Orca Network News - December, 2002
News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
December 1, 2002 through December 31, 2002.
New shorelines rules need help to succeed
December 31, 2002 (Seattle Times) Times Editorial Three years of work to revamp the state's shoreline-protection rules will be wasted unless the Legislature is a supportive partner of the new regulations.
An initial $2 million in Gov. Gary Locke's budget would help launch proposed guidelines from the state Department of Ecology that have been praised by the business community, environmentalists and local government.
Protection of the state's ocean, river, stream and lake shorelines and stewardship over their sensible development have been a state mandate since 1972 when voters passed the Shorelines Management Act.
Previous attempts by Ecology to introduce new guidelines sparked such angry reactions the agency was forced to retreat. This latest positive reception is extraordinary.
If the revisions proceed, 200 cities and all 39 counties will have shorelines master plans to revise over the next dozen years. Many local governments will need technical assistance, and the Legislature can help with the modest infusion of cash proposed by Locke.
The new approach starts with something that was missing and seems obvious once it was proposed: environmental inventories for a better base of information. Broader zoning will accommodate development and provide certainty.
In Northwest forests, feds would rather settle than fight
December 30, 2002 (Tacoma News-Tribune) Now, critics say the Bush administration is methodically dismantling the controversial plan for the forests of Washington, Oregon and northern California and chipping away at environmental safeguards elsewhere in the 191 million-acre National Forest system.
Rather than defend the settlement against timber-industry lawsuits, critics say the administration has rolled over and sought to settle out of court. The lawsuits have involved key sections of the Northwest Forest Plan and the designation of critical habitat for such endangered species as the spotted owl, marbled murrelet, salmon and other species throughout the West.
When a federal judge in Idaho overturned a regulation permanently protecting 58 million acres of roadless land in the national forests, the administration decided not to appeal. Environmentalists intervened and filed an appeal. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently overturned the decision and sent it back to the lower court for further proceedings.
"It's genius," said Jim Lyons, who, as assistant secretary of agriculture for natural resources in the Clinton administration, oversaw the U.S. Forest Service and was an architect of the Northwest Forest Plan.
Lyons, who now teaches at the Yale University School of Forestry, said his successor at the Agriculture Department post, Mark Rey, has adopted a "sue-to-settle" strategy that leaves few fingerprints as the administration moves to rewrite forest policy and allow for more logging.
"They are working closely with industry encouraging these lawsuits. Environmentalists have no standing, and then they settle," Lyons said. "They have become masters of the friendly lawsuit."
Troubled waters: Salmon farming's foul fallout
December 29, 2002 (Seattle Times) Salmon farming, which began in Norway in the late 1960s, has spread rapidly to cold-water inlets around the globe. Ninety-one salmon farms operate in British Columbian waters. The number is expected to reach 200 or more in the next 10 years.
Industrial fish farming raises many of the same concerns about chemicals and pollutants associated with feedlot-cattle and factory-chicken farms. So far, however, government scientists worry less about the effects of antibiotics, pesticides and artificial dyes on human health than they do about damage to the marine environment.
"They're like floating pig farms," said Daniel Pauly, professor of fisheries at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. "They consume a tremendous amount of highly concentrated protein pellets and they make a terrific mess."
Fish wastes and uneaten feed smother the seafloor beneath these farms, generating bacteria that consume oxygen vital to shellfish and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures.
Disease and parasites, which would normally exist in relatively low levels in fish scattered around the oceans, can run rampant in densely packed fish farms.
Pesticides fed to the fish and toxic copper sulfate used to keep nets free of algae are building up in seafloor sediments. Antibiotics have created resistant strains of disease that infect wild and domesticated fish.
Clouds of sea lice, incubated by captive fish on farms, swarm wild salmon as they swim past on their migration to the ocean.
Feds say no, but their own findings give reason to list local orcas as endangered
December 27, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) [Note: For background, see FISHERIES SERVICE DECIDES NOT TO PROTECT ORCAS]
Gorman notes that the marine mammal act has the same "anti- harassment provisions" as the ESA. But that's hardly the only or worst threat. Endangered-species status would require that governments and businesses protect not just individual whales but their habitat--a powerful and potentially expensive lever to force Puget Sound cleanup, if long-lived, toxin-accumulating orcas can be shown to need cleaner waters than the salmon species that are already protected.
