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.

Seeking applications for Jefferson County Conservation Futures Committee

Jefferson County Conservation Futures Program. Citizen Oversight Committee Vacancies: District #1, District #3 and Interest

The Conservation Futures Citizen Oversight Committee members make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on the selection and funding of open space projects utilizing the Conservation Futures Fund. The Board of County Commissioners seeks representation on the committee from each commissioner district and a broad spectrum of interests. There are currently vacancies for citizens to represent District #1, District #3 and an “Interest” on the committee. Examples of interests include parks and recreation, user groups, agriculture, forestry, conservation organizations and real estate. Other interests not listed here may also be represented. The committee meets approximately six times per year, with the majority of activities usually scheduled in April. Interested individuals should submit a letter or email to the Office of the Board of County Commissioners, P.O. Box 1220, Port Townsend, WA 98368 or no later than 4:30 p.m. Friday, November 28, 2014. These are non-paid positions. For more information, contact Tami Pokorny, Jefferson County Environmental Health Dept. at Ph: (360) 379-4498 or email View the Conservation Futures Program Web site at Click on “Conservation Futures”.

Tami Pokorny

Jefferson County Water Quality

Ph: 360.379.4498

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

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

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
…. 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.


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