As chunks of the Wahlenbergbreen glacier break off and crash
into the sea next to him, Italian pianist and composer Ludovico
Einaudi plays on, performing a piece he wrote for this moment.
As seen in this video, Einaudi’s piano is situated on a floating
platform surrounded by small pieces of floating ice. He came to
Norway this past June on the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise to make
a statement about the need to protect the Arctic Ocean. The
composition, “Elegy for the Arctic,” fits the time and place.
“The ice is constantly moving and creating,” he told Sara Peach,
a writer for
Yale Climate Connections. “Every hour there is a different
landscape. Walls of ice fall down into the water and they create
Because of global warming, the Arctic is losing its ice,
changing this remote ecosystem. Environmentalists are concerned
about the increasing exploitation of minerals and fish in this
fragile region. Greenpeace is among the groups pushing for
Supporting the cause, Einaudi performed with his grand piano on
an artificial iceberg, 33 feet by 8.5 feet, made of 300 triangles
of wood attached together.
“Being here has been a great experience,” he said in a
Greenpeace news release issued at the time. “I could see the
purity and fragility of this area with my own eyes and interpret a
song I wrote to be played upon the best stage in the world. It is
important that we understand the importance of the Arctic, stop the
process of destruction and protect it.”
“If you haven’t heard the music of Ludovico Einaudi, then it’s
probably because you don’t know it’s by Ludovico Einaudi,” writes
Tim Jonze, music editor for
The Guardian. “For years, his muted piano music has been
stealthily soundtracking TV shows and adverts, seeping into our
collective consciousness while the mild-mannered Italian behind it
stayed out of the limelight.”
He has written songs for numerous soundtracks, including the
trailer for “The Black Swan.” He has collaborated with other
artists in theater, video and dance. Besides a long list of albums,
his credits include multiple television commercials in Europe and
In March, Einaudi released a music video, “Fly,” for Earth Hour
(second video on this page). In my annual story about Earth Hour, I
noted that the event may be losing its appeal in the U.S. but is
still going strong in other countries. See
Water Ways, March 16.
In the third video on this page, Einaudi discusses his latest
project, an album titled “Elements.”
In 1991, accompanied by botanist Jerry Gorsline, I visited
Devils Lake for the first time. I remember being awestruck — in
part by the beauty of the place but also because of the many
unusual native plants that Jerry raved about. Not one invasive
species had reached this place.
“Visiting Devils Lake,” I wrote, “is like stepping back in time,
perhaps 200-300 years, to a period when civilization had not yet
carried the seeds of foreign plants to the Pacific Northwest. At
one end of the lake lies an enchanted world — a rare bog, where the
sound of distant bubbles accompanies each footstep in the spongy
Jerry worried that telling the story of Devils Lake would bring
irresponsible people to the lake, people who could destroy the
fragile ecosystem. But he also worried that not telling the story
would lead to a massive clearcut on this state-owned land and that
this wonderland would slip away. You can read this story online in
Chapter 10 of the book “Hood Canal: Splendor at Risk” (PDF 5.2
Jerry and others were successful in limiting the logging, in
part because of increasing environmental awareness and a new
program called the Timber, Fish and Wildlife Agreement. In 2002, 80
acres containing the lake were permanently set aside as a natural
resource conservation area.
Now Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark wants to add
another 415 acres to the NRCA before he leaves office. The added
property, now held in trust for state school construction, would
extend the protected habitat to the western shore of Quilcene Bay.
To gain special protections, the land would need to go through a
process to compensate the trust for the loss of land and timber
Nearby, the 2,771-acre Dabob Bay natural area — which includes
the highly valued natural area preserve and the surrounding NRCA —
would increase by 3,640 acres under the expansion plan. About 940
acres is held by the state in trust status. Private lands, totaling
2,700 acres, could be purchased by the state but only from willing
A giant piece of a cedar log stands erect in a barren landscape
north of Silverdale, where a new channel for Clear Creek stands
ready to receive water.