So why don't the southern orcas qualify? Gorman vehemently denies any political pressure.
Official taxonomy classifies all killer whales around the globe as a single species, Orcinus orca. But as Gorman himself notes, that's "an outmoded view that ought be changed." Last April, NMFS's own biological review team spelled out ample reason to consider the resident orcas a distinct population, perhaps even a separate species. Fish-eating resident whales and the transient orcas that range along the coast and eat mammals look different, have different social structures, and don't noticeably interact.
Even other resident orcas to the north rarely enter local waters and don't interbreed. Individual "cultures"--the knowledge of local geography, food cycles, climate, etc.--might be as important to orcas as to humans. For all these reasons, NMFS biologists concluded, "the prospect of recolonization . . . may be remote." In other words, if we let these whales die out, orcas may never swim here again.
Marine treasures need spill protection
December 26, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Opinion by Fred Felleman
The state has yet to establish an emergency response system for the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca as directed by the Legislature in 1991. The Neah Bay rescue tug could be a significant part of this system if it were better equipped for oil spill response and salvage. Unfortunately, the Department of Ecology has yet to require the oil and shipping industries to support the tug as part of their otherwise inadequate oil spill response arsenal.
The risk of oil spills is particularly great in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, one of the busiest waterways in North America. More than 15 billion gallons of oil is transported as cargo and fuel by more than 10,000 ships that enter and leave the Strait each year. Tankers and oil barges comprise approximately 40 percent of this traffic and carry 86 percent of the oil.
Data indicates the U.S. fleet is much older than the foreign tankers on our waters. There were 41 U.S. tankers in 2002 with an average age of 19.5 years, ranging from 0 (built this year) to 44 years. Only 22 percent of these ships were less than 16 years old. In contrast, the 77 foreign tankers calling on our waters averaged 11.4 years, ranging from 0 to 24 years of age. Seventy percent of these tankers were less than 16 years of age.
Navy is blowing up fish, group says
December 25, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The U.S. Navy and the White House should investigate naval training exercises that blow up tens of thousands of fish in Puget Sound each year, an activist group representing government employees said this week.
The fish are killed when Navy divers practice locating and detonating underwater mines.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility this week requested investigations by the Navy's inspector general and by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, saying criminal charges should be considered.
The Navy last week acknowledged that it has failed to review the practice as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
Norwegian Christmas for Keiko the Whale
December 24, 2002 (Norway Post) It will be a fairly lonely Christmas for world famous Keiko the Whale this year, in his new home at Taknes Bay, where spectators are kept at a greater distance.
However, the Christmas dinner is secured, although the menu is the same as every other day: Buckets of fresh herring, and as usual, served by biologist Thorbjörg Kristjansdottir.
The Keiko team is making yet another attempt at making Keiko less attached to humans, hoping that this spring, when other killer whales migrate by Taknes Bay, Keiko will join them.
Keiko is therefore fed at more irregular times, and the amount of food is also a bit different from time to time.
When migration time comes, meals will be even more infrequent, and Keiko will be led out to more open waters.
The team reports that Keiko is in very good shape, and stronger than when he arrived in Norway.
Global warming evidence mounts
December 23, 2002 (San Francisco Chronicle) Flurry of reports show a withering ice cap
From the tropics to the poles, evidence is growing stronger than ever that Earth's climate is warming dangerously.
In the Arctic Ocean, floating masses of sea ice are shrinking and splitting apart, and the massive Greenland ice cap melted more this past summer than ever before. Meanwhile, warming ocean temperatures are endangering coral reefs in the tropics.
At the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco earlier this month, a flurry of new reports examining evidence of global climate change all tell the same story.
If the trends continue unchecked, scientists say, rising sea levels will drown coastlines. Droughts in some regions -- and increased rainfall in others -- will alter harvests drastically. And other climate disruptions will destabilize regional ecologies and global economies.
