Orca Network News - January, 2007
News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
January 1, 2007 through Jauary 31, 2007.
U.S. Orders Modification of Klamath River Dams
January 31, 2007 (Washington Post) In a decision that could trigger the largest dam-removal project in world history, the federal government said today that four hydroelectric dams on the troubled Klamath River must undergo costly modifications to allow passage for salmon.
Since modifying the aging dams would cost an estimated $300 million, removing them has suddenly become a much more plausible -- and considerably cheaper -- option for their owner, PacifiCorp, a company owned by Warren E. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
If the dams were removed, the Klamath, which straddles the Oregon-California border, has extraordinary potential to rebound as a major salmon resource, according to fish biologists and regional officials. They say a revival could dramatically improve commercial and sport fisheries along the coasts of Oregon and Northern California.
K Pod mother, calf spotted near San Francisco
January 31, 2007 (Seattle Times) A mother orca and her calf from one of Puget Sound's endangered resident killer-whale pods were spotted last week as they made a swing past the California coast - cruising just west of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
Orca experts say the pair have been identified as members of K Pod, one of three matriarchal clans of orcas that call Puget Sound home - J, K, and L pods.
It's no secret the whales range away from Puget Sound in the wintertime, but just where they go is not well understood. They have been documented off the California coast in five of the past six years, as far south as Monterey Bay.
"They are extending that far to try to keep everybody fed," said David Bain, research director for Global Research and Rescue in Seattle. "It's a bad thing, in that whales ought to be able to make a living locally."
The mother and calf were photographed in a chance encounter by a photographer in California. Researchers sent the photos to Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, who was able to identify the K pod pair by their distinctive markings that Balcomb has catalogued.
There may have been more Puget Sound whales in on the trip. But only the mom-and-calf pair could be confirmed in the photo.
Still, even seeing the 3-year-old calf at all was good news. Last summer, a total of five other members of the three southern-resident pods - including both newborn babies - went missing, and none has reappeared. Balcomb is waiting until the animals are due home this summer before presuming they are dead.
The Center for Whale Research News Release.
Rare Killer Whale Sightings Along Calif. Coast
January 31, 2007 (CBS) The killer whales in prior visits were just passing through. Biologists said these whales have been positively identified as ones that normally make their home in Washington's Puget Sound.
The whales are looking for other sources of salmon after the collapse of the Klamath River salmon fishery, Grader said.
Tuesday, federal officials announced a plan that could result in the removal of Klamath River dams. Salmon would once again be free to swim upstream and spawn, but the dam removal process could take 8 to 10 years.
Fishermen said restoration of the Klamath stock is good news for the long term, but that's not going to help them this year.
"I think realistically we're looking at another bad year only because the runs in the Klamath look very bad," Grader said.
And it isn't just Klamath salmon that are threatened. Fishermen said new diversions of water from the Delta could cause the whole salmon system to collapse.
Orca Pod Spotted Near San Francisco
January 31, 2007 (Kitsap Sun) The latest travels of the endangered killer whales from Puget Sound help fan the controversy over 'critical habitat.'
Sightings of Puget Sound killer whales last week near San Francisco provide new evidence that the endangered whales may be traveling thousands of miles each winter in search of food, experts say.
The new sightings add to the convictions of environmental groups and some researchers that the federal government made a mistake when it failed to designate coastal areas as "critical habitat" worthy of special protection.
"For me, the coastal waters are a key part of the critical habitat," said Ken Balcomb, who heads the Center for Whale Research in the San Juan Islands.
The National Marine Fisheries Service recently completed its critical habitat designation for the three Puget Sound pods. Most inland waters were designated, but Hood Canal and the entire coast failed to get that special protection - to the dismay of killer whale advocates.
Balcomb contends that even if Puget Sound's salmon stocks are restored to healthy levels, it may not be enough to ensure long-term survival of the fish-eating orcas, known as Southern Residents. Balcomb says the whales should receive the benefit of protected habitat along the Washington, Oregon and Northern California coasts, as well as along the western shore of Vancouver Island.
Whether the whales are expanding their range or have always traveled that far is the subject of scientific debate. Orca identification has become quicker and easier with digital cameras and e-mail. But, whatever the history, nobody can deny that the whales are using the coast now, Balcomb said.
Balcomb said designating coastal areas as critical habitat could force a reduction in ocean fishing and require a more careful assessment of Navy activities. That could be one reason the areas were not designated, he added.
"There are no battles in Puget Sound," he said. "Everybody wants Puget Sound fixed up, and there aren't a lot of fish to worry about. There are economic issues in the ocean, and they don't want to go into that battle."
Balcomb says adequate runs of salmon may be their key to survival.
Puget Sound orcas spotted off San Francisco
January 31, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A whale research organization says a sighting of some of Puget Sound's endangered resident killer whale population off the California coast near San Francisco shows that the fish these whales eat are dwindling and that they're traveling to California waters to find food.
Keep rescue tug in port of Neah Bay
January 30, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer op-ed by Fred Felleman) The oil and shipping industries have long challenged the idea of stationing a tug in the strategically located port of Neah Bay capable of assisting the numerous and diverse array of ships passing through some of the nation's most exposed and productive marine environments.
Their fear, like that of the Coast Guard, was that the cost was going to come out of their pockets. So, they have attempted to downplay the tug's value while promoting an alternative idea based on the chance that a tug might be in the vicinity to respond to a ship in distress in this remote corner of the state.
Having championed the tug idea since helping to establish the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in 1989, I am familiar with the industry's opposition to extending the protections the late Sen. Warren Magnuson afforded Puget Sound to the more trafficked waters of the western Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic coast, where the state's largest oil spills have occurred.
Recent events underscore our continued risk exposure. Over the past three years, six barges have snapped their tow wires in Washington waters, including an oil barge laden with 1.4 million gallons on Dec. 27 off Grays Harbor, and BP's new chartered tankers have come into our waters with broken rudders, tow bits and anchors.
Aquarium owner has close encounter with killer whales
January 30, 2007 (Aftenposten (Norway)) An aquarium owner in western Norway set off in a small boat on the Sognefjord to take photos last week and suddenly found himself in the middle of a group of killer whales.
The killer whales, who stay together in family groups, swam around Sande's boat for about five minutes.
