Monday, December 9, 2013

12/9 WA climate, wipes, railroads, hydraulic appeals, Helena Star, salmon projects, B'ham Bay, eagles, suing oil

PHOTO: Laurie MacBride
If you like to watch: A Complex Story, Simply Told
Laurie MacBride in Eye on Environment writes: "A washed-up kelp head and rivulets left by the receding tide: sometimes less really is more. I couldn’t resist trying to capture the simplicity and stark beauty of this little tableau at West Beach on Calvert Island. Along this wild, wind-swept stretch of sand on BC’s outer coast, each square foot is a microcosm of the dynamic interaction of biology and physics that takes place every day. These dynamics are complex, yet hopefully their story can be conveyed in a simple scene like this." Take a look at Laurie's narrated video of her recent photography show, Reflections on the Coast.

Tempers flare at Inslee's climate workgroup meeting
Tempers flared at Friday’s meeting of Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate workgroup as Republican lawmakers questioned whether Washington should be endorsing carbon-reduction actions without knowing how much they cost taxpayers or kill jobs. Inslee, a Democrat, outlined five ideas, including a cap on carbon emissions, that he said could help the state reduce greenhouse-gas emissions linked to global warming. A consultant’s report says the state will fall short of meeting goals for reducing emissions by 2020 without action. But as Inslee pressed members of the workgroup on whether they want to forge ahead with an action plan for the 2014 Legislature, Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen and Republican Rep. Shelly Short both argued that his question was premature.... “What I really resent, governor, is you intimating that we don’t care,” Short said during a heated back-and-forth discussion with Inslee and two Democrats on the panel. Brad Shannon reports.

Utilities grapple with issue of ‘flushable’ wipes
Metro Vancouver and Capital Regional District are among several municipal organizations across Canada that are grappling with clogged pipes and septic systems because the wipes, deemed a cleaner alternative to toilet paper, don’t break down once they’re swept down the toilet bowl. And it appears situation is a growing problem: Across Canada, flushable wipes are estimated to cost taxpayers $250 million annually. “It’s an issue for all waste water utilities,” said Fred Nenninger, Metro’s division manager of regional utility planning. “It’s a ragging issue at the pumps. They tend to get stuck. They kind of bunch up and glom together and come out in big clumps.” Kelly Sinoski reports.

Coal, oil shipping could benefit from passenger rail improvements in Washington
President Barack Obama's high-speed rail program was supposed to deliver faster and more frequent passenger trains to communities across the country. But some of the $10.1 billion in funding for that program also could benefit one of the nation's largest freight railroads. Washington state received $781 million from the Obama administration's 2009 economic stimulus to improve passenger rail service in the 300-mile corridor that stretches from Portland, Ore., north to Vancouver, British Columbia.... Amtrak may not be the only winner, however. BNSF Railway, the owner of the tracks over which Amtrak operates, is a leading hauler of coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin and crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken region, and it seeks to increase its shipments of both commodities in the Pacific Northwest. Curtis Tate reports. Also see:  Oil terminal proposal would increase train traffic through Spokane   Last year, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota chugged across Eastern Washington en route to a Puget Sound refinery. The oil train was the first for the region, but oil shipments through Spokane could become common in the future.... For Jon Snyder, a Spokane city councilman, that raises questions about spills and public safety, particularly in light of the July derailment of an unattended oil train in Quebec that caused an explosion killing 47 people. Becky Kramer reports.

Group appeals work at Guemes ferry dock
The Seattle-based environmental organization Sound Action has appealed a hydraulic approval permit the state Department of Fish and Wildlife issued for an in-water project at the Guemes Island ferry dock. The organization argues that the agency, which is tasked with evaluating in-water project proposals for compliance with state law to protect fish habitat, failed to consider surf smelt spawning at the site of the Anacortes project. The permit authorizes the removal of 78 wood and 28 steel piles, the installation of 48 steel piles and repair to the wing wall mooring system. Use of an impact hammer will be allowed to complete the work. Sound Action’s appeal asks Fish and Wildlife to modify the permit to include a time restriction for the work to protect smelt spawning. The restriction would require a biologist to confirm the absence of spawning activity before work could proceed, Sound Action Executive Director Amy Carey said. Kimberly Cauvel reports.

