A sham of environmental protection in Clallam County, aquaculture inside the refuge.

Clallam County brought in an outside hearing examiner to help negate opposition so the county could grant a major aquaculture operation inside a national wildlife refuge. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has been granted a green light by the  supposedly impartial examiner, to put up to 80,000 bags of oysters inside this refuge that provides the food for many of our dwindling shorebirds in the area. What on earth can go wrong? Where was the environmental community in Clallam County that sits on the county commissions that are chartered with protecting their shores? Silent, beyond one or two stalwarts who have continued to fight a lonely battle against entrenched interests in the area

The examiner, Andrew Reeves, found, among other astonishing claims, that he would allow development of up to 34 acres in the wildlife refuge with the possibility of opening up even more in the future. Why? Because of the following comments he made:

“The project would be located on a DNR-managed tideland that has historically been leased for aquaculture.” This does not recognize that the previous aquaculture operations were a much smaller grant in a much more lenient legal era, during which there was virtually no opposition to any kind of aquaculture at all. That the public is clearly now concerned with opening up expanded operations in a wildlife refuge is downplayed by this examiner who routinely argues for oil and gas ‘mitigation’ (read shut up the landowners unwilling to sell by paying them off in negotiation) in the west.

Why is this odd? Well think about coal mining. Would anyone argue that using the laws of 60 years ago to approve a coal mining operation, oh say in Black Diamond, where they used to mine, would be  a useful tool to determining if mining in Black Diamond today is an appropriate use of the natural resources in that bedroom community? Let’s remember it was state agencies back in the 50s that were being begged by sports charter fishermen on these very shores to put in limits on salmon fishing. Why? so they didn’t have to come back home from a day ferrying Boeing executives who had demanded to catch all the fish they could and then only take one or two of the biggest leaving the charters to throw the rest overboard because they couldn’t find high school students to gut 30 or more fish. I know, I’ve talked to those fishermen who wish they could have stopped the senseless slaughter of our fish back then. And now them and the fish are almost gone. We are told by a judge that this won’t have an equally destructive effect on our refuge and the birds and fish that rely on it. It doesn’t matter that the Refuge scientists don’t agree with him. But this is just more Trump era bias to economic interests over hard fought protections of our waters.

And of course, there is the poorly defined notion that oyster farming “enhances the public interest.” How? “The proposal would promote the public interest, given that shellfish aquaculture is a designated “preferred use” of Washington State waters under Governor Inslee’s Shellfish Initiative. Cultivation of oysters on the lease site would also have the potential to enhance recruitment and growth of oyster”  Conveniently ignored is the notion of the public interest in having a wildlife refuge to feed and support the notoriously shy seabirds that are continuing to decline in number on our shores.  How do I know they are shy? Because the refuge scientists have not allowed even a Frisbee to be flown on the Spit! Why should we think that a commercial operation is going to make it better? And no weight is given to the public demand for protection of the dwindling shores that are left in wild states.

There is no discussion of the fact that that the manager of the refuge wrote a long and well documented scientific overview of the dangers inherent in this project and then was told to rewrite the original document by superiors to fit the science to the request.

The ultimate absurd argument was presented last in his list, “There are no other similar developments proposed in Clallam County, and thus cumulative impacts from this type of development would not occur.”

This is laughable, with this project underway and granted a green light, expect a slew of other projects to come forward. Has this ever been an argument that stopped the growth of this industry in virtually every corner of the Sound?  The Tribe already is doing this exact same aquaculture a few miles east in Sequim Bay, and also have taken over the net pens in Port Angeles harbor. I don’t criticize those enterprises. They are legal, have not done enormous harm under the Tribal guidance, but they have not been environmentally neutral. The Sequim Bay operations are on the shoreline of the Tribe’s HQ itself. The notion that this taking of the Refuge is neutral  could only come from someone that has  spent his career somewhere else.

The whole process is a sad joke, and continues the wholesale giveaway of our natural resources and remaining shorelines to the aquaculture industry. This industry continues to lobby for removing any kind of laws protecting the shorelines of Puget Sound, as seen in the recent decision of the Trump Administration to severely curtail NEPA regulations, a move highly lobbied by the very industries now granted the ability to go in and plunder our wildlife refuge.