Some of these alarming phenomena may be due to the natural climate variability that the planet has seen over millions of years. But most scientists agree, after years of debate, that humans and their addiction to fossil fuels are at least partly to blame.
Washington's ban on gene-altered fish a first
December 23, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Washington this month became the first state in the nation to ban cultivation of genetically engineered fish.
"Transgenic" salmon carrying growth genes from another fish can grow twice as fast as normal, significantly cutting costs for aquaculture operations that raise fish in net pens. Eight such fish farms operate in Washington's inland saltwaters.
But the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission was convinced by environmentalists that the risk is too great that altered fish could escape and interbreed with wild fish, ruining a genetic pool shaped by eons of evolution.
"This isn't the genie we want to take out of the bottle," said Shawn Cantrell, Northwest regional director for Friends of the Earth. "There are too many unknowns and possible downsides."
The ban by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is largely symbolic. The fish can't be grown anywhere in the nation yet, pending approval of the altered salmon by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
New rules set for protecting shorelines
December 21, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) New shoreline protection rules for Washington state were unveiled yesterday -- the result of a surprising settlement that united environmentalists, business groups and government regulators.
After years of legal sparring, the traditionally opposed interests took turns praising the revamped guidelines for development along the shores of rivers, lakes, the ocean and the Puget Sound.
The new guidelines recognize the need for people to use shorelines for commerce and recreation, but emphasize protection of the environment. They direct local governments to inventory and understand the "ecological functions" of shorelines and establish protections resulting in "no net loss."
The rules come at a time when there is increasing scientific evidence of the importance of beaches and shorelines for a variety of critters.
Small fish feed and hide in eelgrass and other vegetation that grows near beaches, but docks that block sunlight can destroy this ecosystem. Concrete bulkheads stop the natural, replenishing flow of sand from uphill bluffs down to beaches. Without the flow, the sand washes away in the tides -- leaving a rocky, hard bottom inhospitable to eelgrass.
Court stops Makah whale hunt
December 21, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A federal appeals court stopped whaling by the Makah Tribe yesterday in a ruling that could have sweeping implications for Indian treaty rights around the nation.
The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals forbade the Makah from hunting for gray whales until the government conducts a full-blown environmental analysis and the government and tribe comply with the requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The appeals court unanimously ruled that the fisheries service's environmental assessment failed to adequately consider the impact of the Makah hunt on the relatively few whales that tend to live in waters around the reservation. Most of the 17,000 gray whales migrate between Mexico and the Arctic Ocean.
The court set aside the fisheries service finding that the Makah hunt would have no significant impact, suspended a hunt-management agreement between the tribe and the fisheries service and vacated a quota of whales for the tribe that the United States had obtained from the International Whaling Commission.
Even if the Makah were to challenge the ruling and win on the Marine Mammal Protection Act portion of the decision, the tribe could still face years of complying with requirements of an environmental-impact statement before being able to hunt again.
Court bars Makah whale hunt December 21, 2002 (Seattle Times)
B.C. natives declare war on fish farms
December 20, 2002 (Canada.com) Aboriginals living along British Columbia's fjord- split central coast are prepared to risk arrest in what they are calling a war against fish farms.
The aboriginals, joined by environmental groups and commercial fishermen, said fish farms will threaten their way of life and they vow to fight any expansion into their traditional lands.
Aboriginals, environmentalists and some scientists say farmed salmon promote disease among wild fish stocks and their holding pens pollute nearby waters.
One man was arrested Wednesday at Ocean Falls -- the site of an abandoned pulp mill town -- after 14 boats carrying 60 protesters arrived at the site of a proposed $15 million Atlantic salmon hatchery.
The wood footings holding freshly poured concrete at the hatchery were dismantled, allowing the concrete to flow freely.
Aboriginals and environmental groups believe the hatchery will end up supplying future fish farms on the central coast, which stretches for hundreds of kilometres and includes the historic communities of Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
"We don't want the central coast to become the garbage dump for the Atlantic salmon farming industry," Newman said. "This territory is our food basket. We live off the sea and we are trying to protect our way of life."
