Wednesday, July 20, 2016

7/20 Fin whale, marine debris, Frankenfish, boat spills, hot year, I-123, oil ban, WA DNR

Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)
Fireweed is specially evident along roads and railways and on old burns, hence the common name. The flowers produce ample nectar, which makes an excellent honey. The Haida used the outer stem fibers of fireweed to make cord. They peeled off the outer layer of the stem, dried it, and later soaked it in water and twisted or spun it into twine, used especially for making fishing nets. The Coast Salish used the seed fluff in weaving and padding. The Saanich and other Vancouver Island groups along with the Squamish and Puget Sound groups added seed fluff to dog hair or mountain-goat wool and wove the mixture into blankets and clothing. The Saanich used fireweed seed fluff mixed with duck feathers to make blankets. The Haida, Nisga'a, Gitksan and some other peoples ate the central pith of fireweed stems in the early spring. This plant was sometimes called asperse by the French Canadian voyageurs, and it was used by them as a green potherb. The leaves are rich in vitamin C and can also be use to make a tea. (Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast)

Rare Fin whale spotted in Puget Sound
The Pacific Whale Watch Association confirmed the sighting of a Fin whale in the Puget Sound on July 15, the second sighting of this endangered species in US waters since 1930. The crew of the Chilkat Express spotted the whale a few miles northeast of Dungeness Spit, taking photographs and video of the massive creature. Captain Mark Malleson documented the sighting of a Fin whale on July 9, and immediately rushed to the aquatic scene to confirm it was the same animal when he was alerted of a sighting by the Chilkat crew. The adult Fin whale is estimated to be between 60 and 70 feet in length and weighing 70 tons. The animal the Chilkat crew spotted is not only endangered, but the second largest animal on earth behind the blue whale. Alexis Daugherty reports. (KING)

B.C. coast to see historic cleanup of marine debris as Japanese tsunami money runs out
A coordinated marine-debris cleanup described as the largest in Canadian history is underway all along B.C.’s west coast, from the remote wave-tossed beaches of Cape Scott and Haida Gwaii to the tourist-heavy Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It is largely funded by the last of a $1-million package provided by the Japanese government in 2012 for tsunami debris cleanup in B.C. “This is the last hurrah,” confirmed Karen Wristen, executive-director of Living Oceans Society, the conservation group coordinating the effort on the western coast of Vancouver Island. “It will be the largest marine debris cleanup operation ever undertaken in Canada.” Larry Pynn reports. (Vancouver Sun)

Washington tribe joins legal challenge over modified salmon
A Native American tribe in Washington state has joined a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s approval of an Atlantic salmon genetically modified to grow faster. The Quinault Indian Nation on Friday joined the lawsuit that 11 other fishing and environmental groups filed against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and others in late March. The lawsuit alleges the FDA didn’t fully analyze potential environmental effects before approving the faster-growing salmon for human consumption in November. Phuong Le reports. (Associated Press)

Boat-related fuel spills hit Lake Union and Jones Island
Two damaged vessels dumped diesel fuel into Lake Union and the waters off Jones Island in separate incidents, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. In one incident, a 48-foot fishing vessel stuck a rock near Jones Island in the San Juans yesterday [Monday] afternoon and started losing diesel. The vessel, Gladstone, had 900 gallons aboard, and salvage crews recovered about 700 gallons from the boat, according to the Coast Guard. A crew from TowBoatUS stopped the diesel leak and towed the boat to Deer Harbor for further repairs. Two nearby boaters rescued one person for the damaged vessel. In the second incident, a 90-foot vessel moored at Lake Union Dry Dock spilled about 50 gallons of diesel into the water. Apparently, a cracked fuel tank dumped diesel into the boat’s bilge and eventually overboard. Marty McOmber  reports. (Three Sheets Northwest) See also: Leaky Comox-Powell River ferry out for repairs for second time this year  Amy Smart reports. (Times Colonist)

Scientists Report The Planet Was Hotter Than Ever In The First Half Of 2016
If you think it's been hot this year, you're right. The latest temperature numbers from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the first six months of 2016 were the hottest on record around the planet. Let's look at June. Scientists took temperatures from around the world and got a June average. What they found was a world that was 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the average June in the 20th Century. How about January? Hottest ever. Same with February, March, April and May. Every month in 2016 has been warmer than ever, at least since people started keeping reliable records — that was 1880. Christopher Joyce reports. (NPR)

Voters to decide Seattle waterfront’s future
Voters have two weeks to decide whether to completely change the city’s plan for transforming Seattle’s downtown waterfront. Initiative 123 would create a public development authority to plan a one-mile elevated park — or “garden bridge” — incorporating a small, restored portion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Former mayoral candidate Kate Martin has led the effort for an elevated park for years and helped gather more than 30,000 signatures to get it on the Aug. 2 ballot. If voters approve, it would effectively kill the city’s waterfront plan that’s been almost a decade in the making and would give access to city funds for the elevated park. Patricia Madej reports. (Seattle Times)

Unanimous vote bans oil facilities in Vancouver
Protesters broke into applause and gave Vancouver city councilors a standing ovation Monday night after they unanimously approved a ban on new oil refineries and facilities. But the council’s vote won’t affect the nation’s largest crude-by-rail facility proposed for the Port of Vancouver that many protested shortly before the council meeting started. Instead, the city’s ban would prohibit expansion of existing and new crude oil refineries and facilities that average less than 50,000 barrels a day. Still, as many noted, the vote sends a message, including to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has the final say whether the Vancouver Energy project is approved. Lauren Dake reports. (Columbian)

Washington lands commissioner race draws crowd of Democrats
This fall’s race for Washington’s commissioner of public lands—an office that oversees the state’s largest firefighting force and 5.6 million acres of land—is hotly contested since no incumbent is on the ballot. Commissioner Peter Goldmark will not seek reelection to the quietly influential office. As the head of the state’s Department of Natural Resources, the commissioner is responsible for healthy public aquatic lands, forests, parks and more. The department leases land to provide critical school construction money, and its firefighting efforts are a key line of defense against destructive summertime wildfires, too. The department has a big influence on fishing, timber and agriculture—three classic Washington industries threatened by drought, wildfires and ocean acidification that could be worsened by climate change. So far, Democrats make up the bulk of the hopefuls to replace Goldmark. Walter Orenstein reports. (Cascadia Weekly)

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