Lessons from the Oso Mud Slide

There are two articles in the last 48 hours on the Oso mud slide which are worth reading, especially as it relates to the Olympic Peninsula. Timothy Egan, a northwest based writer produced, “A Mudslide, Foretold”, in which he claims that logging over legal limits likely were part of the problems that caused the slide.

DON’T tell me, please, that nobody saw one of the deadliest landslides in American history coming… enough with the denial, the willful ignorance of cause and effect, the shock that one of the prettiest valleys on the planet could turn in a flash from quiet respite in the foothills of the North Cascades to a gravelly graveyard.

New York Times Article by Timothy Egan

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/30/opinion/sunday/egan-at-home-when-the-earth-moves.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=0

We also now know that the State has been monitoring this very slope for over 25 years, with a very specific report given to DNR from the Department of Ecology in 1997, DNR chose to ignore that science and use data from 1988 to issue much greater logging areas than the scientists from Ecology recommended.

State used outdated data to allow logging on slope – Seattle Times

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2023266702_mudslideloggingmapxml.html

How much the homeowners themselves knew about all this in advance are likely to range from nothing to choosing to ignore the issues. That would be understandable, as choosing to move out of harms way is a hard decision, and some folks likely couldn’t afford to. But the County knew, and the State knew. Likely the city of Oso knew as well. Could they have taken actions such as banning logging from the plateau above the river? Yes. Could they have offered buy outs to the homeowners at fair market value to plow these homes under and stop habitation of the land along the river corridor? Yes. Should increased setbacks from rivers and shores be implemented for future building, be implemented in local laws like Shoreline Master Programs? Yes.

Are there others in harms way in Snohomish County (and elsewhere)? Seems so.

Landslide risk widespread in county; 30,000 in hazard zones 

http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140330/NEWS01/140339947/Landslide-risk-widespread-in-county-30000-in-hazard-zones
…. The approximately 50 houses east of Oso swept aside by the March 22 landslide were hardly the only ones built near unstable land in Snohomish County. Hazard maps show almost all of the county’s coastline and mountain valleys are in landslide danger zones. An estimated 30,000 people live in those places, according to a 2010 study commissioned by the county. By 2035, the county is expected to absorb roughly 200,000 more people. There are about 730,000 today…. The county can’t afford to buy out property owners in landslide areas. Plus, people have a right to stay and, under certain conditions, to build. Existing laws and policies governing development in Snohomish County didn’t keep people in Oso out of harm’s way. Under the county’s building regulations, the area where homes were built wasn’t even designated high-risk for landslides. Noah Haglund and Dan Catchpole report. (Everett Herald)

It’s also becoming known that many of the homeowners didn’t have flood insurance, probably because they lived within the boundaries of a known flood plain.

This also gets to the core of a bill recently supported by Representative Derek Kilmer, (Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act), who proudly boasted of supporting the roll back of insurance costs and support by the Federal government for home and business owners along the shore who have seen a huge increase in their flood insurance due to the outcome of Hurricane Sandy. The insurance companies have obviously decided  to no longer take the risk to insure people who have been allowed, by the county and the State, to build homes and businesses at locations that are likely to be flooded  by Tsunami or global warming related storms. This is how the market should work. If the risk is too high, then you choose to live there at your own risk. This is what all the property rights people keep screaming for, that the government should get out of their lives. Now they and others seem quite happy to have us taxpayers pay for their risk.  And of course, Representative Kilmer says, ‘sure’.

If people want to live at sea level, or in a flood plain, since government seems incapable of stopping it, then the marketplace should. Or the marketplace should state that it’s at your own risk to do so. That’s what Representative Kilmer has stopped by supporting the House bill to rollback or nationalize the insurance risk. Now, people will continue to assume there is low or no risk in continuing to build and live in harm’s way.

As to Oso, The State and County should be held responsible for ignoring science and allowing logging to continue on the slope with outdated science. That is the only way we are going to get the government to do the right thing. But again, the failure of DNR to do the right thing will be a cost that you and I have to pay. The department heads that made that decision are likely long gone, and certainly won’t be held accountable for their  decisions. It’s you and I that will be.

And the people who rail about how the government should get out of their lives and stop making rules that take away their rights to do whatever they want whenever they want, should take a hard look at where they live, and whether they expect the public to foot the bill for the outcome of their demands.

Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines -WDFW

For you wonks of regulations, here’s your bedtime reading…

The final version of the state’s Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines prepared for the Aquatic Habitat Guidelines Program. “The Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines (MSDG) were developed to provide a comprehensive framework for site assessment and alternatives analysis to determine the need for shore protection and identify the technique that best suits the conditions at a given site.”