Groups differ on surf smelt presence in Winslow marina  
An environmental group has appealed a hydraulic permit issued by the state for work in the Winslow Wharf Marina because of the presence of surf smelt and has requested more restrictions on the project. According to the Nov. 20 permit issued by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife marine area habitat biologist Chris Waldbillig, the permit authorizes the removal of about 90 piling from the 31-year-old marina and installing approximately 104 steel pilings. The permit also allows the use of both vibratory and impact hammer, as well as work in the “upper shoreline reaches typically utilized for forage fish spawning.” ... Sound Action Executive Director Amy Carey said she commends Winslow Wharf Marina for renovating its marina but is appealing the permit because Fish & Wildlife doesn’t have surf smelt restriction. Ethan Fowler reports.

Sunken Helena Star can't be lifted as planned
The sunken ship at the bottom of the Hylebos Waterway won't be leaving right away. A crane brought to Tacoma on Thursday was supposed to lift the Helena Star to the surface so it could be towed away. But authorities scrapped that plan Friday. The freighter has deteriorated so much that it might break apart while being lifted, the Department of Ecology said. Jordan Schrader reports.

Peninsula salmon projects get $4.5 million
The state has awarded $4.5 million in grants for new salmon restoration projects on the North Olympic Peninsula. Clallam County project sponsors received $2.8 million for five projects, including a Lower Elwha Klallam tribe-led effort to replant the shores of the Elwha River in the former Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell reservoir beds. Jefferson County received $1.7 million for six salmon recovery projects, including a State Parks purchase of streamside habitat on the south shore of the Dosewallips River. Rob Ollikainen reports.

Bellingham waterfront developers could be chosen soon
The next big step toward waterfront redevelopment will be the selection of developers ready to take on major new building projects. Although zoning and development regulations for the waterfront are finally in place after years of wrangling, it will be years before new buildings are shovel-ready. But Port of Bellingham Executive Director Rob Fix said he expects to recommend a private development team to port commissioners before the end of the first quarter of 2014. Selection of that team will be a tentative first step that starts the process of negotiating a deal with that team - a process not guaranteed to be successful. Among other things, the port and the developers will have to agree on financial terms that make money for the developer while also providing an adequate level of return on the millions of dollars of public investment in the 237 waterfront acres. That area extends around the bay from the I&J Waterway next to the Bellwether development, all the way to a large, new park site on a former city dump off the southern end of Cornwall Avenue. John Stark reports.

Eyes on the eagles in the Northwest
As chum salmon move into rivers across the Puget Sound to begin the final stage of their life cycle, you can be sure bald eagles are not far behind. The eagles have learned that the region’s rivers and streams provide an ample food supply in the form of salmon carcasses. During the winter, Washington serves as the winter home to more than 1,500 bald eagles in locations including the Yakima Canyon, Lake Roosevelt, the Skagit River, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Grays Harbor and along the Columbia River. Jeffrey P. Mayor reports.

Despite board’s reorganization, flood protection authority reaffirms massive lawsuit against oil industry
In what some thought may be a reversal of an earlier decision to pursue a massive lawsuit against 97 oil companies over Louisiana’s coastal land loss, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East reaffirmed its intention to go forward with the lawsuit in a Dec. 5 meeting. Following the decision by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) to pursue the historic lawsuit, Governor Bobby Jindal led an effort to remove board members whose term had expired, including former chairman John Barry who was the lawsuit’s biggest supporter, as well as to defund the body.... The lawsuit, which seeks billions in damages, has been deemed trial lawyer “extortion,” according to oil lobby and business groups. But the litigation also has gained the support of local environmentalists. Kyle Barnett reports.

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