Well, maybe this channel won’t be entirely new. Designers
working to restore this portion of Clear Creek studied old maps.
They tried to align the new man-made channel to the meandering
stream that existed 150 years ago, before farmers diverted the
creek around their fields.
During excavation, workers uncovered buried gravel — remnants of
the old streambed — along with chunks of cedar that had lain along
the edge of the stream. Buried and cut off from oxygen, these
pieces of wood survived for decades underground, while cattle
grazed in the fields above.
Workers excavating for the new channel used their heavy
equipment to pull out what remained of a great cedar log. They
stood the log vertical and buried one end in the ground — a
monument to the past and future of Clear Creek.
Chris May, manager of Kitsap County’s stormwater program, showed
me the new channel this week. He said it was rewarding to uncover
some buried history and realize that the stream would be restored
in roughly the same place.
“We found the old channel,” Chris told me, pointing to a deposit
of gravel. “We are pretty confident that we got it right.”
This $3-million project has been conceived and designed as much
more than a stream-restoration project. The elevations of the land
around the stream have been carefully planned so that high flows
will spill into side channels and backwater pools. That should
reduce flooding in Silverdale and help stabilize the high and low
flows seen in Clear Creek.
The engineers did not calculate the reduced frequency of
flooding, but floodwater storage is calculated to be 18.4
acre-feet, the equivalent of a foot of water spread over 18.4 acres
or 29,700 cubic yards or 6 million gallons.
In all, about 30,000 cubic yards of material have been removed
across 21 acres, including the former Schold Farm on the west side
of Silverdale Way and the Markwick property on the east side.
Native wetland vegetation will be planted along the stream and in
low areas throughout the property. Upland areas will be planted
with natural forest vegetation.
The topsoil, which contained invasive plants such as reed
canarygrass, was hauled away and buried beneath other excavated
soils to form a big mound between the new floodplain and Highway 3.
That area will be planted with a mixture of native trees.
Plans call for removal of 1,500 feet of an existing road with
upgrades to two aging culverts. Adding meanders to the straightened
channel will create 500 feet of new streambed that should be
suitable for salmon spawning.
Plans call for adding 334 pieces large woody debris, such as
logs and root wads to the stream. Some of that wood will be formed
into structures and engineered logjams to help form pools and
“This will be one of the first streams to meet the Fox and
Bolton numbers,” Chris told me, referring to studies by Martin Fox
and Susan Bolton of the University of Washington. The two
researchers studied natural streams and calculated the amount of
woody debris of various kinds needed to simulate natural
conditions, all based on the size of a stream. (Review
North American Journal of Fisheries Management.)
The elevations on the property were also designed so that high
areas on opposite sides of the stream would be in close proximity
in several locations.
“Beaver will pick that spot,” Chris said, pointing to one
location where the stream channel was squeezed by elevated banks on
each side. “We want to encourage beaver to come in here.”
Beaver ponds will increase the floodwater storage capacity of
the new floodplain and provide important habitat for coho salmon,
which spend a year in freshwater and need places to withstand both
high and low flows. Because the county owns the flooded property,
there won’t be any complaints about damage from beavers, Chris
Clear Creek Trail (PDF 390 kb), which begins on the shore of
Dyes Inlet, will be routed along the higher elevations as the trail
winds through the property. Three new bridges will provide vantage
points to watch salmon after vegetation obscures other viewing
areas from the trail. Viewing platforms, as seen along other parts
of Clear Creek Trail, were not included in this project but could
be subject to further discussions.
Count me among the many people — experts, volunteers and users
of Clear Creek Trail — who are eager to see how nature responds
when water (now diverted) returns to the new stream channel. For
decades, the lack of good habitat has constrained the salmon
population in Clear Creek. The stream still has problems related to
its highly developed watershed. But now a series of restoration
projects is providing hope for increased coho and chum salmon and
possibly steelhead trout as well as numerous other aquatic
In a story in the
Kitsap Sun, Reporter Tristan Baurick described work this week
on the Markwick property, where fish were removed in preparation
for final channel excavation.