59MB so it’s a big download.

http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01583/wdfw01583.pdf

Are you opposed to fracking? Then you might just be a terrorist – Guardian

I usually avoid stories like this, but the Guardian is one of the most independent news dailies on the planet. They broke the Snowden NSA story.The dirty truth about the NSA spying, is that in conjunction with corporate alliances with government, we are now seeing a new wave of propaganda and government eavesdropping created to paint environmental protestors as ‘terrorists”. This article by the Guardian is one of the first I’ve seen that is showing the actual linkage between the actors behind this. From Canada, to the UK and the US, this is not an isolated incident, but appears to be a newly emerging attack on peaceful protestors doing their best to slow the energy companies that are dominating politics on a global scale. To any of you protesting, my advice to you is to not communicate via electronic form without using encryption. The article also shows that they have targeted Occupy protestors  in this dragnet on behalf of large banks.

It’s time we all make a point with our elected officials, face to face, that this behavior is unacceptable in a democracy, and that we want them to work to stop it.  Why does it affect us here on the Peninsula? Because anyone that is acting in a role of environmentalist, may already be a target of this data gathering. It’s why the issue of metadata collection, as opposed to the actual call contents, is so crucial to stop. The assumptions and erroneous correlations that can be painted of a person, out of context, by having this data is what they want to be able to do. It can much more effectively silence or discredit a person than the actual contents of the call, text or email.

From North America to Europe, the ‘national security’ apparatus is being bought off by Big Oil to rout peaceful activism

Over the last year, a mass of shocking evidence has emerged on the close ties between Western government spy agencies and giant energy companies, and their mutual interests in criminalising anti-fracking activists

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jan/21/fracking-activism-protest-terrorist-oil-corporate-spies

Environmental Lobby Day is no more…

Washington Environmental Council (WEC), who took over the remains of People For Puget Sound after it’s collapse  a few years ago, continued the long running and highly successful Environmental Lobby Day in Olympia. No longer.  WEC has determined that the event needs to die to continue to live. So they are running a new program this year, called 60 Days/60 Ways Action Plan. Here’s how they describe it:

Get Involved! 60 Days/60 Ways Action Plan
This legislative session we’re trying something new and exciting. We’re going to be interacting with legislators throughout the entire session. We have 60 days and 60 ways to help. What does this mean for you? We know you’re busy and time is limited, so whether it’s volunteering one evening at a phone bank, sharing a post on social media, or attending your local town-hall meeting, we’re giving legislators 60 days and you 60 ways to get involved.

Doorbell Days
Every Priority campaign will have at least one doorbell day during this legislative session. These days will entail passing out campaign information to targeted voters in the legislators’ own backyards.

Town Halls
Organized by your local legislators, we have two goals: to pack the room with constituents, and get at least one activist to the microphones to ask a question on each Priority.

Local Party Meetings
This includes attending legislators’ party meetings (both Democrat and Republican) and asking to put our issues on the agenda when appropriate.

Constituent Meetings
Every week during the legislative session we will have one weekly grasstop constituent meeting with a targeted legislator at their office in Olympia. The meetings will be a chance to talk about each Priority.

Phonebanks
Most phonebanks will be run out of offices in Seattle, but option may be available to call at home. Phonebanks will call voters in targeted areas to educate the public and legislators on our Priority campaigns.

Literature Drops
Each Priority will have at least one ‘drop’ day in Olympia. A local team of volunteers will canvas the campus with literature or some related item, infographic, or educational piece that will be distributed to all legislators.

Social Media Shares – Facebook/Twitter
Campaigns will develop weekly Facebook and Twitter feeds that will be posted and sent to share. They will include pictures, graphics, interesting facts, or links to action alerts.

You can sign up if interested, here: http://environmentalpriorities.org/

Last year, over 300 people attended Environmental Lobby Day, spending time learning about issues, meeting with their State Senators and Representatives.  I’m hoping that the folks at WEC/P4PS will make sure they have their metrics for the success of this new idea dialed in. I always had a lot of good feedback from people who came to the Lobby Day, and it introduced people to their elected officials, as well as to their power in calling for change. Losing the momentum of Environmental Lobby Day to push out to a indistinct cloud of people who you hope will actually take actions over a much longer period of time is fraught with possible problems. Hoping that we see some real successes with this tactic.

Along those lines, as posted here elsewhere, Representative Kevin Van De Wege is going to be holding a public meeting in Port Townsend to discuss his involvement with the Toxic Coalition leader Laurie Valerino at the PT Community Center. See the other post here for details.

