Wednesday, July 1, 2015

7/1 Auklet, Shell drill, microplastics, Navy, Columbia R. future, Pierce Co. farmland

Whiskered Auklet (Sergey Frolov/BirdNote)
The Auklet's Whiskers - Not Just for Show
In Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, thousands of Whiskered Auklets — miniature relatives of puffins and murres — nest in deep rock crevices. The birds owe their name to the white plumes that sprout from their heads each summer. These fancy “whiskers” likely play a role in courtship. But they're not just for show. Much like the whiskers of a cat, the plumes are acutely sensitive, guiding the auklets through the dark nest cavities. When nesting is done, the auklets will return to the open sea and molt their multi-purpose whiskers. Until the next spring.(BirdNote)

Shell clears key Arctic drilling hurdle, but must keep its rigs 15 miles apart
Shell Oil has cleared one more key regulatory hurdle in seeking to drill in the Arctic this summer, as the oil giant received a “letter of authorization” (LOA) from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service regarding potential disturbance to polar bears and walruses. The letter allows Shell to “take small numbers of polar bears and Pacific walrus incidental to activities” it plans for drilling this summer in the Chukchi Sea, about 75 miles northwest of the native village of Wainwright, Alaska. Joel Connelly reports. (SeattlePI.Com) See also: Shell oil-drilling ship leaves Everett, bound for Arctic June 30  (Everett Herald)

Microplastic particles move up marine food chain on B.C. coast: research
Plastic fibres and particles in West Coast waters are being consumed and passed up the food chain by tiny marine creatures that apparently mistake them for food, according to a new study from the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. Researcher Peter Ross and his colleagues found plastic litter in the digestive systems of two key species of plankton that are eaten in large numbers by salmon and baleen whales. Adult salmon returning to the Strait of Georgia may be consuming up to 91 plastic particles a day by eating plankton, and juveniles leaving fresh water up to seven particles a day, while a humpback whale could ingest more than 300,000 particles a day, according to the researchers’ estimates. Randy Shore reports. (Vancouver Sun)

Navy enjoys Northwest building spree but faces lawsuits and other challenges
New jets. New ships. New piers stretching into Hood Canal. They’re just some of the big-ticket items the Navy has bought for its bases around the Puget Sound area. After a dozen years of Army growth and the end of a $2 billion wartime investment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Navy Region Northwest is on its own building spree. It’s spending hundreds of millions of dollars improving facilities ranging from the wharf that handles nuclear missiles at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor to the hangars on Whidbey Island set to receive some of the military’s latest aircraft. Adam Ashton reports. (Olympian)

Energy decisions loom over the Columbia River
Stand on the cliffs overlooking the wild beauty of the Columbia River, viewed by many as one of the most significant environmental forces in the Pacific Northwest, and you’ll get a glimpse of why its rapid transformation into a fossil fuel axis is cause for rising cries of alarm. Coal from the Rocky Mountains, oil from Alberta’s tar sands, and crude from North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields are being transported through the area at an unprecedented rate, putting the area at risk of major spills and explosions. Railroads are now moving an estimated 60 times more oil annually than they were during the period from 2005 to 2009. Martha Baskin reports. (Crosscut)

Pierce County looks to hold the line on protected farmland
The Pierce County Council will vote Tuesday on a proposal that would maintain, for now, the status quo for long-term preservation of agricultural lands in East Pierce County. The measured approach is in contrast to several drastically different alternatives that sparked months of debate about how much acreage should be classified as Agricultural Resource Lands. The ARL designation is meant to protect “commercially significant” farmland from being paved over by developers for years to come. Currently, about 23,000 acres are classified as ARL in areas such as Graham, Eatonville, Orting and Roy. Kari Plog reports. (Tacoma News Tribune)

Now, your tug weather--
WEST ENTRANCE U.S. WATERS STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA- 300 AM PDT WED JUL 1 2015
TODAY
LIGHT WIND. WIND WAVES LESS THAN 1 FT. NW SWELL 7 FT AT 8 SECONDS...SUBSIDING TO 5 FT AT 8 SECONDS.
TONIGHT
W WIND TO 10 KT IN THE EVENING...BECOMING LIGHT. WIND WAVES 1 FT OR LESS. NW SWELL 5 FT AT 8 SECONDS.

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