Here’s what the massive public-lands bill means for conservation, climate change in Washington state – Seattle Times

Lots of good things being funded in this Omnibus bill, co-sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell.

In my mind, the permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund is one of the biggest wins in this legislation. Also the halting of the mining in the Methow is a very good thing.

Skagit River Chum Numbers Continue to Decline – Skagit Valley Herald

Reports from the Department of Fish and Wildlife show a continued dramatic drop in Skagit River chum. As stated in the article, these are new lows since monitoring began on the river in the 1960s.

The debate has been raised for the last number of years as to whether the hatchery runs are worth doing. Research comparing the Skagit with Oregon’s similar river, the Rogue, which runs about the same amount of distance and has a similar ecosystem shows that the major difference in why the Rogue runs are so much higher than the Skagit’s are the implantation of hatchery fish. The Rogue has not had hatchery fish implanted in it, and the argument goes, that the fish are better adapted to changing conditions. Needless to say, that has not gone over well with hatchery supporters, including Tribes and sports fishermen. Whether the hatchery program is the problem or the solution will never be tried here because at hearings the Tribes and sports fishermen went to great lengths to denounce the idea without offering any scientific support for their position. And now, the Governor is going to go full speed ahead on funding hatcheries. Meanwhile, the fish keep vanishing. The numbers in the article show the fishery is in complete collapse. And no recreational fishing has been allowed since 2008. I guess we are going to keep doing what doesn’t work until the fish are gone. Isn’t that the definition of madness?

Sewage Treatment Appeal Filed in State Court to Protect Puget Sound

This has been a known problem and long running battle at the State level by environmental organizations since the early 90s. Standard excuses, too expensive to do, etc.  As stated to me by a knowledgeable friend, “Muni sewage plants and industrial facilities directly discharging to the Sound are supposed to have permits re-written every five years to “rachet down” on discharge pollutants as new technologies became available. EPA didn’t make the state do much more than some minor cosmetic remedies because municipalities said they’d have to raise rates and industries said the costs wouldn’t be worth the amount of pollution reduction of secondary.”  Who was running Department of Ecology in 1991 when that happened? The environmental champion, Christine Gregoire. And so it goes. The death from a thousand cuts.

“Olympia (WA) – An environmental group sued the Washington Department of Ecology in state court today in its bid to modernize pollution removal at Puget Sound sewage treatment plants. In January, Ecology refused to update its rules that allow dischargers to use 100-year-old pollution control technology while Puget Sound faces emergency levels of toxic and nutrient pollution.
“It’s well past time for the Department of Ecology to stop relying on 100-year old technology to protect Puget Sound,” said Nina Bell, Executive Director of Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA). “We’re not driving around in Ford Model T’s so why are we still using sewage treatment technology from that era? Modern sewage treatment would help clean up Puget Sound and protect struggling populations of Chinook salmon and orca whales,” she added.
NWEA sought a change in the 31-year old rules that Ecology uses to define modern technology by filing a petition with the agency on November 14, 2018. Ecology denied the petition on January 11, 2019. NWEA appealed the denial to Governor Inslee on January 30, 2019; he has 45 days in which to respond.
The petition explains that although Ecology has identified sewage discharges as the primary cause of some of Puget Sound’s biggest pollution problems, it has taken no action. Inadequate treatment of sewage is causing widespread algal blooms, low levels of dissolved oxygen, wholesale food web changes, ocean acidification, and toxic threats to orca whales, salmon, and crab according to Ecology’s own studies.
The petition is based on state law that requires pollution sources to use the best available treatment technology. The 74-year old Washington law, referred to as “AKART,” requires the use of “All Known, Available, and Reasonable Treatment” for pollution prior to its discharge.
NWEA’s petition details the widespread use of modern sewage treatment in the United States. For example, sewage treatment plants discharging to Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound have cut their nutrient pollution by almost 60 percent. In contrast, very few cities in the Puget Sound area have modern technology, and Ecology has only required one to do so—the LOTT treatment plant in Olympia.
Today’s lawsuit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court on behalf of NWEA by Andrew Hawl y, of the Western Environmental Law Center, and Bryan Telegin, of Bricklin & Newman, LLP.”

Owners of Dewatto Bay tideland property take state to court – Kitsap Sun

A disturbing situation in Dewatto. I have been by this beautiful estuary on a couple of occasions and would never have thought it was owned by the State, and apparently there is significant doubt about that. This story is sort of pitting the old Hood Canal community against the modern DNR, which is trying to establish an aquatic reserve in Dewatto. “Proposed Dewatto Natural Resources Conservation Area” While I supported this effort when I first heard of it, I had no idea it was embroiled in a lawsuit/land battle with homeowners and neighbors. DNR should not be fighting this battle. The owners do not want to sell, and the property has been privately owned since at least the 1930s. There is extensive records from the owners proving title to the land. Ms. Franz ought to back off this issue. It is a no win situation, that will only harm future efforts to create aquatic reserves. While I’m sorry that the state does not have the opportunity to create the reserve here, the case that owners present is quite compelling.