Scientific Study Shows Effects of Geoduck Farming on Beaches

In 2007, the Washington Legislature, at the prompting of environmental organizations such as People For Puget Sound, and the shellfish industry, funded a long term study of the effects on geoduck aquaculture on beaches. This highly politicized issue, due to the expansion of  long term geoduck farming on ever increasing locations in the South Sound in particular, was viewed as the best way to resolve the bitter disputes over the industry. Some environmentalists were hoping this would be a ‘smoking gun’ of the issues that the industry is having, while the industry assumed it would vindicate them. It appears that the results do not do either, but do point to concerns that need to be researched over a much longer period in time, and about the trade offs in expanding this industry while attempting to save eelgrass beds for salmon habitat. This is the first real long term study ever attempted here in Puget Sound. Fifteen scientists took part in the study over a six year period.

The short conclusion to the data was that it appeared that there was no immediate concern that geoduck farming is distinctly doing long term negative affects on the ecosystem. Concerns were raised over possible effects that were longer than the scope of this project, and recommendations for further research on these were stated.

There were six priorities to investigate, as mandated by the Legislature:

1. the effects of structures commonly used in the aquaculture industry to protect juvenile geoducks from predation;

2. the effects of commercial harvesting of geoducks from intertidal geoduck beds, focusing on current prevalent harvesting techniques, including a review of the recovery rates for benthic communities after harvest;

3. the extent to which geoducks in standard aquaculture tracts alter the ecological characteristics of overlying waters while the tracts are submerged, including impacts on species diversity and the abundance of other organisms;

4. baseline information regarding naturally existing parasites and diseases in wild and cultured geoducks, including whether and to what extent commercial intertidal geoduck aquaculture practices impact the baseline;

5. genetic interactions between cultured and wild geoducks, including measurement of differences between cultured and wild geoducks in term of genetics and reproductive status; and

6. the impact of the use of sterile triploid geoducks and whether triploid animals diminish the genetic interactions between wild and cultured geoducks.

Conclusions of the study indicated that the farms do impact eelgrass while the farms are in place, but that the grass recovers when they are removed.  But more research on the effects is needed they added. 

Effects of harvest on the benthic layer showed little negative impact, but there are a variety of other issues around this topic that need further study, such as spatial and temporal cumulative effects, the report added.

Effects of Nitrogen and Phosphorus accumulation was ‘mixed’ but did not show any kind of damning evidence that would be cause for immediate action. It appears that the beds do lead to a small increase in both these elements.

Disease issues included finding of several previously unreported parasites in geoducks. However, this data only creates a baseline for future studies. There was no conclusion as to the long term negative effects and whether the farms are contributing in any signficant way to the parasites presence.

Issues related to destruction of eelgrass beds showed that the long term effects seemed minimal, but the short term effects were significant. This raises the issue, given the efforts to recover and protect eelgrass beds, that there is a trade off on a yearly basis between salmon habitat and geoduck planting. There is no conclusion as to how significant this is. More research is needed on this topic, the report stated.

More research was recommended on cumulative effects longer time frames, water column effects, disease identification tools and prevalence in farmed populations, contribution of issues of reproductive effects on natural populations, and genetic effects on native stocks.

The entire report can be viewed at:

http://wsg.washington.edu/research/geoduck/

Peninsula salmon projects get $4.5 million – PDN

Lots of good projects that are going to give jobs to folks here on the Peninsula, and help restore salmon habitat. The work is far from being completed, but it’s good to see these projects and land purchases get funded. Tying this together with the work described by Earth Economics over the weekend on this site, it’s worth it to note that there is value in these ecosystem renewal projects. Slowing the rivers by putting in log jams, for example, do not just provide scientifically proven habitat for salmon (especially young salmon migrating downstream), but they also aide in flood protection among other benefits. Flood plain protection is a value that lowers the cost to repairing damage from floods over multiple decades.

The state has awarded $4.5 million in grants for new salmon restoration projects on the North Olympic Peninsula. ….

Rob Ollikainen reports.

There’s quite a bit more to the story at:

http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20131208/NEWS/312089997/peninsula-salmon-projects-get-45-million

 

Support local journalism, subscribe to the Peninsula Daily News.

Earth Economics – A new way of valuing ecosystems

David Batker of Earth Economics

David Batker of Earth Economics presents their analysis of Clallam County ecosystems.

The Quarterly meeting of the Strait Environmental Recovery Network (ERN) met on Friday in Port Angeles. The ERN is chartered by the Puget Sound Partnership to get organizations together to prioritize work on recovery projects along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This month, we had David Batker, chief economist and Executive Director, of Earth Economics report on their work done for Clallam County. EE created a report called “Policy Implications of the Economic Benefits of Feeder Bluffs and 12 other Ecosystems” as part of the SMP. Sound boring? Think again…

EE has formed some new models to help understand the economic benefits of these ecosystems and their recovery. This is really revolutionary analysis. Constantly, opposition to environmental programs  rail about how fixing the environment is “too expensive” and “costs jobs”. This analysis turns that on it’s head. It makes it very hard to argue that it isn’t the *right thing* to fix the environment, from a purely economic perspective.