Whales are not unusual off the coast of Norway, which is often criticized internationally for its commercial whale hunt. Pods of orcas are also known to follow the local herring streams and feed off the coast in the winter.
5 dozen killer whales believed to be hunting salmon off S.F. coast
January 30, 2007 (San Francisco Chronicle) A large group of endangered killer whales has been spotted off the coast of San Francisco, a long way from their usual feeding grounds along the Washington coast.
The magnificent black and white predators were first seen off Half Moon Bay, where they were apparently searching for salmon, which are declining in numbers in the Pacific Northwest.
Photos were taken Jan. 24 of from nine to 15 orcas swimming in the open water between the Farallon Islands and San Francisco.
Although killer whales have been seen off the coast before, researchers believe some five dozen or more individuals are now regularly leaving their historic habitat in the Puget Sound area for the abundant waters near the Golden Gate.
Ken Balcomb, senior scientist and founder of the Center for Whale Research, which has tracked the pod in Washington for 30 years, said the whales, including a mother and calf, were positively identified through the photos as members of a family group called "K-pod."
Based on observations made a little over a week earlier off Half Moon Bay, Balcomb believes that members of "L-pod" are also in the vicinity. If they are, it would mean that as many as 63 whales could be spread out over 30 miles around the Farallones.
The southern resident whales, so-named because they are the southernmost group of orcas in the Pacific Northwest, have been documented along the Central California coast five times before, starting in 2000, scientists say. The sightings this year were seen by whale experts as confirmation that the orcas have extended their habitat.
The presence of the highly social species off the Golden Gate may be great news for whale watchers, but it's not such a good thing for fishermen, who see it as an indication of how few salmon there are left off Washington and Oregon. Salmon fishing was severely limited along the coasts of the two states and California last year because of a huge drop in the number of chinook and coho salmon in the Klamath River.
Experts believe the orcas are undoubtedly looking for salmon off the California coast, where the runs in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems were not so depleted, like in the Klamath. The addition of killer whales into waters already teeming with the fish-loving seals and sea lions could spell the further decline to a fishery already impacted by water diversions and habitat destruction.
The killer whale, or Orcinus orca, is the largest species of the oceanic dolphin family and is found in all the world's oceans. Males can reach up to 31 feet long and weigh 8 tons. They are one of the fastest marine mammals, reaching speeds of up to 35 mph. Individuals can be identified by the shape and coloration of a saddle behind the dorsal fin that is as unique on each whale as a fingerprint is on a human.
Highly intelligent and social, orcas generally travel in matrilineal family groups, but within those groups there are vast differences. Some orcas feed on seals and sea lions and others feed on other whale species. There are also transient orcas that feed mostly on sharks. None of them are considered a threat to humans.
The southern Washington orcas feed almost exclusively on fish, with chinook salmon being their favorite meal.
Did politics affect climate reports?
January 30, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A House panel will hear new allegations of political pressure on government climate scientists at a hearing today, while two presidential hopefuls will outline their proposals on global warming at a Senate hearing.
The Democratic-controlled Congress is focusing on climate change this week as an international panel of scientists gathers in Paris to release a report that is expected to reinforce concerns over so-called greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists say are warming the earth.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., was scheduled to hear testimony today from several current and former government climate officials who have complained of political pressure by the Bush administration to play down the seriousness of the climate issue.
Cruise line fined in whale case
January 30, 2007 (Seattle Times) Princess Cruise Lines was sentenced Monday for failing to operate one of its ships in a slow, safe manner near Glacier Bay National Park where a humpback whale was found dead of massive skull fractures.
The body of the 45-foot, pregnant humpback whale was found floating in Icy Strait near the mouth of Glacier Bay in Southeast Alaska in July 2001. Humpback whales are an endangered species.
While not agreeing Monday that one of its ships hit the whale, Princess Cruise Lines paid a maximum $200,000 fine, plus $550,000 in restitution to the National Park Foundation.
Killer whales spotted Southeast of Barbados
January 29, 2007 (Barbados Advocate) AN UNUSUAL occurrence of a 30ft Killer Whale was spotted some 15 miles Southeast of Barbados eating another whale last Saturday.
Fisherman James Peirce, who spotted the whale eating a dwarf Sperm whale, noted it was a highly unusual sight, as he had heard of only one sighting of a Killer whale in Barbadian waters.
He noted that the normal whales that would be seen around these waters are the Humpback and Sperm whales.
Peirce said, We saw the blow spouts about a mile away and headed over to them, since we get Yellowfin tuna feeding around the normal Humpback and Sperm whales we see around here. When we got there, I noticed the huge dorsal fins, approximately four to five feet tall, and realised these were Killer whales.
He added that, as he got closer, he noticed the larger of the two had a smaller grey whale of around ten feet long cross-ways in its mouth that was still alive. The two whales, he noted, proceeded to tear the smaller whale apart, but most of it occurred underwater.
Killer whales usually live amongst icebergs and are not supposed to be around Barbados.
Navy can use controversial sonar
January 24, 2007 (Honolulu Star Bulletin) The Defense Department yesterday exempted the Navy from complying with the Marine Mammal Protection Act for the next two years so sailors may practice tracking submarines with sonar.
Environmentalists swiftly denounced the move, saying the Navy wasn't doing enough to protect whales, dolphins and other marine mammals from the harmful effects of the underwater sound technology.
Navy officials said they need the exemption, allowed for under the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, to give them enough time to conduct environmental impact reviews for sonar use at major underwater training ranges.
But environmentalists say sonar can harm whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. They cite incidents of marine mammals that have died or been stranded en masse on beaches after being exposed to sonar.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, which is suing the Navy in an attempt to force it to adopt more aggressive protection measures for marine mammals, criticized the exemption.
"The Navy has more than enough room in the oceans to train effectively without injuring or killing endangered whales and other marine species," said Joel Reynolds, the organization's senior attorney. "Because the Navy trains with this dangerous technology in some of the richest underwater habitat on earth, it is legally obligated to take simple, common-sense steps to protect marine life."
Navy officials said they're claiming a two-year exemption because a federal judge in California ruled last year that the Navy needed to do more detailed analysis of the effect its sonar training would have on the environment.
