Northwest Watershed Institute study suggests reason behind eagle gathering at Dabob Bay – PDN

The Peninsula Daily News has a story about a new research paper created by Peter Bahls of the Northwest Watershed Institute (NWI).  Bahls and biologist Heather Gordon wrote the paper, “Bald Eagles, Oyster Beds, and the Plainfin Midshipman: Ecological Relationships in Dabob Bay,” which explores the relationship of eagles, oyster beds and a kind of forage fish called the Plainfin Midshipman. Read this fascinating story about what new research by the NWI has shown about the relationships, and how the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe are working with the data to better protect the eagles and the spawning fish.

https://www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/northwest-watershed-institute-study-suggests-reason-behind-eagle-gathering-at-dabob-bay/

 

 

Surfrider Report: Many states hit hardest by extreme weather and climate change impacts are the least prepared

Analysis from the Surfrider Foundation outlines coastal states’ responsiveness to shoreline erosion, rising tides and extreme weather events

San Clemente, Calif., December 13, 2018 – The Surfrider Foundation today announced the release of its annual State of the Beach Report Card, which grades 30 U.S. coastal and Great Lakes states, in addition to the territory of Puerto Rico, on policies to address climate change impacts, shoreline erosion and extreme weather. The results indicate that the majority of state policies assessed are providing mediocre to poor levels of coastal protection, with some of the lowest-scoring states located in regions that are heavily impacted by extreme weather events. In addition, the trends reveal that while significant improvements are critical, states also need continued federal support for the Coastal Zone Management Act and funding for agencies such as NOAA.

Washington earned a ‘B’ grade, which is high compared to other coastal states. This strong score can be directly correlated to the state’s Shoreline Master Program, in which local municipalities are required to create shoreline plans to ensure sustainable management of the coast. In addition, Pacific County adopted a robust plan in 2018 that protects critical ecosystems and also improves shoreline resiliency and human access. Increasing resiliency planning will be imperative as a new study predicts that by 2060, nearly 10,000 Washington homes that are valued at over $2.7 billion, will be threatened by sea level rise and chronic flooding.

“Poor coastal management and climate change impacts, such as extreme weather and sea level rise, are significantly shrinking our nations’ beaches,” said Surfrider’s Coastal Preservation Manager, Stefanie Sekich-Quinn. “The Surfrider Foundation’s State of the Beach Report Card aims to raise awareness about coastal threats, empower citizens to work with decision-makers, and provide recommendations to improve local responses to coastal erosion and sea level rise. As the report reveals, many states hit hardest by extreme weather and climate change are the least prepared and it is vital that states take action now to protect our nation’s coastal resources for the future.”

 

About 40 percent of the U.S. population lives along America’s coastlines and the ocean economy contributes more than $352 billion to U.S. GDP annually. However, coastal erosion already causes approximately $500 million in coastal property loss annually in the U.S. In addition, scientists predict that sea levels could potentially increase up to six feet by 2100, which would severely impact coastal economies, public access, recreation and healthy ecosystems.

 

Surfrider’s State of the Beach Report Card evaluates the performance of U.S. states and the territory of Puerto Rico against criteria across four major categories, including sediment management, development, coastal armoring and sea level rise. Each state is assessed on policies, regulations, planning and implementation based on existing literature, online resources, communication with coastal zone management agencies and local monitoring by the Surfrider Foundation network. Since Surfrider released its inaugural report card in 2017, five states have made improvements to coastal policies, with advancements in sea level rise planning and coastal resiliency in light of climate change.

 

 

The Surfrider Foundation has been compiling a comprehensive State of the Beach report to assess the health of our nation’s beaches since 2000. For more information, visit Surfrider’s State of the Beach Report Card or find out more at Surfrider.org.

 

 

Puget Sound Partnership on the Governor’s proposed 2019-2021 biennial budget

 

Statement from Director Sheida Sahandy on the Governor’s proposed 2019-2021 biennial budget
Governor Inslee’s budget proposal revealed today demonstrates his strong commitment to recovering Southern Resident orcas, salmon, and the Puget Sound ecosystem.  The ecological condition of Puget Sound came into sharp focus last summer as Talequah, one of our few remaining Southern Resident orcas, carried her dead calf on her head through a mourning journey that lasted 17 days. 

 

Ecosystem decline is the result of thousands of decisions that have, directly or indirectly, negatively impacted our shared resources.  Getting to recovery and resiliency will similarly take thousands of decisions that take us in the right direction of achieving and maintaining a thriving Puget Sound.  Ongoing recovery work over the years has helped to mitigate the decline, with some very positive results, but much greater investment is needed to definitively alter course.

 

The investments proposed by the Governor will go far in helping us turn the corner on sustaining the Puget Sound ecosystem and the creatures we share it with. These investments align with two significant, collaborative, science-based bodies of work: the recommendations of the Southern Resident Task Force and the Puget Sound Action Agenda.

 

Investments in Puget Sound recovery are critical to the survival of orcas and salmon. They also boost our region’s economic vitality and agricultural sustainability, enable maintenance of our abilities to fish and recreate, and help us to ensure the quality of life that draws and keeps people to this region.  These investments also support our shared obligations to the reserved treaty rights of the tribes in Puget Sound.

 

We hope the legislature supports and funds these critical investments.   

Farm Bill cleans up attacks on environment

The NRDC has put out a press release stating their support of the current Farm Bill, now that the anti-environmental elements of it have been removed. Passage seems likely.

