Orca Network News - March, 2004
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
March 1, 2004 through March 31, 2004.
March 30, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) In an old rhubarb field tucked behind a farmhouse, a smiling man in rain gear stands between two massive holes in the ground. One is lined with concrete. The other is covered in fist-sized rocks and cedar stumps hauled in by earth movers.
Symbolically at least, Puyallup Indian Tribe fisheries biologist Blake Smith is positioned between the past and the future of salmon hatcheries.
The hole with the stumps and rocks soon will be brimming with baby salmon, otters, plants, birds and bugs. While the concrete pond echoes past ways of hatcheries that helped batter the Pacific Northwest's wild salmon runs, this other pond represents new hope.
Here the Puyallups, mirroring a growing trend, want to teach hatchery-bred fish to act more like wild fish. No old-style fish factory, this hatchery will function more like a tributary to Clarks Creek next door.
When it opens next month, this hatchery will train young fish to flee predators. It will even change their color to better camouflage them. They'll learn how to thrive outside the shelter of the hatchery, the tribe hopes.
Salmon panel goes public in dispute over hatchery fish
March 26, 2004 (Seattle Times) Days before the government faces a court deadline on whether to remove federal protections for eight Northwest salmon runs, a scientific panel says its advice on ensuring the salmon's survival was censored and all but ignored.
Nine months ago, the advisory panel said, it tried to tell fisheries officials that when determining the vitality of salmon stocks, they must count only wild salmon, not the inferior hatchery salmon, which are bred like "zoo animals."
Not only do the hatchery fish compete with wild stocks, they are inept at reproducing and are being released in such great numbers that they mask critical habitat problems that must be addressed if wild salmon are to stage a comeback, the panel said.
"That was deemed as being unacceptable, and we were told to take it out of the report," said Robert Paine, chairman of the panel, and a University of Washington zoology professor. "We felt our report was being censored."
Paine and five other scientists were selected by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to independently review the science behind the agency's efforts to restore salmon and steelhead runs.
The science is clear and unambiguous; as they are currently operated, hatcheries and hatchery fish cannot protect wild stocks," Paine said. "We know biologically that hatchery supplements are no substitute for wild fish.
"It's time NMFS protected our national legacy ... ."
Whales' sound fishing trick
March 25, 2004 (BBC) It has long been known that some species of whale hunt by creating a cylindrical column of bubbles in which fish are corralled. But until now, no-one knew why the fish had refused to swim out.
However, Professor Tim Leighton, of the Institute Sound and Vibration Research at the University of Southampton, UK, has said he believes the whales use sound to scare the fish into staying put.
"If sound is propagating through water, the most potent, naturally occurring entity it can meet is a bubble," he told BBC World Service's Discovery programme.
The bubbles slow sound down - a beam of sound aimed towards the bubbles will be trapped, bouncing around within the column at a speed of 1km/s.
"If they ever try and leave the net, what they encounter is a very loud wall of sound," Professor Leighton added.
Group petitions to protect coral, restrict trawling
March 25, 2004 (Seattle Times) Frustrated with what it calls regional foot-dragging to protect newly discovered deep-sea coral gardens, an international environmental group yesterday demanded strict federal rules to limit bottom fishing in wide areas of the oceans, including off Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
The group Oceana has requested that the Commerce Department bar bottom-trawling fisheries not only in all areas where the ancient coral and sea sponges have been found in abundance, but areas where they might possibly be discovered in the future.
Huge areas off the Alaskan coast and the Aleutian Islands could be among those cited for restrictions, as well as the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary of Washington and areas off the Oregon and California coasts.
Oceana's move is the latest escalation of a fast-erupting environmental debate. The coral gardens, discovered in Alaska only recently, have become a rallying symbol in the fight over ocean-fishing practices, particularly bottom trawling, the dragging of weighted nets across the ocean floor to scoop up rockfish, cod and anything else in the way.
Scientists say the cold-water reefs are vital undersea habitats that are perhaps thousands of years in the making, akin to old-growth forests on shore. The scientists contend that trawling is essentially clear-cutting an irreplaceable resource.
"We don't want to make the same mistakes with our ocean environment that we have with our terrestrial environment," said Dave Allison, director of the campaign against bottom trawling for Oceana.
15 years after Exxon Valdez, oil spill prevention efforts still lagging
March 24, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Fifteen years after the nation's largest oil spill, the amount of petroleum products unleashed into the environment in the Puget Sound region and around the country has declined dramatically, say proud Coast Guard and state officials.
But critics point out that important steps taken to prevent oil spills in Alaska's Prince William Sound, where the Exxon Valdez hit a reef and gushed out 11 million gallons of oil, have not been put into place elsewhere.
Criminal penalties can also be imposed in some cases.
