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.

Onward,

Kurt Beardslee
Executive Director
Wild Fish Conservancy
425-788-1167

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

Good news from the coast

Seattle Times reports that.”West Coast fishery rebounds in rare conservation ‘home run’”

After years of fear and uncertainty, bottom trawler fishermen — those who use nets to scoop up rockfish, bocaccio, sole, Pacific Ocean perch and other deep-dwelling fish — are making a comeback here, reinventing themselves as a sustainable industry less than two decades after authorities closed huge stretches of the Pacific Ocean because of the species’ depletion.

Celebrate by buying some locally caught bottom fish tonight! It’s really important to reward these fishermen for their hard won successes. Many others went bankrupt waiting for this rebound to happen.

https://www.seattletimes.com/business/west-coast-fishery-rebounds-in-rare-conservation-home-run/

 

Time out for the holidays

cropped-snow-on-brancheswtmk.jpg

Enjoy your friends and families while you have them. They aren’t there forever. See you after New Years. Thanks to all for following this blog for so long and to those who have donated. All of your support makes it all worthwhile. I leave you with all the best wishes. Go and recharge. The battles next year will be even more difficult.

Al the editor

Air Pollution May damage the brain. NY Times

This should give pause to anyone who is trying to raise children near a major road like a freeway or busy commercial highway. It would certainly make me turn down any type of house for sale near one in the future.An all electric vehicle fleet can’t come too soon.

www.nytimes.com/2019/11/25/well/mind/air-pollution-brain-dementia-alzheimer-memory.html

DNR proposes new tax for protecting Washington from looming wildfire crisis

While some politicians at the national level continue to say that climate change is a hoax, and that there is no cost to doing business as usual, our west coast natural resources managers are well aware of the rising costs to protect us from the increase in wildfires around our states. DNR head Hilary Franz has just proposed a new tax to help properly fund her department, which has been suffering from a lack of appropriate funds coming from the Trump Administration.  This is the new normal under the Trump Administration, starve the States with a lack of Federal funding, and force you and I to fund saving our neighbors. To be clear, that is a losing battle. Spreading the costs across all our States, is a cheaper way to do this.

New insurance surcharge to fight wildfires to be proposed by Washington’s lands commissioner

Determined to create reliable funding to prevent and fight Washington wildfires, the state commissioner of public lands and some Democratic lawmakers are about to make a new push for revenue.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/new-insurance-surcharge-to-fight-wildfires-to-be-proposed-by-washingtons-lands-commissioner/

 

https://www.dnr.wa.gov/about/legislative

 

Puget Sound Partnership releases “State of the Sound” 2019

Let’s just let the Press Release speak for itself. Really, not good news after being chartered to solve this problem last decade. My comments are the highlighted bits.

NEWS RELEASE
December 2, 2019

MEDIA CONTACT: Jon Bridgman, 206.276.5309, jon.bridgman@psp.wa.gov

2019 State of the Sound Report issues a Call to Action for Puget Sound Recovery

The latest biennial State of the Sound Report, released this week, stresses that “…we can still recover Puget Sound, but only if we act boldly now.” This is the scientifically informed assessment of the Puget Sound Partnership, the state agency leading the region’s collective effort to restore and protect Puget Sound.

The Report is clear that Puget Sound remains in grave trouble. The damaging effects of pollution, habitat degradation and disturbance persist. Southern Resident orcas, Chinook salmon, steelhead, and many other species are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Human well being is also affected, for example, by reducing fishing opportunities and threatening human health. Climate change impacts and continued population growth stand to increase pressures on an ecosystem already in peril.

The Report highlights the gravity of our current situation, but also emphasizes the outstanding work of our partners in recovery that has resulted in improvements in the condition of Puget Sound. As the Partnership’s Executive Director, Laura Blackmore states, “while this situation at times seems impossibly bleak, the thousands of passionate people who are devoted to seeing the return of a healthy and resilient Puget Sound give us hope.” This hope is exemplified with three inspiring stories of local communities coming together to advance recovery. The stories address 1) a project to pull up unnecessary pavement by hand at a Tacoma school, 2) a volunteer led effort to locate salmon blocking culverts in Clallam County, and 3) successful collaboration between fish, farm and flood interests in Snohomish County. Together they make a strong statement about how human well being and Puget Sound health are inextricably connected, and mutually reinforcing.

