New law improves capabilities for drought response and preparedness – Dept of Ecology

Some good news during this bad year.

A bill initiated by the state Department of Ecology to deal with drought, ESB 1622, passed the state legislature in March and was signed by Gov. Inslee on March 27. The new law streamlines the state’s response to drought emergencies. It facilitates interagency cooperation, eases the flow of money from the legislature to the Department of Ecology so it can help alleviate drought-related hardships, and expands the types of projects funded during a drought emergency. The new law also authorizes issuing a “drought advisory warning” ahead of an emergency.

Before this new law, state agencies could help support water users during drought emergencies, but had little authority to provide support before one was declared. Now, when DOE have funds available, they can help water users invest in projects that will build their resiliency to drought conditions and water shortages before the emergency occurs. These projects might include constructing a back-up well for a small community, helping a farmer invest in water conservation measures, or constructing emergency water intakes for fish hatcheries and rescuing stranded fish.

Under authority provided by the new law, DOE also will explore a creative way to lease water rights during times of drought. In past drought years, DOE would lease water rights from water users who could forgo using their water to keep it instream for fish. The challenge, however, was finding water rights to lease during a drought. The few rights that were available were expensive.

DOE will launch a pilot program to explore entering into long-term water right leases. These leases will be negotiated ahead of time and could last for up to four years. If a drought were declared during that period, DOE could “activate” the agreement and lease the water for a pre-determined price. These long-term leases will act almost as insurance, providing certainty to both water users and the state. This is a tool that’s been lauded by experts, but only tried in a few places. DOE is excited to lead the country in exploring this innovative tool.

(Dept of Ecology)

A state drought law is passed

Canada Lynx disappearing from Washington State – WSU Research

While not directly linked to the North Olympic Peninsula, this is more bad news for species facing a warming climate. I post this to offset the anti-science based notion that the species will simply ‘follow the food north’. That doesn’t appear to be what is happening.

A massive monitoring study led by Washington State University researchers has found lynx on only about 20% of its potential habitat in the state. The study, published recently in the Journal of Wildlife Management, covered more than 4,300 square miles (7,300 km) in northeastern Washington with camera traps but detected lynx in only 29 out of 175 monitored areas.

Canada lynx disappearing from Washington state


Seafood Industry struggling to stay afloat amid outbreak – AP

Seafood industry struggling to stay afloat amid outbreak
The seafood industry has been upended by the spread of the coronavirus, which has halted sales in restaurants and sent fishermen and dealers scrambling for new markets. Seafood is a global industry that relies on a complex network of fishermen, processors, buyers and distributors, all of which have been affected by the virus. A lack of demand has sent prices tumbling and led some fishermen to tie up their boats until the outbreak subsides. Patrick Whittle reports. (Associated Press) See also: Coronavirus Devastates Geoduck Industry  Sara Thompson reports. (Key Peninsula News)

Oil Companies Are Collapsing Due to Coronavirus, but Wind and Solar Energy Keep Growing (Reuters)

More good news on the renewable front.
A few years ago, the kind of double-digit drop in oil and gas prices the world is experiencing now because of the coronavirus pandemic might have increased the use of fossil fuels and hurt renewable energy sources like wind and solar farms. That is not happening. In fact, renewable energy sources are set to account for nearly 21 percent of the electricity the United States uses for the first time this year, up from about 18 percent last year and 10 percent in 2010, according to one forecast published last week. And while work on some solar and wind projects has been delayed by the outbreak, industry executives and analysts expect the renewable business to continue growing in 2020 and next year even as oil, gas and coal companies struggle financially or seek bankruptcy protection. Ivan Penn reports. (NY Times) See also: Renewable energy wins over oil and gas in post-coronavirus world Clyde Russell writes. (Reuters)

A real time global warming experiment

We have entered totally uncharted territory lately, as we all know, due to a virus that may or may not have started in a wet market in a Chinese city most of us have never heard of before this event.  We had been warned about viruses becoming more frequent as global warming accelerates.  and also here. (

Our current President has dismissed science, the scientists  that could have helped prevent it, the budget for them, our global alliances that we rely on for support and almost any mention of a science based approach. We have one of the most ignorant men of the modern era leading us at the most important time of the last twenty years. Those that elected him were fools then and now will likely follow him into the hospital as they listen to his lies and misinformation. Many innocent people will die from this. We are in free fall and are racing to find a way to stop the pandemic. Most likely we will, but at what cost?