EE has done work around the world, and this is really ground breaking stuff. You can find more about them at http://www.eartheconomics.org.

The entire talk can be downloaded or listened to at:

EVENT: Rep. Van de Wege talking toxins – PT Monday Dec. 16

Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (D- Sequim), WA and Toxics Coalition Executive and Director Laurie Valeriano will host a Town hall meeting, with brief presentations by Rep. Van De Wege and Toxics Coalition. The Forum will take place at the Port Townsend Community Center, 620 Tyler Street in Port Townsend starting at 4:00 – 5:00 PM on Monday, December 16th They will be discussing the Toxic Free Kids and Family Act. They are hoping for constituent feed back and will answer questions. For more information, you can reach Kevin on through the following links and phone numbers: Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, 360.582.9830

Billie Toyra, 360.786.7224

Representative Kilmer Participates in Federal Puget Sound Caucus Hearing

From Representative Kilmer’s office. You might ask, “What is the Puget Sound Caucus?”  that information is here:

Puget Sound Caucus Hearing
Many of us care about maintaining a healthy Puget Sound. The Sound is an icon of our region that has weaved itself into the DNA of those of us who live here. But not only is protecting the Sound consistent with our environmental values, it’s part of our state’s economic imperative. Puget Sound is a cornerstone that supports tourism, fishing, shellfish harvesting, and other important industries.

In our ongoing effort to protect the Sound, this week, Representative Denny Heck and I hosted our first Puget Sound Recovery Caucus roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C. We had an extraordinary turnout that included representatives of the Puget Sound Partnership, along with folks from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Department of Interior, NOAA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran. The meeting was a good follow-up on the successful briefing we held this past August in Tacoma.

The meeting was timely, following on the release of the Puget Sound Partnership’s 2013 State of the Sound Report. That report detailed the initiatives on which our state has made progress and identified the areas in which we are coming up short.

While I was encouraged to hear we’ve made strides in restoring shellfish beds, beaches, and estuaries, there have been mixed results in the progress of on-site sewage, shoreline armoring, sand development and cover, freshwater, marine sediment, toxins in fish, and worsening circumstances for the health of our marine waters and the orca and herring populations.

We’ve got work to do. Our work on Puget Sound recovery efforts is only just beginning and with another budget cycle fast approaching, we have to highlight the importance of the Puget Sound to our economy in Washington State. Both Representative Heck and I as well as the other members of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus are committed to working in a coordinated effort with Washington State and our federal partners to make meaningful strides in improving the health of the Puget Sound.

For me, making progress on this is not just about the impact to our economy. As the dad of two little girls, I want to make sure Puget Sound remains one of our state’s crown jewels for generations to come.

Report from the Climate Change Front – Will Stelle’s (NOAA) talk at the NW Straits Conference

Continuing our coverage of the NW Straits Annual Conference: For the “Big Picture” of what is happening on the West Coast, Will Stelle was asked to share his thoughts. Will is the Western Regional Administrator for NOAA fisheries. He handles fisheries management and is also involved in land management issues surrounding the Endangered Species Act. This is really critical listening for anyone wanting to better understand how the Federal Government interacts with the State and local jurisdictions. Will discusses the latest issues with flood insurance, FEMA, habitat loss, flood plain functions, herbicides in the environment and their impact on salmonids, water quality standards, road culverts, watershed management, along with climate change and it’s effects on electricity generation.

Will brought humor and deep understanding of the issues that the West Coast is facing. He takes us from California to our local Washington issues. Sometimes NOAA seems like a friend of the environment, and sometimes it’s a big bureaucracy that that appears to be manipulated by political and business forces. After hearing Will, I think you will agree it’s a bit of both. At least he was funny and left us in an upbeat mood. Very unusual and refreshing in a bureaucratic administrator!

You can either listen to this from this web page or download the file and play it locally. It’s about 45 minutes long. A good idea if you want to take this along for a walk or exercise routine.

If you wish to attend any of the monthly MRC meetings in your area, check their local web sites. All meetings are open to the public and are advertised in advance. You can also support the work of the NW Straits Initiative, by donating to the NW Straits Foundation. Their web site is http://www.nwstraits.org and http://www.nwstraits.org/Foundation/About.aspx.

Report from the Climate Change Front – State Senator Kevin Ranker at the NW Straits Conference

Washington State is in the forefront of the impacts of climate change around the world. In addition to actually feeling the effects, in alarming problems emerging in our waters that are impacting shellfish, we have a state legislature and governor that have demanded and funded serious scientific study along with  a feedback loop to the lawmakers from the Governor’s directives, as well as State law.