It's working. Excluding dams and highways, spills in Washington dropped from about 640,000 gallons in 1991 to 11,000 gallons last year, according to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer analysis of state figures. Similar drops are reported nationally. Vessels in U.S. waters reported spilling 6.4 million gallons in 1990, but only 229,000 gallons in 1999.
But safety advocates point out that precautions now taken for granted in Prince William Sound are ignored elsewhere. One of the most important was setting up the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council as a watchdog on government and industry.
Washington officials say they rely on several citizens' advisory committees here. But there's a huge difference.
In Prince William Sound, the citizen council is funded by $2 million annually from the oil industry. Maintaining offices in Valdez and Anchorage that employ 16 staffers, the council also has the cash to hire outside technical experts to level the playing field against the oil industry.
"We're typically given token status -- the token environmentalist or the token member of the public -- in a forum that is dominated by every sector of the maritime community," said Fred Felleman of Ocean Advocates, the most active of the conservation groups working on the issue here.
Even with the backing of four other environmental groups and the San Juan County Commission, Felleman has been kept off a committee advising the state Ecology Department on a key issue -- whether oil tankers should continue to be escorted by tugboats that can keep tankers from running aground if their engines fail or they run into other trouble.
Key rules are eased to boost logging
March 24, 2004 (Oregonian) The Northwest Forest Plan no longer will require surveys for rare species, and guidelines for salmon streams are revised
The Bush administration Tuesday made two major changes to the Northwest Forest Plan that substantially could increase old-growth logging on vast stretches of public land in Oregon, Washington and Northern California.
"They are destroying the safety net for wildlife that depend upon old-growth forests," Regna Merritt, executive director of the Oregon Natural Resources Council, said Tuesday.
B.C. salmon: something's not fishy
March 23, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Vancouver Island's rivers no longer leap with steelhead. Populations are dwindling to record lows, prompting worries of extinction
Something dreadful is happening to the rivers on Vancouver Island. Pool by pool, riffle by riffle, they are dying.
To a casual passerby, glancing down from one of the slick new bridges on the Island Highway, nothing seems amiss. Rivers like the Cowichan, Nanaimo, Little Qualicum, Englishman, Trent and Tsable look just as beautiful as ever, running from under the mossy, green forests to the blue waters of Georgia Strait.
Mr. McCulloch, a fisheries technician with the B.C. Conservation Foundation, helps organize small teams of swimmers that are responsible for taking an unusual annual census. They pull on wet suits against the bone-numbing cold, and snorkel the rivers that flow out of Vancouver Island's rugged mountains. They are looking for an increasingly rare species of salmon known as steelhead. They aren't finding many.\
The Gold River, on Vancouver Island's West Coast, historically had runs of as many as 5,000 steelhead.
Last year, swimmers counted 900; this year they found 35.
State, cruise lines strike deal on waste dumping
March 23, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The state Department of Ecology has negotiated a voluntary agreement with cruise ship lines aimed at keeping the massive ships from dumping wastewater in Washington's inland marine waters.
But the agreement has critics complaining that the ships face negligible penalties if they violate the deal.
The agreement between the state and the North West CruiseShip Association -- an umbrella group that represents the three major lines that call in Seattle -- bars all wastewater discharges in state waters except from vessels equipped with advanced treatment systems certified by the U.S. Coast Guard.
"We were able to take some steps that will take us farther than federal law currently takes us," said Larry Altose, a spokesman for the Department of Ecology. "There is a doughnut hole in between the San Juan Islands, Port Townsend and Victoria."
Seattle has become an increasingly popular cruise ship port in recent years, with visits jumping from six in 1999 to about 140 this year. Regulating the waste produced by ships that can carry as many as 5,000 passengers and crew has been the subject of recent laws in Alaska and California, both busy cruise destinations.
The upcoming agreement -- called a "memorandum of understanding" -- helped derail a tougher discharge ban proposed by Democratic lawmakers earlier this year after the Norwegian Sun dumped 40 tons of human waste into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in May.
Cruise lines opposed the bill, and Ecology officials said it might disrupt a process that would provide protections this year.
Critics, however, denounced the agreement as toothless. It's "worse than nothing because it provides a false sense of protection," said Fred Felleman of Ocean Advocates in Seattle. "The fact that there is no consequence to breaking this agreement makes it meaningless."
State, industry agree to stricter limits on cruise-line sewage dumping March 23, 2004 (Seattle Times)
Union seeks extra hands in oil loading
March 22, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Task is too complex for one, workers say in wake of spill (Note: see Op-ed below)
A single pair of eyes to keep watch.
A single pair of hands to turn valves.
One man alone as a cold December midnight came and went. And then, Puget Sound's biggest oil spill in recent years was unleashed.
Colleagues and union representatives of the man who was loading a tank barge at Point Wells near Edmonds Dec. 30 say disaster almost certainly would have been averted if two people had been assigned to the job.
