Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Puget Sound Partnership looks in mirror, not pleased

by October 15th, 2012

State audits have critiqued the Puget Sound Partnership for lax management, and a federal watchdog group tied it to alleged ethical missteps by a powerful Washington Congressman. But in a newly-released bi-annual “State of the Sound” assessment, the organization appears to giving itself a bracing dose of “tough love.” A summary memo on the new report from the state agency spearheading efforts to restore the health of Puget Sound says that on six key indicators of success, progress toward 2020 goals isn’t occurring. Progress is mixed on another five, evident on two, and unclear on another eight because goals haven’t been set or data isn’t yet available. The trouble spots are marine water quality, cleanliness of swimming beaches, growth of eelgrass, and stock of Chinook salmon, herring and Orca whales. The memo was released quietly and online late last week by the Partnership’s Ecosystem Coordination board as part of a document packet for its October 18 meeting in Shelton, Mason County. The full report was to be posted online later today at the partnership’s web site.

Bill to open Hanford’s Rattlesnake Ridge stalled in Senate

by October 15th, 2012

A bill has stalled in Congress that would open up Eastern Washington’s Rattlesnake Ridge to the public. The 3,600-foot-high ridge is the dominating feature of the Hanford nuclear reservation and the Tri-Cities area. The ridge marks Hanford’s southwestern border and had been part of the site’s security buffer since 1943 when the Manhattan Project took over the area to build a nuclear plant to create plutonium for the first atomic bombs. For centuries,the ridge has also been a spiritual site for area Indian tribes, as well as being almost pristine shrub-steppe habitat. It used to have an astronomy observatory on top as well as part of a Cold War Nike Ajax missile site. A handful of radio antennas are also on top of the ridge. It is part of the 120-square-mile Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve, which along with the neighboring 134-square-mile Wahluke Slope, are the non-contaminated parts of the 586-square-mile Hanford reservation. The Fitzner-Eberhardt land is under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Control. The Wahluke Slope north and northeast of the highly contaminated central Hanford is mostly accessible to the public.

Local governments fight new state storm water permits

by September 25th, 2012

Many Puget Sound and Western Washington local governments are appealing the state permits requiring them to upgrade how they deal with storm water pollution. At least 12 cities, King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Clark County and Cowlitz County filed appeals by an Aug. 31 deadline to change the state’s permits’ new requirements due to go into effect on Aug. 1, 2013. Among their contentions: the proposed new permitting plan is inflexible, overly broad, carries insufficient cost-benefit requirements and doesn’t sufficiently articulate how related fees will be used.

Look What Washed Up Ashore: WA Ecology, on Flickr

by September 21st, 2012

Yes, of course the Washington State Department of Ecology is on Flickr and yes, they’ve got exactly the pix you know you want to see: marine debris of the first order. It ain’t pretty. Following are a few highlights from the album. Perhaps we could all agree to not leave things floating out at sea. Like boats and oil barrels and stuff. Exceptions granted for tsunamis, of course. While we’re at it, you might want to bookmark DOE’s spill incidents information center, their “publications by program” hub, or their news listserve. Captions immediately below the pictures here are verbatim from DOE. The asides are our own.

From June 24-29, Ecology deployed 3 Washington Conservation Corps crews to clean up increased amounts of marine debris along 57 miles of coastal beaches in southwest Washington. They collected enough material to fill 70 pickup trucks./WA Dept. Ecology@Flickr

Didn’t I see those guys at The Crocodile Tavern last Saturday night? Anyway.

WCC crews found this oil drum at Wash-Away Beach near Tokeland on June 28. It did not have visible identifying markers./WA Dept. Ecology@Flickr

Yes, there really is a Tokeland, Wash. And no, you can’t move there. All the spots are taken. This next one is from the Long Beach Peninsula. Brilliant, huh?

Varying types of debris have washed ashore including this industrial light bulb./WA Dept. Ecology@Flickr

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$95K fine eyed for oil spill safety risk at Richmond Beach

by September 13th, 2012

The Seattle-based Region 10 office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a proposed consent agreement and final order with California-based Paramount Petroleum Corporation including a $95,606 civil penalty for what the agency asserts is the company’s failure to provide federally-required protections against the risk of an oil spill from a 28 million gallon storage tank at its Richmond Beach facility on Puget Sound near the City of Shoreline. Paramount makes and markets asphalt and operates a number of refineries and related sites. As the Seattle Times has reported, at Richmond Beach is “an aging asphalt plant and oil tank farm” owned by a Washington state affiliate of Paramount, on property that has been proposed by the company for a controversial and large-scale mixed-use retail and housing development called Point Wells. That development remains mired in a legal dispute related to potential traffic impacts.

UW study: scat-sniffing dogs can help in spotted owl counts

by September 10th, 2012

Conservation biologists at the University of Washington in Seattle report that dogs trained to sniff out small pellets of dried fecal matter from the threatened species the northern spotted owl can play an important role in ongoing efforts to gauge its survival in the forests of the West and Northwest. In turn, conservationists would be able to better target areas where the spotted owl is most threatened and take or propose countermeasures accordingly.

In a study recently published in full and available to all for free at the open access journal known as PLoS (Public Library of Science) One, the UW research team reported that based on field experiments, the so-called detection dogs could often help confirm the presence of the northern spotted owl in forests when the traditional “vocalization” or call and response method could not. The researchers say that’s because the spotted owl will not respond to calls if its competitor species, the barred owl, is present, as is sometimes the case.