I have been busy setting up remote at-home workstations for clients, complete with video conferencing, using the remote access tool TeamViewer. (highly recommended). So I apologize for not having kept up on this blog, which so many tell me they rely on for local environmental news. It’s been amazing to watch as people who have resisted virtual communications as it has grown, suddenly find themselves needing to become proficient with it to survive. People can change when they have to. It’s a lesson worth noting as we face the future.

The only good news out of all of this, is that we are seeing in real time, what the Green New Deal may have accomplished on a orderly basis, which is the radical slowing of our green house gases into the environment. Certainly there will still be coal fired electrical generation happening, but with the vast bulk of petroleum based engines being idled, we will gain some insight into what it means to stop oil use globally.

We can now watch, in real time, as we see how much impact a major shift away from oil will have. I’m looking forward to seeing the data.

I’m still hopeful. As Mindy Lubber, the CEO of Ceres, a sustainability non profit organization said in a recent Forbes article,

One thing that history has shown us is that a crisis can produce real change. The power of collective action will become evident. True leaders will emerge. The impossible will become inevitable. Innovative ideas and policy solutions will take hold, save lives and eventually get the economy back on track.

Stay strong, get out and get a walk. Protect yourself and stay healthy. We’ll need all of us after this is over to move back into real change for the next crisis that our warming world is creating.


Mussels fetched from Kitsap waters give insight into contamination – Kitsap Sun

For many years Mussel Watch has been the method by which we have been able to monitor the water quality  throughout Puget Sound by  looking at the contaminants in our shellfish. During my time on the Jefferson County Marine Resources committee we petitioned and got a muscle watch station in Discovery Bay and other locations during the cycle that ended in 2017.

Work being done by this program is absolutely critical in understanding both where we are now and whether or not we’re making progress in making the waters of the Salish Sea cleaner. The findings are concerning, and should be of particular concern to feeding large amounts of shellfish to children. Much more research needs to be done to better understand what the levels found in these results actually mean to long term ingestion of them.

“Results from the last cycle — in 2017 — showed that Puget Sound has particles from fuel and laundry detergent, and 100% of sites tested showed a presence of antibiotics used for livestock. All sites also tested positive for antidepressant medication, said Mariko Langness, WDFW fish and wildlife biologist.”

Kitsap Sun


Geek out! PA event! March 14th 10-4

Geek out

Kid-Friendly Family Fun

On March 14, Feiro Marine Life Center will again host the free, community-oriented Science & Technology Celebration from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. People of all ages and interests are invited to engage with scientists at booths and during presentations, and examine infographic posters that provide examples of how science works to contribute to our communities and our quality of life. Kids of all ages will enjoy displays, games, and activities specially geared to make science fun.
“Science on Display” is back this year. This display honors the broad spectrum of retired and active scientists and science educators living or working across the north Olympic Peninsula. From each profile, learn what inspired him or her to pursue a chosen field. Discover the science education, applied science, and interesting research conducted right here on the Peninsula, thus putting a face from the community on science in the community.

Why celebrate science?
Because science helps us understand hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes and how to capture, store, and use power from the sun. Science has shown us that it’s important to wash our hands and to cover our mouths when we sneeze. We use science to heat our homes, grow our food, and predict the weather. Science is everywhere, everyday.

GeekOut! is a self-sustained community event sponsored annually by Feiro Marine Life Center. Support for this event is provided from across the north Olympic Peninsula by volunteers who are members of grassroot organizations and groups, as well as residents and friends who annually volunteer in the Corn Booth during the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend. Some of these same volunteers fostered this local celebration in 2017 with a shared mission to celebrate the essential role science and technology plays in all our daily lives.

Group asks for injunction regarding Growler flights – Skagit Valley Herald

Again, the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve and the State of Washington go to court to try and stop the increasingly annoying and likely health adverse Navy practice flights on Coupeville. Our federal representatives, like Derek Kilmer have been ineffective at slowing the growth of this nuisance.  Let’s hope the courts see fit to reign this in. The surrounding communities both on Whidbey Island, Jefferson County and the San Juans would like to see this moved elsewhere. According to the COER there has been a fourfold increase in flights in the area. Thanks goes to AG Bob Ferguson for taking a stand on this and seeing what the courts say.

The Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve (COER) is asking a federal judge to require the Navy to roll back the number of EA-18G Growler practice flights at Outlying Field Coupeville to pre-2019 levels until a lawsuit over the number of Growler flights is settled.

Skagit Valley Herald Article

Article will open in a new tab on your browser.