Sufficient funding for the priorities described in the Action Agenda for Puget Sound remains the biggest barrier to recovery. However, the Report’s Call to Action outlines many activities that governments and a range of other partners can do now, without additional funding. The recommendations in the Call to Action highlight how each of us must play our part, to bring the day closer when our rivers once again run clean and teem with salmon, and our shellfish are safe to harvest throughout Puget Sound.

The Report provides the latest information on the condition of the ecosystem—the Puget Sound Vital Sign indicators, made possible by the work of dozens of monitoring programs around the region—as well as statements from the Partnership’s Leadership Council and Science Panel. The Vital Sign indicators show that progress has been reported for 10 of the 52 indicators; however, only 4 indicators are currently meeting their 2020 targets.

This year’s Report also offers an enhanced website with a greater depth of content and data tools. A downloadable version includes both content from the website and further information on funding, legislative and policy developments, and other Puget Sound recovery management updates.

About the State of the Sound

The biennial State of the Sound report is intended to help our partners and decision makers better understand: (1) how well the recovery effort is going, (2) ecosystem health and progress toward Puget Sound recovery goals, and (3) the role each partner can play in achieving Puget Sound recovery. It also responds specifically to state statute (RCW 90.71.370(3)). This report reflects the work accomplished by hundreds of groups throughout the Puget Sound region, including governments, tribes, nonprofits, communities, scientists, and businesses. See www.stateofthesound.wa.gov.

About the Puget Sound Partnership

The Puget Sound Partnership is the state agency leading the region’s collective effort to restore and protect Puget Sound. The Puget Sound Partnership brings together hundreds of partners to mobilize partner action around a common agenda (Action Agenda for Puget Sound), advance sound investments, and advance priority actions by supporting partners. For more information see www.psp.wa.gov.

Crosscut Documentaries presents: The Rising

A new film about the Quinault and their struggle with climate change and ocean level rise.

Facing climate upheaval on Washington’s coast, members of the Quinault tribe take to the sea in the canoes of their ancestors.

https://crosscut.com/2019/12/crosscut-documentaries-presents-rising

Greta and Ella. The future is here.

I was doing a lot of thinking on the ride home from Seattle after a Thanksgiving dinner with my younger son and his partner. About the future of this planet and our civilization, as we reach the tipping point, something beginning to happen now. We are entering what Jackson Browne called, back in the 1970s, “The Deluge”. I think it fits. But  I was also thinking about two remarkable young women, one from our community and one from Europe, one is  Greta Thunberg and the other is Ella Ashford. They both show us a way to a new future.

Greta sees the world as her community. She has launched a one girl crusade that has outpaced anything that Joan of Arc could have accomplished. Or perhaps it’s what Joan could have achieved with Twitter and Facebook, along with no interference from a corrupt Catholic Church and French King.

Ella has seen her community as her world. She has accomplished much through her high school years on a local level, here in Jefferson County, leading a children’s crusade to teach her siblings and friends the wonders of being able to program technology for useful robotic tasks. This technology knowledge is key to our future. As we continue to refine our  3D augmentation of robotic devices, we will find  we don’t need to (and probably can’t) send humans to live on various worlds for extended periods. These worlds may hold the possibility of offering us resources we need to survive, (whether those worlds are under our oceans here on earth or somewhere else in the universe). We will need robotics to go into places like melted down nuclear power plants, polluted lakes and rivers, and much  more.  They will be remotely driving robots into fighting fires like at Paradise, or into oceans to destroy out of balance ecosystems. Those ecoystems might be those of the California coast, where the death of starfish has led to a disastrous overpopulation in sea urchins, devastating the kelp beds, which are the forests of the sea. These next generation leaders will also need to invent new ways of creating energy, making food, creating the jobs  and moving us towards the Green Economy that is already being created right now under our feet to allow us to possibly survive “The Deluge”. Our species is nothing if not creative. It may be our defining uniqueness.

Ella has shown outstanding ability to understand how to build and program these devices. And she has taught others how to do this. With the incredible support of her parents and community, her team of teens and pre-teens have placed in the upper echelons of global competition for robotic prototypes in competition against the best of college and high school. Let that sink in. They have been among the best in the world at doing this.

