Monday, March 31, 2014

3/31 Earth Hour, Oso logging, geoducks, slide risks, March rain, herring fishery, Elwha salmon, Skagit fish, oil trains

Tulip time in the Skagit (Scott Terrell)
B.C.'s Earth Hour leaders live on Vancouver Island
Environmentally-conscious citizens around the world have been switching off their lights today in order to take part in the eighth annual power-down known as Earth Hour. The World Wildlife Fund's annual campaign to have people turn off their lights and other powered devices takes place from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in local time zones. Last year, the city of Vancouver was dubbed the 'Global Earth Hour Capital,' but BC Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk said it was communities on Vancouver Island that led the way. BC Hydro estimates that last year B.C. saved 136 megawatt hours of electricity — or just about 2 per cent of regular consumption at that time — with Comox, Courtenay, North Saanich, Sidney, Qualicum, Parksville, Campbell River and Sayward leading the way. (CBC)

State used outdated data to allow logging on slope
State regulators have been using outdated boundaries to restrict logging above the Snohomish County slope that collapsed March 22, failing to incorporate newer research that would have protected a swath of land that wound up being clear-cut, according to a Seattle Times analysis of documents and geographical data. Because trees intercept and absorb water, removing them can contribute to the risk or size of a landslide by increasing the soil’s saturation, according to geological reports. The impact can linger for years. In 1997, a report commissioned by the state Department of Ecology used “newly developed computational tools” to map the plateau atop the unstable hill outside Oso. That report was prepared by geologist Daniel J. Miller and hydrologist Joan Sias; Miller’s portion drew boundaries for where groundwater could feed into the slope and increase the risks of landslide. When the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued logging restrictions later that same year, the agency cited the Miller-Sias report and treated it as state of the art, saying any future study should emulate its methods. But instead of adopting Miller’s map, DNR used boundaries that had been drawn up in 1988. Ken Armstrong, Justin Mayo and Mike Baker report. (Seattle Times)

U.S.-China Talks On Shellfish Ban Lead To New Testing For Contaminants
U.S. officials say will develop a new testing protocol to detect certain contaminants in shellfish, following their meeting with the Chinese government to discuss an end to that country’s ban on importing shellfish from most of the U.S. the West Coast. Representatives of the two countries’ governments met in Beijing last week for their first face-to-face discussion of China’s shellfish ban. China banned shellfish imports in December after officials there said they found high levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning in a geoduck clam from Alaska and high levels of inorganic arsenic in a geoduck from southern Puget Sound. U.S. officials said during a briefing with reporters Friday that the Chinese are satisfied with U.S. testing methods for paralytic shellfish poisoning but they’re still concerned about arsenic. High concentrations of inorganic arsenic, a carcinogen, were found in the skin of geoduck harvested near Tacoma, Wash. last fall. Ashley Ahearn reports. (EarthFix)

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)

The Wettest March in Seattle History and Stillaguamish Precipitation

March goes out like a lamb? Cliff Mass forecasts and comments.

First Nation wants emergency meeting to defuse herring roe row
A central coast First Nation is calling for an emergency meeting with fishermen and officials to defuse an escalating conflict over the imminent opening of a commercial herring roe fishery that’s been closed since 2006. Last week the Heiltsuk First Nation promised to sabotage the commercial fishermen and blamed federal fisheries minister Gail Shea for the rising tension over a forthcoming commercial gillnet fishery that has reportedly resulted in more than 20 RCMP descending on Denny Island near Bella Bella to guard against potential interference. Now, with roughly 20 licenced boats set to enter the area later this week, the Heiltsuk are asking the RCMP, the ministry and an industry group to hold an emergency teleconference today to avert an on-the-water conflict, according to band councillor Reg Moody. Mike Hager reports. (Vancouver Sun)

Federal judge sides with wild-fish advocates on hatchery issue in Elwha River's restoration
Responding to wild-fish advocates, a federal court has ordered federal authorities to revise plans to restore Elwha River fish runs, ruling the government did not fully study how many hatchery fish should be used to bring salmon back to the recently undammed river. Judge Benjamin Settle ruled last week in U.S. District Court in Tacoma that federal agencies did not adequately consider the effects a large-scale release of hatchery-reared salmon and steelhead would have on wild-fish populations. (Peninsula Daily News)

Anglers take to Skagit River to protest fishing regulations
A row of anglers whipped their lines into the waters of the Skagit River at Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport, their dogs wading in behind them. But no fish were being caught because their lines had no hooks. The group was protesting fishing laws they feel are unnecessary and hurt the local economy. They are calling for a return of the spring catch-and-release season, which they believe would not have a negative effect on the recovery of wild winter steelhead. Russell Hixson reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Bainbridge council refuses to reopen old debate over Shoreline Master Program
A few city council members refused to reopen an old debate over shoreline property issues Monday during a Shoreline Master Program council discussion. The Bainbridge Island City Council met with city staff and officials from the state Department of Ecology Monday to discuss a list of required changes on aquaculture before the draft ordinance is to be approved. Some council members also took the discussion as an opportunity to revisit two unrelated items on shoreline property regulations. But in a slim 4-3 vote, the attempt was rebuffed. Cecila Garza reports. (Bainbridge Review)

U.S. Government Says Oil Industry Hampering Train Safety
U.S. transportation officials rebuked the oil industry Friday for not giving up information regulators say they need to gauge the danger of moving crude by rail, after several accidents highlighted the explosive properties of fuel from the booming oil shale fields on the Northern Plains. Department of Transportation officials told The Associated Press they have received only limited data on the characteristics of oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, despite requests lodged by Secretary Antony Foxx more than two months ago. (Associated Press)

Locals use kayaks to share environmental message
Jeffery Mayor writes: "When I first met Ken Campbell nearly a decade ago, kayaking was his business. He ran Azimuth Expeditions on South Tacoma Way. He sold kayaks and gear, he taught lessons, led trips in local waters and wrote books about his greatest adventures. Today, Campbell uses his kayaking skills to spread his environmental message. The pace of that effort picks up next month as Campbell and partner Steve Weileman premiere their second film on their efforts to track debris on remote beaches, and then they embark on a trip from one end of Puget Sound to the other aboard a kayak made of plastic bottles. The film, “The Secrets of Augustine,” is based on a trip the two made last summer to paddle around Augustine Island at the mouth of Cook Inlet in Alaska..." (Tacoma News Tribune)

Huge Wave in Pacific Ocean About to Hit West Coast Will Have Global Impacts
An enormous wave now centered at 500 feet deep along the equator south of Hawaii is silently moving below the surface towards the west coast of the Americas. This wave, called a Kelvin wave, took four years to build. It has just started to breach the surface. It is so large that it has substantially raised the height of the sea surface for thousands of miles along the equator in the central Pacific ocean. As it pushes towards the west coast it will impact global ocean currents and weather. (Daily Kos)

Now, your tug weather--
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