Monday, May 18, 2015

5/18 Drought, volcano, no Shell, spills, trains, CG app, poaching, Skagit study, Navy warfare, Seaterra, crows

(Seattle Times)
Inslee declares statewide drought emergency
A widespread lack of snowfall this season has left Washington state in a deepening drought, and the prospects are grim: threats to crops and fish and increasing worries about wildfires. (Seattle Times)

The 'hidden' Cascade volcano that poses a threat
Monday marks the 35th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens that killed 57 people. Mount Rainier is considered the world's most dangerous volcano because of its size and how close it is to the population centers of Tacoma and Seattle. But there's another mountain you've probably never seen that's finally getting attention for the risks it poses to our northern counties. Glacier Peak lurks within the northern Cascade Mountains. Unlike most of the other Cascade volcanos viewable from I-5 or even Seattle, this is the mountain no one notices. Yet Glacier Peak sits within the borders of Snohomish County and has a record of violent, even extreme eruptions. Glenn Farley reports. (KING)

35 years after Mount St. Helens erupted: A new world of research
The eruption of Mount St. Helens — 35 years ago Monday — coincided with an explosion in digital and cellular technology. When the volcano erupted on May 18, 1980, the fledgling company Microsoft had just developed the MS-DOS operating system. The online world was still a novelty. Cellphones were unheard of in the United States, and GPS was being developed for aiming missiles. Volcano research changed so suddenly and dramatically in the decades after the eruption that stories about the old days — when geologists ventured into erupting volcanoes to take measurements with tools as basic as surveyors’ transits and tape measures — seemed like tales from the ancient and almost unbelievable past. Rob Carson reports. (Tacoma News Tribune) See also: 35 years after Mount St. Helens’ deadly eruption, the volcano has become a laboratory  Phuong Le reports. (Associated Press) And also: Soundings: Mount St. Helens habitat growing in complexity  John Dodge reports. (Olympian)

Anti-Arctic drilling activists hold 'Shell No' protest
Hundreds of activists decked out in neoprene wetsuits and life jackets took to the waters of Elliott Bay on Saturday in kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and other vessels to send the message that Royal Dutch Shell should cancel its plan to drill in the Arctic Ocean. The "Paddle in Seattle" - a daylong, family friendly festival in a West Seattle park and an on-the-water protest by "Shell No" kayaktivists - was held only blocks from where Shell's Polar Pioneer drilling rig is docked at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5. The brightly colored boats lined the grass as paddlers loaded gear while lights on the towering rig twinkled in the background. Martha Bellisle reports. (Associated Press)

Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant launches campaign for governor
Two-term Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant, in the limelight as a supporter of the Shell Oil home port, launched his campaign for governor on Thursday just as the Arctic drilling rig Polar Pioneer was pulling into Terminal 5 at the port. Joel Connelly reports. (SeattlePI.Com) More: Puget Sound activist Fred Felleman and others file as candidates for Bryant’s vacated position, King County Elections.

Oil tanker spill off Vancouver would reach shorelines within hours: study
If a large tanker spilled a fifth of its oil while under the Lions Gate Bridge, the toxic substance would float out into English Bay within two hours, and likely begin washing up on the shores of tony West Vancouver within six hours, if no response was launched by authorities. In nine hours, absent any official response, the tide would have carried about the equivalent amount of oil into Coal Harbour that was estimated to have spilled from the MV Marathassa’s bunker fuel tanks last month. Within 40 hours, the wind and tidal currents would have combined to bring thousands of litres of oil into Burrard Inlet and its surrounding shorelines, causing significant harm to the local economy, population and environment. Mike Hager reports. (Globe and Mail)

Freight Railroads In Northwest Unlikely To Meet Deadline To Install Safety Upgrade
Freight railroads in the Northwest appear unlikely to meet an end-of-the-year deadline to install the type of system safety regulators say could have prevented Tuesday's deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia. The technology is designed to automatically stop or slow a a speeding train when it senses an accident or collision could occur. It will also be programmed to know the speed limit on every stretch of rail, so if a train is going too fast for whatever reason, it will initiate automatic braking. Tom Banse reports. (KUOW) See also: Railroads required to plan for a worst-case oil train spill in Washington state  Under a new state law signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday, May 14, large railroads will be required to plan with the state for “worst-case spills” from crude oil unit trains, but exactly what that worst-case scenario looks like is not yet clear. Samantha Wohlfeil reports. (Bellingham Herald)

Coast Guard introduces free smartphone app for mariners
The Coast Guard has gone high-tech for the average mariner with a smartphone. It released its first-ever boating safety app for mobile devices Saturday. The free app is available on Apple App Store and Google Play online store, and is designed to provide boating safety resources to mariners. Features include state boating information, a safety equipment checklist, free boating safety check requests, navigation rules, float plans and calling features to report pollution or suspicious activity.  When location services are enabled, users can receive the latest weather reports from the closest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather buoys as well as report the location of a hazard on the water. David G. Sellars reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

Poachers Get Rich Harvesting This Sea Snail To Near Extinction
In a dark fish tank at a government-run lab, a striking sea snail slowly inches from its hiding spot. It’s a pinto abalone, and its numbers are dangerously low in Washington state after decades of overharvesting and poaching. This little-known animal is a delicacy, still served in U.S. restaurants, and its shell is a source of mother-of-pearl. Ashley Ahearn reports. (KUOw)

Federal scientists push for protection from political interference
Public-service unions are asking the federal government for the first time to enshrine scientific integrity language into their collective agreements. The language is intended to ensure that researchers employed by the government can speak openly about their work, publish results without fear of censorship and collaborate with peers. With contract negotiations set to resume this week, there will also be a series of demonstrations for the Ottawa area on Tuesday to focus attention on the issue. Ivan Semeniuk reports. (Globe and Mail)

Without funding, Skagit River General Investigation Study faces unclear future
…. The threat of what is termed a “100-year flood” is why the corps and Skagit County have worked since 1993 on the Skagit River General Investigation Study; its goal is to create a plan to minimize the effects of a major flood. But in April, Skagit County cut off funding for the study after deciding the process had drawn out too long. Over 22 years the county has spent $7.2 million. What is next for the GI study isn’t clear. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Flood of public comments pushes back Navy plans for electronic warfare testing on Peninsula
A flood of public comments has pushed back the Navy's target date for an $11.5 million expansion of electronic-warfare range activities on the Olympic Peninsula from September to early 2016. The U.S. Forest Service, which had said a decision on a Navy request for a permit would be made by September, is hiring a third-party contractor to handle the 3,314 comments it received in response to the Navy's special-use permit application. That will push the Forest Service decision to early 2016, agency spokesman Glen Sachet said last week. Paul Gottlieb reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

CRD urged to disband Seaterra sewage body
Pressure is mounting on local politicians to dismantle Seaterra, the arm’s-length body mandated by the province to build Greater Victoria’s sewage treatment plant. Capital Regional District directors have received a petition from local business owners complaining it is ludicrous to be spending more than $100,000 a month on Seaterra to manage building a sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point when that plan is no longer being considered. Bill Cleverley reports. (Times Colonist)

‘Vicious’ dive-bombing crows back terrorizing shopping centre
High above the stores in Clover Square Village shopping centre, a pair of nesting crows are once again vigorously defending their turf, forcing customers to duck and dash to avoid them. “They’re vicious little things — I’m scared of them now,” said Tricia Lawrence, who has been attacked five times in the past few weeks. “The last time, it got me twice … I screamed like an idiot.” (Surrey Now/Vancouver Sun)

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