Wednesday, March 16, 2016

3/16 Whale talk, coal port, Vic sewer, herring, WA restoration, BC gas, green rules, tree moss, wetlands

GBH (Paul Bannick/BirdNote)
Heron Nest - Start with one stick
Every spring, Great Blue Herons build sprawling nests high in trees, in colonies. The male heron finds and brings the sticks, and the female decides what goes where. (BirdNote)

Researchers gather to talk about whales
Whales along the West Coast of North America have long been a source of inspiration and awe. Even a room of experts who have spent years researching whales occasionally broke out in “oohs” and “aahs” Monday when shown underwater video footage and the latest research findings. Scientists in Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia are looking into how whales that frequent the Salish Sea survive, interact and are impacted by activities such as vessel traffic. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Shipping port that is critical for Crow coal in jeopardy 
A Puget Sound shipping terminal crucial for exporting Crow Nation coal appears headed for denial this week, said U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont. Zinke said he expects the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to abort a yearslong environmental study of Gatetway Pacific Terminal and reject the project as Washington’s Lummi Nation requested in January 2015. The proposed terminal would be located near Bellingham, Wash., and traditional fishing waters of Lummi Nation, an American Indian tribe. Col. John G. Buck, Seattle District Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, informed Zinke two weeks ago that a de minimis determination bypassing the environmental review process would be made on the proposed coal terminal by the end of March. That decision would likely spark a lawsuit over whether the Army Corps jumped the gun on deciding the outcome of the coal port proposal. Tom Lutey reports. (Independent Record)

Region’s mayors take sewage-treatment case to U.S.
More local politicians have written Washington state legislators, trying to distance their communities from Greater Victoria’s sewage situation by pointing out they already have sewage treatment. In the letter, Sooke Acting Mayor Rick Kasper and Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor ask that Washington state not impose travel restrictions to their communities. Their letter follows on the heels of an earlier one sent by Sidney Mayor Steve Price. Last month, the Washington House of Representatives voted 50-47 in favour of restricting government travel to Victoria because of what it perceives as foot-dragging over the implementation of sewage treatment. While the measure has since been withdrawn, several Washington state legislators are threatening the call for a general tourism boycott, if the Capital Regional District’s sewage treatment plan doesn’t meet a March 31 deadline for funding help from the province and federal government. That funding would be dealt through PPP Canada. Bill Cleverley reports. (Times Colonist)

A history of herrings, from communication by farting to their connection to humans
For more than a century a tiny silver pelagic fish, the herring, has played a critical role in the lives of people living in the San Juans. "Interviewing elderly fishers I found out that herring were a staple food for families living in the San Juans Islands during the early 20th century," University of Washington researcher Eleni Petrou says. "It supported large industrial fisheries in the Salish Sea. What we see today may only be a small portion of the abundance and diversity that existed 100 years ago." Heather Spaulding reports. (San Juan Journal)

Local restoration projects included on two-year list
The Puget Sound Partnership released a list Friday of proposed restoration projects. Of 398 proposals the agency received in December, 364 were selected as near term actions, meaning the partnership would like to see work started within the next two years. The projects could cost a combined $243 million. Some of the projects would contribute to each of the agency’s three top priorities: Preventing stormwater runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, and protecting and recovering shellfish beds. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Natural gas supply in B.C. dramatically greater than original estimates
The British Columbia government says natural gas resources in northeastern B.C., are trillions of cubic feet higher than first thought. A report, published by the National Energy Board, focuses on the Liard Basin, a huge region of northeastern B.C., Yukon and Northwest Territories. According to the report, 848 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lies under B.C.'s portion of the basin, up from the previous estimate of 210 trillion cubic feet. A Ministry of Natural Gas Development release says that pushes the province's total natural gas potential above 3,400 trillion cubic feet. (Canadian Press)

Saanich property plunges $1 million, green rules blamed
A Gordon Head property owner has seen nearly a million-dollar devaluation of his large waterfront property and says the controversial bylaw Saanich enacted to protect sensitive ecosystems is to blame. On top of the devaluation, Chris Phillips said he is restricted from so much as mowing the lawn on the 65,000-square-foot property that a Saanich environmental manager has declared out of bounds for change without specific written municipal permission…. The controversial Environmental Development Permit Area bylaw, passed in 2012, is the subject of a special Saanich council meeting tonight called by Mayor Richard Atwell to decide whether the bylaw should be repealed, revised or left in place — but with tweaks. Katherine Dedyna reports. (Times Colonist)

How Tree Moss Could Revolutionize What We Know About Air Pollution
Forest Service lichenologist Sarah Jovan hardly has to walk half a block from her office in downtown Portland to find the type of shaggy, green moss she used to discover the city’s hidden hot spots of toxic air pollution…. Because moss gets all of its nutrients from the atmosphere, it’s a natural air pollution monitor. But no one here was using it that way – until Jovan tested it out with Forest Service economist Geoff Donovan. Cassandra Profita reports. (EarthFix)

New technique tracks ‘heartbeat’ of hundreds of wetlands 
For two University of Washington researchers, the real test came as they walked across a barren-looking field. They were on the Columbia Plateau with two state wetland ecologists, searching for a 1-acre body of water identified and mapped for the first time using a new method they developed. But when the group arrived at the expected coordinates, map in hand, the soil was dry and cracked and there wasn’t a wetland in sight. Then, one of the ecologists sunk a shovel into the ground, looked at the characteristics of the soil, and put everyone’s worries to rest: The wetland was there, all right — it just happened to be in a dry phase. Michelle Ma reports. (UW Today)

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