Thursday, October 17, 2013

10/17 Hydraulic code, ocean acid, Longview & Whatcom coal, shipping boom, Undersea Gardens, dead seastars, gas pipelines

(PHOTO: Kitsap Sun)
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.)

Environmentalists sue EPA over ocean acidification
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.

If you like to watch: Port Townsend bluff collapse caught on video  

Millennium Backers In Dire Straits
The last public “scoping hearing” on the proposed Millennium coal export terminal is (today) in Tacoma. But there’s a fascinating story that’s unfolded as these hearings have progressed: the companies promoting the Millennium project have found themselves in increasingly dire financial straits. Let’s start with Arch Coal, which owns 38 percent of the Millennium project. Just last week, Moody’s, a bond rating agency, downgraded Arch’s debt—a move that is likely to increase Arch’s borrowing costs.... And (Tuesday), Morgan Stanley piled on, downgrading Arch stock on concerns about the domestic coal market. Clark Williams-Derry reports.

The County Council Election That Could Mean Big Things For Coal Exports
Whatcom County could one day be the home of the largest coal export facility on the west coast –- which would transfer up to 54 million tons of coal from trains onto ships bound for Asia. The Whatcom County Council could cast the deciding votes in the permitting of the dock for the Gateway Pacific Terminal. That’s landed this election in the spotlight and it’s drawing a lot of outside money. There are four open seats on the 7-member council.  Ashley Ahearn reports.

Line of ships on Puget Sound hints at rebound
There's a backup of cargo ships on Puget Sound, and port officials are happy about it. Over the past couple of weeks, a queue of two or three cargo ships has formed at Seattle's Pier 86 as they wait to be loaded with soybeans and corn headed to Japan and China. Port of Seattle officials say the backup is an early good sign that grain exports from the Midwest are rebounding after a drought cut production last year. Officials in Tacoma echoed their Seattle counterparts and are also seeing queues form.

Fraser port facility pushes for deeper dredging if bridge replaces Massey Tunnel
Surrey Fraser Docks is pushing for more shipping up the Fraser River once the Massey Tunnel is replaced by a new bridge, but the company estimates it would take approximately $200 million in a one-time capital cost to dredge an additional two metres of river depth to enable ships to load fully. Last month, Premier Christy Clark announced the province will begin construction in 2017 on a new bridge over the south arm of the Fraser between Richmond and Delta, at an estimated cost of around $3 billion. Kim Pemberton reports.

Film gets group talking on ocean health
What are the challenges facing Puget Sound and the waters of Skagit County, and what can the community do about them? A group gathered at the Northwest Educational Services District in Anacortes Friday to begin that conversation, sparked by the film “Ocean Frontiers: The Dawn of a New Era in Ocean Stewardship” and localized with a panel of area scientists, educators, farmers and tribal representatives. Kimberly Cauvel reports. Film gets group talking on ocean health

Undersea Gardens closing after 50 years in Victoria area
Pacific Undersea Gardens in Victoria’s Inner Harbour is closing today after 50 years of operations, first in Oak Bay and then downtown... Every year, about 83,000 people have been stepping onto the floating exhibit and going 15 feet below the ocean surface for a close-up look at sea life... But the 150-foot-long vessel is getting old. Upkeep is expensive. Carla Wilson reports.

Saanich Inlet divers to check on sea stars after mystery die-off near Vancouver
Local divers will check on the health of sunflower sea stars in Saanich Inlet in the wake of a devastating die-off of the sea life near Vancouver and Howe Sound. The disease thought to be responsible has yet to be identified, but it is worrying marine biologists because it’s moving so rapidly.... The dead sea stars were first detected in September at Whytecliff Park off West Vancouver and the die-off has spread to sea stars off Bowen Island and Indian Arm. Sandrea McCulloch reports.

Natural gas pipeline expansion plans include Skagit County
The public is invited to tour sites included in Northwest Pipeline LLC’s proposed natural gas pipeline expansion project in Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties Thursday, Oct. 24, with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects. Office staff will review project sites by both car and flight this week. Points of interest are residential areas and water-body crossings, spokeswoman Pat Terhaar said. The exact tour route is not set, but it will begin at 9 a.m. at Lord Hill Regional Park in Snohomish. Kimberly Cauvel reports.

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