Here are some details (including photos) of various Clear Creek
projects, as described in the state’s Habitat Work Schedule for
The Harper Estuary restoration project is finally coming
together, with one contractor being hired for culvert removal,
others bidding for the excavation work and engineers completing the
designs for a new bridge.
Since June, the first phase of the project has been divided into
two parts. The first actual construction will involve the
replacement of a 24-inch culvert that carries Harper Creek under
Southworth Drive. The new structure will be a three-sided,
open-bottom culvert that spans 16 feet across the stream.
Bids were opened, and a contractor has been preliminarily
selected, said Doris Small, project coordinator for the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife. A meeting has been scheduled for
Tuesday to iron out the final details and award the contract, she
The work must be completed by Oct. 15, so things will progress
rapidly, she said. An announcement will be made soon regarding a
temporary detour on Southworth Drive.
The remainder of the first phase involves the excavation of dirt
and other debris used to fill in the estuary years ago. The project
has been reduced slightly in size from the original design,
reducing water contact in certain spots, Doris told me. Also, an
analysis of the soils to be removed concluded that some of the fill
material is contaminated at such a low level that it can be used as
fill elsewhere or sent to a composting facility.
Bids will be taken on the excavation project until Sept. 13, and
the work must be done before the middle of February.
The design of a new 120-foot-long bridge on Olympiad Drive is
between 60 and 90 percent complete. Applications have been
submitted for several grants to complete the project, primarily
construction of the new bridge. The bridge will replace a 36-inch
culvert where the road crosses the estuary. The design includes
access for people to walk down to the water, and it can be used to
launch small hand-carried boats.
As I described in
Water Ways in June, the existing makeshift boat launch must be
removed to allow the restored estuary to function properly. I am
told, however, that county officials are still looking for a nearby
site to build a new boat launch with access for trailered
If grants are approved to cover the cost, the bridge could be
under construction next summer, Doris said. The total estimated
cost of the entire restoration is now $7 million, with $4.1 million
approved from a mitigation fund related to contamination from the
Asarco smelter in Tacoma.
Through the years, I’ve written a lot about the Skokomish River,
which begins in the Olympic Mountains and flows into the south end
of Hood Canal. The wide, productive estuary might be described as
the elbow of this long, narrow waterway that bends up toward
I’ve heard it said that Puget Sound cannot be restored to health
without a healthy Hood Canal, and Hood Canal cannot be restored to
health without a healthy Skokomish River. Whether that is true
remains to be seen, but I have no doubt that the Skokomish River
watershed is coming out of a dark period of abuse with hope of
becoming one of the most productive streams in the region.
Much of the credit for the transformation goes to a group of men
and women from a variety of agencies, occupations and ways of life
who came together with an understanding of the historic value of
the Skokomish River and a vision for what the river could become
again. This was the Skokomish Watershed Action Team, or SWAT, which
celebrated its 10th anniversary last year.
To be sure, it was basically loads of money that began to
transform the abused Skokomish River watershed to a much more
productive system. But the people in charge of the federal, state,
local and private dollars were able to see the Skokomish as a
worthy cause, thanks to the groundwork laid by the SWAT.
Disappointments have been few, as one project after another brings
this long lost river back to life.
Yes, I have written a lot about the Skokomish River, its history
and its future. That’s why I was glad to see the 10-year update to
the Skokomish Watershed
Action Plan (download, PDF 113 mb). The document contains an
extensive account of the projects completed and the milestones
passed through the years. Whether you are intimately involved in
the watershed or just want to know what the heck I’m talking about,
take a look at the report released this week.
Since 2005, nearly 50 restoration projects were completed — from
removal of old logging roads high in the mountains to the
re-establishment of tidal channels in the lower estuary. Salmon are
being reintroduced to the North Fork of the Skokomish River,
including the dammed-up Lake Cushman, thanks to a legal settlement
between Tacoma and the Skokomish Tribe.