But government records show that under the company's work rules, the amount of fuel the worker was loading onto the barge was just short of the quantity that would require two tankermen.
Foss Maritime saved a few hundred dollars in labor costs that night but will end up paying hundreds of thousands -- possibly millions -- in damages and cleanup costs. The spilled oil hammered rich shellfish beds six miles away in Kitsap County.
The lingering lessons of the Exxon Valdez spill
March 22, 2004 (Seattle Times Op-ed) Fifteen years ago this week, the Exxon Valdez slammed into Bligh Reef and spilled over 40,000 tons of crude oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound.
What ensued 1,500 miles of oiled shoreline, several hundred thousand dead birds and marine mammals remains the most damaging oil spill in history. Not even the 1.7 million tons of oil unleashed by Saddam Hussein on his retreat from Kuwait in 1991 was as damaging; in the warm climate of the Persian Gulf, 40 percent evaporated within a few weeks.
We are compelled to continue paying attention to the Alaska oil spill for the same reason we study history: to learn from past mistakes. Certainly, Puget Sound can learn from the Alaska spill. It's the same old, weather-beaten, mostly single-hull tankers, carrying the same thick toxic Alaska North Slope crude, that ply the waters of Puget Sound every day waters and shorelines more similar to Alaska than to Iran. It could happen again; it could happen here.
A 2001 study found more than 100 tons of toxic oil remaining on dozens of the Sound's beaches, oil that seeps out with every tide, and that because incomplete weathering left behind higher concentrations of toxins is even more poisonous now than when it gushed from the ripped tanker. This oil will remain on these beaches for decades to come.
Chronic exposure to persistent oil and a cascade of indirect effects have interrupted and decreased wildlife populations. The acute mortality of those first few months was not the worst of it. Today, only six of the 26 species and habitats most injured by oil have recovered. Some including orcas, harbor seals and harlequin ducks continue to decline.
A spill such as this could happen again in Alaska; it could happen in Puget Sound. Despite precautions, major oil spills continue all over the world Spain, France, Scotland, Pakistan.
Officials ask Natives to call off beluga hunt
March 22, 2004 (Seattle Times) Biologists say so many beluga whales died last year in upper Cook Inlet that Alaska Natives should forgo a subsistence hunt next summer. But representatives of two Cook Inlet Native whale-hunting organizations said they have misgivings about suspending the small annual hunt only four years after it resumed.
Last year, scientists confirmed the deaths of 20 whales, including five or six suspected to have died when 46 whales were stranded in Turnagain Arm on Aug. 28.
The depleted whales are thought to number 350 to 400 in one of the smallest genetically isolated cetacean populations in the world. Once thought to number 1,300, the belugas plunged to an estimated 347 by 1998 in a decline federal biologists blamed on overhunting by Alaska Natives.
Report criticizes Columbia deepening, Snake River dams
March 19, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) Projects to deepen the Columbia River and barge salmon around four Snake River dams were singled out for criticism Thursday in a national report by an environmental group and budget watchdog.
The National Wildlife Federation and Taxpayers for Common Sense say the two Pacific Northwest projects are among 29 across the nation where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers risks damaging the environment for little tangible economic benefit.
The Lower Snake River Navigation project in Washington, Idaho and Oregon is listed as the third most-wasteful in the country, while the Columbia River deepening in Washington and Oregon is ranked 10th.
Instead of spending tens of millions of dollars every year to move endangered salmon by truck or barge, the Army Corps should remove the Snake River dams as "the most economical and effective solution to stop the hemorrhage of taxpayer money and save the salmon," the report said.
Similarly, the report said the corps should abandon plans to deepen the Columbia River channel by 3 feet to allow larger cargo ships to reach ports as far as inland as Portland, Ore. The $136 million dredging project "will pose a new threat to salmon and steelhead survival while overestimating its economic benefits to taxpayers," the report said.
Killer Whales Mimic Each Other
March 18, 2004 (Discovery Channel) High-tech underwater equipment has enabled researchers for the first time to ascribe sounds to individual killer whales, and the recordings reveal that whale families like to mimic each other when communicating.
The sounds were recorded when individuals were out of visual range of their families by at least 20 degrees. The scientists were able to identify individuals because of a publicly available photo identification catalog of whales that was created by scientists John Ford, the late Michael Bigg, Graeme Ellis and Ken Balcomb.
Analysis of the recordings revealed that when one killer whale family member would call out, another relative would mimic the sound. Random calling tests proved that such mimicry was greater than chance, meaning that the whales must be copying each other intentionally.
While Miller and his colleagues are not entirely certain about the meaning of the calls, they believe that the "conversations" help to preserve family togetherness.