Where were the supposed “environmentalists” who kowtow to the tribes so as not to upset them, rather than ask a simple question, “Can’t we find another place to do this so we don’t plunder our joint use refuge?” The Tribe routinely uses the area just outside the boundary for fishing and a hunting lodge is just a bit east of the refuge at the mouth of the Dungeness. Why take the Refuge? Too late.

Who will count the last bird in the refuge in ten years or twenty years? A tribal member or some member of their scientific teams who claim they care about the resources, or an MRC member or Audubon bird counter, documenting their extinction, or will it be a  politician who doesn’t want to upset the monied interests that are paying their reelection campaign, or the hearing examiner, who came to shut down the environmental opposition , or a DNR executive in Olympia who needs funding for her campaign and sat on the sidelines?  It is just another example of the “changing baseline” that allows our children and other newcomers to the area to think that this is how it’s always been, when nothing is the same,virtually every indicator on the Puget Sound Partnership indicators are going the wrong way  and no one really wants to talk about it. Whether it’s our wildlife refuges, our airways over the silence of the Olympia National Park, our waters for training military operations or dozens of other small cuts to our environment, we just give in and it keeps on getting worse.

In about 2000, this state decided to go whole hog into giving away shoreline to support the rise of geoduck and other aquaculture. The voters of this state have never been asked just how much  shoreline they are willing to give away to people to profit from it. Some have fought and won battles, but the war is being lost. When are we going to pause and say, “How much is enough?”

The destruction of the shoreline  environment of Clallam, Jefferson and other counties continues full steam ahead, as it has almost since Lewis Carroll wrote this poem in the 1880s about the cosy relationship between those who wanted to exploit the resources and those that were exploited. I’ve taken a bit of liberties. With apologies to Lewis Carroll.

The walrus and the carpenter were walking hand and hand, they cried like anything to see such quantities of sand.
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
“O enviros, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest enviro  looked at him,
But never a word she said:
The eldest enviro winked his eye,
And shook her heavy head–
Meaning to say she did not choose
To leave the enviro-bed.
But four young enviros hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.
Four other enviros followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
“But wait a bit,” the enviros cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, enviros dear,
We can begin to feed.”
“But not on us!” the enviros cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?

“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O enviros,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

How to Stop Freaking Out and Tackle Climate Change – NYT

Many people ask me about what they can do to really personally affect climate change. In this article today from the NY Times, Author Emma Marus presents the most concise overview of what’s really needed by individuals.  A five point plan for you to use in your everyday life. Hang this on your fridge door. Look at it daily. Everything beyond these ideas, like eating vegan, buying electric cars, etc. are all nice things to do, can make you feel better, but will not change the equation. Start here. Expand with whatever else you feel you want to do. And stop stressing. Climate change is here and we just have to deal with it as best we can.

My point is that the climate crisis is not going to be solved by personal sacrifice. It will be solved by electing the right people, passing the right laws, drafting the right regulations, signing the right treaties — and respecting those treaties already signed, particularly with indigenous nations. It will be solved by holding the companies and people who have made billions off our shared atmosphere to account.

www.nytimes.com/2020/01/10/opinion/sunday/how-to-help-climate-change.html

How Trump’s Environmental Policy Rollback Affects The Northwest -OPB

The Trump Administration has now gone after the heart of environmental protection in this country. This new rule change has been pushed by many companies here in the NW in their lobbying efforts. The rule change is totally opposed by the entire environmental community. It’s a horrible change, that we all expected would happen.

The NEPA has been a thorn in the side of many projects, and one of the parts discussed in the article is a new category, that is very unlikely to sustain judicial review. It states that “…projects with “minimal federal funding or involvement” wouldn’t require any kind of environmental assessment.”  This might mean that massive aquaculture farms put in the heart of environmentally sensitive areas  might be excluded from environmental review, for example.  The NEPA was an issue in the landmark court case against the Army Corps of Engineers & Taylor Shellfish last year. The cumulative affect of geoduck aquaculture, which the Corps own biologist had found to have terrible long term effects, (which they never published, it was a draft that was killed and only found by court discovery process), was at the heart of the judge’s decision.

