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/

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

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!

 

Washing Laundry May Be An Underappreciated Source of Microplastic Pollution – Columbia University

More bad news on how our daily lives are affecting the planet.

Concerns over plastic in the ocean are growing in recent years. About 2.41 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year, including approximately 15,000 plastic bags per day. However, most of the plastic waste (94 percent) is made up of microplastics — pieces of plastic measuring less than five millimeters across. This summer, three interns at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory decided to focus their research on microplastics, specifically microbeads and microfibers. Mentored by Lamont marine biologist Joaquim Goes, the students Emmerline Ragoonath-De Mattos, Mariela Carrera, and Asya Surphlis uncovered a significant culprit of microplastic pollution that is largely overlooked: the washing of laundry…For now, there are products that consumers can buy to filter microfibers out in the washing machine. Two such options are products called Guppyfriend and the Cora Ball

Washing Laundry May Be An Underappreciated Source of Microplastic Pollution

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