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

Residents opposed to Mason County ‘septic lagoon’ despite state paving the way for approval – Kitsap Sun

Whatever could go wrong?  Well this story is about mitigating what went wrong. This is one of the locations that process our wastes for Jefferson County.  There is a backstory to this, as the request by Bio Recycling, who  has been in Mason County for a long time, and this proposal is to mitigate a problem for winter discharges and brown-water issues. It has been an ongoing issue of nitrates getting into the environment from the current plant. Bio Recycling’s technology may be sound, but so much “green-washing” is happening these days, where companies with unsound technologies rebrand themselves as ‘environmentally friendly” that it’s worth it to review their proposal.

The bio-solids they process are taken to central Washington where they are reused as fertilizer, though it’s unclear on what crops, etc.

They have been processing on-site septic systems and waste water treatment plants since 1993. There is no requirement to test for organic chemicals such as drugs, chemotherapy chemicals, poisons, etc. though they mention in the video of the meeting that they have done some preliminary studies and not found more than traces of some chemicals.  They use a lime neutralization process to treat the septic product. They process home septic tanks, some grease trap material and some material from waste treatment plants like Port Townsend and Port Ludlow, if my information is correct.

Citizen concerns are over a variety of issues, one of them being the ability to withstand a seismic event and what would happen in the event of an earthquake causing the pond to be breached.

The entire video of the Mason County Commissioners meeting that goes over the request is found here: http://masonwebtv.com/archives/30031

Also the overview of Bio Recycling and it’s processes, it’s overview of the project, etc.  I can’t find any mention of the people who run the company on their web site, or if they are owned by another company. They are a privately owned company apparently run by Brian Hinkey (sp?) the son of the founder.

http://www.biorecycle.com/north_ranch.shtm

Bio Recycling is still awaiting permit approval from Mason County and the Department of Ecology to move forward with plans to build a double-lined lagoon to store treated biosolids, amid outcry from community members. The Department of Ecology and Mason County determined in March that the facility’s proposal to build an 18-million-gallon, double-lined lagoon to store treated wastewater and septage in Union will not have a probable significant adverse impact on the environment. The determination of nonsignificance, part of a state-mandated process, kicked off an intense period of public comment and meetings, wherein Ecology and Mason County received more than 100 comments from individuals, tribes and state agencies weighing in on the project. Arla Shephard Bull reports. (Kitsap Sun)

Residents opposed to Mason ‘septic lagoon’ despite state paving way for approval

Maia Bellon named as Director of Department of Ecology by Gov Inslee

OLYMPIA – Governor Jay Inslee today named Maia D. Bellon as the new director of Washington State’s Department of Ecology. Bellon currently heads the Water Resources Program at the Department of Ecology, where she has worked since 2010. She was named head of that program in July 2011. Prior to that she spent i5 years in the Attorney Generals office leading litigation support for Ecology’s water resources, shore lands, toxic cleanup and air programs.

Bellon led efforts to bring Lean management practices to state’s water management program. This year she was honored with the department’s Director’s Choice Award.

“Maia will be an effective leader in our efforts to work on natural resource and regulatory issues that are of huge importance to many in our state,” said Inslee. “She brings a keen understanding of key issues such as water management that have implications for both our quality of life and our economy.”

Bellon will also play a key role in shepherding Inslee’s first piece of executive request legislation, the Yakima River Basin Water, Jobs and Fish Bill. The bill implements a consensus plan that addresses a broad array of water issues in the basin, posing threats to area salmon stocks and to Yakima’s agricultural and food industries.

“Although work in the natural resource arena faces complicated challenges, there are many opportunities we can all work towards,” Bellon said. “Under the governor’s guidance, we will look to shape balanced solutions that preserve the quality of life Washingtonians expect.”

As the program manager for Ecology’s Water Resources Program, Bellon oversees management of the state’s water resources, including allocation of water and protection of water rights.
Before working for Ecology, Bellon was an Assistant Attorney General assigned to Ecology’s Water Section. She is a graduate of the Evergreen State College and the Arizona State University College of Law.

Ms. Bellon has been in charge of the contentious “in stream flow” program, during a period of time where it appeared able to function better than it had prior to her arrival as program manager.

Ecology adopts SEPA rule changes

Let’s remember that these bad rules were put out on election day, under the waning days of Governor Christine Gregoire. It allows local communities to drive a truck through the state protections, and greatly expands the ability of local officials to set aside hard won environmental protections.

If we have our reservations about Gregoire being the head of EPA, this is one of the reasons for it.

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     OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has adopted a new rule that increases the flexible thresholds local governments may adopt to exempt certain minor new construction projects from review under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).
     Enacted in 1971, SEPA helps state and local agencies in Washington identify possible environmental impacts that could result from governmental decisions such as issuing permits for private projects, constructing public facilities, or adopting regulations, policies or plans.
     SEPA applies to all state and local agency decisions including state agencies, cities, counties, ports and special districts such as school and water districts.
     Every year, state and local agencies in Washington use SEPA to evaluate about 6,000 proposed decisions. Information learned through the review process can be used to change a proposal to reduce likely impacts, apply conditions to or deny a proposal when adverse environmental impacts are identified.
     SEPA also gives local governments the option to allow some minor construction projects, depending on their size and scale, to be exempt from review.
     To comply with a law passed by the 2012 Washington Legislature and approved by Gov. Chris Gregoire, Ecology’s new rule increases the size and scale thresholds for building projects local governments can choose to be exempt from SEPA review, including:
* Small-scale residential housing developments.
* Office, school and commercial buildings with adjoining parking lots under a certain size.
* Agricultural structures within a specific square footage.
* Minor landfill and excavation activities.
     The exemption levels will vary depending whether a proposed project would be located in a city, unincorporated areas inside an urban growth area, or in a county that is or is not planning under the state Growth Management Act.
     Besides increasing the flexible thresholds for minor construction projects, the new rule also:
* Makes the SEPA checklist more efficient by allowing checklists to be submitted electronically to lead state and local agencies and give agencies the ability to skip irrelevant checklist questions when considering changes to plans, programs or policies.
* Expands the exemption threshold for electrical utilities from 55,000 to 115,000 volts in existing rights-of-way and developed utility corridors.
     Ecology will conduct a second, broader round of SEPA rule revisions later this year.
###
Media contact: Curt Hart, 360-407-6990; cell, 360-480-7908 (curt.hart@ecy.wa.gov)
SEPA rulemaking: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/sepa/rulemaking2012.html
More about SEPA: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/sepa/e-review.html
Ecology’s website: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/
Ecology’s social media: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html
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Department of Ecology’s Home Page:  http://www.ecy.wa.gov
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Port of Port Angeles to get millions to lift cleanup burden – PDN

Nice to see that our state taxes are being spread around to help defray the burden on Port Angeles residents for cleaning up this toxic site. This is a good example of why cleaning up toxic sites shouldn’t be just left up to the local economy.

The Port of Port Angeles will not have to go it alone on an estimated $4.4 million-$6.4 million environmental cleanup of the former Peninsula Plywood mill site. A $2 million state grant is available to help soften the financial blow, a state Department of Ecology official said Monday. Paul Gottleib reports. Port of Port Angeles to get millions to lift cleanup burden.

http://peninsuladailynews.com/article/20121023/news/310239995/port-of-port-angeles-to-get-millions-to-lift-cleanup-burden

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