It was the start of a love affair. These are words that Marlene Iddings, 86, uses to describe the tideland property she and her late husband, Lloyd, purchased at Dewatto Bay in 1959…. The Iddings family has been entangled in a lawsuit with the state Department of Natural Resources since 2015, with both parties claiming ownership of more than 7 acres of tidelands. The suit is set to go to trial in Mason County Superior Court this spring, though a Kitsap County judge will preside over the case since Mason County judges have recused themselves. Joining the Iddings are nearly 20 other landowners whose properties would be directly impacted by the outcome of the case, since the state has proposed leaving the Iddings with about a 3-acre slice of tidelands that would domino into their neighbors’ properties. The implications of the case extend beyond Dewatto Bay. In court filings, the state has noted that if the court finds that the Iddings have legal title to the tidelands, the state can still take them without compensating the Iddings, since for decades the public has harvested on those tidelands. Arla Shepherd Bull reports. (Kitsap Sun)

Sheila Sahandy Resigns from Puget Sound Partnership


sheila sahandy

Five years ago today I joined an organization that was struggling against a herculean challenge—to chart a course for the recovery of the nation’s largest estuary and the state’s cherished jewel—the Puget Sound. Since then, we have accomplished great things together. It is with gratitude for the opportunity provided to me by Governor Inslee, intense pride about our accomplishments, and optimism for the future, that I share with you that I have tendered my resignation, effective May 3.

The achievements of our agency and our partners during my tenure have been remarkable. A galvanized public has brought critical support to the fight against the extinction of our state’s official marine mammal, the Southern Resident orca. Projects restoring thousands of acres of habitat are now coming to fruition across the Sound. The Puget Sound Day on The Hill trip has strengthened our collective voice with decision-makers in Washington, D.C. Regionally, our relationships are stronger than ever with our federal partners, with whom we worked closely on the creation of the Puget Sound Federal Task Force. By focusing on aligning federal, tribal, and state priorities, this effort increases the impact of investments by all these partners. Within weeks, a revised PUGET SOS (Promoting United Government Efforts to Save Our Sound) bill may be introduced in Congress, aiming to bring new resources to support our work. Puget Sound recovery is now the national priority it must be.

All of this work has been done with the engagement and input of hundreds of partners—tribes, elected officials, our boards, government leaders, non-profits, businesses, scientists, academic institutions, our sister state agencies, agriculture, aquaculture and other industries, as well as interested individuals—ensuring that the necessary course forward, as described in the Puget Sound Action Agenda, is not solely the voice of the Partnership, but rather the collective will of all who make the decision to be a partner.

The organization itself has evolved significantly over the last five years, from an agency with an uncertain future, to one sharply focused on adding value to the recovery system. We concentrate our limited resources on functions that create better outcomes than the sum of the parts. We align, catalyze, and advocate to ensure the success of our partners. The role of science in the decision-making and planning processes has been fortified and focused on outcomes and continuous learning. The Partnership’s internal operations are now systematic, transparent, and informed by best management practices. These professional management systems have allowed us to achieve two “clean” financial audits. The last State of the Sound report was nominated for a national award for public communication. From across the country and the world, other recovery efforts are using our learning to inform their practices.

Looking forward, the work of recovery and resiliency still faces formidable challenges, including the pressures from increasing human populations and climate change. Even though we are now well positioned for success, having built a thoughtful, science-driven recovery management system, the magnitude of results will still be commensurate with the magnitude of investment. Only 30 percent of the specific actions proposed in the last Action Agenda were implemented in the last cycle. The single greatest barrier to implementation was the lack of funding. To reverse the degradation of the natural systems on which we all depend, we must increase investment for implementing the Near Term Actions in the Action Agenda. The path forward must also include a strong focus on supporting innovation focused on solving our water-related challenges. This includes incentivizing and supporting the private sector to work with our public institutions for research, development, and deployment of innovative solutions to solve not only public challenges such as stormwater pollution, but also to help transition critical Washington businesses and sectors, such as agriculture, maritime, and aerospace, to profitable and sustainable practices.

On a more personal note, it has been an honor to work alongside so many people who engage unfailingly in the silent and consequential battles to protect our region. The relentless dedication of the Puget Sound tribes to pass to their children a better world, one that is enriched by their languages, cultures, and traditional knowledge, sets an example for us all. Last, but also most present in my mind at this moment, is how much I will miss working with my colleagues at the Partnership. This small but mighty group personifies the best in public service: a resilient, intellectually curious, diverse, and courageous group who direct their passions into improving their communities. Because of them, our organization is now strong, with excellent leaders, and staff whose commitment and promise is second to none. I can’t wait to see all they will accomplish.


Sheida R. Sahandy

After May 4:
(206) 375-1277

Court Ruling Clears Hurdle Toward Lasting Protections For Puget Sound Shorelines

Legal challenge targeting Corps’ failure to regulate shoreline armoring will go forward

In  full disclosure, the author of this blog is on the board of directors of Sound Action, one of the plaintiffs in this case. This case, if successful,  is likely to have significant ramifications to the placement of bulkheads, when allowed, along the shoreline.