Ella and Greta have both left the nest, and are (at this moment) both in Europe. Greta is rallying her troops, young and old, to overturn the complacency of the population as it relates to climate change. There is little time left to do this. It may already be too late. We are already in the opening phases and its’ only going to get worse. We need brain power, and specifically young brain power, to solve this. Think about the next Bill Gates at 25 inventing a new way of computing that changed everything. Except this time, it’s just as likely to be a woman.

Ella is touring Europe, embarking on her year off between high school and college. Gaining the perspective of seeing the world of Europe, where the best and the brightest are now flocking, given the U.S. shutting it’s doors to them. This is an immense problem that the Trump Administration and many of our peers who support him apparently cannot see. Ella is meeting her peers that will help create the future. She plans on sailing to the South Pacific after that to see first hand what the people there are experiencing. She will likely see global warming beginning the destruction of those places and the fisheries they depend on. She will hopefully be able to use her skills to come up with new ways of approaching these problems. Or teaching people there something that may help them in their hour of need. Or perhaps, she’ll be the one learning from them.

At the very moment when we need young skilled students and workers from around the world, we are shutting them out. This is economic suicide. These young people will go to Europe and Canada, where they are welcome and do their research projects there. They will advance their skills, create the next Silicon Valleys for their new countries. They will perhaps find partners and put down roots.  The U.S. will be the loser for this, and, in fact, already is.

I have no idea what the future holds for Greta and Ella. But I hope that both of them take their skills where they are most needed and continue the work to lead their peers into the rest of the century. They are the future, and we wish them all the luck in the world.

Al Latham’s Weather Report for November

Thanks to Al for continuing to let us in on the local weather stats! We love his work!


Greetings inhabitants of earth!

Here’s the November rainfall/precipitation report from your friendly www.cocorahs.org station WA-JF-1 located slightly off Center, 5.1 miles south of the bustling metropolis of Chimacum.

Yup, you’re right, November was dry!  Only 1.17″ found in the rain gauge with 5.1″ being the average at this place.

With only 2 months accumulation in the new water year (started Oct 1) the total is 3.26″ with 7.9″ being the average.

November is often our wettest month – not this year!

In fact, it’s the driest November recorded here since 1981- the next driest was 2013 with 1.32″.  That was followed by a very dry December and much wetter Feb & Mar.  We’ll see what happens this winter.

A bit disconcerting to be going into December with the ditches dry and the pond at it’s lowest level.

The coho will be having a hard time getting into the upper watershed of Chimacum Creek with these low water levels.

The NOAA climate prediction center is guessing that Dec-Feb will be warmer and slightly wetter than “normal” – but forecasts out more than 10 days are more art than science – not that art is bad of course!

That’s it for this edition of Weather – or not!   Al

 

“Imagine a Thanksgiving dinner of your great grandchildren a hundred years from now.  

In the center of the table is a bright silver salmon locally caught and cooked in the practiced way of long enjoyment and reverence.

At the end of the feast will be a simple ceremony – a long walk to the creek with neighboring families, each with a wooden bowl of salmon bones,

to return the remains to the waters of their creation in gratitude and respect.

Perhaps there will be mention of the ancestors, if that is who we decide to be – the old ones who stayed put, who gave the salmon shelter in their hearts

and found their own way home”.

(excerpt from “Homecoming”  by our chum Tom Jay  – one who stayed put.)

Cooke Aquaculture pays 2.75 Million dollar fine for net pen collapse

The company responsible for the net pen collapse that released large numbers of Atlantic Salmon into Puget Sound has settled out of court in advance of a Monday court date.

Cooke Aquaculture has reached a settlement to pay $2.75 million in legal fees and to fund Puget Sound restoration projects, putting an end to a Clean Water Act lawsuit that followed the 2017 collapse of one of the fish-farming company’s net-pen structures. – Seattle Times. Read the full article here and consider subscribing to the Times and keeping local reporters working.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/cooke-aquaculture-settles-lawsuit-with-wild-fish-advocates-over-net-pen-collapse/

These funds will go to help pay legal expenses, and the rest of the funds will go to the Rose Foundation to fund environmental projects to protect wild salmon and killer whales in Puget Sound, as well as WFC’s litigation expenses. Cooke also agreed to change their practices and address additional dangers identified in the course of the lawsuit, according to Wild Fish Conservancy, who brought the lawsuit.