The exemption also allows the Navy to use what the Pentagon called "a new sensor that uses small explosive charges." The device is dropped from airplanes into the ocean, where it releases sounds to try to track underwater objects. The sensor enables sailors to search wider areas of the ocean because it is released by plane and is not mounted on ships like many other sonar devices.
Cara Horowitz, another lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said there were many common-sense measures the Navy could adopt immediately to protect marine mammals and that there's no reason for the Navy to delay.
She said the Navy could adopt a larger safety zone around its ships, reduce the power of sonar at night when marine mammals are harder to see and thus protect, and avoid training in rich marine mammal habitats.
Navy gets 2-year sonar-use exemption
January 24, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The Defense Department exempted the Navy on Tuesday from complying with the Marine Mammal Protection Act for the next two years so sailors can practice tracking submarines with sonar.
Environmentalists swiftly denounced the move, saying the Navy wasn't doing enough to protect whales, dolphins and other marine mammals from the harmful effects of the underwater sound technology.
Navy officials said they need the exemption, allowed for under the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, to give them enough time to conduct environmental impact statements for sonar use at major underwater training ranges.
The studies required by the Marine Mammal Protect Act will take about two years to complete, Navy officials said.
The ranges are off Hawaii, Southern California and the East Coast.
US Navy Gets 2-Year Whale Protection Law Exemption January 24, 2007 (Planet Ark)
Grey whale seen in Fraser River
January 23, 2007 (CBC) Likely lost and alone after taking a wrong turn, a wayward grey whale has been sighted swimming up the Fraser River early Tuesday morning, at a time when most of its compadres are migrating south for the mating season.
Whale watchers have reportedly dubbed the mammal, dotted with its characteristic grey-white marks, "Moby."
But Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard cautioned that although the animal may not be under threat of being hunted anytime soon, prolonged exposure to the river water could be a danger.
The fight to save the orcas
January 23, 2007 (Toronto Globe and Mail) As the Canadian government sits on a plan to help British Columbia's endangered orcas, five more disappeared last year, making it the worst year of losses since 2001.
One was Raven, a young mother with sunken skin behind her head from starvation or disease. After Raven disappeared, her sister tried to look after her newborn, which still needed to nurse. But the calf disappeared after a few weeks.
In December, the sister's calf also disappeared.
They are presumed dead, their bodies swallowed by the sea. Why they died may never be known. The orcas that roam the busy waters around Vancouver Island and Washington State now number just 84, and one expert says delays by the Canadian government in implementing a strategy to protect them could be slowing their recovery.
"I'm embarrassed as a Canadian," said Lance Barrett-Lennard, one of B.C.'s top orca experts and an independent scientist with the Vancouver Aquarium. "The longer a species spends in a low population state, the worse it is, the greater the chance of a catastrophe wiping it out."
In November, the U.S. government finalized a recovery strategy to increase and protect the orcas' fragile numbers as required under its endangered-species legislation. But the similar Canadian strategy has sat at federal fisheries offices since last June while under review.
This draft policy, based on Canada's three-year-old Species at Risk Act, would allow social and economic factors to be considered along with scientific accounts in decisions regarding a species' critical habitat -- areas considered crucial for their survival. The policy would allow the government to delay protection indefinitely. "I can't imagine why this policy exists except that it relieves the government of responsibility," Dr. Barrett-Lennard said.
The recent losses are significant because the orcas disappeared in the summer and fall, Mr. Balcomb said. Most of the deaths in this group of orcas occur in winter.
"I suspect there will be at least several more missing by the time we see them again in the spring, because the feeding conditions were apparently not good. They didn't go into the winter with a big layer of fat," Mr. Balcomb said.
Report on climate to include 'smoking gun' on global warming
January 23, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Human-caused global warming is here -- visible in the air, the water and melting ice -- and is destined to get much worse in the future, an authoritative global scientific report will warn next week.
"The smoking gun is definitely lying on the table as we speak," said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who reviewed all 1,600 pages of the first segment of a giant, four-part report. "The evidence ... is compelling."
Andrew Weaver, a Canadian climate scientist and a study co-author, went even further: "This isn't a smoking gun; climate is a battalion of intergalactic smoking missiles."
The first phase of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is being released in Paris next week. This segment, written by more than 600 scientists and reviewed by another 600 experts and edited by bureaucrats from 154 countries, includes "a significantly expanded discussion of observation on the climate," said co-chairwoman Susan Solomon, a senior scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Navy told to do more to protect whales
January 22, 2007 (North Country Times) The Navy appears to be balking at restrictions on sonar training approved by the California Coastal Commission in response to worries about the effects of sonar noise on whales and other marine mammals in the waters off Camp Pendleton.
The conflict centers on mounting evidence that intense underwater noise from sonar testing hurts sea creatures and the Navy's insistence that training sailors to operate sonar is vital to national security.
Alternative training sites lack the advantages of the Southern California coastal waters, said Capt. Matt Brown, a spokesman for Navy Region Southwest based in San Diego.
Brown said the presence of a naval base in San Diego and the similarity of the coast to many places where the Navy might operate during a war make it preferable to other areas, many of which also teem with marine mammals.
"No matter where you go, you have many marine mammals," Brown said.
Climate change heats up
January 22, 2007 (Seattle Times editorial) The best hope for saving Puget Sound chinook salmon got its official blessing Friday from federal officials responsible for protecting endangered species.
The challenge is huge: to reel salmon back from their precipitous decline, boosting population sizes tenfold or more while the equivalent of two Seattle's worth of people move into an already populous region, building homes and paving green spaces all around the Sound.
The price tag is steep. The effort could cost $1.1 billion by 2015.
But the level of enthusiasm is high -- and it's widespread.
This is "a shining example" of what can happen when diverse, local groups come together and craft a recovery plan, said Bob Lohn, head of the Northwest regional office of the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency that approved the plan.
Then all of the watershed plans were compiled into an overarching blueprint for recovery. The plan fulfills a requirement of the Endangered Species Act and was deemed "the largest and most comprehensive" recovery plan ever approved by the federal government, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
And still the hardest work lies ahead.
"The big challenge is implementation," said Doug Osterman, a King County employee coordinating salmon recovery in the Green and Duwamish rivers and along 90 miles of marine shorelines. "We're really going to rely on state and federal governments to come through with the funding."