In that decision, 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)

It was reported on the web site run by the leading anti-aquaculture group, Protect our Shoreline News in 2015 that Taylor had hired The Glover Park Group (GPG) specifically to target the NEPA process. The web site stated that, “The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group reports the purpose GPG has been enlisted by Plauche and Carr, fronting for Taylor Shellfish and the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, is to deal with “Federal permitting related to shellfish operations.” http://protectourshorelinenews.blogspot.com/2015/03/taylor-shellfish-has-new-friend.html

There’s never been a better time to donate to any of the groups that will fight this in court, such as Earth Justice, which has pledged to fight this. 

I’d love to hear from the aquaculture industry as to whether this was part of their lobbying efforts last year in Washington D.C. How much money did they give to the Trump Administration to promulgate a rule change like this? Following the money might be quite interesting in understanding just how much the shellfish industry tried to push this through. Looking forward to seeing some motivated young journalist dig this information up.

A new Trump administration plan to scale back a bedrock environmental law could affect all kinds of projects in the Northwest, including timber sales, hydroelectric dams, and large energy developments like the controversial Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas project with its 235-mile Pacific Connector pipeline.

https://www.opb.org/news/article/trump-environmental-policy-rollback-northwest/

NOSC needing volunteers!

Like to get dirty and save salmon, restore creeks? Then I’ve got an opportunity for you!

Volunteers needed to restore salmon habitat and plant native trees and shrubs!

Happy New Year! It’s a new decade and the 2020 tree planting season with the North Olympic Salmon Coalition is here! The goal is to plant 10,000 trees this Winter. Will you be part of the story? Participate in salmon habitat restoration by volunteering at an upcoming work party. We will plant native trees and shrubs to improve water quality and create healthy habitat for the fish and wildlife we share our watersheds with. Events are family-friendly!

Check out our upcoming events:

Discovery Bay
Saturday, January 11th10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Saturday, February 8th 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Pysht River – (Great place if you have never been there. )
Wednesday, January 22nd 9:15 am – 4:15 pm
Thursday, January 23rd9:15 am- 4:15 pm

Dungeness River
Saturday, February 15th, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Wednesday February 19th 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Siebert Creek
Saturday, February 29th, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

The Salmon Coalition will supply tools and gloves, but they are in limited supply so feel free to bring your own. Snacks and hot drinks will be provided! Bring warm, waterproof clothes and boots, water, and a lunch.

Project partners include Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, North Olympic Land Trust, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Please RSVP for details on the location and parking. RSVP at bit.ly/PlantingParty2020 or visit our website at nosc.org/events

Contact us with questions at (360) 379-8051 or email us at volunteer@nosc.org.

New Year Brings New Protections For West Coast Seafloor Habitat – OPB

And more good news, as environmentalists and fishermen come together to finalize protecting one of the largest coastal areas in the world from destructive trawling practices, while recovering fish stocks. This has been a poster child for how to achieve a balanced approach to ocean management.

Regulations starting Jan. 1 restrict bottom trawl fishing on about 90% of the seafloor off Oregon, Washington and California.

Read the whole story at the link below:

https://www.opb.org/news/article/new-laws-2020-west-coast-seafloor-habitat-coral-sponges/

Refinery cancels xylenes project in settlement agreement – Skagit Valley Herold

There is some good news to start the year. The plan for a xylene refinery for overseas shipments is dead. The battle for keeping large scale chemical plants and shipments through the Salish Sea continues, but those who are hoping for less freighter traffic can take this as a tactical win. Of course, the Vancouver port for the Tar Sands crude is the real major threat, with hundreds of more tankers planned for shipping past the San Juans and through the Strait. Whatever could go wrong?


(12/31) A legal battle over a project at Marathon Anacortes Refinery has come to a close after a settlement agreement was reached under which the refinery will scrap its plans to produce xylenes for shipment overseas. The agreement was signed Monday by the Skagit County Board of Commissioners after it had been signed by representatives of the refinery and of various environmental groups that filed a series of appeals against the three-part project. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Refinery cancels xylenes project in settlement agreement

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

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