"I can't open myself up and tell everybody what we are going to do, but we are not going to quit until they are out of our territory" said Pootlass, who is also known by his aboriginal name, Nuximlayc.
Coalition sues feds over orca protection
December 19, 2002 (Seattle Times) A coalition of environmental groups sued the National Marine Fisheries Service yesterday over its decision not to list the struggling Puget Sound killer-whale population under the Endangered Species Act.
"This is the first time an agency has tried to avoid protecting a species by claiming that the species is insignificant," said Kathy Fletcher of People for Puget Sound, one of nine plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit that seeks to reverse the agency's decision.
The lawsuit contends the Fisheries Service ignored important aspects of killer-whale biology and behavior, including that the loss of the Puget Sound orcas, called the southern resident community, would mean the end of resident killer whales in the contiguous United States.
Other plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit include Friends of the San Juans, Earth Island Institute, Earthjustice, the Center for Biological Diversity and Washington's former secretary of state, Ralph Munro, and his wife, Karen Munro.
Environmentalists sue to obtain 'endangered' status for orcas
December 19, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Protesters attack fish hatchery site
December 18, 2002 (Vancouver Province) Natives, environmentalist and commercial fishermen stormed the construction site for an Atlantic salmon hatchery on B.C.'s central coast and tore it apart yesterday.
Native leaders likened introducing Atlantic salmon and parasites and diseases spread by fish farms to the arrival of the first traders who spread smallpox up and down the coast killing 90 per cent of the native people in some villages.
"Enough is enough," said Chief Nuximlayc of the Nuxalk First Nation of Bella Cools. "It is like when smallpox came into the valley. It killed our people. Now they want to do the same to the salmon."
The 60 protesters who arrived by boat from the neighboring communities tore open a gate to the Omega fish hatchery in Ocean Falls and ripped down the wooden forms for newly poured concrete.
"We don't want the fish hatchery. We don't want the fish farms. We mean it," said Clement Lam 35, of the Forest Action Network, who was arrested for ripping down the form. "Our ultimate goal is drive all the fish farms out of the British Columbia coast."
The 20 fish farms operating in the Broughton Archipelago near Alert Bay are being blamed for destroying the pink salmon runs in the area.
Fewer than 150,000 of the more than 3.6 million pink salmon that were expected actually returned this year.
A scientific study of the disaster suggests the juvenile salmon were killed off by bloodsucking sea lice they picked up on the way past the salmon farms.
Natives raised the alarm even before the fish failed to return.
Fishermen were finding young pink salmon covered in the parasites near the fish farms and last month demanded the shutdown of all the fish farms in the area -- to no avail.
Killer whales in grave danger
December 18, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Opinion by Brent Plater, Center for Biological Diversity
Since 1996, the southern resident population has declined nearly 20 percent. Scientists have found that toxic pollution, habitat degradation and stresses from an increasing amount of vessel traffic are all implicated. Combine these threats with the ever-present risks of oil spills, boat collisions and diseases, and we may witness the extinction of the Pacific Northwest's most magnificent and charismatic species within the next century.
The ESA is needed to protect these whales because the law is our nation's most powerful and effective environmental law; nearly every species granted ESA protection has been saved from extinction. And the ESA has shown it is particularly effective in cases like the southern residents, where we have enough time to turn the tide on the whales' extinction if we invoke protective measures without delay.
Despite the southern residents' urgent plight, the fisheries service announced in July that the whales will not be protected under the ESA. The agency reasoned that Puget Sound's killer whales simply aren't significant enough to be enfranchised by the law.
And perhaps most importantly, they have shown that the southern residents have their own dialect and culture, as unique and irreplaceable as the whales themselves.
Washington Bans Genetically Engineered Salmon
December 17, 2002 (Environmental News Service) Washington has adopted the nation's toughest restrictions on genetically engineered salmon.
On December 7, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted sweeping new regulations banning genetically engineered salmon from fish farms in all its marine waters. The move came in the wake of repeated, large scale escapes of farmed fish, and heavy media coverage of recent biotech industry blunders including food crop contamination incidents.