Fish-killing ban on wild steelheads sparks culture war in Washington state
March 18, 2004 (Environmental Network News) The long-smoldering debate over whether fishers should toss wild fish back into the water or take them home for dinner has flared into a culture war on Washington's remote Olympic Peninsula.
Last month's decision by state regulators to ban killing wild steelhead has many locals seething. The mayor is threatening to sue. Area merchants wonder whether fishers will stay away if they can't take home a trophy. And Indian tribes worry the ban will worsen resentment of their tribal fishing rights.
Wild fish advocates, meanwhile, argue that it's high time to protect some of the last healthy runs of a treasured species. A ban is set to take effect April 1, the heart of the season. It runs until March 31, 2006.
But steelhead have been hit hard in recent decades by habitat destruction and overfishing. In the mid-1950s, sport fishers took more than 60,000 wild steelhead in Washington. In 2003, that number was 3,554, according to the Wild Steelhead Coalition's review of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife data.
"We need to be very conservation oriented, assuring that we protect the fish first," said Dick Burge, the Wild Steelhead Coalition's vice president for conservation.
Bill fights global warming
March 16, 2004 (The Olympian) New power plants will pay a price for greenhouse gas emissions in this state in the years ahead.
With bipartisan support, the 2004 state Legislature passed a bill requiring new power plants to offset 20 percent of the carbon dioxide they send into the air through mitigation projects.
Eligible projects include energy conservation projects, forestland preservation or converting diesel-powered buses to natural gas.
Power producers can either finance the projects on their own or pay an independent third party approved by state authorities to do it for them at the rate of $1.60 per ton of carbon dioxide produced.
Energy conservation groups hailed the bill as a sign that lawmakers are taking global warming and its effect on the environment, public health and the economy, seriously.
Ruling reduces oil tanker traffic at Cherry Point
March 16, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) Court says BP needed impact statement before expanding dock
Attacking "self-serving claims" by oil giant BP Amoco PLC, a federal appeals court yesterday ruled that the company's expansion of a dock at its Cherry Point refinery was built without a required environmental study. BP will have to reduce the amount of crude oil it takes to the refinery near Bellingham Point from Alaska's North Slope while the legality of the bigger dock is sorted out, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.
"Increased tanker traffic elevates the risk of oil spills -- an undeniable and patently apparent risk of harm to Puget Sound," the court said. "An oil spill could destroy and disrupt ecosystems and kill or injure critical numbers of threatened and endangered species that live and thrive in the Cherry Point region."
Environmentalists and the state Department of Natural Resources have expressed concern that refinery operations may harm chinook salmon, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act, as well as the nearby spawning beds of Washington's largest stock of herring, a key fish in the regional food chain.
Federal scientists also say a big oil spill poses the greatest extinction risk for Puget Sound orcas.
The court's ruling marks a major victory for Ocean Advocates, three other environmental groups and a commercial fisherman. They cited a provision inserted into federal law by the late Sen. Warren Magnuson, D-Wash.
"This ruling is as strong as we could have hoped for," said Fred Felleman, Northwest director of Ocean Advocates. "It's a real affirmation that Magnuson's legacy is alive and well and protecting Puget Sound."
Appeals court rules against BP refinery near Bellingham March 16, 2004 (Seattle Times)
Judge: BP pier needs review March 16, 2004 (Bellingham Herald)
BP Loses Bid to Dismiss Suit to Halt Washington Dock Expansion March 16, 2004 (Bloomberg.com)
HOOD CANAL - 'Dead zone' sucks hope for recovery
March 15, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) A persistent "dead zone" seems to have settled into southern Hood Canal, where oxygen levels remain so low that many bottom-dwelling creatures have probably perished.
State officials continue to add fishing restrictions in Hood Canal, and nobody seems to know when the nightmare will end.
Normally, by this time of year, dissolved oxygen in deep water has recovered to safe levels due to mixing from winter weather and inflow from ocean waters. Last year, the canal never fully regained its health. And this year, something terrible seems to be at work.
The amount of oxygen in southern Hood Canal is 25 percent less than it has ever been during winter months.
Blake Island's wastewater system ripe for change
March 15, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) With its towering cedars and quiet beaches, Blake Island State Park is a nature lover's paradise and tourist magnet -- drawing about 150,000 visitors a year.
It's also one of Puget Sound's most notorious environmental culprits.
The park's wastewater-treatment plant has frequently run afoul of its operating permit, releasing into the waters a short boat ride from West Seattle poorly treated sewage that's sometimes loaded with bacteria.
Shellfish beds on the publicly owned island's seemingly pristine beaches have been hammered by pollution flowing from the plant. Today, they're once again off-limits to clam diggers and oyster hunters.
There have been a staggering 230 discharge violations over the past five years, despite a sizable investment by the state Parks and Recreation Commission: $220,000 worth of upgrades to the plant.
