountable.”In a controversial decision, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife permitted Cooke in 2020 to begin rearing steelhead in their Puget Sound net pens where the company holds valid leases. With the Cypress Island and Port Angeles leases terminated by DNR, Cooke only holds valid leases for two net pen sites in Puget Sound. Both leases will expire next year and Cooke will need to apply and secure new leases from DNR to continue operating in Washington. In a letter to Cooke earlier this year, DNR warned the company that the agency has not yet decided if they will issue Cooke new leases.“This week’s Court decision could not have come at a more important time. With Cooke’s only existing leases set to expire next year, DNR is in a critical decision-making period that will determine the future of this industry in Puget Sound,” says Beardslee. “

The Court’s decision removes any opportunity for Cooke to try and recover millions in lost revenue from DNR, which would have provided Cooke important leverage to potentially negotiate their future and new leases in our public waters.”

In July 2020, Wild Fish Conservancy submitted official applications to DNR requesting to lease all of the sites used by Cooke for commercial net pen aquaculture. This alternative proposal, the Taking Back Our Sound Restoration Project,seeks to hold these waters in public trust for the sole purposes of restoring these polluted sites to their natural state and restoring the public’s access to over 130 acres of Puget Sound that have been restricted for private profit for over three decades. This proposal is supported by a broad-based coalition of over 100 businesses and organizations and over 6,000 individuals who have signed onto an ongoing petition to Commissioner Franz calling on DNR to not extend, renew, or reissue leases for commercial net pen aquaculture in Puget Sound and to instead lease these waters for this unprecedented restoration project.“The expiration of these leases comes only once in a decade and offers the public a rare opportunity to work together to take back our sound from the net pen industry, “says Beardslee. “Cooke’s first lease will expire in March 2022, there foreit’s critical at this time that we continue to work together to call on DNR to make the right decision for wild fish and the health of Puget Sound.

In western Washington’s Elwha River, the removal of two dams led to a resurgence of fish runs; could a similar scenario play out on the Snake River? – Lewiston Tribune

Very interesting short story by a reporter for the Lewiston Tribune who was sent to get an overview of the success of the Elwha Dam removal and how it might be applied to the Snake River dam removals. Lots of good context to the story, including comparing the John Day and the Snake, along with interview excerpts from tribal members of the Lower Elwha on restoration results. Worth a quick, read.

“What has been really exciting has not only been the increase in abundance we have seen in a lot of species, but we are starting to see new life histories arise that we didn’t see before the dams were out,” he said. “For example, summer steelhead have come back really strong, the bull trout have resumed migration back to the ocean and the king salmon are starting to produce remarkable numbers of naturally produced offspring.”

https://www.kpvi.com/news/national_news/in-western-washington-s-elwha-river-the-removal-of-two-dams-led-to-a-resurgence/article_37f34ba0-3969-550a-9e6e-8a8b4c47974c.html
Elwha Dam – Photo by National Park Service

Jay Inslee & WA lawmakers propose electric vehicle rebates and other climate initiatives ahead of legislative session – Seattle Times

Good news on the state wide climate legislation front. Beyond helping finance electric bikes and cars for couple under $500k in income and $250k for singles, the legislation would provide economic pathways towards installing solar panels for a variety of state, local, tribal and NGOs.

Governor Inslee at COP26 (photo by Governor’s Press Office)

There has been some confusion about whether or not the state has *forced* the ending of natural gas heat in new construction. This legislation would give incentives for ending natural gas use, and proposes to end it’s use by 2034. Previous legislation to end natural gas use by 2030 died in committee last session. Nothing is certain at this point, as this is just a proposal and if readers are being told differently, I would love to see the source of that information. I have been unable to find anything saying differently, even on right wing news outlets.

“The amount of carbon emissions that we will have to reduce to meet that legally binding commitment is equivalent to the emissions of taking 1.3 million vehicles off the road,” said the governor. “We have some real work to do starting today.”

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/jay-inslee-washington-lawmakers-propose-electric-vehicle-rebates-and-other-climate-initiatives-ahead-of-legislative-session/

Navy loses court battle with Whidbey Island environmental organizations and Washington State.