"Simply engineering designer fish and dropping them into our public waterways puts already endangered salmon at greater risk of extinction," said Shawn Cantrell, Friends of the Earth's Northwest regional director. "Washington State has taken a bold step to protect the environment by permanently banning genetically engineered fish."
Ongoing problems with escapes as well as massive outbreaks of disease among farmed fish highlight the urgent need for tighter regulation of aquaculture operations.
"It is essential that these new rules are immediately implemented and aggresively enforced," said Cantrell. "Our wild salmon populations are already struggling to survive - the last thing they need is more competition from exotic species escaping from fish farms."
Mayor sets up salmon battle
December 17, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Mayor Greg Nickels yesterday released his proposal for restoring city salmon habitat, potentially sparking a battle with salmon supporters who say the plan is designed to confuse voters and get citizens to pay for work the city is already required to do under state laws.
The citizen group's biggest objection is that it says the mayor's plan lets big developers off the hook for restoring creeks as part of their projects.
"It leaves us with exactly the same situation we have now," said Knoll Lowney, with Yes For Seattle -- Yes For Salmon, the group that proposed its own initiative to restore habitat. "Any developer who chooses not to play ball can stop important creek restoration efforts."
Court Reinstates Roadless Forests Rule
December 13, 2002 (Washington Post) Restoration of Clinton Measure a Setback to Bush Administration, Timber Industry
A federal appeals court in California yesterday reinstated a Clinton administration rule designed to protect nearly 60 million acres of national forests from logging and road construction, dealing a setback to the Bush administration and timber industry officials who have sought to weaken or kill the measure.
U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge in Idaho last year halted the Clinton plan at the request of Boise Cascade Corp. and a coalition of western logging and snowmobiling interests. He said the previous administration had hurried the rule, violated environmental laws and did not allow enough time for public comment.
But the appeals court concluded yesterday that the U.S. Forest Service had met all the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act in promulgating the new rules and that the lower court had "abused its discretion in issuing a preliminary injunction."
The judges wrote that roadless areas of national forests "help conserve some of the last unspoiled wilderness in our country" and that logging and road construction, while arguably useful in preventing forest fires and combating insects and disease, are "inimical to conservation."
Court upholds Clinton's 'roadless' rule in national forests December 13, 2002 (Seattle Times)
Scientists Alarmed by Continued Warming Trend
December 12, 2002 (Los Angeles Times) • Unprecedented stretch continued this year, the second warmest on record, suggesting the planet is heating more rapidly than expected.
The year 2002 is the second-warmest in recorded history, according to NASA scientists who monitor global air temperatures.
A record-breaking stretch of warmth in recent years -- with 2001 now going down as the third-warmest year on record and 1998 still holding the all-time record -- has scientists and climate experts concerned that greenhouse gases are warming the planet more quickly than previously expected.
"Studying these annual temperature data, one gets the unmistakable feeling that temperature is rising and that the rise is gaining momentum," said Lester R. Brown, an economist and president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington.
Sweeping shift in forest policy: Bush plan would skip environmental reviews
December 12, 2002 (Seattle Times) In a sweeping forest-policy revision, the Bush administration announced plans yesterday to fundamentally alter how it manages federal lands by skipping extensive environmental reviews in the name of wildfire prevention.
The proposal is part of a strategy to streamline environmental laws and help the land-management bureaucracy tick along more smoothly. It would allow the administration, in many cases, to skip traditional environmental analysis for projects that reduce wildfire risks or rehabilitate forests after wildfires occur.
But environmentalists saw the changes as an attempt to remove the public's voice from decision-making while the administration tries to boost logging on federal lands. And some in Congress viewed the proposals as an attempt to sidestep lawmakers.
Navy trains elite dolphin terror unit
December 11, 2002 (KING5) You've heard of the elite fighting unit called Navy Seals, but
what about Navy Dolphins? More than 60 of them are on the front line of
America's fight on terror.
The $14-million-a-year Pentagon-backed program has been in existence in some form for years. Dolphins work with their trainers and handlers from boats out in the ocean, at night.