“This is truly a victory for the future of our sound,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “Open water net pen aquaculture is a risky business, and thanks to this settlement we are one step closer to getting this dirty industry out of Puget Sound once and for all. This was long in coming. Last year, the public demanded an end to Atlantic salmon net pens. Just last week, thousands of people spoke out against switching these farms to different species. Now a federal judge ruled that Cooke broke the law. It’s time for this industry to leave Puget Sound.”

Cooke’s operations continue to put wild salmon and the health of Puget Sound at risk. Just weeks ago, one of the Bainbridge Island net pens began sinking due to a hole in a flotation pontoon; luckily, the damaged portion was not stocked with Atlantic salmon at the time but may have resulted in an escape were the pens occupied. Marine engineer Tobias Dewhurst, an independent expert testifying on behalf of Wild Fish Conservancy, reviewed conditions at each farm site and determined “conditions at each of its eight sites exceeded the maximum rated conditions specified by the net pen manufacturer,” and that as a result “pens and cages operated by Cooke were at risk of failure.” Even given subsequent changes, Dewhurst concluded, “certain remaining sites appear to be operating in conditions that exceed those specified by the net pen system manufacturers,” and therefore “may be at risk of partial or catastrophic failure.”

http://www.wildfishconservancy.org/cooke-aquaculture-to-pay-2.75-million-ending-wfc-lawsuit-over-net-pen-collapse-1

Recently, Cooke has partnered with the Jamestown S’Klallam to reopen the net pens in Port Angeles to raise native, but genetically modified steelhead. While the danger of these fish escaping and somehow altering native stocks is dramatically lessened, there is still the issue raised by Wild Fish Conservancy, of destruction of the environment in and around the feeding pens, along with possible affects of raising large quantities of fish in a small enclose. Virus and parasites are traditionally the concern, yet the Tribe has claimed that they are working on mitigation techniques. The Tribe has been researching raising these steelhead at the NOAA research facility at Manchester for the last few years. Their goal is to do this as environmentally responsibly as possible giving current scientific best practices. Many in the environmental community remain unconvinced that this won’t become another problem.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued a mitigated determination of non-significance, which allowed only  a 21-day comment period. This requires neither a full environmental assessment nor environmental impact statement under the State Environmental Policy Act. Such an assessment would have considered the risks of diseases, pollution, further escapes and collapses, and the potential harm to federally-listed native steelhead. Kurt Beardsley of Wild Fish Conservancy said of the lack of EIS, “The 2017 collapse revealed that these pens are dramatically under-built for conditions in Puget Sound, and that Cooke’s recovery plan in the event of escapes was woefully inadequate. More escapes would directly threaten our wild salmon, steelhead trout, and endangered killer whales. Without a full EIS, the state cannot address the evidence from their investigations and WFC’s.

The Tribe at least brings a local group that has a a track record of being  concerned with long term viability of the resource, and is not going to be moving operations like many international corporations do.

Just to the north, on the Canadian Coast, a long running battle over farmed fish has pitted environmental scientist and activist Alexandra Morton against the fish farming industry. She has been working with the local tribes in documenting a horribly destructive virus that has appeared from Norway in both the local wild fish and the farm raised fish.

While Washington state passed legislation banning PRV-infected farm salmon, it is still an unknown as to whether the virus is affecting the ever decreasing numbers of wild chinook that are the primary food of the resident orcas. Reopening net pens here could provide a vector for fish carrying the disease that could be passing through the infected waters to the north on their way here.

(more on this story at The Georgia Straight News)

In October, Cooke paid another large fine in Maine for multiple violations of their laws for fish farming.  https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/aquaculture/cooke-to-pay-fine-for-overstocking-maine-salmon-farms-not-conducting-environmental-testing

In April, Cooke paid over $300,000 for water quality violations here in Washington.

Bill Ruckelshaus Dies

One of the the legends of the Northwest environmental movement, William Ruckelshaus, died Wednesday at his home in Seattle, at the age of 87. He was not only the first head of the EPA ( as a Republican) but also guided the Puget Sound Partnership and many other environmental efforts both here and around the country. He was considered a visionary in environmental issues by many in this area.