In a dramatic conclusion to a long running court battle over the expansion of the Whidbey Island Naval Base, the District Court of Washington Judge Richard Creatura has forced the Navy to sit down with State’s Attorney General office and the environmental groups led by Citizen’s of the Ebey’s Reserve (COER) and Paula Spina, to forge an agreement to satisfy some of the issues raised by the environmental groups. The judge was scathing in his findings against the Navy’s work in their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). His language could not be more clear,”the Navy appears to have used certain statistics “‘much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.’ “

Whidbey Island Naval Base

While the groups did not win all their demands, they won what likely will be the most critical issues. Here is a condensed version of the judge’s findings. I cannot improve on his language.

Plaintiffs challenge the Navy’s 2018 final environmental impact statement (“FEIS”) and 2019 record of decision authorizing t he expansion of EA-18G “Growler” aircraft operations at the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (“NASWI”) under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), the National Historic Preservation Act (“NHPA”), These statutes mandate a procedure that an agency must follow before taking an action as significant as the Growler expansion at NASWI.

Under NEPA and the APA, the Navy’s decision may be overturned if the Navy acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” and failed to take a “hard look” at the consequences of the proposed action.

Here, despite a gargantuan administrative record, covering nearly 200,000 pages of studies, reports, comments, and the like, the Navy selected methods of evaluating the data that supported its goal of increasing Growler operations. The Navy did this at the expense of the public and the environment, turning a blind eye to data that would not support this intended result. Or, to borrow the words of noted sports analyst Vin Scully, the Navy appears to have used certain statistics “much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.”


When reporting on the environmental impact of Growler fuel emissions, the Navy underreported the true amount of Growler fuel emissions and failed to disclose that it was not including any emissions for flights above 3,000 feet. Even after receiving a comment on the issue, the Navy failed to disclose its underreporting and dismissed the issue with broad generalities.


With respect to the impact of this increased operation on childhood learning, the Navy acknowledged numerous studies that concluded that aircraft noise would measurably impact learning but then arbitrarily concluded that because it could not quantify exactly how the increased operations would interfere with childhood learning, no further analysis was necessary.

As to the impact of increased jet noise on various bird species, the Navy repeatedly stated that increased noise would have species-specific impacts on the many bird species in the affected area but then failed to conduct a species-specific analysis to determine if some species would be more affected than others. Instead, the Navy simply concluded that certain species were not adversely affected and then extrapolated that all the other species would not be affected, either.


Regarding evaluating reasonable alternatives to the Growler expansion at NASWI, which the Navy was required to do, the Navy rejected moving the Growler operations to El Centro, California out of hand, summarily concluding that such a move would cost too much and that moving the operation to that location would have its own environmental challenges. The Navy’s cursory rationale was arbitrary and capricious and does not provide a valid basis to reject the El Centro alternative.


For these reasons, the Court recommends that the District Court find the FEIS violated the NEPA and grant all summary judgment motions in part and deny them in part. Also, the Court grants plaintiffs leave to submit extra record evidence to address certain issues. Assuming the District Court follows this recommendation, it should order supplemental briefing regarding the appropriate remedy for the NEPA violations described herein.

This blog has argued for years that the only way to stop environmental degradation is with lawsuits. Once again, as we have seen against the aquaculture industry and the Army Corps of Engineers, the legal system continues to be the last bastion of hope against the flood of money, hubris, greed and incompetence that continue to attempt (and sometimes succeed) and permeate many of our public funded agencies. Our politicians so rarely step up and stand up to these agencies, leaving it up to us to fund and fight them. To those supporters of the Navy base, including both Democrats and Republicans, it’s clear that the Navy did not do it’s job, nor did it consider moving the base, which the judge said should have been considered. The environmental argument is not anti-navy, it’s pro environment.

Thanks to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for taking a very hard stand against a very large foe. And thanks to COER for their never ending optimism in this battle. They have not won the war, but a significant battle for protection of our environment.

The actual judge’s findings are here:

https://citizensofebeysreserve.us5.list-manage.com/track/click?u=bb176b9f46ee71c04272e9f33&id=44766c27d8&e=cc55e62a2d

PT City Council Approves Water Contract Update

An update based on the Sierra Club’s Peter Guerrero’s take on this. And also my thoughts at the end.


On Monday, the City Council voted unanimously to approve the new water agreement that includes raises in the cost of water to city residents, along with a new contract with the PT Paper Mill and improvements to the pipeline infrastructure. The agreement incorporates the Sierra Club’s recommendations for charging the mill for water used ($4.5 million/year) and for increasing these charges, over time, to encourage conservation. Unfortunately, the agreement establishes the current mill water usage of 11MGD/day as the baseline without seeking any reductions, resulting in the mill continuing to account for over 91% of all water consumed from the Quilcene watershed.

