Thursday, July 21, 2016

7/21 Driftwood, oil spill, carbon cut, microplastics, bag ban, Oly oyster, Oso slide

House Finch (Mark Moschell/BirdNote)
Birds Have No External Ears; How Do Birds Hear?
Unlike mammals, birds have no external ear structures. Their ear openings are hidden beneath feathers on the side of the head, just behind and slightly below the eyes. (It's easy to imagine where this House Finch's ear is, isn't it?) In mammals, the external ear structure helps funnel sound in, and it’s crucial for figuring out where a sound is coming from. Birds, too, can locate where a sound comes from, even without external ears. But how? Recent research on crows, ducks, and chickens suggests that it is the shape of a bird’s head that holds the key. (BirdNote)

How Driftwood Can Help Save the Salmon
There are places in the world that just seem to attract history. Rome is one. The Port of Seattle’s Terminal 25 is another. An enormous amount of Seattle history can be told on a quick walk around the grounds, now overgrown and out of use. The terminal looks out across Harbor Island, created by fill from the Denny Regrade to become the largest artificial island in the world when it was finished in 1909 and still the largest in the United States. Then there’s the white gravel that crunches underfoot. Upon close examination you see it is concrete; you are walking on the remains of the Kingdome, shattered into a billion pieces. The imploded municipal project needed to go somewhere. In all directions, the busiest intersection of commerce in the state rumbles at a constant din as container ships, locomotives, and highway overpasses meet at the intersection of land and sea. But perhaps the most interesting corner of this easy-to-miss lot is where 1,200 tons of driftwood—all of it fished from Puget Sound—is stacked neatly in 12-foot-high piles. Like the dirt and the gravel, the logs too seem to want to tell stories of their past. From some hang giant rusted chains of obscured purpose; others retain their massive roots, speaking to some forgotten spring-runoff cataclysm in the wilds of Washington—the kind of annual event that can snap centuries-old trees like toothpicks. Daniel Person reports. (Seattle Weekly)

Mosier Groundwater Contaminated After Oil Train Derailment
When a Union Pacific oil train derailed and burst into fire in Mosier, Oregon, in June, the initial damage was in plain view, as dark smoke billowed into the sky. Now OPB has learned about invisible damage: elevated concentrations of benzene and other volatile organic compounds in groundwater near the derailment site. Bob Schwarz, a project manager with Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality, says Mosier’s drinking water is not at risk, as the closest groundwater drinking wells are uphill from where oil spilled. But he is concerned about wildlife in a nearby wetland. He says cleanup is needed.  Kate Davidson reports. (OPB)

Ecology taking comment on oil spill response plans for local rivers
The state Department of Ecology is taking input on draft oil spill response plans for the Skagit and Samish rivers. The plans, called geographic response plans, cover the lower Skagit River and the Samish River. They focus on protecting sensitive natural, cultural and economic sites in the event of an oil spill. Ecology has started drafting oil spill response plans for inland areas in response to a growing number of trains carrying oil through the state to refineries, including those at March Point. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Hereald)

‘Way too many problems’ with state’s carbon-reduction rule, critics say
Environmentalists say a proposed state rule to force cuts in carbon emissions is too weak to combat the escalating impact of climate change. Biofuels producers are upset because they view their products as green alternatives, and the rule released last month would treat their products the same as gasoline and diesel. Meanwhile, petroleum refiners say the rule is poorly crafted, costly and may face a legal challenge. Hal Bernton reports. (Seattle Times)

Researchers tag 3,000 shellfish to study microplastics in B.C. waters
If you see a clam or oyster with a tag reading "experiment in progress" on a Vancouver Island beach this summer, don't touch them, a researcher says. Those shellfish — 3,000 of them — are part of a Vancouver Island and University of Victoria experiment looking at microplastics in the B.C. marine environment. The research is being supervised by Sarah Dudas, a VIU biology professor and Canada Research Chair in shellfish aquaculture ecosystem interaction and biology. Liam Britten reports. (CBC)

Thurston plastic bag ban survey reveals a mixed bag of results
Thurston County’s recently completed plastic bag ban survey of businesses indicates waste is down but costs are up for businesses the ban affects. County officials told county commissioners Wednesday the ban has been effective in removing single-use, plastic bags from the county’s waste stream, but a majority of business owners and managers said their business expenses have gone up as a result. Rolf Boone reports. (Olympian)

A shell of a comeback
When Brian Allen walked this beach 10 years ago, it was a bare mud flat that sucked and held his boots in an oozing grip. Now he treads easily, his feet supported by millions of rare Olympia oysters. "There are not many places like this — at all," said Allen, a marine ecologist with Bainbridge Island-based Puget Sound Restoration Fund. "But we built it, and they came." Pushed to the brink of extinction by pollution and overharvesting, Puget Sound's native oyster has been the focus of several revival efforts, but this 10-acre restoration area on Dogfish Bay, about a mile south of Poulsbo, is the first to foster a self-sustaining and growing population. Tristan Baurick reports. (Kitsap Sun) See also:  Shellfish harvest closure expanded in Jefferson County  (Peninsula Daily News)

Oso mudslide study authors win top geological prize
The authors of an important geology study of the Oso mudslide have won one of the Geological Society of America’s top prizes for their report. University of Washington professors Joseph Wartman and David Montgomery were two of the authors of the so-called “GEER” report, a July 2014 study of the possible causes, behavior and implications of the slide. The E.B. Burwell Jr. Award is the top prize given to an engineering geology paper each year…. The GEER report was the first significant scientific study of the 2014 Oso slide. Notably, it bucked the conventional wisdom that rushed to connect the slide’s cause to various parties, such as the logging industry or real estate developers. Instead the report found no clear cause of the reactivation of a 2006 landslide on the hillside. (Everett Herald)

Now, your tug weather--
WEST ENTRANCE U.S. WATERS STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA-  231 AM PDT THU JUL 21 2016  

TODAY
 LIGHT WIND...BECOMING NW 5 TO 15 KT IN THE AFTERNOON. WIND  WAVES 2 FT OR LESS. W SWELL 3 FT AT 10 SECONDS.
TONIGHT
 W WIND 10 TO 20 KT...BECOMING 5 TO 15 KT AFTER MIDNIGHT.  WIND WAVES 1 TO 3 FT. W SWELL 3 FT AT 10 SECONDS. A SLIGHT CHANCE  OF SHOWERS AFTER MIDNIGHT.

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