About 12 miles upstream in the South Fork of the Skokomish, a
series of 30 logjams were installed and almost immediately began to
restore the channel to a more natural habitat for fish and other
aquatic creatures. This area was part of a four-mile stretch that
was heavily logged in the 1950s for a reservoir that never
Once the logjams were in place, the area began to store massive
loads of sediment, which always created problems as they washed
downstream into the lower river. The river’s characteristic problem
of spreading out and slowing down was reversed, as width-to-depth
ratios decreased and the average depth in the middle of the river
increased by two feet. The number of pools deeper than five feet
doubled from three to six, and the piles of wood grew larger by
capturing logs floating downstream.
The new report also lays out plans for the watershed in the
coming years, including projects identified in a major study by the
Army Corps of Engineers. A Corps proposal to fund $20 million in
restoration projects is now before Congress, as I described in
Water Ways in April and June. Other projects have been proposed
for separate funding, as outlined in the new report.
After 43 years and some legal prodding, the United States is
preparing to use its economic and political power to protect
whales, dolphins and other marine mammals around the world.
On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
is scheduled to
publish regulations that will set up a system to ban imports of
seafood from any country that fails to control the killing of
marine mammals in its fishing industry.
To avoid a ban, foreign controls must be as effective as
standards adopted by the United States to reduce the incidental
death and injury to marine mammals in the U.S. fishing industry.
Harvesting nations that wish to continue selling fish and fish
products to U.S. markets will have five years to implement their
marine mammal protection programs, if they have not already done
When it was first approved by Congress in 1972, the Marine
Mammal Protection Act included provisions that would ban imports of
fish caught in commercial fisheries where the “bycatch” of marine
mammals exceeded U.S. standards. But the law was largely ignored
until environmental groups filed a lawsuit against NOAA two years
ago. The lawsuit was eventually settled, with NOAA agreeing to
approve new rules by August of this year.
NOAA estimates that 650,000 marine mammals are killed each year
in fishing operations. Meanwhile, U.S. consumers obtain 94 percent
of their seafood from a growing import market valued at $33 billion
“The new regulations will force countries to meet U.S.
conservation standards if they want access to the U.S. market,
saving thousands of whales and dolphins from dying on hooks and in
fishing nets around the world,” said Sarah Uhlemann, international
program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The U.S.
government has finally recognized that all seafood consumed in the
United States must be ‘dolphin-safe.’”
Comments were made in a
joint news release from the Center for Biological Diversity,
the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Turtle Island
Restoration Network — the three groups that brought the
The new regulatory program on imports calls on NOAA Fisheries to
issue a “comparability finding” after harvesting nations
demonstrate that they have a regulatory program that meets U.S.
standards for protecting marine mammals. Each program must prohibit
the incidental killing or serious injury to marine mammals in all
fisheries, estimate numbers of marine mammals on their fishing
grounds and find ways to reduce harm if established limits are
Over the next year, the regulations call for NOAA Fisheries to
request information on marine mammal bycatch from countries that
export to the U.S. On a list of foreign fisheries, each fishery
will be classified either as “export” or “exempt.” Exempt fisheries
are determined to have a remote chance of killing marine mammals,
so they are not required to have a regulatory protection program.
Those fisheries likely to impact marine mammals and those lacking
information about impacts are placed in the export category. All
fisheries must prohibit intentional killing of marine mammals to
At the end of the five-year period, NOAA Fisheries will publish
a list of fisheries that will not receive a comparability finding
along with a list of fish banned from import. Those countries will
receive information about why they were denied certification and
are eligible to reapply at any time. Other details are outlined in
fact sheet from NOAA Fisheries.