Another state agency, the Ecology Department, has been patiently working with plant operators to stem the pollution. But the violations kept piling up.
Deciding enough was enough, an environmental watchdog group stepped in last summer, filing a notice of intent to sue Parks and Recreation.
"This is a state park, and they're fouling their nest," said Sue Joerger, director of the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance.
Section of riverbank bulldozed
March 12, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The Sauk is important to two endangered fish
Someone took a bulldozer and mangled a highly productive stretch of one of Washington's three federally designated "wild and scenic" rivers -- the Sauk in northern Snohomish County, state officials said yesterday.
The damage to the quarter-mile-long stretch just northeast of Darrington tore up part of the river important to two kinds of fish protected by the Endangered Species Act.
The motive, officials say, appears to have been keeping the river from chewing up a nearby bank.
The farmer whose flood-prone land borders the river denied doing the bulldozing. But he maintained that whoever did the work hasn't hurt anything.
Environmentalists are incensed, calling for vigorous prosecution under state stream-protection laws that they charge have historically received lax enforcement.
Six Flags' whale, dolphins heading west
March 12, 2004 (Cleveland Plain Dealer) The killer whale that dazzled audiences at Six Flags Worlds of Adventures is set to move to the West Coast within two weeks, and she's taking four friends with her.
Six Flags has notified a federal agency that it will transport Shouka and a quartet of dolphins from their Northeast Ohio home to Six Flags Marine World near San Francisco. The move is to take place before March 25, according to papers filed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
State told to draft oil-spill safeguards
March 11, 2004 (Seattle Times) In the wake of a 4,800-gallon oil spill that spread from Richmond Beach to the Kitsap Peninsula, legislators this week ordered the state to create new oil-spill-prevention rules for Washington's two dozen fuel-transfer stations.
They urged state regulators by 2006 to require, under some circumstances, that containment booms be preplaced around marine vessels before petroleum is loaded or off-loaded on Puget Sound an attempt to improve the likelihood that spilled oil will be quickly corralled before it spreads.
The state also may require oil companies and barge operators to employ extra people during transfers or use automatic shut-off systems to make sure a vessel's tanks don't overflow into marine waters.
While industry groups and some environmentalists were generally pleased by the compromise, others felt lawmakers had postponed the hard work and given the industry too much leverage to water down regulations as they're being created.
"Making that bill mean anything will come down to arm wrestling that will go on for months," said Fred Felleman, with Ocean Advocates.
Throttle on Northwest power use wide open
March 10, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Despite our eco-conscious image, Northwesterners are pretty big energy hogs -- above the national average in using gas and electricity, and not all that far behind those pickup-driving, oil-drilling Texans.
At the same time, the Pacific Northwest has failed to aggressively pursue environmentally friendly forms of energy -- even while our life spans are increasing, our economic well-being is stagnant, forests have been clearcut at a generous clip and urban sprawl continues, albeit at a slower pace.
These are some of the findings of the "Cascadia Scorecard" report being released today by Northwest Environment Watch, a Seattle think tank that spent three years crunching numbers to get an overall look at the region's quality of life.
The results are a mixed bag, but many indicators appear to be improving, the authors concluded. And there are examples within Cascadia -- the region defined as Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia -- and around the world that people can seek out as blueprints for improvement.
"There's an old adage in business that what gets measured gets fixed," said Clark Williams-Derry, a primary author. The report, he said, is a tool to help build here "a way of life that can last, where the human economy is reconciled with the natural systems that support it -- where people are doing fine and nature is, too."
The news on the energy front isn't all bad. The authors congratulated Seattle City Light, which has pursued a vigorous energy-efficiency campaign and invested heavily in wind power. It also runs its hydroelectric dams in a manner eco-friendly enough to win an environmental award for the way they treat salmon.
It's true that some large wind-energy facilities are being built or are on the drawing boards, but Cascadia could do much better, the authors say.
Forecasters see huge salmon run
March 10, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Some commercial fishermen fear they will be forced to ignore millions of returning salmon because seafood companies may not have the capacity to process the predicted bounty expected in Alaska this summer.
The processor squeeze is expected to crimp salmon fishing districts from Southeast to Cook Inlet to Kodiak to the Yukon, but it figures to be most acute at Bristol Bay, site of the world's largest sockeye salmon harvest.
State fishery managers believe as much as 27 percent of the potential sockeye salmon harvest, 9.4 million fish, might be left in the water for lack of buyers.
One fisherman, David Harsila of Seattle, said gillnetters might face limits on how much they can catch, or have no buyer at all for their catch.
But Harsila added that fishermen ought not worry too much because state salmon forecasts are notoriously inaccurate, sometimes off by several million fish. State biologists have forecast a Bristol Bay run big enough to support a commercial harvest of 34.7 million sockeye, more than double last year's catch of about 15 million.