Both the mill and the city got what they wanted: The mill was assured of being able to continue using up to 11MGD while the city was able to put together a “partnership” that avoided having to go to the bond market and that was of a sufficient duration (20 years), avoiding draconian residential rate increases. It was more important for the city to get the mill to offset the steep capital costs of the Olympic Ground Water System (OGWS) than to achieve the kind of conservation gains the Sierra Club and other environmental activists would have liked to see.


Unfortunately, it is likely to be an unstable agreement given the past economic history of the mill and its aging infrastructure. Both suggest the mill may not be around for the full 20-year term of the agreement, leaving the city having to pay tens of millions for infrastructure improvements anyway. Knowing this, the city also voted last night to unanimously to create an industrial water rate, allowing it to sell water to another entity (industrial, PUD, etc.) if needed.


The next debate will be over increases to residential rates required by the agreement. Residential ratepayers have already expressed concern that they are “paying” for the mill’s excessive water use. Unfortunately the city doesn’t see a viable alternative at this time.


Environmentalists will have a second opportunity come 2025-2029 when the USFS will be reconsidering the city’s special use permit allowing it to withdraw water from the Quilcene Watershed.


I would also like to add that one thing I learned by listening to the discussion and reading the agreement is that we are extremely vulnerable to the impending climate changes that are unfolding around us. One issue that was mentioned was that the city looked into substituting well water for the water coming from the mountains and found that there is not nearly enough to supply our needs, let alone the mill. My personal take on the agreement is that it could have been set to a 10 year renewal, given the changing climate. It was also odd that there is no mention of the impact of our taking of significant water from the rivers, given the efforts to restore salmon in those streams. It certainly was never considered in the original setup of the water system.

It also brings up the issue of growth of the city. As new housing developments continue at the roundabout on Discovery Road and also on Cook Avenue there will be a need for more water for the city. The mill is guaranteed 11 MGD. But if the city increases water use, there is more revenue for the OGWS. This is a perverse reversal of conservation, the built reward to grow the city’s water use by greater development in order to lower water costs for all. But the caveat is that if there’s drought conditions and the water is not at the level needed, and does not replenish the holding lakes, we could be in for greater conservation and higher rates.

The water is stored in two holding lakes and we usually end up shifting to drawing from them exclusively by mid summer. As the planet warms and the snow packs become lessened, we will be drawing on those lakes sooner and sooner in the year. That day is coming in the next two to five years, once those large scale developments are built out. That was not discussed by the City Council. Not even a question on it, unless I missed it.

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Pat Neal’s Alternative Universe of Salmon Restoration

An Alternative Universe (NASA)

The following letter (edited to 250 words) was sent to the PDN this morning.

It was dismaying to see the PDN give column space today to the opinions of Pat Neal and his alternative universe of salmon restoration. If I read it right, he offers nothing but criticism of what he calls “The Salmon Restoration Industry” and no actual concrete proposals other than “build and fund more hatcheries” as if this will somehow fix the slow extinction of salmon in our region. It’s so easy to ignore the decades of science, funding and citizen involvement that has brought us to this point of restoration, as well as ignoring the habitat destruction that all of us contributed to over the last 100 years. I guess it’s easy to stand on the river and pretend hatcheries will fix everything.

Virtually all scientists agree on an “All H” method of salmon restoration. This means addressing Habitat, Hydro (dams, rivers, lakes),Hatcheries and Harvest. Increase and restore habitat. Monitor and manage river flows, well densities, fix hydropower issues, or perhaps tear down dams. Increase hatchery size and type. And manage harvest to save runs. The current “salmon restoration industry” as Neal so derisively puts it, has been established *because* of the need to address all four of these issues. If it’s failing, maybe it’s from something other than ongoing support. Like needing even more funding which is substantial but nowhere near enough. Perhaps more enforcement of the regulations on the books. Well, the list of what could be done goes on and on. Easy to pick your favorite solution and say “if only”.

