Senate blocks legislation to undercut EPA clean water rules – AP

Another reason to support Democrats in your local and national elections. The Republicans continue to push to remove all environmental restrictions on our waters, as the Conservatives under Harper in Canada did in the last dozen years there. With the general population supporting environmental laws in the abstract, they continue to vote for people who don’t in the real world.

Democrats have blocked a Senate bill that would have forced the Obama administration to withdraw new federal rules to protect smaller streams, tributaries and wetlands from development and pollution. Supporters of the legislation — and opponents of the rules — did not get the 60 votes needed Tuesday to stop debate and consider the bill. The vote was 57-41, meaning Democrats have blocked the bill, for now. Most Democrats argue that the Obama administration rules will safeguard drinking water for 117 million Americans and say they should remain in place. The White House threatened a veto of the bill, saying the regulations are “essential to ensure clean water for future generations.” Mary Clare Jalonick reports. (Associated Press)

Jefferson County Dems Adopt Marbled Murrelet Resolution

The Jefferson County Democrats adopted, on Tuesday, a resolution urging the Board of Natural Resources to adopt the strongest of the alternatives it is considering for protection of marbled murrelet habitat. As a federally listed threatened species, the murrelet is protected on federal lands, but not on private lands. The bird has been protected on state trust lands under an interim conservation strategy since 1997, years before most research on the murrelet’s ecological requirements took place.

“The state’s own scientists showed in 2008 that this threatened species is still declining because of our logging practices,” said Bruce Cowan, Chair of the Jefferson County Democrats. “If this species is going to survive, we can’t just keep cutting the trust lands where these birds nest.”

The meeting followed a presentation by Kevin Schmelzlen of the Murrelet Survival Project. Not until 1974 did scientists discover that, unlike any other seabird, the murrelet nests in forests, flying as far as fifty miles inland to nest on large branches high in old growth forests. Breeding pairs switch places daily, with one parent feeding on small fish while the other incubates their single egg.

The Washington State Board of Natural Resources is currently considering five alternatives for habitat protection on state trust lands. According to Shmelzlen, only Alternative E responds to the 2008 Science Report, developed by researchers for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The issue of murrelet habitat conservation has been contentious. In 2013, the courts halted a DNR approved harvest of 12,000 acres of timber in Southwest Washington. The Forest Resources Council, an advocate for the timber industry, was unsuccessful in its attempt to have the murrelet de-listed as a threatened species.

“We’ve waited long enough for action,” said Cowan. “Adopting a clear policy based on the 2008 Science Report will make it easier for DNR to do its work. With fewer lawsuits, the flow of timber revenues to state and local governments will be more predictable,” said Cowan. “The set aside is not huge, and it could save a species from extinction.”

Event: JeffCo Democrats discuss Marbled Murrelet Resolution – 10/27

Tuesday, October 27, JCD Membership Meeting, Program and Business Meeting on Murrelet Resolution, 
Port Townsend Community Center, 7 p.m.
Following a presentation by Kevin Schmelzlen (Murrelet Survival Project) and Peter Bahls (Northwest Watershed Institute

), the members will meet to discuss a resolution regarding Survival of the Marbled Murrelet. Here are the meeting agenda, minutes of last meeting, and the resolution.
The Marbled Murrelet is more than a cute little bird. This threatened species is in decline in Washington, partly because our state has taken a very long time to adopt public policies for managing our mature and ancient forests, a source of revenue for the state and local governments, in a way that provides for its long-term survival.
If passed, the resolution calls on the state to immediately adopt a long-term survival plan for the marbled murrelet, and it calls on the  Board of County Commissioners to speak up, as well. If passed, the resolution would also go forward to the Washington State Democrats for their consideration in January.

Congressmen Kilmer and Heck introduce Puget Sound SOS Bill

On Saturday U.S. Representatives Denny Heck (WA-10) and Derek Kilmer (WA-6), announced the introduction of a bill to help bring more federal resources to the recovery efforts of Puget Sound. The bill, called the Puget Sound SOS aims at amending the Clean Water Act to allow Puget Sound to be ranked at parity to the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

The bill would create a Puget Sound Recovery Program Office in the EPA. The goal would be to better focus resources to these efforts. Currently, the EPA and NOAA help fund the state through grants that are prioritized by the many efforts of the Puget Sound Partnership throughout the Sound.  These prioritized lists, created by volunteers from the various agencies and non profits involved in recovery efforts, are then funded by grants from the EPA and NOAA. The funding has been far under what is necessary, and it is hoped that this will help find more funds through the agency.

The three goals that are of the highest priority, and under which most if not all the other sub goals are grouped into, are: Habitat recovery, mitigating stormwater runoff, and helping shellfish recovery. At the core of these are clean water entering the Sound, and restoration of habitat wherever possible.