"Paper fish is what it amounts to," Harsila told the Anchorage Daily News. "Predictions have been highly variable over the last 10 years."
Lawmakers OK 'zero spills' bill
March 9, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) Driven to action by an oil spill that desecrated a North Kitsap beach, the state Legislature on Monday approved a bill calling for stronger prevention measures -- the so-called "zero spills strategy."
The bill requires the state Department of Ecology to adopt rules for "pre-booming" around ships and barges involved in fuel transfers.
It also calls for other measures, such as additional staffing during loading.
Kathy Fletcher of People for Puget Sound said she's pleased with the legislation.
"It's pretty strong," she noted.
Although it was the Senate bill that passed, Fletcher said much credit should go state Rep. Mike Cooper, D-Edmonds, chairman of the House Fisheries, Ecology and Parks Committee. State Rep. Phil Rockefeller D-Bainbridge Island, was another important player on that committee, she said.
The bill requires that Ecology develop the new rules by June 30, 2006. The two-year delay concerns some people.
"We felt that the bill didn't do enough in the short term," said Leonard Forsman, spokesman for the Suquamish Tribe, which considers the Indianola beach a sacred place.
Fred Felleman of Ocean Advocates said the oil industry has pretty much gotten its way with the state the past few years.
"The reason the bill moved through the Legislature so easily is that they (industry officials) know they can put a stranglehold on the process," said Felleman, who has served on committees dealing with oil-spill contingency plans.
State to boost logging on its trust lands
March 8, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The lessons taught by these forests could hold the answer to reviving the state's trust timberland -- most of which is in desperate need of restorative thinning.
State officials tout that kind of logging as the best way to improve forest health as they draft logging plans for 1.4 million acres in Western Washington -- pledging to raise big bucks for schools and counties while protecting the environment.
"We want to see it done everywhere," said Paula Swedeen, forest habitat coordinator for the state Fish and Wildlife Department.
But that isn't the plan.
Only 30 percent of the 170,000 acres that will be logged is slated for the sort of restorative harvest being tested by federal foresters in Fort Lewis. About two-thirds is destined for clearcut.
Salmon or power? In Pacific Northwest, pressure is building
March 7, 2004 (Seattle Times) At an Oregon legislative hearing last week, the BPA trotted out computer projections showing that the spill this summer will cost $77 million while ensuring the return of only about 20 adult salmon listed under federal law as endangered. That's $3.85 million per fish.
Schaufler studied the per-fish cost of the spill and appeared flabbergasted. "Am I reading this correctly?" he asked.
The answer to that incredulous question is a resounding "No," according to fish scientists, environmental groups and Native American tribes with fishing rights on the rivers.
They say the BPA is misusing a computer model to come up with self-serving cost estimates that grossly underestimate the fish-saving importance of spilling water and make it appear to be a ludicrous waste of money.
"This region is being blackmailed by the BPA, and we are being bullied by the utilities," said Paul Lumley, a manager at the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, which speaks for the tribes.
His group's computer projections show that cutting the summer spill could result in the loss of 50,000 returning salmon.
Science should dictate orca plan
March 5, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial) Washington state can set a good example for federal authorities on orca protection.
As early as next month, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider a staff recommendation to add the whales to the state's list of endangered species. Federal officials, under court order to review the orcas' status, should follow suit.
The state protection proposal makes perfect sense. As the staff's review found, the orca population in Puget Sound has fallen from perhaps 200 at one time to 83 or so. Just a decade ago, there were nearly 100. The sharp decline has left precious little room for further losses.
The orcas face such threats as fewer salmon to feed on, toxics in the water and disruptive human activities on the Sound, ranging from whale-watching vessels to sonar-bearing Navy ships. Those are scientific facts.
While the state doesn't have much direct control over those problems, the potential for indirect effects may be big. As Kathy Fletcher of People for Puget Sound observes, state agencies have lead roles in many decisions involving pollution, fish habitat and shoreline activities.
State protection of the orcas would follow both local tradition, such as the 1970s crusade to halt their kidnapping for amusement park use, and the growth in knowledge about the whales since then. The commission should listen to its scientists. By doing so, they will show the National Marine Fisheries Service its next step: federal protection of orcas under the Endangered Species Act.
Series of mishaps worsened Sound oil spill
March 5, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) An overtightened valve. Overflow alarms that didn't go off -- or at least weren't heard. Two emergency-response boats that wouldn't start.
That series of slip-ups made possible Puget Sound's biggest recent oil spill, which fouled tribal clamming grounds, government records show.
"It sounds like a long list of things that people did wrong," said state Rep. Mike Cooper, D-Edmonds, who filed legislation to beef up safety procedures during oil transfers. "That's the kind of thing I was concerned about."