Judge voids nearly 1 million acres of oil and gas leases, saying Trump policy undercut public input – Washington Post

Again we see the importance of the courts in staving off the attacks against the environment by the current administration. If you ever thought that your vote doesn’t matter, remember, you are also electing judges that are appointed by the administration of the time. Not voting because your favorite candidate doesn’t get chosen is a foolish move that actually works against the environment and your own self interests.

Here we see a Federal judge in Idaho legally rule on what we all thought all along, that the administrations 30 day feedback window on giving away millions of acres to oil and gas companies was arbitrary and capricious.

Here’s the whole story.


For first time in 20 years, feds take deep look at hydroelectric dam removal on Lower Snake River -Seattle Times

Today is the day that the Feds are going to be releasing the first serious draft EIS of dam operations on the Snake in 20 years. It’s amazing that we are seeing a small bit of traction in looking into the possibility of removing dam removal on the Snake. As the article points out, the BPA has struggled to be financially viable as solar and other sources of energy has surged. One analysis I saw from supporters of the dam removal (technically breaching the dam), said that the BPA loses money with every kilowatt is sells. Given the urgency of getting more salmon to our dwindling orcas, breaching the dams would be the fastest way to get the most salmon to the ocean.

As the article also points out, since the last time the Feds looked at this issue, in 2000, more than a dozen runs have remained near or at extinction levels. There is little time left to do something that can change this scenario.

The Governor of Oregon has taken a stand on supporting the breaching of the dams, and has urged Governor Inslee to do the same. There is a strong alliance of businesses that oppose it. I might remind readers that the same thing happened with the Elwha dam removal. However, with so much industry relying on the dams, the likelihood of a quick solution to this is pretty slim.

Thanks to the Seattle Times for reporting on this.


Seattle Times Story on Dam Removal

SSB 6147 in committee today. Bulkhead bill.

The bulkhead bill, SSB 6147 has an important vote in the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Friday, February 28th.

SSB 6147 establishes a process where replacement shoreline armoring would be required to consider using the least impacting shoreline protection technique — for example, using woody debris and natural green armoring rather than hard concrete.

I have documented the benefits of green armoring. If you want to see a short 2 minute video about a group of homeowners in Dungeness Bay who have benefited from green armoring over bulkheads and riprap, check this out. Won’t take much of your time. And if you feel like supporting this bill, call or write today to Representatives Chapman and Tharinger, along with Senator Kevin Van de Wege.

Lawmakers want to protect water rights in Washington from Wall Street speculation – Investigate West

This issue could be a huge problem. Water rights are already extremely contentious. Now we have to worry about Wall St. bankers and investors owning them. Get behind these bills and let your legislators know you support them!

Worries that moneyed interests could control Washington’s water have sparked a push in Olympia to cut Wall Street bankers and international investors out of the state’s convoluted water rights system. Competing bills introduced during this legislative session take aim at the state’s water banks, which collect untapped water rights and sell water to users in need. Although the proposed legislation has received only tepid support, a consensus is emerging that action is needed to keep speculators from using water banking, as one state senator puts it, to “strangle” Washingtonians. Water banks collect water rights from rural landowners who have permission to take more water than they need. The banks then sell access to water to customers whose water rights are either too new or too small to meet their needs. Levi Pulkkinen reports. (Investigate West)

Lawmakers want to protect water rights in Washington from Wall Street speculation

State resurrects Miller Peninsula plans -PDN

A new “Destination Park” at Miller Peninsula. Seems on the surface like a good idea. More public beach access is needed, along with trails. Funding though is questionable and erratic. More on this, including public meetings, is coming in late spring. We’ll keep an eye out and let you know when they are happening.

A proposal to create a destination park on Miller Peninsula is back on the planning table. Staff with the Washington State Parks system are moving forward with a master plan to develop a state park on more than 2,800 acres on the peninsula between Sequim and the Clallam/Jefferson county boundary. In 2005, the Washington State Parks system began a six-year project to establish one of Washington’s next destination state parks, shelved those plans with a lack of secure funding. Michael Dashiell reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

State resurrects Miller Peninsula plans

More abandoning of environmental protection by Trump’s Administration

This radical right wing administration is continuing it’s push to destroy all environmental laws. Call your Congresspeople. Take action. Do something now. But my long range hope is after we get rid of these destructive morally bankrupt right wing politicians, we will rewrite the laws better than before. Hope springs eternal!