For information at: Shared Strategy for Puget Sound
Salmon rescue plan takes giant step forward
January 22, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Speculation is rampant President Bush will warm to climate change Tuesday in his State of the Union address. A policy reversal by the White House would be welcome, but much of the country has already moved ahead.
The signs are all around us in rainfall patterns, retreating glaciers and annual temperature records. Some of the governmental activity looks at diminishing the toll of greenhouse gases on the environment, and other inquiries look to the pitfalls and opportunities that accompany climate change.
Virtually all regions of the state and its economic sectors dependent on water will feel the consequences of global warming.
Washington is already living with declining snowpack and earlier peak stream flows. Those have expensive consequences for hydropower generation and fish migration. The state has already seen a dramatic growth in wildfires as evaporation increases and soil moisture declines.
Rising sea levels have design and financial impacts for Seattle's Alaskan Way seawall.
Read the report.
Our ongoing fascination with whales
January 21, 2007 (Taipei Times) Whales are both a cause and a symbol. They represent timelessness, space, improbability -- they are the largest creatures ever to evolve, demonstrate great intelligence, live in complex societies, use tools, cooperate with each other, can recognize themselves, have a lifespan at least as long as ours and can speak to each other, communicating through what zoologist Nicholas Slocum, who runs Whale Watch West Cork, calls "low-frequency grunts and whines" over vast distances, even across oceans.
It is easy to get carried away by whales. Look at Melville. When he began Moby Dick, he thought he was writing an adventure story. But as his biographer Andrew Delbanco said: "He soon swerves away from the adventures of a young man in flight from his own despondency, and he finds himself swept up by a larger tale -- about a maimed sea captain and the prodigious white whale that has `dismasted' him."
In his 1988 book Whale Nation, Heathcote Williams attempted a different sort of epic -- a long love letter in poetry to the whale. He writes lyrically of their love of games -- "Whales play. For three times as long as they spend searching for food: Delicate, involved games, with floating seabirds' feathers, blown high into the air." -- and wittily of their delight in sex: "In whales the male member is erected voluntarily, unsheathed from within deep abdominal folds, erected, and then collapsed and concealed again, by an act of will. Unlike in man, where it has an unseasonal, disconnected life of its own. And the blue whale's penis is nine feet long, which may require additional self-control."
Whale Nation, however, is also a hate letter to humankind -- or at least that portion of it that sought (perhaps still seeks) the destruction of the whale. If, for Melville, writing in whaling's pre-industrial age, hunter and hunted are joined together in a dance of death that ends in a moment of tranquillity, a century later destruction had been mechanized. There is no beauty -- only brutality. Ahab's insane, quasi-religious pursuit had become, in Williams' words: "An essential component of our expanding economy."
Killer whales invading Arctic
January 19, 2007 (Toronto Globe and Mail) New research suggests melting Arctic sea ice is drawing more killer whales into northern oceans, raising concerns among Inuit hunters about increasing competition for food.
Federal researcher Jeff Higdon has compiled a database of the number of times the sleek black-and-white predators have been spotted in the waters north of Newfoundland since the 1980s.
"There's been a massive increase," he said yesterday.
Two decades ago, hunters, scientists and other northern travellers usually reported about six killer whales a year in the waters of western Hudson Bay, he said. By 2000, the number of sightings in that one area had ballooned to more than 30 annually.
Mr. Higdon's figures come from Inuit hunters, conservation officers and ecotourism operators. While Arctic tourism has increased in recent years, most of the information comes from the relatively stable number of hunters who go out on the water.
The reason for the increase in killer whale numbers is unclear. But Mr. Higdon, who works with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Winnipeg, said his research shows a strong correlation between increased sightings and the decline of sea ice.
Fire Retardants: Ban this chemical
January 19, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial) Amid the sea of insidious, invisible chemicals bathing the environment, there is a good place to start a new cleanup. The Legislature should ban most uses of one type of toxic fire retardants.
Bills in both houses target what is known as the deca form of polybrominated diphenyl ethers. Animal tests have linked PBDEs to brain development and reproductive problems.
Worse, the chemicals are more or less everywhere, including in human breast milk, the bodies of other U.S. adults (at levels said to be 10 times those in Japan and Europe, which have strict controls), in household dust and in Puget Sound. It makes little sense to spend hundreds of millions cleaning up the Sound while allowing more toxics.
A Senate committee could vote in favor of SB 5034, sponsored by Tacoma Democratic Sen. Debbie Regala, as early as today. In previous years, such bills as substitute HB 1024, sponsored by Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, have stumbled over PBDE industry-hyped concerns about fire safety.
Seattle trying to woo salmon back downtown with park's seawall makeover
January 17, 2007 (Seattle Times) Two centuries ago, tiny chinook leaving the Duwamish River could head north and find refuge in a chain of salt marshes and shallow beaches.
Today, their descendants face a much more treacherous path to adulthood.
Pioneer Square and Interbay occupy what once were salt marshes, drained and filled by settlers. Warehouses and pavement cover the Duwamish mudflats. The concrete seawall protecting downtown Seattle from Puget Sound creates a sheer drop into deep water, where little fish find less food and more waiting predators.
Now, the city, state and developers are working to soften Seattle's treatment of the imperiled salmon. Planners envision a rebuilt 1.3-mile seawall covered with massive knobby panels that create better fish habitat. In the future, retooled piers near the Seattle Aquarium and the downtown ferry dock could feature engineered, shallow fish habitat.
State to issue new stormwater rules today
January 17, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Today, in what the state Department of Ecology calls a historic step, the agency will issue new rules -- years after they were legally required -- designed to take steps toward controlling this pollution-laced concoction.
"We are here today to announce one of the most important steps that this agency has taken in many years to deal with a water quality problem that has been around for a long time -- but that hasn't been regulated or managed very well," Ecology Director Jay Manning said Tuesday in a news briefing. The new rules are embodied in water-quality permits to be issued today.
But even a state document admits that the new rules include "sometime insufficient measures" to control stormwater. Federal officials also have said the new rules aren't enough to save endangered salmon.
Citing scientific studies, environmentalists and Indian tribes stand poised to challenge the new requirements as too weak to rescue pollution-pounded Puget Sound.
Builders, too, are positioned to launch legal challenges, saying the state is going too far with new measures that could cost home buyers thousands of dollars per house. Municipal officials, meanwhile, fret that a requirement to control stormwater will discourage redevelopment in cities and spur urban sprawl.