Because of the malfunctioning boats, emergency crews couldn't get equipment into the water to contain the oil for up to an hour and 40 minutes, according to the reports -- more than six times longer than the company responsible for the spill has claimed.
As a result, thousands of gallons of fuel oil swirled out into the Sound, fouling a highly productive shoreline that the Suquamish Tribe has used for generations to gather geoducks and other clams, crabs and waterfowl.
When the spill was first detected in the early-morning hours of Dec. 30, oil was spurting like a geyser aboard a Foss Maritime Co. tanker barge bound for Tacoma, according to the state Ecology Department rec-ords.
Coho salmon make state endangered list
March 4, 2004 (Environmental News Service) Northern California coho salmon have gained an extra layer of legal protection as a state endangered species. California coho runs were already declared an endangered species by the federal government in 1996. The new designation applies to coho who spawn from San Francisco north to Punta Gorda in Humboldt County. Runs north of that are considered threatened.
Coho, also known as silver salmon, travel quite far up rivers to spawn. Their favored nesting areas are often fouled by sediment from logging operations and development.
The recovery strategy calls for incentives and volunteer measures to improve spawning habitat in coastal streams. For example, farmers will be able to obtain grants for pumps that turn off automatically when river levels drop sufficiently to harm salmon. California coho have been off-limits to fishing since 1998. King salmon, which spawn closer to river mouths, are still considered a viable fishery.
Oceans in crisis, will Bush step up?
March 3, 2004 (MSNBC) His experts advise landmark changes in upcoming report
President Bush's oceans advisory panel is about to issue a report calling for a completely new approach to protecting marine life, but already the feeling among some experts is that the president won't have much of an appetite for heeding the advice.
What makes this report so special is that it's the biggest government review of oceans policy in 35 years. The last report saw oceans as farmland waiting to be harvested and fish stocks were pretty much managed like cattle.
Since then, many species of fish as well as sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals have become threatened or even endangered -- not only from overfishing but also fishing techniques that accidentally catch unwanted marine life.
In the Northwest: A clearcut by any other name is still a clearcut
March 3, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) In days when it was stripping ancient forests from steep hillsides, and shipping the raw logs to Japan, our state Department of Natural Resources operated by the maxim: My way or the highway.
It had a clearcut solution for forests in the Sultan River basin east of Everett, the Clearwater River on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, and the South Fork-Nooksack River country near Bellingham.
Bureaucracies adapt to survive. Our once-infamous "Department of Nothing Remaining" seemed yesterday to be trying out a new motto: You can have your cake and eat it too. It promised more logging, more income and more environmental protection -- all at the same time.
The DNR persuaded the Board of Natural Resources to give the go-ahead to a 10-year "preferred alternative" for management of 1.4 million acres of state-owned forests in Western Washington.
The bottom line: Logging will increase by at least 30 percent over current levels.
It was an unkind cut to environmentalists: 31 of them showed up to speak against the plan, representing groups ranging from the Washington Environmental Council to social activists of the Episcopal Church.
Aquatic scientists divided on role of sea lice from salmon farms in decline of native salmon in B.C.
March 2, 2004 (EurekAlert) Salmon farms in British Columbia may pose a threat to wild salmon stocks, a paper published today in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences claims. The paper presents evidence that native fish sampled near the farms are more heavily infected with parasitic sea lice. Lead author Alexandra Morton, a registered professional biologist and private researcher, believes the parasites multiply on the farms and are then transmitted to juvenile native salmon, causing recent drastic declines in wild fish populations. "If we don't do anything, we're definitely going to lose the wild salmon," said Morton.
Morton monitored the levels of infection of sea lice (unrelated to human lice), naturally occurring parasites that infect salmon only, on juvenile pink and chum salmon in British Columbia's Broughton Archipelago, a chain of islands between the mainland coast and the northern end of Vancouver Island. She then compared infection rates on salmon from sites near to and far from the farms.
"We found 3 cases of sea lice in a sample of 1,018 juvenile salmon outside of the Broughton Archipelago. Within the Broughton Archipelago," where there are 28 Atlantic salmon farms, "we found 4,338 of this species of sea louse on 1,138 salmon," -- a 1,000-fold difference, said Morton. Her study showed potentially lethal levels of infection in 90 percent of wild juvenile salmon. Morton believes the young native salmon become infected when they swim near the farms during their migration from freshwater streams to the open ocean.
Agency wants orca on state's endangered list
March 2, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Fish and Wildlife cites declining population
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife proposed yesterday that Puget Sound's orcas be added to the state's list of endangered species, citing a dramatic decline in resident whales.
Providing endangered status at the state level doesn't do as much as a federal listing -- which is being reconsidered -- but environmentalists and orca researchers hope it will help.