“The final farm bill is an enormous improvement over the partisan train wreck passed by the House. Many poison pills are gone that would have axed protections covering endangered species, pesticides, clean water and food for hungry individuals. While the final bill still contains some problematic provisions, we are thankful that our champions defeated many of the worst proposals.” Erik Olson, senior director for health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council

https://www.nrdc.org/media/2018/181211-1

 

Trump administration rolls back protections on wetlands. Legal battle will ensue

The battle over the Clean Water Act has shifted into high gear. The EPA  has decided to rollback Obama era protections to wetlands. The definition of wetlands and their importance to underground aquifers has been established by science. That science has allowed the expansion of how pollution migrates to “navigable waterways” as defined by the CWA. That the ex-head of the EPA Scott Pruitt as well as the current (ex coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler has chosen on numerous occasions to ignore their scientists recommendations, to choose development and industry over protections means that the battle will shift to the states, where progressive states like ours, who have implemented strong Critical Areas Ordinances and Shoreline Master Plans, are capable of holding off the outcomes of this ruling. Likely a Supreme Court battle will ensue over the next few years.

NPRs version of the story here:

https://www.npr.org/2018/12/11/675477583/trump-epa-proposes-big-changes-to-federal-water-protections

NY Times article here:

Washington Post coverage:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/02/20/trump-to-roll-back-obamas-climate-water-rules-through-executive-action/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3787695342fe

National Resource Defense Council view

https://www.nrdc.org/experts/trumps-attack-clean-water-what-you-need-know

A right wing analysis of the rollback can be found here:

https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/421091-epa-restores-common-sense-to-overaggressive-water-regulations

 

 

 

 

Congress OKs bill to allow killing sea lions to help salmon – Seattle Times

The knee jerk reaction to killing sea lions to theoretically ease the amount of endangered salmon that are being eaten by them passed Congress two days ago. While not based in science, this has been done at the behest of a variety of groups that see the sea lions as the problem. White sports fishermen, some tribes. The likelihood of this succeeding in any meaningful way has not been proven. But killing something always seems like a good solution to many.

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/congress-oks-bill-to-allow-killing-sea-lions-to-help-salmon/?utm_source=RSS&utm_medium=Referral&utm_campaign=RSS_nation-world

 

 

Washington court: Fish and Wildlife can regulate land to protect fish – Capital Press

An extremely important ruling has come down at the Washington State Supreme Court on Thursday. The  unanimous ruling affirmed the right of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to regulate construction on dry land above the normal tide lines in order to protect fish. This enormously expands the scope of the Hydraulic Permit Code and will likely have great consequences for Governor Inslee’s hand in making policy decisions for protecting additional salmon habitat for Orca recovery. I’m sure that the plaintiffs might wish they had never brought this before the Supreme Court. But there’s also caution for environmental organizations that may celebrate the ruling.

From the case itself. It offers a good basic understanding of what these Hydraulic Permit Applications are and when they are required.

This case asks us to determine the geographic scope of permitting authority delegated to the State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  (Department) over hydraulic projects. A “hydraulic project” is defined as “the  construction or performance of work that will use, divert, obstruct, or change the natural flow or bed of any of the salt or fresh waters of the state.” RC_W 77.55.011(11).
Entities seeking to undertake hydraulic projects must apply for and obtain permits from the  Department before commencing work. RCW 77.55.021. In this case, a coalition of  Washington State counties (Counties) challenge the Department’s statutory authority to regulate the construction or performance of work that will occur exclusively above the ordinary high-water line.
The Hydraulic Code requires anyone planning to undertake a hydraulic project to obtain a preconstruction approval permit from the Department to ensure “the adequacy of the means proposed for the protection of fish life.” RCW 77.55.021(1).
The Department can deny or condition a permit only for the purpose of protecting fish life. RCW 77.55.021(7)(a). The Department’s regulatory authority encompasses hydraulic projects, which are defined based on their effects on waters of the state rather than their location relative to those waters. See RCW 77.55.011(11).
An HPA [hydraulic project approval] is required for all construction or repair/replacement of any structure that crosses a stream, river, or other water body regardless of the location of the proposed work relative to the [ ordinary high-water level] of state waters.
An HPA is also required for bridge painting and other maintenance where there is potential for paint, sandblasting material, sediments, or bridge parts to fall into the water.
ISSUE
Did the legislature intend to limit the Department’s permitting and regulatory authority to cover only projects that take place at least partially at or below the ordinary high-water line?
CONCLUSION
We hold that under the plain language of RCW 77.55.021, the Department’s jurisdictional grant of permitting authority includes upland projects that meet the effects test set forth in RCW 77.55.011(11). We further hold that the effects test requires reasonable certainty, not absolute certainty. Finally, we defer to the expertise of the Department to determine which upland activities meet the effects test. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s order.
The findings are that WDFW has authority to require HPAs for upland projects that fit the scope of the legal codes. That the requirements can be done by reasonable certainty and not a strict legal finding of certainty,  which gives much greater leeway for WDFW to issue requirements for an HPA. Lastly, the Supreme Court defers to the expertise of the Department  to determine which activities meet the requirements.
This last finding may be a double edge sword. What if the Department is wrong in a finding, siding with a developer who has huge resources and proposes enormous or highly unusual trade offs for the idea of “no net loss”?  What if they don’t decide to force an HPA (or agree with a developer intent on massive environmental change) and an environmental organization challenges that? The ruling here seems to give much greater leeway to excesses of the Department in both directions. That may not be as positive a win for environmental organizations as it appears. It requires close oversight to make sure that the law is narrowly applied to appropriate projects, while also ensuring that bureaucrats are not simply rubber stamping inappropriate and possibly habitat destructive projects.
Here’s a link to the ruling:

Read the Capital Press story here:

https://www.capitalpress.com/ag_sectors/water/washington-court-fish-and-wildlife-can-regulate-land-to-protect/article_ea1e014c-f97a-11e8-859d-7f550b7b3843.html

 

 

 

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