Eagles are landing in record numbers
January 16, 2007 (Seattle Times) The storms that have blasted Puget Sound country may have brought a majestic benefit: record numbers of eagles wintering along the Skagit River.
The eagles flock here every winter, to feast on chum salmon runs. But never like this.
"At first I thought it was a mistake," said Jim Alt, a bald-eagle expert for the Nature Conservancy, who tallied 580 birds in an 11.5-mile stretch of the river on Jan. 3. That's up from the previous peak of 477 eagles in the same area during the winter of 1991-92.
While biologists scratch their heads - the cause of the eagle boom is unclear, though it could be a combination of weather and abundant food - the glory of the presence of so many eagles is beyond debate.
The Skagit is also premier eagle real estate, including five contiguous river miles of protected habitat between the mouths of the Sauk and Cascade rivers.
The protected lands along the river, with their alders, big leaf maples and cedars, welcome eagles in need of a perch. The river is allowed to shift across much of its valley floor, forming bars that serve up salmon carcasses on a platter for the great raptors. Mature forests cloak the uplands, providing quiet, secluded roosts at day's end.
Eagles are site faithful and mate for life, building huge nests they use year after year to raise their young. The winter populations begin arriving on the Skagit, mostly from Alaska and British Columbia, around November and are usually gone by February.
Eagles can live 30 years in the wild, and their numbers are rebounding after a near brush with extinction in the 1970s. A ban on the pesticide DDT, which thinned eagle shells, and listing under the Endangered Species Act, which protects both the eagles and their nests, helped the eagles recover. They have been doing so well, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service may take them off the endangered-species list soon.
"They made the comeback after being nearly wiped out," said Jennifer Roberts, from Oak Harbor, her eyes skyward as eagles glided overhead. "I love seeing them in vast numbers. It's so reassuring."
Whales find winter feed, linger in Shumagins
January 16, 2007 (Anchorage Daily News) HUMPBACKS: Schools of tiny fish keep them north longer than usual.
The community of Sand Point has been hosting summertime visitors for an extended stay but no one is complaining in the Shumagin Island community.
Humpback whales that normally head for breeding grounds in tropical waters have been patrolling back and forth in front of city docks and can be seen from vantage points from the city's hills.
"There will be times when you will find whales in the winter months in other parts of the state," said Briana Witteveen, a University of Alaska Fairbanks marine mammal research assistant based in Kodiak. "This is the first time I've heard of it in the Shumagin Islands area."
Grants aim to improve fish habitat
January 16, 2007 (The Columbian) A local fish recovery organization is the beneficiary of $640,000 in federal grants to improve fish habitat in the lower and middle reaches of the Washougal River and in Duncan Creek near the Columbia River in Skamania County.
The Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group received the money last month, after it filtered through the statewide Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the regional Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board. The money started out in the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, part of the federal budget.
The various pass-through organizations are intended to winnow down and pay for the best projects.
"The salmon and trout industries are an important part of our local economy and the Northwest's heritage," U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, said in announcing the grants last week.
On the Washougal River, the money will enable the enhancement group to create a large logjam and add five clusters of boulders in the lower part of the river near downtown Camas.
The work will add rearing habitat for juvenile salmon and steelhead, continuing an effort to reverse ecological harm to a river that has been diked, filled and drained of gravels valuable to stream habitat.
Pace, style of growth endanger Puget Sound
January 16, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Humans also in peril, action team report says
As the Puget Sound region's human population booms, the basin's marine-life population declines -- and, as a new report reaffirms, one is a direct cause of the other.
Toxic contaminants are rising in sediments, salmon and harbor seals. Ever-spreading pavement increases storm-water runoff and water pollution. And greenhouse gas buildup is raising water temperatures and reducing mountain snowpacks and summer stream flows, the Puget Sound Action Team said in its biennial State of the Sound report.
The team -- the state agency that monitors the health of the Sound -- noted in announcing today's release of the report that humans are among the creatures imperiled by the degradation of the basin.
"These problems are reflected in the precarious health of orcas, salmon and marine birds and resulted in last year's first-ever consumption advisory for Puget Sound chinook," the team noted in a statement.
Although dramatic change is rarely evident from one biennial report to the next, action team chairman Brad Ack said in an interview Monday that a significant concern is "the issue of flame retardants and how quickly they seem to be building up in harbor seals, which is probably an indicator of how they are building up in other marine life."
But problems persist and worsen. The report said tests have shown that 59 percent of Puget Sound's fresh and marine waters are impaired, 5,700 acres of submerged lands have high levels of toxic contaminants, mostly in urban bays, and the Sound's chinook salmon have two to six times the PCBs and five to 17 times the PBDEs (fire-retardant chemicals) of other West Coast chinook populations.
Nineteen of the 30 most common marine bird species in the northern Sound decreased by 20 percent or more between 1978 and 2004, the report noted, and a 2002 survey showed that 64 of the Sound's 207 salmon stocks were listed as depressed or critical.
READ THE REPORT at "State of the Sound 2007"
L.A. has its own special gang of killer whales, and researchers are wondering if they are offshore again
January 12, 2007 (Long Beach Press-Telegram) For more than 20 years, Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a marine biologist, educator and director of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Cetacean Society's Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project, has been studying killer whales.
Her whale work - which included studying a beached blue whale several years ago at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, where she met her husband, David Janiger, a curatorial assistant in the Los Angeles Natural History Museum's department of mammalogy - has involved all types of orcas.
Named by Schulman-Janiger in 1984, after her first on-the-water encounter with the group, the L.A. Pod is distinctly different from the three known types of killer whale populations, known in the marine world as "eco-types."
Called transients, residents and offshores, the three existing eco-types are differentiated from each other by their behavior, eating habits, appearance and vocalizations. DNA tests have confirmed that the three types are genetically distinct from one another.
The L.A. Pod, however, appears to be in a class all its own.
Much smaller and more muscular than the others, they have their own vocalization dialect, unique markings, a one-of-a-kind dorsal fin shape and a penchant for lurking very close to shore, opportunistically feeding on fish and marine mammals.
The animals, Schulman-Janiger said, can be very social, curious, playful and friendly to observers in nearby boats. But the 13- to 15-member pod also can be aggressive.