It is difficult to collate all the scientific efforts of this funding into a neat package, but once or twice a year, we get a window into that work. The Northwest Straits Initiative, which for over 15 years has brought together scientists, business interests, tribes  and volunteer citizens, holds their annual conference.  These people belong to the Marine Resource Committees  (MRCs) of seven counties, from Snohomish to the Canadian border, and west through the Strait of Juan de Fuca (along with non-NW Straits Initiative managed counties along the Coast). The MRC  representatives  come together to share the stories of their work, and hear a unified program of science efforts that support or influence that work.

This year, the conference attendees, were treated to an update on many of the various climate change issues that they face. As part of our coverage of this important conference, and because the NW Straits does not have the financial capabilities to hold a large public forum, we  at the Olympic Peninsula Environmental News present a series of presentations to you over the next few weeks, to allow the general public to hear what was told to the attendees. Given that the attendees are mainly volunteers (there are a few part time staff members in each jurisdiction to help in project management and grant writing), and come forward from the local communities, for those who are interested in volunteering, or cannot afford the time and money to attend the conference, we will post audio of all the presentations we were able to cover, which was all but two, and in addition, as time allows, we will also post the powerpoint presentations of those speakers who used it.

Washington State Senator Kevin leads off the presentations. Hailing from  San Juan County,  Senator Ranker has been instrumental in providing support with funding and legislation to scientific research and policy guidance on ocean acidification (OA). OA research is a critical to fund, as the effects of the increased acidification, in even small degrees, appears to have serious outcomes on shellfish, which provides over $270 million dollars a year (2010 number), and over 3200 direct jobs, most of them in rural and lower income communities around the Sea.  These jobs also support the wider communities they live in with indirect jobs, in supporting industries.

Senator Ranker’s presentation can be found at the following link. You can listen to it right here, or download it for later listening on any MP3 player, or your tablet or PC. The presentation is 38 minutes long, and Senator Ranker’s slides will likely be available later. It is our opinion that not immediately having his slides will not detract from his message. The Senator is a very humorous and off the cuff speaker.

If you wish to attend any of the monthly MRC meetings in your area, check their local web sites. All meetings are open to the public and are advertised in advance. You can also support the work of the NW Straits Initiative, by donating to the NW Straits Foundation. Their web site is http://www.nwstraits.org and http://www.nwstraits.org/Foundation/About.aspx.

Republican Majority in State Senate Grows by One – Tacoma News Tribune

This will make things harder to get any environmental legislation done. Another year likely to have very little of substance accomplished.

A new alignment in the Washington state Senate calls for some new math.

“The difference between 25 and 26 isn’t one,” Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said Thursday. “It’s exponential.”

Read the whole story at

 

Charter County gets trounced in Jefferson County

The notion of creating a charter county was thoroughly defeated on Tuesday in Jefferson County. I’m sure that some people are asking themselves, “why?” It seems to come down to the basic ways that politics work. All movements need to create a base and convince the rest of us that the cause is just. The Charter county movement never seemed to move beyond their base.  The issue to those of us not on the inside of the organization appeared  to be rushed, and that we as county voters, were being asked to approve a major costly change to the status quo. That the county can barely afford to keep the parks open didn’t seem to concern those who wanted to have a bunch of people sit around for months at taxpayer expense (not them personally but the process would cost money) to debate changing county government, which only seemed broken to them. The advocates for it, did not take the time to build the argument that it was needed, apparently assuming that the justness of their cause would sway voters. Folks, it just doesn’t work that way.  It seemed  obvious to many people outside looking in, that the right wing saw this as an opportunity to take control, by ousting the politically naive libs who were promoting the Charter.     Many thanks to the well oiled machine that ran the  No campaign, led by Bruce Cowan, George Yount and Deborah Pedersen.

The one wild card tonight, is the thought that Matt Ready appears to be beating the incumbent and establishment candidate for Hospital Commissioner, Dr. Mark Mauney. This is important for reasons other than the environment. the Board has acted like our 25 bed hospital is the Ritz. Huge expeditures far beyond what is expected have been approved and public concern has been shrugged off.  It is a bit too comfortable between the Board and the Hospital, and it needs new blood. It still is a bit too close to call, but would be quite an interesting story if it continues to pull towards Ready. Savannah Hensel had too big a mountain to climb to beat Jill Buhler.  Savannah should take this in stride and come back again. Her dedication can count in future races.

As to GMO labeling, it’s losing. It’s unfortunate but the  fact that we will not know what GMO foods we are eating is liable to be much less an issue that either side wanted it to be.

Thanks to all of you who came out to vote! This election, though a small one, had some very important items on the ballot, and it mattered that you cast yours.

“”

EVENTS: Representative Kilmer holds Town Hall Meetings

bullhorniconFrom Representative Derek Kilmer’s staff: 

This is just a quick note to you for this week. I wanted to make sure you saw that I’ll be holding another round of town halls starting this Friday in Sequim.