"The state is in the driving role when it comes to pollution-control issues and habitat restoration and habitat destruction," said Kathy Fletcher, executive director of People for Puget Sound. "The state can do a lot. This is very helpful."
"It's a good idea to list them," said David Bain, a researcher with the University of Washington who studies the effects of sonar and other noise on marine mammals. "The population is small. ... They made the right decision there."
State agencies are responsible for issuing permits to dump pollution into the Sound and for the construction of docks and rock walls built to curb shoreline erosion. Critics often complain that the state is lax on punishing violators.
The status report can be found online at http://wdfw.wa.gov. The public has until April 1 to comment on the report and listing recommendation.
Send comments to Harriet Allen, Wildlife Program, WDFW, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA, 98501- 1091 or by e-mail at wildthing@ dfw.wa.gov.
State recommends endangered status for Puget Sound orcas March 2, 2004 (Seattle Times)
State might list orcas March 2, 2004 (Bremerton Sun)
State wildlife officials want to call orcas 'endangered' March 2, 2004 (Tacoma News-Tribune)
March 1, 2004 - WDFW News Release: Report recommends 'endangered' status for Puget Sound's orca population
Plan to reduce spill draws heat from fish advocates
March 1, 2004 (Idaho Statesman) In an effort to meet the high demand for power, federal officials are considering deviating from the Columbia River Salmon Recovery plan, which could amount to a loss of thousands of adult salmon.
The Bonneville Power Administration wants to reduce the amount of water spilled through flood gates at four dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers and instead run the water through turbines.
State and tribal fish agencies and environmental groups are challenging the proposal.
Each year, water is spilled in the spring and summer to help juvenile salmon migrate to the ocean. But the spill is costly, especially in the summer when there is high demand for electricity.
Suzanne Cooper, manager of a policy and planning group at BPA, said the agency is not asking for summer spill to be eliminated, but wants it reduced in July and August at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River, and John Day, The Dalles and Bonneville dams on the Columbia River.
Cooper said the agency could save enough water to produce $8 million to $51 million worth of power.
But flow reduction scenarios would result in fewer fall Chinook returning to the Columbia and Snake rivers. Studies by the agency estimate the loss could be up to 16,000 adult salmon.
Orcas might feel more freedom
March 1, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) Stress on Puget Sound's killer whales could be lightened this summer, thanks to cross-border efforts to improve education and enforcement of whale-watching.
Talking informally, U.S. and Canadian officials have been trying to agree on the least-intrusive methods to observe orcas in the wild. Discussions involve biologists, educators and enforcement officers.
Research is continuing from last summer into what kinds of boat maneuvers disturb the whales the most and how various kinds of noise affects them, said Lynne Barre, a marine mammal specialist with NOAA Fisheries. Some conclusions could come in time for this summer's whale-watching season.
During summer months, Puget Sound's orcas -- known as southern residents -- spend much of their time in U.S. and Canadian waters near the San Juan Islands. Sometimes dozens of commercial whale-watching boats and private craft follow the whales from morning until night.
A recent decline in their population has heightened concerns about the whales, now designated as "depleted" under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act and listed as "endangered" in Canada.
Although toxic chemicals are widely implicated for their problems, some people say intense whale-watching might disturb their feeding and social interaction.
In The Northwest: Leaders giving a cold shoulder to climatic trends
March 1, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) In the past few days, I've heard what may be the updated message for the 21st century: "Think Globally, or Else!"
World environmental deterioration has proceeded at such a pace that "there is no more slack," the dean of Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies warned as he lunched over burgers with two Seattle journalists the other day.
James "Gus" Speth could teach a lesson on two to disbelieving Yale grad George W. Bush. Or perhaps a freethinking staffer could slip Speth's new book, "Red Sky at Morning," onto the reading list for a Camp David or Crawford, Texas, weekend.
Speth is no hyperbolic Dr. Doom. Instead, he carefully tracks predictions, ridiculed a quarter-century ago, that have come true.
Warnings about warming ignite sarcasm on the political right. Ridicule of climate change was a theme at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.
But in this Washington -- and the Northwest -- we know better.
British Columbia experienced a 100-year drought last summer, resulting in 2,500 forest fires and $700 million (Canadian) worth of damage. As one lightning-caused fire roared out of Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park, 30,000 people in Kelowna had to be evacuated.
"All the information I can get from climatologists and Environment Canada and others suggests that there's more to come, in terms of hot, dry summers," former Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon, head of a task force that studied the fires, told The (Toronto) Globe and Mail.
"We've seen an awakening at the subnational level," he said. "Unscripted, bottom-up, improvisational initiatives are visible everywhere."
Where does the problem lie? At the top, where dithering and denial have wasted vital years, leaving a world that faces the prospect of "appalling deterioration" in its land, air and water.
"In the end, we need national leadership," Speth said.