Monday, March 23, 2015

3/23 Slides, herring, Shawnigan Lk, Shell drill, SaltSpring, toxin levels, Skagit steelhead, fracking, Edmonds buffers, snowpack, BC ants

Friday's blog: Skunk Cabbage Welcomes Spring
Today’s vernal equinox in the neighborhood was celebrated under breezy gray skies and sporadic rain. Let the early bloom’d cherry blossoms, daffodils and tulips droop; the real harbinger of spring is the skunk cabbage….

If you lke to watch: Watch a baby hummingbird grow up
In celebration of spring, GirlScientist shares a 2012 video of a rufus hummer by Bellingham's Ann Chaikin-- with music. (The Guardian)

Rules for building in landslide-prone areas virtually unchanged
Snohomish County's rules for building near potential landslide dangers remain more or less unchanged from when the deadly Oso mudslide hit a year ago. The County Council is likely to enact stricter regulations by mid-year, beyond the temporary construction ban already in place for the immediate Oso slide area. Recommendations include expanding the areas near steep slopes where the county would require geotechnical engineering reports before issuing building permits. A summary of the engineer's report would need to be recorded on the title of the property. The property owner also would have to sign a waiver, holding the county harmless should anything go wrong, before a building permit would be issued. Noah Haglund reports. (Everett Herald) See also: Year after Oso disaster, land-use rules slow to change  Lewis Kamb and Jim Brunner report. (Seattle Times)

Heiltsuk First Nation threatens to blockade commercial herring fishery
The Heiltsuk First Nation on B.C.'s Central Coast is vowing to blockade a Fisheries and Oceans Canada approved commercial fishery to preserve what it calls "weak" Pacific herring stocks. Fisheries and Oceans Canada says its science forecasts show herring abundance continues to support modest commercial harvest opportunities. But the Heiltsuk claim herring stocks are on the verge of collapse. (CBC)

Dumping tainted soil near Shawnigan Lake gets go-ahead
A ruling by the Environmental Appeal Board has cleared the way for South Island Aggregates to start receiving tonnes of contaminated soil at its facility near Shawnigan Lake. Concerned the site could contaminate Shawnigan Lake, three area residents, the Shawnigan Lake Residents Association and the Cowichan Valley Regional District had appealed a B.C. Ministry of Environment permit granted to South Island Aggregates. It allowed the company to receive up to 100,000 tonnes a year of contaminated soil at a site on Stebbings Road. Bill Cleverley and Jeff Bell report. (Times Colonist)

Judge OKs lawsuit over lease for Shell Arctic drilling fleet
A lawsuit challenging the Port of Seattle's decision to lease one of its terminals as a homeport for an Arctic oil-drilling fleet can go forward, a Washington state judge ruled Friday. Environmental groups say the port broke state law in February when it signed a two-year lease with Foss Maritime Co. to rent 50 acres at Terminal 5 near downtown Seattle. Foss' client is Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which plans to base its Arctic fleet there. Gene Johnson reports. (Associated Press)

Jack Knox: Saltspring now Salt Spring? This is anarchy
Flew back from a week’s holiday, landed in a dystopian nightmare. To be precise: Sometime in my absence, Saltspring Island became Salt Spring Island…. Never mind. Here at the Times Colonist, we have always stuck with the official version, Saltspring, as adopted by the Geographic Board of Canada in 1910…. And now we have the shift from Saltspring to Salt Spring, as dictated in a memo from on high. “Every time we use Saltspring, we are sending a message that we know better than the people who live there,” read the directive. “That is not a good message to send.” Jack Knox bemoans. (Times Colonist)

Bellingham council could weigh in on state fish consumption, pollution rules
Bellingham City Council is considering asking the state for tighter pollution rules protecting water and the fish people eat. On Monday, March 23, the council will discuss signing a letter to the Department of Ecology that would request tighter water quality standards than what the department is currently proposing as part of a years-long update process. That would go against the grain of many other cities around the state that support the plan from Ecology and Gov. Jay Inslee as a compromise on health standards and strict pollution guidelines that affect wastewater treatment plants. Samantha Wohlfeil reports. (Bellingham Herald)

Fishless future
Twelve years is a long time to take a break from one of your greatest passions, but some Skagit River fishermen have no choice. Steelhead will soon cease to return during the December-to-February fishing season, which is expected to cut off the treasured recreational opportunity on the mighty river. The steelhead hatchery’s closure last spring, for a 12-year period, is expected to put a near end to tribal customs as well as recreational and commercial fishing…. The fish aren’t expected to return because a year ago, juvenile hatchery fish were barred from being released as a result of a lawsuit between the Wild Fish Conservancy and state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The conservancy argued Fish and Wildlife, which co-manages the state’s hatcheries with treaty tribes, violated the U.S. Endangered Species Act by using Chambers Creek steelhead in the Skagit River system. The state agreed April 25, 2014, not to release 720,000 fish into Puget Sound that spring and to close hatchery operations using the Chambers Creek fish on the Skagit River for 12 years. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Fracking: US tightens rules for chemical disclosure
The Obama administration said Friday it is requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, the first major federal regulation of the controversial drilling technique that has sparked an ongoing boom in natural gas production but raised widespread concerns about possible groundwater contamination. A rule to take effect in June also updates requirements for well construction and disposal of water and other fluids used in fracking, as the drilling method is more commonly known. Matthew Daly and Josh Lederman report. (Associated Press)

Environmental report on Whatcom coal terminal expected no sooner than mid-2016
The original schedule for completing an environmental review of a proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point was overly optimistic, and Whatcom County officials are preparing a new contract that will continue the work until mid-2016…. The original contract assumed the two coal-terminal applicants — SSA Marine and BNSF Railway, which would build additional rail to accommodate the coal trains — would provide all requested information within the first month. Some of that information is only coming together now. Other information was never provided, particularly by BNSF. Ralph Schwartz reports. (Bellingham Herald)

In comments to state, Port of Edmonds takes stand against increasing Harbor Square buffers
As the deadline nears for comments on an update to the Edmonds Shoreline Management Program, the Port of Edmonds reiterated Friday that it is strongly opposed to a City of Edmonds proposal to increase the size of setbacks and buffers around the Edmonds Marsh, located adjacent to the port-owned and -managed Harbor Square business complex. (My Edmonds News)

‘Dismal’ snowpack may be new normal in Northwest
Wonder what the weather will be like in Western Washington 50 years from now? Look around. Climatologists say we’re experiencing a sneak preview now. Winter 2014-15 — regarded by many as almost freakishly warm and snowless — will be the new normal, if climate change continues as expected. The basic combination projected for the Northwest by climate models — higher temperatures and about average precipitation — has had a dramatic effect in the Cascades and Olympics. There’s almost no snow. Rob Carson reports. (News Tribune of Tacoma)

Fire Ants force CP to incinerate Arbutus rail ties
CP Rail will begin incinerating old railway ties from the Arbutus Corridor next week in an attempt to control the European Fire Ant. The invasive species has been causing problems in B.C., with reports they have now made their way into virtually every district in the Lower Mainland…. Research has also shown that one of its relatives, the Impressive Fire Ant, has been linked to runway delays at the Vancouver International Airport where birds swarming to eat the ants are crashing into planes. (CBC)

Now, your tug weather--
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