After this round, I’ll have held 10 town halls in the district. It’s important to me that you have the opportunity to tell me what’s on your mind. And I’d like to share directly with you details about the recent government shutdown and the steps necessary to get Congress back to work again.

Town halls are open to the public and all are encouraged to attend.

Here’s the schedule:

Sequim Town Hall

Friday, November 1, 2013

4:30pm – 6:00pm

 

Guy Cole Convention Center

202 N Blake Ave.

Sequim, WA 98382

Purdy Town Hall

Monday, November 4, 2013

5:30pm – 7:00pm

 

 

Peninsula High School

Auditorium

14105 Purdy Dr. NW

Gig Harbor, WA 98332

 

Grays Harbor Town Hall

Friday, November 8, 2013

5:30pm – 7:00pm

 

 

Ocean Shores Elementary School

300 Mt. Olympus Ave

Ocean Shores, WA 95869

 

For any questions, please call my office in Tacoma at (253) 272-3515, in Bremerton at (360) 373-9725, or in Port Angeles at (360) 797-3623.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve previously held town halls in Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, Aberdeen, Tacoma, and Amanda Park and I’ve held open office hours at locations around the District. Additionally, I’ve participated in town halls sponsored by other groups in locations including Belfair, Gig Harbor, and Silverdale.

2013 Election Recommendations

Confused by the choices on the ballot you just received? You can see the choices we’ve made for the 2013 election and a small comment on why, by clicking on the 2013 Election tab on the top of the home page.

Environmentalists sue EPA over ocean acidification – Bellingham Herald

Not sure this will make any difference, but likely gets their attention.  Would like to talk to someone from the Center for Biological Diversity to understand what they hope to achieve.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a federal lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday over the threat it says ocean acidification poses to oysters and other sea life off the coasts of Oregon and Washington. It’s the second time in four years the environmental nonprofit has sued the EPA over ocean acidification. The previous lawsuit filed in 2009 was settled out of court in 2010 after the EPA agreed that ocean acidification should be addressed through the federal Clean Water Act. Donna Gordon Blankenship reports.

http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/10/16/3262396/environmentalists-sue-epa-over.html

 

Watchdog Group Concerned about Hydraulic Code Update – KPLU

Efforts at *streamlining* don’t usually mean doing a better at job automating processes, nor do they usually add staff for helping the human decision-making process. It usually is a way to give existing staff more latitude to get around complex environmental protection regulations. I still don’t know enough to know if this is a really bad situation or one that is just a good intention that will be run over by industry. Time will tell, I guess. In the meantime, let’s send off a comment to WDFW and ask to take this back to the drawing board.

http://kplu.org/post/watchdog-group-concerned-about-hydraulic-code-update

Proposals to streamline permitting for development in and around state waters have some environmental groups worried. The groups are concerned the changes could weaken crucial protections for fish and their habitat.  At issue is the state’s Hydraulic Code, which dictates how permits are issued for any project that touches a waterway—things like docks, culverts, and bulkheads. The law’s main aim is to protect fish and their habitat. “It is what sets the standards, and it’s really the gatekeeper for environmental protection in the face of development and construction projects,” said Amy Carey, executive director of Sound Action, an environmental watchdog group which aims to enforce the law. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (WDFW holds a public meeting on the update tonight 6-8 pm at  its Mill Creek Office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd.)

Why to vote no on the Jefferson County Charter Proposal

Yesterday, I received the following email from a long time friend and environmental activist, Fayette Krause. I am enclosing it with my thoughts, many of which mirror Fayette’s. Fayette’s letter spurred me to finish writing down my thoughts on the proposed Charter County proposals, as the county Democrats are going to hold an endorsement meeting on Sept 17th. I believe the Charter proponents are well intentioned, but ultimately proposing a fundamental change to the County structure that will not benefit the County, and in fact, may bring more problems. Here’s why.

I plan to vote “No” on the Charter for the following reasons. These are somewhat different and re-prioritized from Fayette’s.

1. This does not fix the root causes. It goes after the symptoms.

1A. Is the root cause of putting forward a Charter County a disconnect between the majority of voters and the elected officials? Jefferson County already has the highest percentage voter turnout in the State. We have elected both conservatives and progressives over the last couple of decades. The problem does not seem to be voter apathy to issues, or some kind of disconnect between the electorate and the County officials. Our county allows citizens to vote out incumbents and choose a candidate that more closely allies with our ideas/ideals. For progressives, the current County Commission has generally been very responsive, and was elected as a reaction to a previous more conservative group of Commissioners who approved such ill-conceived developments as the Pit To Pier project, which was ultimately was brought down by economics, and changes at a State level. On another issue, our current Commissioners spent a large amount of time to research and discuss the Shoreline Master Program and Critical Areas Ordinance for example. I don’t think that any of the progressives now supporting the Charter would argue that our elected officials’ stance on those were wrong. They have supported protection of special places, such as Dabob Bay. They have fought net-pens in our county, offering options to their deployment that the State refused to accept. They have supported numerous other progressive measures.

