Monday, March 16, 2015

3/16 Grays, oil spill, trains, coal dump, BC LNG, octopus, orca feeding, Howe Sound, Oso slide

Tofino gray (Remote Passages Marine Excursions/CBC)
If you like to watch: National Geographic highlights Tofino as whale watching destination
National Geographic has named Tofino whale-watching as one of its best spring-trips for 2015. The publication's "Best Spring Trips 2015" on-line article, says up to 20,000 gray whales pass by the waters off Tofino each year, and advises whale watchers to come prepared for the weather. (CBC) See also: 50 feet of gray, now showing in Puget Sound  Gray whales, which grow to 50 feet long and 40 tons, can live to be 70. Little Patch is one of about a dozen grays that break off from the 20,000-whale migration every year to eat ghost shrimp in shallow Saratoga Passage, earning the nickname “Saratoga grays.” Steve Ringman reports. (Seattle Times) And also: Whale-hunt scolds are off target  Patronizing the Makah Indians or portraying them as somehow not real Indians isn’t going to stop them from hunting gray whales. A more respectful approach would be to make them a better offer. Danny Westneat writes. (Seattle Times)

Feds: Defective valves led to crude oil leaks on train cars in Washington state
Roughly 6,000 tank cars could have defective valves that leaked crude oil and other hazardous materials in several incidents across the country in recent months, including at least one in Washington state, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. In a directive Friday, March 13, the FRA gave all tank car owners notice they have 60 days to replace the defective 3-inch ball valves, which were not approved for use in tank cars. The train cars can be used in the interim, according to the FRA. Samantha Wohlfeil and Curtis Tate report. (Bellingham Herald/McClatchy)

Coal train delays traffic during rush hour in Mount Vernon
A loaded coal train passing through Mount Vernon on its way from Wyoming to British Columbia was stopped on the tracks, blocking Hoag Road for more than an hour Friday afternoon. The train was stopped for a mechanical inspection, blocking street traffic and delaying two trains, said Gus Melonas, Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman. (Skagit Valley Herald) And: BNSF halts railway traffic between Seattle, Everett due to weather  BNSF Railway said Sunday it had interrupted freight and passenger traffic between Seattle and Everett due to mudslides resulting from heavy rainfall. Angel Gonzalez reports. (Seattle Times)

Students Push University of Washington Regents to Dump Coal
Student activists at the University of Washington urged the Board of Regents on Thursday to dump the university's investments in coal. Coal is the leading source of the greenhouse gas emissions that are disrupting the planet's climate. Graduate student Alex Lenferna with Divest UW also blamed the coal industry for government inaction on the climate. John Ryan reports. (KUOW)

Three LNG projects lead the pack in B.C.
Three LNG projects have emerged as leaders in reaching so-called project development agreements under negotiation by the B.C. government. On the list is the large Petronas-led Pacific NorthWest LNG and two smaller projects, Woodfibre LNG and AltaGas-led Douglas Channel LNG, says the province. Two large projects not on the negotiation list — for the moment at least — are Kitimat LNG led by Chevron and Canada LNG led by Shell. The agreements, unprecedented in B.C. and more common in countries with unstable political climates, are meant to provide long-term certainty around items such as tax rates, gas royalties and possibly greenhouse gas emissions. Gordon Hoekstra reports. (Vancouver Sun)

If you like to watch: Five sort-of signs of the octopus uprising
This month, we couldn't help but notice there have been an awful lot of octopus stories in the news lately. It could just be a coincidence, or we could just be remembering them more than stories about other things (octopuses are pretty fascinating, after all).  Or perhaps the hyper-intelligent, many-armed ocean dwellers are planning something. Daniel Martins reports. (Weather Network)

Skagit River GI study needs more money, time
The Skagit River General Investigation Study will hit another delay before its next expected “milestone,” much to the frustration of Skagit County officials. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and county staff said in October they expected the study to wrap up the feasibility phase in June, allowing it to move on to the third phase in a five-step process. The GI study launched more than two decades ago, in 1993, but has been stuck in phase two since 1997. Now the corps says it will need additional time — and money — before the study can move to phase three, which involves engineering and design. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

If you like to watch: Killer whales' feeding frenzy caught on camera
A Vancouver Island man got a treat when a group of orcas came really close to shore and had a feeding frenzy on Friday.  Chad Giesbrecht said he was walking along the Dodd Narrows around 4:20 p.m. PT when he spotted the killer whales. (CBC)

Woodfibre LNG worries Squamish First Nation amid Howe Sound revitalization
After years of heavy industry in Squamish, marine life is starting to return to Howe Sound, but the Squamish First Nation says it's concerned that trend could be reversed if the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant is approved. The project would export just over two million tonnes of LNG from an export facility built at the site of the old Woodfibre pulp mill in a boat-access only area of Howe Sound about seven kilometres from Squamish, B.C. (CBC)

Was Oso mudslide nature's mystery or man's mistake?
Nearly a year after the worst disaster in modern Snohomish County history, a legal battle continues to take shape over whether somebody should be held responsible. Was the March 22, 2014, mudslide near Oso a tragic display of natural forces reshaping the land, or a calamity caused by human hands?
Did local governments have a duty to discourage people from making their homes along the banks of the North Fork Stillaguamish River beneath a slide-prone hill, a place where 43 people later lost their lives?
So far, four lawsuits have been brought in King County Superior Court by those who lost family and homes. Three of the cases, representing the bulk of the plaintiffs, have been consolidated for a single trial, now scheduled for October. Scott North report. (Everett Herald)

Now, your tug weather--
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