Two female L.A. Pod members, called CA2 and CA6, attacked and killed a great white shark at the Farallon Islands off San Francisco. It was, at that time, the only recorded attack on a great white shark by a killer whale.
The numerous differences between the L.A. Pod and other orca populations, Schulman-Janiger said, suggest that the L.A. Pod might represent a new kind of killer whale eco-type.
California Lets Navy Use Sonar, but With Limits to Protect Marine Mammals
Janaury 12, 2007 (Kitsap Sun) The California Coastal Commission has given the Navy a go-ahead to use sonar during scheduled training exercises off the California Coast - but only with explicit conditions designed to protect marine mammals.
Whether the Navy will agree to the restrictions is yet to be seen.
But environmental officials say the process opens a new avenue for protecting marine life, including Puget Sound's endangered killer whales.
Although the Navy has been conducting exercises off the coast for decades, this is the first time that Navy officials have asked the California Coastal Commission whether such activities comply with state law. The process is called a "determination of consistency" under the Coastal Zone Management Act.
Washington state's Coastal Zone Management Program, first adopted in 1976, does not include provisions for protecting marine life, according to Brian Lynn of the Washington Department of Ecology, who oversees that program.
Much of the plan deals with geologic hazards and shoreline construction activities, he said.
Consequently, Washingtonmay not have the same authority to address federal activities, but that could change if the Legislature desires, Lynn said.
Ralph Munro, former secretary of state for Washington, has been conducting deep discussions with Navy commanders.
"I'm trying to get the Navy and the environmental community talking to each other and understanding their various points of view," he said. "I think we are making real progress."
Munro said Rear Adm. Len Hering, now in San Diego, made significant improvements in Navy operations when he headed Navy Region Northwest - including a dramatic reduction in oil spills by Navy ships.
Munro called the current commander of Navy Region Northwest, Rear Adm. William French, "phenomenal" in his attitude. Munro said he hopes the Navy can be convinced to help with killer whale research, including tracking the travels of whales in winter when the animals are most vulnerable.
Our View: Breaching debate moves to mainstream
Janaury 12, 2007 (Idaho Statesman editorial) In 1997, when the Statesman first advocated breaching four lower Snake River dams, the critics were aplenty.
The stakes haven't changed. We're still debating about how to save Idaho's wild salmon, an essential link to our wild heritage and an irreplaceable piece of our river biology. We're still talking about how best to balance the needs of water users with the future of Idaho's rural fishing communities. We're still talking about a fair,forward-thinking balance that removes the dams while replacing the power and slackwater shipping these four dams provide.
But along the way, the proposition of breaching has gone mainstream, for several reasons:
• Dams have been dismantled elsewhere to restore fish and wildlife habitat. More than 465 dams have been removed nationwide, according to the conservation group American Rivers, and this process has continued during the Bush years. For example, in neighboring Washington state, two dams on the Elwha River will be dismantled starting in 2009, restoring more than 70 miles of salmon habitat in and near Olympic National Park.
As a result, there is growing evidence that dam removal performs as advertised, restoring fish habitat.
Killer whale sightings increase in Arctic
Janaury 12, 2007 (Nunatsiaq News) As the Arctic sea ice shrinks, the number of killer whales spotted in Arctic waters has dramatically increased over the past six years.
That could be bad news for anyone who enjoys the taste of beluga, narwhal or bowhead whales. That's because killer whales love eating these sea mammals, too, and they have quite the appetite, consuming on average more than 226 kilograms of food a day.
In particular, the number of killer whale sightings in the Hudson Bay has increased to 30 over the last six years, compared to only six sightings throughout the entire 1990s.
The 1980s only had six sightings as well. Before then, reported sightings per decade were even lower.
These figures come from research conducted by a group called Orcas in the Canadian Arctic, which began in September 2005, as a collaboration between researchers from University of Manitoba, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Government of Nunavut.
It's not clear if killer whale populations are increasing, or if the whales are simply moving to new locations, says Jeff Higdon, a PhD student with the University of Manitoba who is involved with the project.
Twist in effort to ban fire retardant
Janaury 12, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) As Washington moves to become the first state in the nation to ban a fire retardant found in mattresses, computers and furniture, lawmakers on Thursday accused the industry of putting up a smokescreen to stop the ban.
With concerns about finding toxic chemicals from the retardants -- known as PBDEs -- in everything from breast milk to brown bears, the proposed ban passed out of a House committee and appeared headed for passage in both chambers.
"This bill is on fire," said Sen. Erik Poulsen, D-West Seattle, chairman of the committee working on a similar bill. The measure's quick progress this year comes after two years of debate and opposition by chemical companies that spent more than $107,000 lobbying the Legislature last year.
By highlighting the fire-safety issues and downplaying the health risks, the chemical industry had successfully jammed the bill, even as those backing it -- including some fire officials -- insist safer alternatives could be used.
This week, the connection between the chemical companies and those concerned about fire safety became difficult to distinguish -- even for lawmakers -- when an industry employee testified on behalf of a firefighters' group.
On Tuesday, Glade Squires, a representative of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, identified himself as such when he testified before the House Select Committee on Environmental Health.
In a Senate committee hearing on a similar bill the next day, after several proponents raised concerns, Squires disclosed that he also is employed by Ameribrom, a chemical company that makes the PBDE fire retardant.
State may be near outlawing PBDEs
Janaury 12, 2007 (Seattle Times) After two years of disappointment, environmentalists appear on the verge of making Washington the first state to ban all forms of a potentially toxic flame retardant.
With larger Democratic majorities, stronger backing from the governor and compromises that have won over some skeptical firefighters, bills aimed at phasing out most uses of the chemicals known as PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are on a fast track to votes by both houses of the state Legislature.
Scientists who specialize in toxic contaminants say the flame retardants are as potent and long-lasting as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and DDT - chemicals that began to accumulate in the environment in the 1950s and were banned in the 1970s. Even if PBDEs were banned today, they would endure in the environment for decades, scientists say.
In this year's legislation, deca will be banned from mattresses starting in 2008, though the chemical is already rarely used in them. The chemical would be banned from electronics and furniture beginning in 2011.
Global warming to cost us
Janaury 11, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Global warming is known to be destructive, but a study released Wednesday shows it also will be expensive, costing Washington state and its residents millions of dollars in higher prices and remedial measures.
