Monday, April 14, 2014

4/14 Kitimat vote, Elwha sediment, water quality, forest plan, radiation, Pt Wells, saving salmon, PS Pilots, SeaWorld, Thurston ranch, Shane Anderson

Picnic Tree (Laurie MacBride)
O-So-Berry Busy!
Laurie MacBride in Eye on Environment writes: "It’s been a long time since my last post, and since then, spring has definitely sprung around our place. The best spot to witness this vibrant season in all its beauty, aroma and fast-paced action has been our “Picnic Tree” – a large, multi-trunked Indian Plum (AKA Osoberry, Oregon Plum or Oemleria cerasiformis)..."

Kitimat, B.C., votes 'no' to Northern Gateway in plebiscite
One of the most divisive issues in Kitimat, B.C., in a generation came to a head Saturday night as residents voted 'no' against Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project. The ballot count from Saturday's vote was 1,793 opposed versus 1,278 who supported the multi-billion dollar project — a margin of 58.4 per cent to 41.6 per cent. "The people have spoken. That’s what we wanted — it’s a democratic process,” said Mayor Joanne Monaghan in a statement on Sunday. “We’ll be talking about this Monday night at Council, and then we’ll go from there with whatever Council decides.” (CBC)

Total lunar eclipse begins at 10 PM tonight and will be visible if the sky is clear. Sigh. Total lunar eclipse, Mars close approach tonight

New beaches in the making: Elwha River mouth grows as unleashed sediment flows
What does roughly 3.3 million cubic yards of sediment look like? The ever-changing mouth of the Elwha River can offer some clue. Between November 2012 and September 2013, about 3.3 million cubic yards, or 2.5 million cubic meters, of sediment once locked behind two massive dams along the river has built up at the mouth of the river, according to U.S. Geological Survey data estimates. Jeremy Schwartz reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

Water quality is defined by its effect on sea life
Chris Dunagan in Watching Our Water Ways writes: "For all my years of environmental reporting, I have to say that I’ve never really understood the meaning of water quality. Keeping the water free of chemicals and fecal bacteria is one thing. Safe levels of oxygen, temperature, acidity and suspended sediment are other important factors. But in the real world, you never find ideal conditions. You take what you get: physical conditions dictated by weather, climate and bathymetry; a strange brew of toxic chemicals; and a mix of nutrients and organic material, all drifting through complex cycles of life and death. Water quality means nothing without the context of living things. More than 1,000 species of tiny organisms live in or on the mud at the bottom of Puget Sound. In many areas, sensitive species have disappeared. We are left with those that can tolerate harsher conditions. Why are they dying off? What can be done about it?...." (Kitsap Sun)

The Northwest's forest plan: 20 years of fighting
Owls, jobs and habitat: Have there been any real winners in since the Clinton administration compromise? Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the Northwest Forest Plan, the Clinton administration document designed to save Northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets, wild salmon and the many other critters that live in the Northwest's old-growth and mature federal forests. The federal Record of Decision was published on that date in 1994. Daniel Jack Chasan reports. (Crosscut)

Citizen scientists prepare to test West Coast for Fukushima radiation (with video)
All along the Pacific coast of North America and as far south as Costa Rica, people with little or no scientific background have volunteered to raise money for the program and collect the sea water samples needed to test for radiation. The crowdsourcing, citizen-scientist program is the idea of Ken Buesseler, a research scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the world’s biggest private-non-profit oceanographic agency. Buesseler began his career studying the spread of radioactivity from Chernobyl in the Black Sea and has been working with Japanese scientists since mid-2011 to understand the spread of radiation from Fukushima across the Pacific Ocean. (Vancouver Sun)

Point Wells developer wins court fight; more review ahead
After three years of fighting over legal and environmental issues, a complex of luxury condominiums and an urban village planned at the former tank farm at Point Wells are much closer to moving ahead. The State Supreme Court found that a Snohomish County board improperly invalidated the development permits a month after they were filed.... The development proposed by Israeli billionaire Shraga Biran, who has done similar projects around the world, would clean up more than 100 years of pollution at the site but bring an estimated 12,860 daily car trips along a two-lane road through a quiet neighborhood of houses facing the street and Puget Sound. Nancy Bartley reports. (Seattle Times)