Today the federal court soundly found in the plaintiffs favor and denied the Motion to Dismiss. Most significantly, the court found that a final agency action had taken place — which clears the way for the challenge to move forward.

February 5, 2019
Seattle, WA —A federal judge today rejected an effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) to dismiss a lawsuit challenging its refusal to adequately protect shoreline areas in Puget Sound. The Court’s decision means the lawsuit, which charges that the agency has refused to assert its Clean Water Act jurisdiction over most shoreline armoring in Puget Sound, will go forward.

Sound Action, Washington Environmental Council, and Friends of the San Juans filed the suit in May of 2018. The groups contend a strong federal policy to protect shorelines is critical to Puget Sound recovery and the survival of endangered orcas.

The coalition, represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, is calling for federal oversight of shoreline armoring by raising what the Corps’ Seattle District considers the “high tide line” to better protect at-risk species and shorelines. The lawsuit also calls for a response to the groups’ 2015 petition asking for jurisdictional decisions on four shoreline armoring projects.

“The Army Corps should spend less time filing pointless motions in Court and more time getting on board with the rest of the region in protecting critical shoreline habitat,” said Anna Sewell of Earthjustice, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “The Corps should stop fighting this lawsuit and start implementing the law so that Puget Sound’s salmon and Southern Resident orcas have a shot at survival.”

Read the Court’s decision.

Read the complaint.


Armoring is the placement of hard structures — boulders, jetties, seawalls — on shorelines to help prevent erosion. The Corps is required by law to review proposed armoring projects up to the “high tide line,” which is generally the line at which land meets the water. But the Corps’ Seattle District uses a much lower tidal marker (known as the “mean higher high water” mark). As a result, the Seattle District does not review the majority of armoring projects in Puget Sound.

The Corps’ failure to assert jurisdiction means there has been no federal oversight of whether most armoring projects in the Sound meet the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act or any other federal requirement.

Further, the Corps recently rejected an interagency recommendation to use a higher tidal marker, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, which prohibits arbitrary and capricious agency actions. In rejecting the recommendation, the Corps ignored sound science and the law.

This troubling lack of federal support puts Puget Sound shorelines at risk of further deterioration, particularly when shoreline armoring is well documented to be one of the most significant risks to the Sound. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs challenge the Corps’ failures to adequately protect Puget Sound shoreline habitat by fully implementing the law.

Kevin Ranker’s response to outside investigation findings.

An outside investigation into Ex-Senator Kevin Ranker has concluded with the finding that he did engage in sexual harassment and created a hostile work environment. The 10 Page report can be found here:

What follows is Senator Ranker’s response to the findings:

This week a Senate investigation concluded a process that began when an employee who worked for me 10 years ago alleged that I mistreated her. The report found that I violated our Senate policies. The allegations were that I “slammed doors, shouted in anger, and caused her to feel very uncomfortable.” It does not matter that I am passionate about the issues I work on. What matters is that I recognize the impacts of my actions. I have always tried to be respectful of the people around me when I advocate for important issues. I have not always succeeded. The report also says that I “rubbed” my colleague’s shoulders, offered her wine when she had to work late and made “flirtatious” comments. Did I treat her in a way that was different than others as a result of our previous relationship? Likely yes. But that does not make my actions acceptable. While in the position of power as a boss, one must consider the formality of the workplace; all employees should feel supported and successful in their job.

Finally, while some news reports said otherwise, the investigation found that I did not retaliate against her or the agency where she worked after leaving my office.

If we are ever going to create the society we dream of, one where each of us is truly treated equal, men in power must recognize our privilege and more importantly, the impacts of our actions… regardless of intent. We must own and understand the impacts of our behavior and the very real fact that our current system supports it. And, importantly, we must recognize that looking the other way for lesser actions creates a society that can be pathetically accepting of the worst offenders. Otherwise, there will be no real progress.

I remain proud to have been one of a few to vote for full transparency in the Senate and was one of the Senate leaders who pushed for the updated policies used in this investigation so that anyone, regardless of the accuser or the accused, can come forward safely to report mistreatment. What we did not anticipate in our efforts to create a fair, transparent process is the toll on all parties when a parallel, public process plays out in the media concurrent to investigation. In the end, this is why I felt the right choice was to step down and spare my family further negative impacts. We must have these discussions, as a society, if we are going to correct cultural inequities and assumptions that must be addressed. My hope, however, is that this first test of our procedures can help inform and improve how the Senate moves forward in the future.

I am eternally grateful for the incredible honor of having served as the Senator from this wonderful district these past years. I am indebted for all the support I have received over the last weeks. It means more than I can express. For now, I am going to take some time with my family and think about what is next for us. Whatever comes next, I know that I will remain a passionate champion for our progressive agenda, but with more awareness and mindfulness than I had before.

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