The U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, a group appointed by the
president to advise the government on the Marine Mammal Protection
Act, welcomed the long-overdue regulations to protect marine
mammals throughout the world, but said the five-year implementation
period is too long. See
comments, Nov. 9, 2015. (PDF 1.4 mb):
“Inasmuch as this is an ongoing, long-standing statutory
requirement, the Commission does not see a legal basis for
deferring implementation. To the extent that any delay can be
countenanced, it should be kept to the absolute minimum necessary
to secure the required information from exporting countries.
“The Commission is concerned that the proposed delay would
result in at least another six years during which seafood could
continue to be imported into and sold in the United States, despite
unacceptably high levels of marine mammal bycatch, unbeknownst to
U.S. consumers, and during which U.S. fleets would face unfair
competition from foreign fleets with little or no accountability to
follow comparable marine mammal conservation measures.”
In 1988, while the U.S. was developing new fishing standards to
protect marine mammals, U.S. fishermen were required to report the
type of gear they were using and any incidental catch of marine
mammals, the Marine Mammal Commission noted. Fishermen also were
required to allow observers on their boats while the agency
developed stock assessments and new rules to protect various
species of marine mammals. Those kinds of interim measures should
be required of foreign fleets as well, the commission said.
Among its many comments when the rule was first proposed last
year, the commission criticized the plan for placing too much
burden on NOAA Fisheries to gather the information, rather than
requiring the importing countries to document their protections for
“The Commission further recommends that the final rule clearly
specify that nations be issued a CF only if they meet the U.S.
standards, rather than be issued a CF unless it is shown that they
do not meet the applicable requirements.”
As far as I can tell, the final rule failed to incorporate most
of the commission’s suggestions. Still, using the economic and
political power of the U.S. to protect marine mammals around the
world is a considerable leap.
While the new regulations are expected to level the playing
field for U.S. fishermen who must comply with marine mammal
protections, we have yet to see the full response from other
countries. At some point, a ban on U.S. imports is likely to
trigger a challenge based on existing international trade
agreements. I haven’t seen much written about the legal
implications of the new marine-mammal-protection rules, but we have
seen what can happen. Review the article by Mark J. Robertson about
“dolphin-safe” tuna rules in a report for the
International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development.
This is a campaign slogan going out to Puget Sound crabbers. It
is a positive message, built upon the goals of:
Helping people avoid losing their crab pots,
Reducing the number of crabs that go to waste, and
Increasing the number of crabs available for harvest.
We’ve talked about the problems of lost crab pots that keep on
catching crabs on the bottom of Puget Sound. About 12,000 crab pots
are lost each year in Puget Sound, killing an estimated 178,000
legal-sized Dungeness crabs that would otherwise be served up for
dinner. In January, I described some simple alterations to crab
pots that allow crabs to escape when a pot gets lost. See
Water Ways, Jan. 28.
Even more basic, however, are proven techniques that help people
select equipment and place their crab pots so they don’t get
damaged or lost in the first place.
The Northwest Straits Initiative, authorized by Congress in
1998, has been working on the problem of derelict gear for years,
retrieval of thousands of lost nets and crab pots from Puget
Sound. When it came to enlisting the public’s help in prevention,
campaign organizers realized that everyone was on the same side,
said Jason Morgan of the nonprofit Northwest Straits
“We previously focused on the doom and gloom of it, talking
about so many crabs killed each year,” Jason told me.
Working with sociologists, campaign organizers realized that
“the better way to reach people is not to talk about dead crabs but
to say we want you to catch more crabs and keep your crab
The Northwest Straits Foundation has developed a three-year plan
of action, including education for the public; improved
communication among crabbers, vessel operators and government
officials; and recommendations for improving regulations.
The plan was put together by a working group of 35 people
involved in various aspects of crab harvesting, boat traffic and
“It was a great collaborative process,” Jason said. “There was
no butting of heads or anything like that.”
“Crab pots are lost for a variety of reasons. Causes for loss
generally fall into three categories:
Vessel interaction (both recreational and commercial
Improperly configured gear, including improperly tied knots;
Improperly placed gear.