Hatcheries have been given far more importance in budgets over the last 10 years, including large increases proposed by the Governor in his 2019 and 2021 budgets at the behest of sports fishermen and tribes (2020/21 had cuts to everything due to the Pandemic). This despite mounting scientific evidence that hatcheries produce fish that compete for food with wild stock and reduce genetic diversity. Salmon for fishermen and not for whales or the ecosystem at large. Neal uses hatchery numbers from 1961 to supposedly show that these hatchery fish were the reasons we had such a huge amount of salmon in our waters. Given the survival rate of hatchery fish it seems absurd to draw a conclusion like that. It ignores that we had dramatically fewer people, a climate under some semblance of stability, and had yet to finish destroying virtually all old growth forests between here and Juneau. But the signs of impending doom were clear to those that wanted to look.

Neal’s use of the Dungeness River as an example is perfect. It is a perfect example of not understanding history. For my 2010 movie “Voices of the Strait” I interviewed fishermen who were on the Dungeness in the 40s, 50s and 60s and their stories all were the same: they understood but had no way to stop the unrestrained destruction of habitat that they witnessed, including the cutting of irrigation channels into the Dungeness during peak salmon return seasons, leaving millions of fish to die without spawning. They had no environmental vocabulary to describe it,as we do now. They just all said, “what a waste”.The diking of the Dungeness only helped to kill the river by accelerating the river flow and wiping out locations where the fish spawned. It was done for the benefit of farmers and homeowners, not salmon. The late Port Angeles angler Dick Goin actually documented the losses in his unpublished “Roll Call of the Lost” counts of the loss of fish on all our rivers. I have a copy if anyone is interested. He saw it in real time. The hatcheries Neal describes were created to *fix* that problem, and yet the science shows it’s not nearly enough and they are failing to produce significant results. For instance, we now know by scat analysis what Orcas actually eat and it’s not hatchery salmon but fish from the Fraser and Columbia.

Additionally, charter fishermen who I interviewed described to me in vivid detail that there were no limits on sports fishing up until the 1960s, despite their pleas to Fish & Wildlife to not waste the fish. The sports fishermen from Seattle would come out, catch 30 to 40 fish in a day and leave with a few in their coolers. The charter fishermen couldn’t hire enough kids to clean the fish so they would just throw them back in the Strait when the guys from the east side of the Sound left. They knew this was wrong but had no power to stop it and no storage for the fish. Limits on salmon were finally put in, too little too late. Now we are at place where shutting down the season appears as the only way to protect the runs from complete destruction.

Habitat restoration has been funded due to the efforts of the Tribes, the Counties, the Cities, the State, the Feds, sports and commercial fishermen and hundreds of other people who have *volunteered* their time to work on this. They sit in interminably long, boring meetings trying to come to consensus. They debate long lists of priorities. There is not the money for all of the priorities. The results of their work may take decades to show up in any significant numbers. It is like a giant puzzle with the pieces fitting together and finally, near the end, painting a bigger picture.

Pat ignores the history of international fishing fleets with gear so good they could laugh about who would catch the last fish, as one old timer who fished with them told me. Pat ignores our own logging for raw logs right here on the Peninsula to ship to Japan in the 70s & 80s, wiping out entire ecosystems of salmon runs for the quick profit of the few. He ignores that we clearcut over 90% of old growth forests until the Feds put an end to it due to documented losses of species, like salmon and birds. He ignores the enormous build out of suburbs & exurbs around Puget Sound most with little or no efforts back then to protect fish. I watched that happen myself, seeing subdivisions on the East side of Lake Washington build right down to the banks of streams and small lakes. Or ignoring 100 years of culverts put into roads for our benefit that cut off salmon from returning to spawn. And the armoring of shorelines around Puget Sound that is still going on. And of course ignoring a warming climate that could make all these efforts go for naught. All of it nibbling away at the habitat and the fish until there wasn’t enough left. And of course, there was the Boldt Decision, used for propaganda purposes to demonize the very people who have done the most to attempt the restoration. Love them or hate them, they haven’t sat idly by while the fish vanish. They are at the table, working to save them using the best available science today.

Will the efforts to restore runs succeed? We don’t know yet, but some runs on the Elwha are returning, just not yet the chinook in any numbers. As are some runs on Jimmy Come Lately Creek and others. It costs a lot of time, people and money to fix 100 years of destruction.

No one I’ve talked to or read in the last 20 years who is seriously working on this issue, other than Pat Neal, thinks simply making more hatchery fish is some kind of solution. Pat, you have a lot of passion, how about working to help solve the problems rather than ignore the scientists and anglers who have been in the trenches fighting to reverse this ? Your passion might be useful if you are willing to listen and learn.