Saving the salmon
Many salmon recovery efforts are taking place in Skagit County and around the region, from the large-scale levee setback at Fisher Slough on the Skagit River delta to small-scale culvert replacements on the upper Skagit River. Yet state and national data still do not have a clear picture of the wild population’s progress. Are more wild salmon returning to rivers like the Skagit? Or is habitat still being destroyed more quickly than restoration projects can replace it? While the number of restoration efforts in Skagit and the greater Puget Sound area has grown in the name of saving wild salmon, it is unclear whether the fish population itself is also growing.... Skagit falls into the Puget Sound watershed, which was listed on the “decreasing” side of the 2012 data... But state Department of Fish and Wildlife data that tallies upper and lower Skagit River chinook returns more closely shows an increase in both groups from 2011 to 2012. Kimberly Cauvel reports.

Vancouver 'City Bird' voting now open
The City of Vancouver has chosen six birds that live here all year,  to be named the city's official bird for 2014. The winning bird will be used to promote Bird Week in 2015. The city says the contest is designed to raise awareness about the diversity of birds in Vancouver and their importance to a healthy ecosystem. Vote here (CBC)

A chore requiring a backbone: scrubbing the jellyfish tank
Jellyfish are among the original drifters — going with the flow for millions of years, since before the dinosaurs. Moon jellies are one of the more than 300 species in Puget Sound. They’re translucent and only mildly toxic, unlike their lethal cousins from Australian waters that can kill a human. But for such simple, mainly made-of-water creatures, jellyfish require a complex environment if brought indoors to live in an aquarium. To stay healthy, the 150 jellyfish in the circular tank at Seattle Aquarium need to have their home cleaned quarterly. It is staff biologist and diver Kathryn Kegel’s task to scrub the interior surfaces in the 12-foot doughnut. Alan Berner reports. (Seattle Times)

Puget Sound Pilots object to proposed Navy dock in Port Angeles
Puget Sound Pilots, which operates the only pilot station in the Puget Sound region, has raised objections to a Navy proposal to build a dock for submarine escort and blocking vessels on Ediz Hook. The Seattle-based company, which has its own dock fewer than 100 yards from where the Navy pier would be built, said the new dock could lead to an exit from its home of seven decades... Master mariners who are partners in the company and stay at the pilot station board all non-exempt vessels — from yachts to tankers to container ships — and navigate them through the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the American side of the international border to and from Puget Sound. Paul Gottlieb reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

SeaWorld Loses Appeal Of Ruling On Death Of Orca Trainer Dawn Brancheau
A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld a federal occupational safety agency's finding against SeaWorld Entertainment Inc following the workplace death of one of its killer whale trainers. By a vote of 2-1, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that SeaWorld had violated its duties as an employer by exposing trainers to "recognized hazards" when working with killer whales. The ruling means the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can require SeaWorld to limit the interactions trainers have with killer whales. Lawrence Hurley reports. (Reuters)

Nonprofit to convert Thurston ranch into preserve
A large ranch in south Thurston County has been purchased by the Center for Natural Lands Management, which plans to turn it into a preserve, the California-based nonprofit announced Friday. Formerly known as the Northwest Equestrian Center and the Turner Brothers Ranch, the site, which is about 140 acres, has been renamed the Deschutes River Preserve. It’s on state Route 507, just south of Rainier. The property is home to Mazama pocket gophers, which were listed Wednesday as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and other rare plants and animals including the streaked horned lark and golden paintbrush, according to the nonprofit. Lisa Pemberton reports. (Olympian)

Soundings: Capital grad finds passion in speaking for steelhead
Wild steelhead have a tireless and passionate advocate in Olympia filmmaker Shane Anderson. Evidence of Anderson’s devotion to this iconic, imperiled West Coast species will be on display at 6:30 p.m. April 19 at the Olympia Film Society’s Environmental Film Festival at the Capitol Theater in downtown Olympia. That’s when Anderson will premiere his sober yet hopeful film: “Wild Reverence: The Wild Steelhead’s Last Stand.” ...Anderson, a Capital High School graduate, grew up loving to fish, especially on the wild and scenic rivers of the Olympic Peninsula. John Dodge reports. (Olympian)

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