Climbing temperatures over the next 40 years will boost the cost of timber, water and crops, cause twice the wildfire damage that occurs now, exacerbate health issues and require expensive shoring-up to avoid damage to Tacoma, Willapa Bay and other low-lying areas.
Those are the top-level conclusions reached in "Impacts of Climate Change on Washington's Economy," a 118-page, $100,000 study prepared by researchers from Washington and Oregon.
"It's safe to say that virtually every aspect of the state's economy will be affected by climate change," said co-author Bob Doppelt, director of the Climate Leadership Initiative at the University of Oregon, in a teleconference after the study's release.
But Tony Usibelli, the Community, Trade and Economic Development assistant director for the state's Energy Policy Office, said Washington is moving to reduce emissions to pre-1990 levels. Adopting California's vehicle emissions standards, as only nine other states have done, and moving toward wider use of biofuels are key steps, he said.
Ban on drilling lifted
Janaury 10, 2007 (Seattle Times) President Bush on Tuesday lifted a ban on new oil and gas drilling in Alaska's Bristol Bay, a decision that angered environmentalists and could provoke a battle with the Democratic-controlled Congress over energy policy.
The 5.6 million acres of the bay on the west side of the Alaskan Peninsula just north of the Aleutian Islands have been off limits for energy exploration since 1989, after the Exxon Valdez spill.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, in announcing Tuesday that the area would be opened for energy exploration, said the move would "enhance America's energy security" and pledged a thorough environmental review before drilling begins.
Dead Gray Whale Examined
Janaury 9, 2007 (Kitsap Sun) Whale researchers examined a dead gray whale Monday after area residents spotted the carcass Saturday on the east side of Toandos Peninsula, directly across Hood Canal from Bangor.
"We couldn't find any major external injuries that would suggest a cause of death," said Cascadia Research Collective's John Calambokidis, who led the team that performed the necropsy.
The animal could have been sick when it came into Hood Canal about the middle of December, he said. The whale was first reported swimming near Seabeck and later was spotted as far south as Alderbrook Inn at the south end of the canal.
"The fact that it came that far down and stayed in Hood Canal suggests there was something wrong with the animal," Calambokidis said.
Putin unlikely saviour of endangered grey whales
Janaury 8, 2007 (CanWest News Service) With tens of billions of petrodollars floating in limbo, there are no runaway winners in the long and nasty battle over who will ultimately control the lucrative oil and gas deposits around Russia's remote Sakhalin island.
Unless, of course, you count the approximately 100 grey whales -- the only ones of the species left on Earth -- swimming idly off its shores in the frigid waters of the northern Pacific Ocean.
These whales are the last of a seriously endangered species but they have found an unlikely, but formidable ally in what is, literally a life and death struggle to avoid extinction: Russia's inscrutable President Vladimir Putin.
"I don't think anybody's accused Mr. Putin of being a raging environmentalist," said Francis Grant-Suttie, director of private-sector relations with the World Wildlife Fund in Washington.
"At the same time, he watched his government take a very active, hands-on role with how energy in Russia is being managed."
Putin has become the unlikely savior of grey whales -- whether he cares for them or not -- because of a bitter legal dispute that has raged for several months between the Kremlin and an international consortium led by Royal Dutch Shell.
Russia first signed the agreement back in 1994 when it was poorer and weaker following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But as far as Shell and its two Japanese partners were concerned, a deal was a deal.
So Putin, the former KGB spy turned politician who has never been sold short on his ability for tactical thinking, played the environmental card: Russia essentially froze the project by saying the company had violated several of its environmental laws.
Russia concluded that Sakhalin-2, among other things, was damaging grey whale feeding grounds off the island and that its pipelines would pass through ecologically sensitive areas.
Cook Inlet beluga whales in decline
Janaury 8, 2007 (Anchorage Daily News) A new and gloomy federal assessment of Cook Inlet's beluga whales projects a one-in-four chance the population could go extinct within 100 years, and better than a two-in-three probability the whales will vanish in 300 years unless something happens to improve the odds.
That's a splash of cold water for agency biologists who had hoped a virtual end to subsistence whaling several years ago would have produced a solid recovery trend by now.
"At least for the data we have since the end of the period of high harvests, the population hasn't increased ... and the fact that it appears to be declining further is certainly a concern," said Rod Hobbs, one of the biologists who produced the review.
"And at the moment, we don't know of any other mechanism acting on the population that would keep it from increasing."
The bad news comes as federal agencies are considering whether the Cook Inlet belugas, a genetically distinct population that does not intermingle with other beluga stocks, should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. That prospect is applauded by environmental and other groups that have petitioned for such a listing, but feared by Cook Inlet area local governments and agencies like the Port of Anchorage and the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority, where officials say stronger protections for whales would mean costly restrictions on development.
Scientists believe about 1,300 belugas inhabited Cook Inlet in the 1970s and early 1980s; by the late 1990s, their numbers had dropped to an estimated 350, and the most recent published estimate, for 2005, put their numbers at 278. An "abundance estimate" for 2006 probably will come in at about 300, Smith said, but counts since 1999, when subsistence hunts all but ended, show no significant population growth.
Navy exercises threaten Southern California coast
Janaury 7, 2007 (North Country Times op-ed by Michael Stocker) In October, for the first time ever, the U.S. Navy filed a Consistency Determination with the California Coastal Commission regarding its biannual "U.S. Pacific Fleet military training exercises." Designed to train Navy and Marine forces in "coordinated deployment and preparedness exercises," similar exercises have been taking place on the coast and in the waters of Southern California since the 1920s. Under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, all federal agencies are required to file a Consistency Determination to certify that their activities affecting the coastal zone are consistent with state policies.
This is the first time that the Navy has submitted a Consistency Determination for an exercise that it has conducted for the last 80 years ---- an indication that Navy policies are beginning to take environmental stewardship into consideration. Because these exercises have such a long history, we would expect that the Navy's assessment of environmental risk would be informed and accurate ---- except for one other "first" in this Determination: This is the first time that the Navy has proposed using mid-frequency active sonar off the coast of California.