While Heck and Kilmer are still looking for co-sponsors, it is still uncertain what changes to the Clean Water Act the Republican controlled Congress is going to seek. There is also the issue of a possible shut down of the government soon, due to Planned Parenthood funding issues.

The good news is that Kilmer and Heck have been fighting for Puget Sound recovery efforts for some time, and have been good at helping keep the issue on a front burner back in Washington DC. 

Details of the bill are not yet available, as the legislation has not been introduced yet.

Nitrates, fecal coliform from dairies linked to tainted shellfish, tap water -KOMO News

As the work continues to craft a Critical Areas Ordinance in our county, one of the key new issues is including Agriculture in it. (they were exempted in previous versions due to political pressure as mentioned in this report). This quick report highlights the concerns of those in the environmental community for crafting buffers from streams that work. Our county has been a leader in cooperative work between the farmers and those trying to restore streams such as Chimicum Creek. Hopefully we can leverage that work into something even more productive, without being heavy handed. But we also can’t just “give away the farm” so to speak. Here’s why:

Shellfish, swimming beaches, and the tap water for thousands of people in certain areas of Washington state are being contaminated by pollutants running off farms, and critics say dairy cows are the chief culprit, according to a KOMO 4 Problem Solvers investigation. Government regulators are failing to halt that pollution largely because of insufficient laws, pressure from the agriculture industry and too little enforcement, the Problem Solvers review found. Voluntary compliance and good intentions from many dairy farmers have not been enough to prevent dangerous contaminates generated by manure from getting into waters of Washington state. Only one percent of Washington’s roughly 700 dairy farms – some with thousands of cows at one facility – have a permit to pollute, say state agencies. Jeff Burnside reports. (KOMO)

Washington state budget outlook predicts shortfall – Tacoma News Tribune

This has been the elephant in the room, for trying to get anything new done at the State. It shows that our economy is far from ‘back to normal’ as the revenues are still far below needs.  From what I’ve heard, our legislators don’t want to hear any asks for anything outside the current needs. It seems that someone, sometime is going to have to start telling the voters that if they want everything they are asking for, our tax system will have to be reformed. There is no way that we can get everything we want, and rely on the system that was such a good idea in 1865, when we had what seemed like unlimited trees to cut, and relied on virtually no big businesses for employment. Now, with the profits from Microsoft, Boeing and other global businesses being funneled into tax havens like Nevada and Delaware, the burden for all these needs falls on the people least able to pay for it, the public. But so many of them don’t want to hear about a progressive income tax. Without increasing new taxes, the burden for implementing McCleary for example, is going to fall on all the other state agencies, such as environmental protection, cleaning up waterways, fish and wildlife, higher ed, and the like. Is this really what you expected when you voted for these new measures? Where did you think the money would come from?

Washington state lawmakers are facing a projected budget gap of more than $2 billion for the next two-year budget ending in mid-2017, in large part due to a new voter-approved initiative to shrink class sizes, according to a state budget outlook released Wednesday. That projected shortfall does not include half of the expected financial obligation needed to increase funding for education as directed by the state Supreme Court, nor does it count the additional amount needed if collective bargaining agreements with state workers are approved. Rachel La Corte reports. (Associated Press)

Feds to protect Puget Sound habitat for rockfish – Various sources

A small ray of good news shines through the bad this morning, as National Marine Fisheries has required that federal agencies take rockfish protection into their future planning, meaning that fishing, and other activities related to the species will need greater scrutiny before being allowed. This affects us here in Jefferson County, because our near shore activities, such as rule making with the Shoreline Master Program, includes protecting kelp beds and other shores where the fish might live and breed. Our local Marine Resources Committees are also gearing up to do kelp bed monitoring (there is a significant one off North Beach and the area around the lighthouse at Admiralty Inlet) over the next year. If you are wondering where the kelp beds might be, check out our new tool, SoundIQ that lists near shore areas. A link to it can be found at the front left side of this blog.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is set to designate about 1,000 square miles in Puget Sound as critical habitat for three species of imperiled rockfish. The habitat protection follows a 2010 decision to list yelloweye, canary and bocaccio rockfish under the Endangered Species Act. The agency says the rockfish are vulnerable to overfishing because they have long lives and mature slowly with sporadic reproduction. The designation will require federal agencies to make sure their actions don’t harm rockfish habitat. The rule is scheduled to be published on Thursday. The protected area will cover about 340 fewer square miles that originally proposed, excluding some tribal lands and military areas. (Associated Press)

This is one of the many press releases that were picked up by dozens of news outlets last night.

The entire document can be found at the link below. For those of you actively engaged in monitoring activities of kelp beds and also fisheries, this is worth reading or at least skimming. The science and the way that they made their decisions is found in the document.

I want to thank Norm Baker of Sequim, who has worked tirelessly on this issue for years. He has been a key local contact for many of the bureaucrats in our state. He knows probably more than anyone around on the issue, and the benefits of this particular announcement.


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