“All these categories usually include a degree of user error,
either on the part of the crabber, or on the part of the boater or
The plan includes at least 25 strategies for reducing conflicts
between vessel traffic and crab pots, reducing tampering and
sabotage, improving crabbing equipment and pot configuration, and
removing abandoned crab pots during non-crabbing days.
One of the interesting ideas is to require online registration
for recreational crab endorsements on fishing licenses. Applicants
would take a short quiz to make sure they know the rules.
Rich Childers, shellfish manager for Washington Department of
Fish and Wildlife, said the various regulatory proposals in the
plan are under advisement. One idea, which has proven effective, is
to reduce the size of allowable escape cord (“rot cord”) that opens
an escape hatch for the crabs to get out. Studies have shown that
approved escape cord takes between 30 and 148 days to disintegrate,
and most people use larger cord to last longer.
The time that crabs are trapped and dying on the bottom could be
reduced if the rules were changed to require smaller cord. Any rule
changes would include a grace period, Childers said, and it would
be nice if crabbers could obtain the smaller cord for free.
With crab season underway, a series of videos on the theme
“Catch more crab!” couldn’t come at a better time:
One of the three species of rockfish listed as threatened or
endangered in the Puget Sound region is about to be pulled off the
Endangered Species List, following recent scientific findings.
Genetic studies carried out with the help of fisherfolk from
Kitsap County have determined that canary rockfish are not a
discrete population from those found off the Washington Coast. An
official comment period on the delisting is open until Sept. 6, as
described in the
I first discussed early evidence of this genetic finding a year
ago. Kelly Andrews, a genetics expert with NOAA Fisheries,
confirmed that limited genetic samples of canary rockfish from
coastal areas appeared no different from samples taken from Puget
Sound. Kelly wanted to review analyses from additional samples
before drawing firm conclusions. See
Water Ways, June 18, 2015.
canary rockfish from the Endangered Species List will have no
yelloweye rockfish, listed as threatened, or bacaccio,
listed as endangered. The change also is expected to have no
immediate effects on fishing rules, which are designed to protect
all rockfish in Puget Sound.
Rockfish are considered an important part of the Puget Sound
ecosystem. Understanding the causes of their decline and finding
ways to rebuild their populations could help with the recovery of a
variety of other marine species, experts say.
five-year review (PDF 15.1 mb) on the status of the three
species of rockfish was due last year, but it was delayed until
April of this year to include the new genetic information. In
addition to a proposal to delist canary rockfish, the report
discusses the difficulty in gathering population data. The authors
were able to report:
“The data suggest that total rockfish declined at a rate of 3.1
to 3.8 percent per year from 1977 to 2014 … or a 69 to 76 percent
total decline over that period. We did not find evidence for
subpopulations with different population growth rates.”
Those involved in the scientific effort expressed appreciation
to the anglers who went out with them to track down rockfish and
take fin clips for genetic sampling. The effort also included
information from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife,
where researchers surveyed rockfish areas with divers and remotely
The local fishing experts were able to take the researchers to
the hotspots where rockfish have always been found.
During the sampling, fishers were careful to release the
rockfish with “descending devices” to get them safely back to deep
water, where they reside. That is a technique recommended for all
anglers who catch rockfish while fishing for other species. For
“Bring That Fish Down” (PDF 673 kb) by California Sea Grant and
Washington’s Rockfish” by WDFW.
Among those helping with the survey were Ray Frederick, a
longtime leader in the Kitsap Poggie Club, a local fishing group,
and Randy Jones, a charterboat operator from Port Orchard.
Ray recalls catching rockfish decades ago while fishing for
salmon and other fish. “I considered myself lucky if I caught a
rockfish and brought it home, because they’re really good eating,”
Ray said in a story
written by Ed Quimby, a former NOAA writer. “I prefer salmon,”
Ray added, “but my wife likes rockfish better.”