Trump’s new water rule: What it means for mines and pollution
Less federal oversight often means more local jobs. But it could also mean more water pollution. Whether that’s progress may depend on whether you live upstream or downstream from a project. Patrik Jonsson reports. (Christian Science Monitor)


Trump Administration Moves to Ease Rules Against Killing Birds
The Trump administration will move as early as Thursday to weaken a century-old law protecting migratory birds by dropping the threat of punishment to oil and gas companies, construction crews and other organizations that kill birds “incidentally” in the course of their operations. The proposed regulation, if finalized, would cement a legal opinion that the Department of Interior issued in 2017. The agency’s top lawyer argued that previous administrations had interpreted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 too broadly, and that only actions explicitly intended to kill birds should be forbidden under the federal law. The death of a bird from an oil slick, the blade of a wind turbine or the spraying of illegal pesticides would no longer trigger penalties. Lisa Friedman reports. (BY Times)

Google’s new AI model ‘listens’ to killer whales to help protect the species -The Next Web

Cool new use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Now if it can only do a better job of spellcheck for me! I feel like I’ve added thousands of words to my dictionary and yet it still can’t just correct those for me. How about you? What would you like to see AI do for you?

Google‘s AI team has developed a new model to protect the endangered species of killer whales known as orcas in the Salish Sea. According to the Center for Whale Research, there are only 73 Southern Resident orcas — a subspecies of the killer whale — left in the world. So Google has teamed up with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to monitor their condition and alert experts in the event of sickness or accidents across 12 locations. Google‘s team trained its AI model using 1,800 hours of underwater audio and 68,000 labels that identified the origin of the sound. When the model “hears” sound of a whale, it displays its location on Rainforest Connection, an acoustic monitoring system for animals. Ivan Mehta reports. (The Next Web)

Google’s new AI model ‘listens’ to killer whales to help protect the species

Navy settles lawsuit, won’t scrape ship hulls in Puget Sound -AP

Lawsuits are always a last resort, but are well worth pursuing. I am a huge fan of them, as most people are too timid to really be a force to stop things like this. Our population here in the Northwest love to work on restoration projects, fixing what they allowed to be screwed up, but protecting the Salish Sea is not something they really take seriously. The people who actually do this kind of work are few and far between.

The U.S. Navy on Wednesday agreed to a 10-year moratorium on scraping the hulls of decommissioned vessels in Puget Sound. The deal, filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, settles a lawsuit filed by the Suquamish Tribe and two environmental groups, Washington Environmental Council and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson joined the lawsuit. In the settlement agreement, the Navy said it would not conduct further hull cleaning in Sinclair Inlet except to the extent it is required for hull integrity tests or to prepare the vessel to be put in dry-dock. It agreed the preferred method for cleaning vessel hulls is to do so in dry-dock where the pollution can be contained. (Associated Press)

Navy settles lawsuit, won’t scrape ship hulls in Puget Sound

Olympic snowpack above normal at end of January -PDN

Good news for the Peninsula, as you may be aware, we get most of our water for cities like PT from the snow-pack.

Heavy precipitation in January has bolstered a once-diminutive Olympic Mountain snow-pack. Snow-pack was 120 percent of normal in the Olympics as of Thursday, up from 48 percent on New Year’s Day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rob Ollikainen reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

Olympic snowpack above normal at end of January

Harbor cleanup open house set Tuesday

Here’s an opportunity for anyone that’s interested to come out and make comments on the upcoming harbor cleanup for the area polluted by the mills and other industrial companies for many decades.

PORT ANGELES — The state Department of Ecology will conduct a presentation and open house on its plans for sediment cleanup of the Western Port Angeles Harbor.

The gathering will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Linkletter Hall at Olympic Medical Center, 939 Caroline St., in Port Angeles.

A presentation and question-and-answer period is set for 7 p.m. Open houses, in which staff members will be available to speak one-on-one with those who attend, are planned from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Crab larvae off Oregon & Wa suffering shell damage from ocean acidification, new research shows (Seattle Times)

Latest news coming from the coast.

Ocean acidification is damaging the shells of young Dungeness crab in the Northwest, an impact that scientists did not expect until much later this century, according to new research. A study released this week in the journal Science of the Total Environment is based on a 2016 survey of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia coastal waters that examined larval Dungeness. The findings add to the concerns about the future of the Dungeness as atmospheric carbon dioxide — on the rise due to fossil-fuel combustion — is absorbed by the Pacific Ocean and increases acidification. “If the crabs are affected already, we really need to make sure we start to pay attention to various components of the food chain before it is too late,” said Nina Bednarsek, the lead author among 13 contributing scientists. The study was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). Hal Bernton reports. (Seattle Times)


WDFW Permits Cooke’s New Industrial Net Pen Proposal

As  expected, our state Department of Fish and Wildlife have approved the permits that will allow Cooke Aquaculture to transition their surviving net pens from banned Atlantic salmon to a biologically-altered form of steelhead/rainbow trout. You can read the lame justification here.

