Head of State Ecology Answers Prof. Cliff Mass on Ocean Acidification

As reported here in the last few weeks, UW Meteorologist Cliff Mass posted in his blog that recent court filings by the US EPA and State Department of Ecology were evidence that neither really thought that Ocean Acidification was a scientifically proven threat to the Salish Sea and our seafood industries. My criticism here on this blog was then used by him as a place to accuse me of personally attacking him for his views. (see comments in previous articles last week). This week, State Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon stepped into the fray, publishing a scathing blog entry directly addressing his comments. I quote:

Department of Ecology take threats from ocean acidification very seriously. This is not a surprise to many, given our policy and science leadership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to understand and address ocean acidification. But local meteorologist Cliff Mass’s September 7 blog is causing some people to question just what our position is, and whether ocean acidification is real.

Let’s be clear. Ocean acidification is real. Determining the causes, impacts, and identifying potential solutions are high priorities for our agency and our state…

….Cliff Mass quoted a few sentences from legal documents that misled several blog readers to believe that Ecology and EPA have determined that acidification is not damaging oysters in Puget Sound or other local waters. He misinterpreted documents filed under litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

http://coenv.washington.edu/research/major-initiatives/ocean-acidification/oa-in-washingtons-waters-in-the-context-of-marine-water-quality/.

It is gratifying to say the least to see our top bureaucrat in charge of addressing this issue come forward and clearly lay out the issue to any reader in the State. Professor Mass has not yet chosen to respond to this blog post by Ms. Bellon.

Those of us who are involved in educating the public to serious (and sometimes difficult to comprehend) issues like ocean acidification are grateful to Ms. Bellon for stepping up and using her bully pulpit to call out the serious and urgent need for continued scientific work to figure out a solution to this issue, if a solution does in fact exist. There is far too much at stake to sit back and allow critics to derail these efforts without  answering them. It’s what true leadership is all about.

Washington Supreme Court Rules For Tribe In Skagit Case – Earthfix

This decision has huge ramifications. The Tribes have always said that they have the right to go after upstream water regulations within the watersheds if the State didn’t appropriately protect the salmon stream flows, and now the Supreme Court has agreed with them.

A Western Washington tribe Thursday won a legal victory that will ensure more water stays in the Skagit River to help salmon and steelhead. The decision could affect 6,000 landowners who were allocated water under rules that have now been struck down. That figure includes more than 600 residents with homes that have already been built. The Washington state Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Ecology overstepped its authority in allocating water from the Skagit River for new development.

This has to do with the Washington Instream Rule and whether the State has been doing the correct job in balancing water use for development and water use for fish.  The virtually unregulated use of water for any and all comers is a throwback to the 1800s, and it is widely understood now that rivers can have too much water taken out of them, and the local aquifers  which often recharge them.

This will be coming to a county near you here on the Peninsula soon, due to this decision. The good news is that the counties here and the Tribes have been working very cooperatively to work this out. There are still some locations to be worked out, but this should help clarify those discussions.

http://earthfix.opb.org/water/article/court-rules-in-favor-of-keeping-water-in-skagit-ri/

 

And this:

Ecology director committed to finding water supply solutions in the Skagit Basin after state Supreme Court ruling

OLYMPIA – Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon today renewed her commitment to ensuring adequate water supplies for home owners and stream flows in the Skagit Basin after Ecology’s 2006 water management rule for the Skagit Basin was invalidated.

The Washington state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today that Ecology in 2006 exceeded its authority in setting aside water reservations for new uses in the Skagit. The 2006 rule amended a 2001 water management rule that protected stream flows basin-wide.

A reservation is a specific amount of water set aside for specific uses in watersheds closed to new groundwater wells. In the case of the Skagit, these reservations have provided a source of water for homes, agriculture, livestock and businesses since 2001. The court today ruled in Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. Department of Ecology that Ecology cannot set aside reservations of water through adoption of water management rules where water was previously set aside to support stream flows for fish. Without water reservations, later water uses can be interrupted when dry spells impact the protected stream flows. Ecology found in 2006 that limited reservations would not substantially harm fish populations. The Swinomish Tribe challenged the establishment of the reservations in 2008 and appealed a Thurston County Superior Court finding in Ecology’s favor in 2010.

“I am disappointed in today’s ruling but no less committed to finding water supply solutions for homes and businesses,” Bellon said. “We will be working with local partners to manage the water supply in the Skagit Basin to ensure stream flows are protected and the needs of existing and future water users are met.”

A total of 475 homes and 8 businesses have relied on Skagit reservations for their water supplies since 2001. Ecology will be looking for water supply solutions for those homes and businesses who are affected by today’s ruling.

Ecology is assessing today’s decision and how it may affect water management in other areas of the state.

For today’s court decision, go to: www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/876720.pdf

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