The mid-frequency active sonar increasingly deployed by the Navy comprises a new set of technologies. These technologies have been deployed only in the past few years, which have seen a dramatic rise in marine mammal strandings coincident with naval exercises. The beaked whale strandings in the Bahamas and the Canary Islands, the Orcas incident in the Haro Strait and the Hanalei Bay melon-headed whale incident ---- just to name a few ---- have been associated with or directly tied to the use of mid-frequency active sonar.
Mid-frequency sonar may represent the "best available technology" for its task, but given its deathly impact on marine animals, alternative technologies must be developed. We encourage calmer minds to step forward and halt the use of this sinister technology.
The next and final Coastal Commission hearing on this issue will take place Jan. 11-13 at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, 200 S. Pine Ave., Long Beach, CA 90802.
Michael Stocker is science advisor to Seaflow (www.seaflow.org), a San Francisco-based nonprofit group dedicated to protecting whales, dolphins and all marine life from active sonars and other lethal ocean noise pollution.
Mass escape from Norway's fish farms threatens wild salmon
Janaury 5, 2007 (Yahoo News) Some 790,000 salmon and trout escaped from Norwegian fish farms last year, up 10 percent on the previous year and a trend that poses a serious threat to wild salmon, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries has warned.
The lax security at fish farms is "a criminal act that must be sanctioned the same as a hold-up or a rape," the head of the directorate, Peter Gullestad, told AFP.
The fish raised on farms are carriers of parasites such as sea lice, which infect wild salmon and other maritime life.
The fish that escape the farms, located in fjords and rivers along Norway's west coast, infect young wild salmon before they head off to the open sea, threatening their immune systems which are not yet fully developed.
"It's dramatic. We're talking about a genetic cleansing of wild salmon," said Espen Farstad, a spokesman for the Norwegian hunting and fishing association NJFF.
A total of 39 of 75 fish farms inspected by the directorate did not meet current standards.
"The farmers do not have control over the situation. Authorities' controls are not sufficient. We are calling for a list of the fish farms at fault and for them to be boycotted," Maren Esmark of the Norwegian branch of the environmental group WWF told AFP.
A few ground rules for saving the oceans
Janaury 5, 2007 (Seattle Times) The Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF), is the only thing preventing 350,000 gallons of urban runoff from coursing into the Pacific every day.
The $12 million contraption is at the forefront of efforts to curb the pollutants that threaten the world's oceans. Sitting near the mouth of the city's largest storm drain, it collects and treats the frothy flow that trickles out of a seaside metropolis day after day from sprinklers, washed cars and drained pools, bearing with it cat and dog waste, spilled engine oil, lawn chemicals, brake dust, bacteria and viruses.
The liquid waste, called "urban slobber," is filtered, sterilized with ultraviolet light and recycled to irrigate Palisades Park and a city cemetery, and to flush the toilets at police headquarters. Styrofoam cups, plastic bags and other solid debris are scooped out and hauled to a landfill.
Yet such farsighted ingenuity remains the exception rather than the rule. SMURRF is the only urban runoff recycling plant in the country. Efficient as it is, it captures a tiny fraction of the runoff flowing into California's coastal waters.
Santa Monica diverts most of the flow that SMURRF can't handle to a sewage-treatment plant. Still, there are limits to what the infrastructure can do. In heavy rainstorms, the runoff from storm drains can overwhelm treatment plants and risk spilling raw sewage. City engineers have to release these polluted floodwaters into the sea.
That has prompted Santa Monica and other cities, including Seattle and Portland, to focus on stopping runoff at its sources: the rooftops, roads, sidewalks and parking lots that shed water.
Gray Whale Dies in Hood Canal
Janaury 4, 2007 (Kitsap Sun) A gray whale has died in central Hood Canal, and researchers are seeking help to find the carcass, which washed up briefly on a beach near Quilcene.
The first reported sighting of a live gray whale was near Seabeck on Dec. 18, according to records by Orca Network, which keeps track of whale sightings.
On Dec. 22, the animal was seen swimming near Alderbrook Inn at the south end of Hood Canal.
On Sunday, boaters spotted the carcass of the animal floating in the middle of Hood Canal east of Triton Cove, where it appeared to be drifting northward. The whale apparently washed up on a beach on the Toandos Peninsula, directly across from Bangor, sometime Sunday night or early Monday morning, according to reports.
New rescue tug put to work on first day of job
Janaury 2, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) It didn't take long for the state to make use of a new rescue tug stationed at the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula.
Just before midnight on New Year's Eve, a wooden fishing vessel with two men and hundreds of gallons of fuel on board was reported drifting near Cape Alava, the scenic beach in Olympic National Park about 10 miles south of Cape Flattery.
The new tug, owned by Crowley Marine Services and named Gladiator, was not scheduled to take over from a Foss Maritime tug until midnight. But it had arrived at its new station by 11 p.m. and responded when the call came in.
The Gladiator towed the disabled vessel into Neah Bay and turned it over to the Coast Guard, the state Ecology Department said Monday in a statement.
The state had expected Foss Maritime to keep a tug stationed at Neah Bay through the winter, but Foss said it could not because of a shortage of tugs in the region. Crowley Maritime Corp. of Jacksonville, Fla., responded by agreeing to provide a tug for $8,500 a day, plus fuel, effective Monday.
Since 1999, the rescue tug service has assisted 30 disabled ships.
Environmentalists push lawmakers for Puget Sound cleanup
Janaury 2, 2007 (Seattle Times) For environmentalists, the health of Puget Sound will take center stage as lawmakers return to Olympia with a clear directive from Gov. Chris Gregoire to invest in the restoration of the state's most important waterway.
Many in the environmental community, which has had much success in recent years in getting green measures into law, laud the governor's involvement and hope it will ensure real action on the sound.
"We need to make sure we're making real progress and not just paying lip service to the issue," said Clifford Traisman, a lobbyist for Washington Conservation Voters and the Washington Environmental Council. "Puget Sound is a crisis. We cannot wait another year to get started."
As part of her budget, Gregoire highlighted an ambitious $220 million spending plan for the next two years as a down payment on restoring and preserving the state's inland marine waters.
A recent report from the Puget Sound Partnership estimates the total cost to clean up and restore Puget Sound at nearly $9 billion between now and the state's goal date of 2020.
Environmental groups, as they have the past two years, are heading into the 105-day session with a list of four priorities, and Puget Sound is No. 1 on their list.
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