But what did we expect? It was clear when the Jamestown S’Klallam decided to test the waters for pen raising steelhead that we were headed this way. With the lack of appetite for any NGO in the northwest to challenge even the smallest issue of a tribal council, what did we expect? That there is a fundamental issue with pen raising hundreds of thousands of fish in a small area in our state waters, creating a disease vector and destruction of the environment in and around the pens, seems not to matter to the tribes, nor WDFW executives.

It was clear to me, when the Jamestown came to the meeting in Sequim a few years ago, as we debated the issue of shutting down net pens and Atlantic salmon here, that when the Jamestown aquaculture manager got up and said, “we support stopping the raising of Atlantic salmon but don’t support ending net pens” that something was being said about what was to come.  Some of us were aware that they were already raising steelhead and black cod in Manchester. It was no secret. I don’t blame them. They are doing the best that they can to create economic well being for their Tribe. But at what cost to our waters and shorelines? Who is asking that question? Apparently not many

What is happening is not the fault of the Tribes. WDFW and NOAA have stated and supported the notion that they want to see every square inch of Puget Sound that can be turned into a commercial aquaculture operation happen. This has long predated the Trump era. Our natural shorelines are being leased away by DNR, supported by the Governor now and every Governor for decades, Democrat or Republican. Without so much as a debate, ever since 2000 and another Democratic Governor (Christine Gregoire) whom so many environmentalists loved, decided that we were going to do a “shellfish initiative”, without any serious discussion of what this meant. Our local state politicians are funded by the aquaculture industry and the industry has successfully taken over the Marine Resource Committees of the Peninsula, our last possible place to stop them. So now we inherit the wind.

We continue to allow this, commercial tribal aquaculture in our national wildlife reserve against the wishes of the scientists working there, the wrapping of the blanket of ‘environmental protection’ around every commercial operation that wants to exploit the shorelines.  The large number of NGOs that meekly go along because it’s all an industry now. No one really wants to stand up to this, it’s clear. So why should we think that WDFW should be criticized for simply carrying out the wishes of our politicians in Olympia and here locally. Why should we care? Who other than Kurt and a handful of people who really fight for this and are denounced even in the environmental community as ‘outsiders’ really care? Don’t give me your crocodile tears. Give my your support. Your money.  Show me what you really believe, if you really believe in the environment at all. Frankly, from what I’ve seen, most people don’t. It’s not about a minor recovery effort here or there. It’s about stopping the destruction before it happens. Recovery efforts are wonderful. I support all of them. But this is about stopping the destruction before it happens. Who really does that anymore? It’s all about money.  Remember that when they come asking for money in this election year. Maybe give the money to the Wild Fish Conservancy and tell your politicians you are because of their gutless support for the exploitation of our shores.

Kurt Beardsley, the executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy gave us this overview.

Wild Fish Enthusiasts,
I am deeply disappointed to report that earlier today, Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced they have approved permits that will allow Cooke Aquaculture to transition their surviving net pens from banned Atlantic salmon to a biologically-altered form of steelhead/rainbow trout. 

This decision came in spite of the thousands of public comments from environmental organizations, tribes, elected officials, and the public, overwhelmingly opposing the plan and urging the agency to conduct an environmental impact statement, a comprehensive review of the potential impacts to wild steelhead, salmon, Southern Residents, and the overall health of Puget Sound.

Without a complete understanding or acknowledgement of those risks, the agency has once again placed their trust in Cooke Aquaculture— the same company that recently paid $2.75 million for violations of the Clean Water Act in Puget Sound— and the burden of proof on the threatened and endangered species the public has invested millions to protect.

This news is especially disappointing given the recent announcement by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, committing to transition all open water net pens from B.C. waters to land-based facilities by 2025. As of WDFW’s announcement today, Washington represents the only state or jurisdiction on the entire Pacific Coast allowing this dangerous practice to continue and expand.

Let me assure you, this reckless decision will not go unchallenged— politically, legally, or scientifically. Already, the agency’s action is being protested by the public, environmental groups, and tribal leaders throughout the northwest, as seen in today’s Seattle Times’ article.

In the weeks and months to come, Wild Fish Conservancy is committed to doing whatever it takes to challenge this decision, guiding the public under the Our Sound, Our Salmon campaign and bringing forward the scientific evidence necessary to end industrial open water net pen aquaculture in Washington once and for all.


Kurt Beardslee
Executive Director
Wild Fish Conservancy

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