Beyond his incredible early years in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, as the first and fifth administrator of the EPA,  in 2005 he was appointed by Governor Gregoire to co-chair the Puget Sound Partnership to organize the cleanup of Puget Sound. This effort is still struggling to succeed, though the date that they assigned to achieve it is only a few years away. It has been a noble goal, but one that has been plagued with a variety of mismanagement, unrealistic timelines, a lack of appropriate funding for public education on the issues, and endless bureaucratic meetings that have not accomplished a great deal by the very measures that the Partnership has put in place. The Partnership has acted more as a monitoring, prioritization and a channel to hand out funds to groups working on restoration, rather than championing laws that could more quickly produce results. The continued collapse of Chinook and resident orca whales has been an example of the ongoing controversy in recovery efforts. None of this is because of Bill, but reflects the problems with achieving the vision that he created and his low key efforts to placate all sides.

Ruckelshaus’ legacy is well documented in a variety of obituaries, which I list below. What I could sum up as someone who has been involved in the environmental movement for many years, is that everyone respected Bill Ruckleshaus, no matter which side of the issue you may have been on.

I interviewed him for an epilogue to my film, “Voices of the Strait”, the first film funded by the Puget Sound Partnership, in 2010. He was gracious and intelligent. My interview with him starts at 15:52 on the video found here. https://vimeo.com/20621992

We will miss his guidance in working out solutions between factions of polluters and protectors of the Salish Sea. Those of us who are firm in wanting to protect  the vanishing habitat of our wildlife, need someone like Bill who can sit in the endless meetings with the opposition and craft something of value.  As a moderate Republican in favor of supporting environmental protection, he was the last of a breed.

One of the better quick reads on Ruckelshaus.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/william-d-ruckelshaus-who-refused-to-join-in-nixons-saturday-night-massacre-dies-at-87/2019/11/27/e089e474-113a-11ea-bf62-eadd5d11f559_story.html

https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/27/william-ruckelshaus-first-epa-chief-dies-at-87-074237

NY Times version. More balanced on his achievements and some of the controversies surrounding his various stages of life.

A version that minimizes his work here in the Puget Sound.

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/william-ruckelshaus-who-refused-to-join-in-nixons-saturday-night-massacre-dies-at-87/

 

 

 

 

Clallam County Planning Division Says No to Dungeness Spit Jamestown S’Klallam Oyster Farm

While a small victory for the opponents of the proposed oyster farm inside Dungeness Spit, it does not mean that the Hearing Examiner will actually follow their recommendation. The Planning Division stated that the farm is not consistent with the Natural Shoreline Designation, does not meat the CUP (Conditional Use Permit)  Criteria, and will negatively impact wildlife at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.

Oddly, though the current area is natural, because the location has been used in the past for oyster farming, the staff found that there would be no cumulative impacts. That flies in the face of the recent Army Corp of Engineers court loss, that discovered unpublished Army Corp scientific documents that clearly delineated the ongoing destruction of near shore from continuous use.

The staff also points out that “Based on the density of birds that visit the DNWR and their sensitivity for disturbance while migrating and foraging, even small impacts at this wildlife refuge could result in substantial detrimental effects (emphasis mine) to the public interest.”

The objective of the Natural designation are intended to preserve, maintain or restore such a shoreline as a natural resource relatively free of human influence; to discourage or prohibit those activities which might destroy or degrade the natural characteristics which make these shorelines unique and valuable. The applicant should address how the proposal with up to 80,000 on-bottom bags with year round gear maintenance of up to 6 people visiting the site for up to 6 hours 6 times a month within the migration and wintering periods for shorebirds and waterfowl is an appropriate use in the Natural Designation located off the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. (emphasis mine)

It seems it would be a good time for our state legislators and DNR  to step up, and work with the Tribe to swap this area for another spot. The risk of long term damage to our dwindling stocks of shorebirds, marine birds, herring, sand lance and the like at this critical location, close to the estuary and the preferred feeding area of nesting birds from Protection Island, poses the threat of irreversible  harm.

 

 

 

Video: Blue Carbon- A Story from the Snohomish Estuary

What is the Green New Deal in action? Here’s a 5 minute overview of the work and reasons behind restoring the Snohomish Estuary, which could be considered an element of the New Green deal today.. An extremely clear story of why we need to restore salt water estuaries both for carbon sequestration, protection against storm surge, and much more. A fun watch! Especially share it with pre-teens and teens!

 

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