If the root cause is a lack of enough commissioners to guarantee more representation, the Charter does not necessarily accomplish that. Adding more Commissioners does not mean that things will be more representative. San Juan County voted in a Charter County, with 6 commissioners and found that it was too expensive and didn’t guarantee any better representation of the citizens, so they returned to 3 after great expense to the county.

1B. Is the root cause a lack of a initiative process to stop state mandated issues like net-pens?

The charter and initiative process, on a county basis, will not likely stop net-pens. I have heard it stated by the Charter County advocates that we can create an initiative to ban net-pens. I don’t see any legal basis for a local initiative to succeed at that. The root cause for the requirement for net pens is at the State level, not county. State DOE holds the authority to allow net pens on aquatic lands, and allows the counties to help write the rules to those lands, both for getting local input and saving the state money. DOE and the State reserve the right to undo any proposals, like these that they see fit. The only way I see to implement a ban on net pens in the State waters, is to implement a state wide initiative, and I believe that the charter advocates that want a net pen ban should take that route, rather than overhaul our county rules to achieve a goal that likely will do nothing to solve the problem.

2. I have no guarantee that the Freeholders that get elected are going to craft a better governance document!
The freeholder election has numerous very conservative candidates running for Freeholder positions. Should a majority of these candidates win, there is no telling where they may take the Charter. The law of unintended consequences looks to be very likely to happen if we don’t elect the slate that we want.

3. This is going to cost the county more money, not less.
We currently can’t afford to take care of our county parks, yet well meaning people want the county to spend money on the Charter. Even with a minor amount of change we will pay to implement that change.
Initiative challenges will cost us more money. This is not a revenue neutral proposal. (see below).

4. The Initiative process does not guarantee beneficial results.

While originally well intentioned, Tim Eyman’s manipulation of the initiative process has shown us that just because you create and vote to approve one, it will not necessarily get you the outcomes you expect. Much of our State Ferry rate increases that we have lived under here in Jefferson County, and affect us the most, were begun in the wake of Eyman’s I-695 initiative and it’s outcome on State highway revenues. (while it was declared unconstitutional it’s goals were implemented by elected officials afraid of opposing Eyman).

There is a belief that County initiatives supersede State and Federal law. I have seen nothing that makes me believe that, and would like to see backers support that contention. I see an outcome where local initiatives are challenged by the very corporations that you want to keep out, and cost the county money to challenge in court.

Standard variety initiatives will be challenged by those who lose, which has been the case with Eyman’s initiatives at the State level. Out of Eyman’s 19 initiatives and one referendum 12 failed or were voted out and 5 have been ruled unconstitutional! Many have been ruled unconstitutional after costly legal challenges. The cost to the State in challenges has never had a dollar figure placed on it. We in this small county cannot afford to spend money on court challenges like this, when we can’t even fund our existing county needs.

5. This idea has not had an appropriate amount of time for debating the issue.

For all these reasons, I hope that friends who are members of the Jefferson County Democrats can attend and vote no in this upcoming meeting. The meeting takes place at 7PM on Sept 17th. I hope all of you will vote no on Charter County at the upcoming election.

Al B. – Editor

From: Fayette Krause
Date: Sat, Sep 7, 2013 at 5:38 PM
Subject: Where are you?
To: “Undisclosed-Recipient:;”@userservices.net

Regarding the proposed Charter? I am contacting some Demos that I know re the special endorsement mtg on Sept. 17 at the Community Ctr in P.T. I plan to vote “No” on the Charter for several reasons:

1. The Freeholder election has numerous very conservative candidates running for the Freeholder positions. Should a majority of these candidates win, there is no telling where they may take the Charter.

2. The Charter idea is rushed and will lack a reasonable time frame for debate. Further, it is complicated and difficult to distill to a few soundbites — something we should avoid anyway.

3. Our state has seen where the Initiative has taken us recently. Originally this idea was a highly progressive instrument, designed to circumvent corporate-controlled state legislatures. It can still be used this way by progressives, but the Tim Eyman’s of Washington have also learned how to use this legislation effectively, to the detriment of state government.

4. What’s broken here? If there is a problem with county governance, we can vote out the incumbents and choose a candidate that more closely allies with our ideas/ideals. For progressives, the current County Commission has generally been very responsive, opposing ill-conceived developments, supporting protection for special places like Dabob Bay, fighting net-pens in the Straits and Hood Canal, and generally supporting other progressive measures.