The dolphin is an expert on sonar, high-speed water travel underwater
communications, said Mike Rothe of the Navy Marine Mammal program.
In 1959, navy scientists studied dolphins trying to design a faster torpedo. But quickly, the focus changed to covert training. The fact that the navy had dolphins was a secret for many years. In the early 70s, the program was
Cleanup of Puget Sound mapped out
December 11, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) But $33 million wish list by state agency might be a hard sell
Cleaning up contaminated nearshore mud and sand, shielding shellfish from raw sewage, and protecting fish and their spawning grounds are key goals in a two-year strategy for restoring the health of Puget Sound.
The $33 million state budget request by the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team is expected to be finalized today in Olympia.
"The budget is very tight," said Rep. Helen Sommers, a Seattle Democrat who is chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. "Everything is going to be a big challenge."
Fraser said the amount of state money being requested is short of what is needed to address the many environmental threats facing the Sound. "Thirty million dollars is a drop in the bucket," she said, urging the public to make it a top priority.
"How much (money) will be there depends on our will," she added.
Redman acknowledged that the restoration he envisions will require unprecedented, widespread support in order to succeed. "It will be a difficult thing for us to do to try to hold the community of Puget Sound accountable," he said. But "we have to do that; the time has come."
Arctic Ice Melting at Record Rate
December 9, 2002 (Environmental News Service) More ice melted from the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet this year than ever before recorded, report scientists from the University of Colorado. The same team found that the extent of Arctic sea ice reached the lowest level in the satellite record in 2002, offering further evidence that climate change is already altering the Arctic.
Researchers from the University of Colorado (UC) based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), say the accelerated melting appears to be linked to shifts in Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation patterns. The study also found temperatures during the summer of 2002 were warmer than usual over much of the Arctic Ocean.
Medina in the swim of salmon restorationn
December 9, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) It's hard to imagine, but thousands of salmon fry will eventually spill out of a tiny 5-gallon incubator, nestled behind a home on Medina Circle near state Route 520.
If all goes well, the baby fish will drop out of a plastic pipe by next spring and make their way into Fairweather Stream, Lake Washington and Puget Sound. And hopefully, project organizers say, at least 10 will return to spawn in the area and continue the cycle.
In Bellevue, the city and residents are improving fish passage, she said. Woodinville is acquiring land to protect it from development and for salmon use. Along the Sammamish River, King County, Bothell, Woodinville and Redmond are adding more native plants to help keep the river cool.
That cool temperature helps salmon, White said. And Issaquah is working on improving passages and water-intake areas.
The Medina project will give salmon -- known for returning to streams in which they were born and raised -- another home. "You want all the streams that can support salmon to support salmon," she said.
The Whale Man
December 8, 2002 (Los Angeles Times) Ken Balcomb has spent a lifetime immersing himself in the giant mammals' world. Now he's convinced Navy sonar is driving them to their deaths.
He'd spent his life studying whales, trying to envision their impenetrable world. The shy, deep-diving beaked whales mesmerized him most of all. They were legendary mysteries, the least known of all the whale families, one of the least known of all mammals. Scientists imagined them mainly from bones scattered on isolated beaches. Balcomb often dreamed of finding even one bone. Now he had a live beaked whale within his reach on Abaco Island.
He had more than that: Word soon came that other whales were beaching up and down the shores of the Bahamas. Here was an exceptional mass stranding involving marine mammals spread across 100 miles. Too wide a range, Balcomb realized, to be a natural event. For these whales to flee their habitat, something severe must have hit them. An enormous wall of sonar sound, Balcomb guessed--the ear-splitting screech of the U.S. Navy's submarine-detection system.
Environmentalists ask leaders for money to protect Sound
December 6, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Seven environmental organizations are calling on the governor and Legislature to support programs important to the cleanup, restoration and protection of Puget Sound.
A letter sent yesterday urged state leaders to remember the damaged marine environment when working on the 2003-05 budget in coming months.
The groups call for:
The letter was signed by People for Puget Sound, Audubon-Washington, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Washington Conservation Voters, Washington Environmental Council, Washington Toxics Coalition and the Washington Public Interest Research Group.
