Monday, January 4, 2016

1/4 I-732, BC coal, dead baby orca, Vic oil spill, soil dump, Miami siege, DNR PLP, Bridge Glacier, Deschutes, BC birds

(PHOTO: Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Vancouver's annual English Bay Polar Bear Swim brings out thousands
Thousands of people braved the cold Friday afternoon in Vancouver with a chilly plunge at the annual New Year's Day Polar Bear Swim in English Bay. Each year since 1920, the swim has attracted participants looking to bring in the New Year with a sobering dip in the Pacific Ocean. (CBC) See also: Peninsula residents plunge into new year with cold-water dips  Chris McDaniel and Charlie Bermant report. (Peninsula Daily News)

Carbon initiative aims to raise and cut taxes
Supporters of Initiative 732 are confident they have enough signatures to force lawmakers or perhaps voters to go after carbon polluters. I-732 backers dropped off the final batch of signatures at the Secretary of State's Olympia office on Wednesday (Dec 30). The initiative would create a new tax for carbon polluters while cutting the state's sales tax, reducing taxes on manufacturers and creating a tax credit for low-income families. Drew Mikkelsen reports. (KING)

Westshore Terminals cuts forecast as B.C. feels effects of coal slump
A coal export terminal south of Vancouver will no longer be able to avoid the fallout from low prices for the commodity. Westshore Terminals Investment Corp. had dodged much of the impact of depressed coal prices because it enjoyed long-term contracts with customers. Industry analysts marvelled at how the export facility weathered the economic storm through the first nine months of 2015. But then the reality of languishing coal markets finally hit Westshore, which said recently that it expects to ship 24 million to 24.5 million tonnes of coal in 2016, down almost one-fifth from the company’s original forecast. Brent Jang reports. (Globe and Mail)

Dead baby orca didn’t belong to Puget Sound resident pod
A baby orca was found dead Tuesday afternoon (Dec. 29) on the beach near Tofino, B.C. The whale was a female transient whale, not a member of the southern resident population of orcas that frequents Puget Sound waters. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)

Victoria Gorge oil spill renews calls for action on derelict boats
There are new calls for the City of Victoria to take action against derelict and liveaboard boats on the Gorge Waterway, after a sunken vessel near Banfield Park leaked oil on Sunday (Dec. 27)…. Crews quickly responded to the spill, laying a boom to contain the fuel or oil escaping the boat…. The city does have a plan to end overnight moorage in the waters, but former Victoria councillor Shellie Gudgeon is outraged it seems to have stalled. (CBC) See also: City was offered free removal of old boats on the Gorge  Bill Cleverely reports. (Times Colonist)

Planned soil dump near Chehalis River raises concerns
A company is proposing to dump up to 1,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a day onto Crown land near the Chehalis River, one of the Lower Mainland’s prime fish streams and home to a major federal hatchery releasing millions of juvenile fish a year. The proposed Statlu Resources dump site would be as close as 100 metres from Boulder Creek, a tributary of the Chehalis River, which, in turn, flows into the Harrison River upstream of Highway 7 west of Harrison Hot Springs. Statlu Resources president Earl Wilder confirmed he has encountered strong opposition, but feels his plan for the site is misunderstood. Larry Pynn reports. (Vancouver Sun)

The Siege of Miami
The city of Miami Beach floods on such a predictable basis that if, out of curiosity or sheer perversity, a person wants to she can plan a visit to coincide with an inundation. Knowing the tides would be high around the time of the “super blood moon,” in late September, I arranged to meet up with Hal Wanless, the chairman of the University of Miami’s geological-sciences department. Wanless, who is seventy-three, has spent nearly half a century studying how South Florida came into being. From this, he’s concluded that much of the region may have less than half a century more to go. Elizabeth Kolbert reports. (The New Yorker)

Port Angeles City Council to eye joining amicus brief on environmental cleanup
…. The council will consider joining Georgia-Pacific in an amicus brief in the appeal filed by Pope Resources of a Kitsap County Superior Court ruling that the state Department of Natural Resources cannot be held liable for contamination in Port Gamble Bay. The city has committed funds as a potentially liable person (PLP) in the cleanup of Port Angeles Harbor. The state Department of Ecology also has named DNR as a PLP. “The outcome of this case could have a significant impact on the city because, just as in Port Gamble, a significant amount of the contamination in our harbor is located on state-owned land that is managed by DNR,” a council memo said. (Peninsula Daily News)

Troubled waters ahead for shrinking Bridge Glacier in southwestern B.C.
At the headwaters of the Bridge River in southwestern British Columbia, Bridge Glacier is breaking apart. The lake at the base of the glacier is littered with icebergs. Some are full of cracks and dirt, others pale blue and recently born. Here and there are little bits of ice that are almost gone, the colour of ice cubes in water on a summer day. Every year, the lake is getting bigger and the glacier is getting smaller. Over the past 40 years, Bridge Glacier has retreated more than three and a half kilometres. About one in 12 of the world’s approximately 200,000 glaciers are in British Columbia and Alberta. Glaciers in B.C. alone lose 22 billion cubic metres of water every year. Almost all of the world’s glaciers are in retreat – which means they lose more mass during the summer from melting ice than they gain during the winter from fresh snow. Pauline Holdsworth reports. (Globe and Mail)

Lake or estuary? New year, new decisions
Before leaving office last month, Olympia mayor Stephen Buxbaum left behind suggestions for his successors at City Hall concerning Capitol Lake and the Deschutes River. Some might feel he packed up the easy stuff and left behind a live grenade. In a letter to his colleagues and affected state agencies, Buxbaum said it is time to create a plan to eventually convert the man-made lake, fed by the Deschutes, into a free flowing estuary that empties into Puget Sound. (Olympian Editorial Board)

B.C.'s Brackendale bald eagle count lowest in 30-year history
A decade ago the Brackendale Winter Eagle Festival and Count saw close to 4,000 birds, but in 2016 there were only 411. "When there's no salmon here they will migrate, fly away to other places where there is salmon," said organizer Jim Gracey. "And if they really get hungry, they'll catch a rabbit, a cat, a small dog."  On Sunday the count marked its 30th year to gauge the health of the bald eagle population in B.C. as hundreds of the birds converged on the Squamish River Valley to feed on chum salmon. (CBC)

Birders flock to catch sight of rare visitor to capital region
A shy, easily overlooked and entirely forgettable visitor from Asia is attracting attention and raising some alarm in rural Saanich. The visitor is a redwing, or turdus iliacus, a bird slightly smaller and a whole lot browner than the American robin (also a thrush) seen across North America. In fact, it looks something like an immature robin, and is brown on top and speckled brown across the breast without the orange…. The redwing is quite common across northern Europe and Asia. But this sighting is only the second recorded in Victoria. The first was two years ago. Richard Watts reports. (Times Colonist)

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