Efforts to develop a recovery plan for rockfish continue for
yelloweye rockfish and bocaccio as required by the Endangered
Species Act. Details can be found on NOAA’s webpage
“Rockfish in Puget Sound/Georgia Basin.”
At a community meeting in March, many residents of Harper in
South Kitsap expressed profound disappointment that the latest plan
to restore Harper Estuary would remove a low-key boat launch used
by many people in the area. See
Kitsap Sun story, March 31.
The makeshift boat launch, built on fill, provides the only
access to the beach in that area, community members noted. Many
expressed their belief that county and state officials had failed
in their commitment to maintain beach access.
After the meeting, five representatives of the community met
onsite with officials involved in the project. Several ideas were
discussed, and it appears that a new access to the estuary is
gaining approval, though it won’t allow vehicles with trailers to
reach the water. The new access would be an earthen ramp on the
opposite side of Olympiad Drive.
“Retaining the boat landing in its current location will:
“Block the ability to replace the undersized culvert with a
large bridge in order to restore estuary function and tidal
“Reduce sediment contaminant removal associated with the
“Retain compacted gravel substrate that does not support
aquatic plants or benthic organisms at the existing boat launch,
“Impede restoration of filled estuarine habitat and functional
The proposal now under consideration is to grade the slope
alongside Olympiad Drive at a gentle 5:1 angle. Cars and trucks
could pull off the side of the road long enough to unload their
boats, which would be carried down the slope. For people who just
want to walk down to the water, the ramp would provide the needed
access and perhaps the beginning of a proposed trail system around
A plan to build stairs down to the water from Southworth Drive
raised objections during the March meeting, because it would be
difficult and unsafe to carry boats across the busy roadway and
down concrete steps, which could become slippery. If the stairs are
built, which remains undecided, they could be designed to contain
gravel, making them less slippery.
Jim Heytvelt, a community leader in Harper, said the new access
to the beach would meet the needs of most, but not all, people in
the community. Most people in support of the restoration never
wanted a major boat launch like the one at Manchester, he said.
People are beginning to come around to the reality of the
situation, given conditions needed to restore the estuary, he
During surveys of the property, officials discovered another
problem that could have thrown a monkey wrench into the boat launch
at its current location. The county learned that it does not own
the property where the boat launch was built, as had been widely
assumed. The property is owned by the state Department of Natural
Resources — and nobody has ever been given approval to use the
Even if the restoration could be done without removing the
launch site, nobody knows if the DNR would grant a lease for the
use to continue. Someone might need to assume liability at the
site. The proposed ramp to the estuary seems to eliminate that
problem, as the property is almost entirely owned by the
Delays in preparing the plans, getting permits and putting the
project out to bid has caused the schedule to slip from early
summer into late summer and fall, said Doris Small of the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. That assumes the
project can be advertised for bids by the end of this month —
something that is still not certain.
Any further delays could put the funding in jeopardy and might
require new approvals from the Washington Department of Ecology and
possibly the Legislature. The restoration money comes from a fund
set up to mitigate for damages from the ASARCO smelter in Tacoma,
which emitted toxic pollution for decades, some of which reached
The first phase of the project involves excavation to remove
most of the fill dumped into the estuary, allowing the shorelines
to return to a natural condition. To complete the restoration,
additional funding is being sought to build a bridge, which will
replace the culvert under Olympiad Drive. If funding is approved,
the bridge could be built as early as next summer.
Another community meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30
p.m. at Colby United Methodist Church, 2881 Harvey St. SE.
Officials will provide an update on the restoration efforts. County
Commission Charlotte Garrido said she would like to continue
discussions about what the community would like to see in the
future, hoping to build a stronger relationship between the county
and the community.
When Lolita, a female orca held captive since 1970, was listed
among the endangered population of Southern Resident killer whales,
advocates for Lolita’s release were given new hope. Perhaps the
listing would help Lolita obtain a ticket out of Miami Seaquarium,
where she has lived since the age of 5.