Funding for local governments to prevent stormwater pollution.
Money for a rescue tug stationed at Neah Bay to aid ships in trouble.
A stringent plan for reducing the amount of mercury released into the environment.
Adoption of new Shoreline Management Act guidelines that add restrictions to development near beaches and rivers, plus funds to help local governments update their plans.
A lesson in life from our friend, the chum
December 5, 2002 (Seattle Times) Opinion by Ron C. Judd
This might prove a revelation to a lot of locals. Amazingly, many of us can live in a place blessed with a bounty of outdoor treasures, know they're there and talk about them openly, but rarely bother to get hands and feet dirty long enough to really taste, smell and feel the slimy edges of the place that gives us our sense of being.
For more than a century, we took the salmon for granted, along with most of the other natural features that provided habitat for the great fish. We like to think we're more enlightened now. But even today, when the public at large has been awakened to the need to protect what's now viewed as a vanishing treasure, most of us literally walk over salmon streams every fall and fail to scrunch down for a good look.
The heartening news: This, too, is changing. Each time I venture to a salmon stream in the autumns of recent years, the number of fellow fish voyeurs is slowly increasing.
And this autumn, with its stunningly clear, dry weather, has brought out salmon watchers in perhaps record numbers, most viewing a record bounty of chum salmon.
All of this is aided by the fact that, thanks largely to the work of state and local governments (those entities we all seem to loathe these days, for unspecified reasons), we are being reconnected with the fish, by new trails, bridges and vantage points in addition to improved fish passages.
Steps that could save the Sound
December 4, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Opinion By Kathy Fletcher, Director, People for Puget Sound
Kudos to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and reporters Robert McClure, Lisa Stiffler and Lise Olsen for their eye-opening series on the health of Puget Sound. Their conclusions that the "Sound's ecosystem is spinning out of control" and that the "area's defining waterway is a cesspool of pollution" are backed by six months of thorough research and probing interviews with elected officials, scientists, bureaucrats and citizens.
Wait! How can this be? In 1985 the Legislature created the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority and called for a comprehensive plan to protect and restore the Puget Sound ecosystem. The plan, which laid out in detail the funding, enforcement and timeline of actions needed to save the Sound, was adopted in December 1986. The job ahead was big and the plan was ambitious, but given strong public support and the resilience of Mother Nature, the state's commitment to a healthy Sound seemed to have come in time to avoid an ecological catastrophe.
The plan was in time but when it came to carrying it out, there wasn't the political will. Talking about saving the Sound was easy. But doing it required getting tough with polluters, holding government agencies accountable for real results and spending enough money to get the job done.
That didn't happen.
Oregon watershed restoration template going national
December 4, 2002 (Environmental News network) National Sea Grant College Program News Release
Efforts to save Oregon's native salmon runs by restoring their habitat are becoming a model for national watershed restoration efforts. Oregon Sea Grant's Extension agents and specialists have been at the heart of an increasingly intense effort to understand and reverse the salmon decline, restoring the species to ecological health and sustainable harvest levels.
The focus is on restoring the habitat to one in which the fish can flourish. Sea Grant's goal has not been to do a lot of rehabilitation - but to teach people how to do it in their own communities.
Billions to restore city creeks? Seattle initiative backers fault estimate
December 3, 2002 (Seattle Times) The City Council got its first glimpse of the projected cost of the Seattle creek-restoration initiative yesterday, and the estimates were staggering - ranging from $569 million to $26 billion, depending on how the initiative is interpreted.
Initiative proponents countered that the city's calculations were flawed and intended to drum up opposition to Initiative 80, which seeks to restore salmon habitat in city streams.
The initiative proposes to restore creeks and streams where salmon swim or could swim. It seeks to "daylight" creeks that have been buried in pipes, remove fish-passage barriers, establish 50-foot buffer zones and plant native vegetation.
According to the city's legal analysis, I-80 would also prohibit future development near creeks and would require the city to compensate private property owners in cases where initiative requirements amount to an "unconstitutional taking" of property.
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