Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2/17 Elwha, Grace Islet, oil train crash, spill risk, BC fish farms, sea star comeback, OR minnow, bird beaks

Elwha River 2/15 (Tom Roodra/Coastal Watershed Institute)
Elwha Shoreline Changes Public Forum and Field Tour, Feb. 21
Coastal Watershed Institute and partners present a free forum and field trip for you to learn about changes on the Elwha shoreline as a result of dam removal. A forum will be held 11 AM- 12 PM at the Landing Mall, Room 205, 115 E. Railroad Ave., Port Angeles, and a shoreline walking tour (1 - 4 PM) will be held near the Place Road Beach Access. Carpool advised.

British Columbia pays $5.45-million for Grace Islet
B.C. has finalized its deal to buy Grace Islet, with the lion’s share of the purchase price going to the former owner who had planned to build a retirement home on the picturesque site. The province announced Monday it has put up $5.45-million for the property – in Ganges Harbour off Saltspring Island in the Gulf Islands – consisting of $850,000 for the land and $4.6-million as a settlement with the previous landowner. That amount represents “costs incurred over the past two decades by the landowner and his lost opportunity for future enjoyment of the property,” the province said in a statement Monday. Costs also reflect the expense of putting in utilities and materials for a “high-end house,” the statement added. The province announced its plans to buy the island in January but had not disclosed a price. Reached after months of controversy, the deal was struck to protect the ancient aboriginal cemetery that covers the property. Wendy Stueck reports. (Globe and Mail)

Two oil trains derail, tank cars burning in West Virginia, Ontario
Two oil trains have derailed and caught fire, one in a populated area of Fayette County, W.V., and the other in a remote Ontario forest, during the past 48 hours. The West Virginia accident has seen 14 tankers and a house catch on fire, with at least one tanker car going into the Kanawha River. A nearby water-treatment plant was shut down. The train was carrying Bakken field crude oil from North Dakota, the same somewhat volatile oil that is now passing by rail along waterfronts of Puget Sound cities en route to oil refineries at Anacortes and Cherry Point on northern Puget Sound. Joel Connelly reports. (SeattlePI.Com)

Risk of oil spills shifts from big ships to smaller vessels, Coast Guard expert says
f you fear a big oil spill on Washington waters, you're wiser to worry about small spills and fret about them more often, according to several public and private agency experts. They told an oil spill forum earlier this month that pleasure craft and fishing boats leak more oil than do cargo ships, luxury liners or tankers. And on the North Olympic Peninsula, they said, be grateful we have no train tracks because the threat from so-called crude by rail is greater than a marine spill. Still, no one dismisses the possibility of a disaster like the Arco Anchorage catastrophe in Port Angeles Harbor late in 1985 “when a lot of folks instead of spending Christmas with their families went out and worked on an oil spill,” said Jeff Ward of the Clallam County Marine Resources Committee. James Casey reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

Ottawa extends multi-year aquaculture licences in B.C.
The federal government will issue multi-year licences for finfish and shellfish aquaculture facilities in B.C. to promote investment in sustainable design and technology by the industry. Licenses issued in B.C. by Fisheries and Oceans Canada have previously been limited to one year, which may have discouraged operators from making significant investments in more secure — and more expensive — ocean-based facilities and in land-based hatcheries, according to Jeremy Dunn, executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association. Randy Shore reports. (Vancouver Sun) See also: B.C.’s only land-based salmon farm on target  Randy Shore reports. (Vancouver Sun)

Sea Stars Could Be Making a Comeback
On a windless, cloudless night in late January, Salish Sea ecologist Russel Barsh and his team of scientists at the KwiĆ”ht biology lab scoured Indian Island for sea stars. No humans live on the island, a tiny strip of land just south of Port Townsend, but the winter low tide reveals a colorful variety of the island’s other inhabitants: violently fucking sea slugs, dazzling red octopuses, reptilian-looking snail fish, and the island’s famous sea stars—one as big as a yard wide—that have traditionally feasted on the mussels and clams hidden in the sand. Indian Island’s sea star population—like other sea star hangouts up and down the West Coast—experienced a swift and mystifying die-off that inspired alarmist headlines in 2014. Marine biologists looked on with horror as appendages of the keystone species—a species that plays a fundamental role in its ecosystem—washed ashore. But this year, Barsh and his crew found something hopeful: Hundreds of sea stars, babies, mostly. And healthy, from the looks of it. Syndey Brownstone reports. (The Stranger)

Oregon minnow is first fish to be taken off endangered list
It’s official. A tiny minnow that lives only in backwaters in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is the first fish to be formally removed from Endangered Species Act protection because it is no longer in danger of extinction. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe was to make the announcement Tuesday afternoon at a wildlife refuge outside Corvallis. The action comes 22 years after the 3-inch-long fish was first listed as an endangered species, and five years after it was upgraded to threatened. Jeff Barnard reports. (Associated Press)

Chemical contaminants suspect in mystery of Alaska chickadee beak deformities
When black-capped chickadees and some other birds in the Anchorage area began turning up in the late 1990s with elongated, weirdly curved or twisted beaks, biologists and bird lovers began to worry. The deformities range from slight to gross and can have severe consequences for the birds if they are unable to use their beaks to pick up food or groom feathers so their bodies retain heat. The tiny black-capped chickadees are the most afflicted, with 7 percent of Alaska adults developing deformed beaks. The deformities are also showing up in other birds, including ravens and crows, though not as frequently, (said Colleen Handel, a U.S. Geological Survey biologist.) Now the beak-deformity outbreak has spread north to Fairbanks, south to the Puget Sound region and -- for an unknown reason -- across the globe to Great Britain, where it is showing up among starlings, tits and other species, Handel said. Yereth Rosen reports. (Alaska Dispatch News)

Citizen Scientists Generate Big Data For Annual Bird Count
Downy woodpecker, dark-eyed junco, tufted titmouse. These are just a few of the most popular birds to have been sighted in last year’s Great Backyard Bird Count, when in 2014, bird enthusiasts from 135 countries participated in counting over 4,000 species. Monday is the final day of the annual count. It’s a chance for researchers at Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab to harness the power of nearly 100,000 citizen scientists over a 4-day period. Michelle Leis reports. (OPB)

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