But a U.S. district judge ruled last week that the Endangered
Species Act could not help her. While the federal law prohibits
human conduct likely to “gravely threaten the life of a member of a
protected species,” it cannot be used to improve her living
conditions, according to the
ruling (PDF 3.3 mb) by Judge Ursula Ungaro in the Southern
District of Florida.
“We very much disagree with the decision, and we will be
appealing it,” said attorney Jared Goodwin, who represents the
plaintiffs — including the People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PETA), the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Orca Network.
Over the objections of attorneys for Miami Seaquarium, the judge
said the plaintiffs have a right to sue the aquarium, but Lolita’s
care and well-being falls under a different law: the Animal Welfare
The judge noted that the National Marine Fisheries Service,
which is responsible for marine species under the ESA, had
previously stated that keeping threatened or endangered species in
captivity is not a violation of the ESA. NMFS also deferred
enforcement activities to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While the ESA prohibits listed species from being “harassed,”
Judge Ungaro said the term takes on a different meaning for animals
held in captivity, since the law is designed to conserve species in
the wild along with their ecosystems.
The judge took note of the complaints about Lolita’s living
conditions, including the small size of her tank, harassment by
white-sided dolphins that live with her and the lack of shade or
other protection from the weather. But those aren’t conditions to
be judged under the ESA, she said.
“Thus, while in a literal sense the conditions and injuries of
which plaintiffs complain are within the ambit of the ordinary
meaning of ‘harm’ and ‘harass,’ it cannot be said that they rise to
the level of grave harm that is required to constitute a ‘take’ by
a licensed exhibitor under the ESA,” she wrote.
Judge Ungaro also cited statements made by NMFS in response to
comments from people who want to see Lolita released into a sea pen
or possibly into open waters. Such a release, “could itself
constitute a ‘take’ under Section 9(a)(1) of the act,” she said,
“The NMFS noted concerns arising from disease transmission
between captive and wild stocks; the ability of released animals to
adequately forage for themselves; and behavioral patterns developed
in captivity impeding social integration and affecting the social
behavior of wild animals,” the judge wrote.
Jared Goodman, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said the judge
needlessly applied a separate definition of “harassment” to captive
versus wild animals. Conditions at the aquarium are clearly
harassment for Lolita, he said, and the Endangered Species Act
should provide the needed protection.
The Animal Welfare Act, which should require humane treatment
for captive animals, is long out of date and needs to be revised
based on current knowledge about marine mammals, he said.
The same plaintiffs filed a new lawsuit in May against the
Department of Agriculture for issuing a new operating license to
Miami Seaquarium without adequately considering the conditions in
which Lolita is being kept. Previously, a court ruled that the
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service acted properly when it
renewed the license for Miami Seaquarium each year, because the law
does not require an inspection for an ongoing permit.
That is not the case with a new license, which was required when
the Miami Seaquarium came under new ownership as the result of a
stock merger in 2014, according to the lawsuit. Federal inspectors
should have reviewed the legal requirements to certify that
Lolita’s tank and other facilities met the standards before issuing
a new license, Jared said. According to documents he obtained
through public disclosure requests, it appears that the federal
agency simply “rubber-stamped” its previous approvals, he said,
adding that a formal review would show that the aquarium in
violation of animal welfare rules.
As the legal battles go on, it is difficult to see how Lolita is
any closer to being “retired” to a sea pen in Puget Sound where she
was born, although Howard Garrett of Orca Network and other
supporters have developed a plan for Lolita’s return and even have
a specific site picked out. See “Proposal
to Retire the Orca Lolita.” (PDF 3.5 mb).
Meanwhile, with SeaWorld’s announcement
that it will no longer breed killer whales or force orcas to
perform for an audience, a new group called The Whale Sanctuary
Project is looking for sites to relocate whales and dolphins that
might be released. The project has received a pledge of at least $1
million from Munchkin, Inc., a baby product company. For details,
check out the group’s website and a
press release announcing the effort. I should point out that
SeaWorld officials say they won’t release any animals.