Evaluating targets for reducing carbon emissions. NY Times

An interesting series in the New York Times called Hindsight has been evaluating business and government pledges on various social issues such as global warming, deforestation, drinking water availability and other social crisis’ that have brought attention and demands for change.

This week, they looked at promises made in the 2010 timeframe to lower carbon emissions in the EU. What did they find that’s interesting to us on the Peninsula? That Biomass was thrown in with the mix of “solutions” and that it is not a solution at all.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/02/climate/europe-climate-pledge-carbon-emissions.html?referringSource=articleShare

Back in around 2010, this blog covered the efforts of then State Representative Kevin Van De Wege to promote biomass as a solution to lowering energy costs and protecting the environment. His work was based on research by WSU that resulted in a paper that was heralded as as a reason to promote using clear cut slash (also known as ‘hog fuel’) to burn to create electricity. No environmental organizations at that time bought the idea, though it was passed using a special designation of calling it “experimental” in the bill. It never was taken off experimental status.

Rep Van de Wege understandably promoted it because it gave more jobs to out of work loggers here on the Peninsula and incentivized pulp plants in P.A., Port Townsend and Shelton to experiment with burning hog fuel. Concerns by environmental organizations were ignored in order to allow the companies to build the plants and start using the fuel. Ultimately, all attempts to make this source of energy failed. Additionally, as the NY Times article points out, it actually made things worse.

As one drives around 101 on the Peninsula these days, it is impossible not to notice the enormous amounts of clear cuts going on, from west of the Hood Canal Bridge to Port Angeles. The stacks of slash are sitting in massive piles, some burning, some just rotting. With them go any hope of using the vast forest resources of the Peninsula to sequester carbon for reasons documented in the article above.

King Tides & Sea Level Rise Talk

Friday Dec. 3rd Online

JC Marine Resources center and PT Marine Science Center

Learn about the natural conditions that create king tides, projected sea level rise for Port Townsend, the Washington King Tide Program, and local efforts to monitor these events and document total water levels. A demonstration on how to use the MyCoast app for contributing your observations on king tides will also be provided.

Speakers will include Bridget Trosin, Washington Sea Grant’s Coastal Policy Specialist, and Dave Wilkinson, a marine weather instructor. Dave also serves on the joint City of Port Townsend / Jefferson County Climate Action Committee and volunteers for the Local 20/20 Climate Action Group. Co-presented by PTMSC and the Jefferson Co. Marine Resources Committee. The presentation is free. 
Time: 6-7 pm | Location: Online. Register.

What could you eat 500 years ago in the Pacific Northwest? Seattle Times & Spokesman-Review

What would your meal look like long before Europeans arrived here? An interesting quick read on the native plants and animals that were staples for those that lived off this land for thousands of years. Who catches eels out of our rivers anymore? When did you last eat Camas?

Camas photo by Jim Choate

The mechanized system of food production has churned over recent centuries, but when the land was occupied only by Indigenous people whose ties to the land had deep roots, the Pacific Northwest served an abundance of helpful herbs, fragrant flowers, fat-rich fish and vital vegetables that could easily make a feast.

The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.

Read the rest of the story at:

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/what-could-you-eat-in-500-years-ago-in-the-pacific-northwest/

December’s first razor clam digs moving ahead on Washington coast

More good news.

OLYMPIA – Razor clam digging continues in December, as shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have approved the next round of digs for Washington’s coastal beaches.

Photo courtesy NOAA

The latest tests for marine toxins came back all clear from the Washington Department of Health, which means the first round of December digs can proceed as planned.

“The weather hasn’t always been cooperative the last couple of weeks, but there’s still plenty of opportunities to hit the beach and dig for some razor clams,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager with WDFW. “Hopefully December will bring some clearer winter days for people to get out and enjoy this amazing resource.”

Read the whole story here:

https://wdfw.wa.gov/news/decembers-first-razor-clam-digs-moving-ahead-washington-coast-0

Transplanted fishers released into park – PDN

Restoring species to the Peninsula continues.

A release of seven fishers from Alberta, Canada into Olympic National Park earlier this month is part of a program to increase the genetic diversity of the once-decimated native species. Five were released into the wild at Lake Ozette and two were released near Sol Duc, said Patti Happe, wildlife branch chief of Olympic National Park (ONP), on Friday. Leah Leach reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

Transplanted fishers released into park (Paywall in place, you will need a subscription)

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