5. There is a dollar cost to the County, for running the election, and an unknown and unpredictable cost should our current system be changed by adopting a Charter. The price tag could be relatively low, but any change is likely to require some additional costs.

These are only a few of the reasons that I am uncomfortable with the Charter idea, despite the fact that a number of progressive and very well-meaning people support it. While commending them for their work in raising the issue, I cannot support the Charter idea.

The endorsement vote will be taken at the 7:00 mtg on Sept. 17. Only members of the JeffCo Demo Party can vote, and the requirement for either a negative or positive endorsement is 2/3 of the voters, plus one. Consequently, it is important to have a large and informed turn-out.

I hope you can attend.

Fayette

State Department of Natural Resources announces trial geoduck aquaculture lease initiative on state owned lands – DNR

It is not clear where these trial tracks are located. Expect followup when known.

STATE DNR ANNOUNCES TRIAL GEODUCK AQUACULTURE LEASE INITIATIVE ON STATE-OWNED AQUATIC LANDS

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today that it is initiating a small pilot program to allow geoduck aquaculture on a limited number of state-owned aquatic lands.

DNR anticipates entering into lease agreements with existing applicants once all environmental review and permitting processes are complete. This effort is a follow-up to commitments made by the agency in 2007. Numerous steps remain before active aquaculture would begin on public lands including potential site assessment; State Environmental Policy Act review; issuance of local government conditional use permits; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Title 401 permitting; and Washington Department of Health Certification.

In 2007, the Legislature established a geoduck aquaculture research program under Washington Sea Grant and established a regulatory advisory committee with participation from government, Treaty Tribes, and citizen representatives to help guide related research. DNR plans to require monitoring at geoduck cultivation sites on state-owned aquatic land to provide further opportunity to study the effects of geoduck aquaculture on the aquatic environment.

http://www.dnr.wa.gov/BusinessPermits/News/Pages/2013_08_02_dnr_announces_trial_geoduck_aquaculture_leases_nr.aspx

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), propose to designate critical habitat for three species of rockfish in Puget Sound & Strait

Big news. The Federal Government is proposing designating critical habitat for certain rockfish. Public comment now open. Comments on this proposed rule must be received by 5 p.m. P.S.T. on November 4, 2013. Requests for public hearings must be made in writing by September 20, 2013. Comments close on 11/04/2013. The Feds say “Puget Sound” but actually are also including some areas of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. To them, it’s apparently all the same. They delineate it deeper in the document.  From the people I’ve talked to close to this decision, this has been studied a great deal and a lot of meetings have been held getting to this decision.  It likely will raise some objections, likely intense. But the stocks are in such critical shape in many places,  this appears to be needed. It’s not a new issue, the fact that the Feds have finally moved on it is. Hopefully (and apparently) we still have time to save some of them.  As you may or may not know, rockfish do not migrate. They hang out in their habitat, and can live  a long long time. They are often bycatch of other fisheries, and if you bring them up from a great depth, they end up often getting ‘the bends’ (barimetric poisoning) and die.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), propose to designate critical habitat for three species of rockfish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including the threatened Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of yelloweye rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus), the threatened DPS of canary rockfish (S. pinniger), and the endangered DPS of bocaccio (S. paucispinus) (listed rockfish). The specific areas proposed for designation for canary rockfish and bocaccio include approximately 1,184.75 sq mi (3,068.5 sq km) of marine habitat in Puget Sound, Washington. The specific areas proposed for designation for yelloweye rockfish include approximately 574.75 sq mi (1,488.6 sq km) of marine habitat in Puget Sound, Washington. We propose to exclude some particular areas from designation because the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion and exclusion of those areas will not result in the extinction of the species.

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/08/06/2013-18832/endangered-and-threatened-species-designation-of-critical-habitat-for-yelloweye-rockfish-canary

 

And more from Mike Satos’ blog:

The National Marine Fisheries Service proposes to designate almost 1,200 square miles of Puget Sound as critical habitat for three species of endangered rockfish. The habitat protection follows the 2010 decision to list yelloweye, canary and bocaccio rockfish under the Endangered Species Act. The Fisheries Service says the rockfish are vulnerable to overfishing because they have long lives and mature slowly with sporadic reproduction. Tuesday’s designation will require federal agencies to make sure their actions don’t harm rockfish habitat. The protected area in Puget Sound overlaps existing critical habitat for Puget Sound Chinook and Hood Canal summer-run chum, bull trout and Southern Resident killer whales. Critical habitat listed for Puget Sound rockfish http://kplu.org/post/critical-habitat-listed-puget-sound-rockfish Also, if they haven’t erected a paywall, Chris Dunagan reports: Habitat protection proposed for endangered rockfish in Puget Sound http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2013/aug/06/habitat-protection-proposed-for-endangered-in/#axzz2bGUhM000

 

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