Tomorrow is the annual Ways of Whales Workshop on Whidbey
Island, a chance to enjoy the company of top-level whale experts,
careful observers of marine mammals and people inspired by
Tickets will be available at the door. Go to
“Ways of Whales Workshop” for the schedule and details, such as
lunch and the post-workshop gathering at Captain Whidbey Inn.
For those who cannot attend, Orca Network is planning to stream
the event live on the Internet. Connect with the
Livestream network to join the event via computer.
In addition to speakers providing the latest information about
orcas, humpbacks and other species, Howard Garrett of Orca Network
will discuss progress in the long-running effort to return Lolita,
or Tokitae, from the Miami Seaquarium to her original home in the
For this blog post at least, I will go with Howie’s suggestion
that we call the whale “Toki.” “Tokitae” was the first name she was
given, and Howie says her trainers and staff in Miami shortened
that to “Toki.”
“She is accustomed to being called ‘Toki,’ so now with
indications that a combination of changing public attitudes,
questionable revenue prospects and legal developments may actually
bring her home some day soon, ‘Toki’ sounds fitting and proper,”
Howie wrote in a recent email to supporters.
A lawsuit involving Toki is scheduled for trial in May, although
the date could change. The lawsuit claims that keeping her in
captivity is a violation of the Endangered Species Act. If you
recall, she was listed as a member of the endangered Southern
Resident pods following a legal dispute with the federal government
— but so far that determination has been of little consequence.
The latest lawsuit will consider, at least in part, the plan to
return Toki to the San Juan Islands, where she would be kept in an
open net pen until she can be reunited with her family. If a
reunion does not work out, she would be cared for under better
conditions than in a confined tank for the rest of her life, or so
the plan goes.
It came as a surprise when Howie told me that attorneys for the
Miami Seaquarium plan to visit the exact site in the San Juan
Islands where Toki would be taken. One argument will consider which
location — a tank in Miami or natural waters of the San Juans —
would be more suitable for her health and well-being. Of course,
attorneys for the Seaquarium will argue that she has done well
enough for the past 40 years, so leave her alone.
Howie said he is hopeful that efforts by the investment firm
Arle Capital to sell off the company that owns Miami Seaquarium
(Spain’s Parques Reunidos) will help with the cause to return Toki
to Puget Sound. (See
Reuters report.) Perhaps the whale’s value has diminished as an
investment, encouraging corporate owners to try something new?
It’s turning out to be a good Christmas for the Skokomish
watershed in southern Hood Canal, where numerous restoration
projects recently received a green light.
Restoring the Skokomish River ecosystem is often regarded as
essential to restoring Hood Canal to a healthy condition. Work over
the past 10 years has reduced sediment coming from the Olympic
Mountains, improved flow conditions in the river and restored tidal
mixing and native vegetation in the vast Skokomish estuary.
Continuing efforts — including a new
fish-passage facility in the North Fork of the Skokomish — are
contributing to an increase in species diversity and improved
The latest news involves future restoration efforts, including
an award of five grants totaling $1.4 million from the state’s
Recovery Funding Board. In addition, top officials in the Army
Corps of Engineers have endorsed the long-awaited Skokomish River
Basin Ecosystem Restoration Plan, expected to cost about $20
“We are making solid progress on all fronts,” said Mike Anderson
of The Wilderness Society who serves as coordinator of the
Skokomish Watershed Action Team. The action team, which celebrated
its 10th anniversary this year, includes representatives of
federal, state and local agencies, the Skokomish Tribe,
environmental groups, business interests and area residents.
It has been rewarding for me to watch the coordinated efforts —
from the U.S. Forest Service working high up in the Olympic
Mountains to the Skokomish Tribe and Mason Conservation District
working on the tidelands of Hood Canal. For a history of the
struggle, please read my 2009 series “Taming the Skokomish.”
Part 1, the people;
Part 2, farming;
Part 3, logging;
Part 4, the restoration.
On a related note, the Forest Service recently announced that it
has completed its effort to remove unneeded logging roads and make
sure they no longer contribute sediment to nearby streams and the
Skokomish River. In all, more than 200 miles of roads have been
decommissioned over the past 20 years.
The Forest Service is now moving ahead with “vegetation
management” on some 4,500 acres of timberland in the Lower North
Fork and Lower South Fork of the Skokomish River. The project
involves commercial timber harvest and restoration treatments in an
effort to accelerate the return to old-growth conditions. See
Vegetation Management Project.
Dec. 14 letter (PDF 818 kb) from the Army’s chief of engineers
moves the Skokomish restoration project one step closer to
“The recommended plan provides restoration on a total of 277
acres in the study area and provides substantial benefits to
nationally significant resources,” states the letter from Lt. Gen.
Thomas Bostick. “In addition, the removal of the levee at the
confluence of the North and South Forks of the Skokomish River
provides significant benefits for upstream fish passage to an
approximate additional 40 miles of habitat in the South Fork
Skokomish River that is periodically inaccessible due to the lack
of water in the river channel adjacent to the confluence.”
Although the project names have been modified to stress
ecosystem functions, I reported on all five in
Water Ways a year ago:
Car body levee removal: This levee was built
with old cars at the confluence where the North Fork flows into the
mainstem of the Skokomish. Some 5,000 feet of the levee would be
removed. A small channel would be created to allow water from the
mainstem to flow into the North Fork and return at the existing
confluence. Large woody debris would help direct water into the
channel. Estimated cost: $7.5 million.
Large woody debris: Upstream of the confluence
with the North Fork, large woody debris would be installed. Large
clusters of trees with root wads, as well as some single trees,
would be placed between river mile 9 and 11, as measured from the
estuary in Hood Canal. Estimated cost: $3.2 million.
Setback levee at river mile 9: The existing
levee would be breached in four locations, and a new levee would be
built some 200 to 300 feet farther away. The levee would allow for
minor over-topping but would not increase the flood risk. Estimated
cost: $2.4 million.
Grange levee: Larger breeches are planned for
the levee near the Grange hall at river mile 7.5 to 8, compared to
the levee at river mile 9. A new levee, up to 10 feet tall and
2,900 feet long, would be constructed 1,200 feet farther back with
no increase in flood risk. Locations are still under discussion.
Estimate cost $3.3 million.
Side channel connection near Highway 101: An
old remnant channel between river mile 4 and 5.6 would be restored
to take water from the mainstem at high flows. Woody debris would
help define the inlet and outlet to the channel, which would become
a ponded wetland at low flows. Estimated cost: $3.1 million.
If approved by Congress, the federal government would pay 65
percent of the cost, with 35 percent coming from state and local
The ecosystem investigation by the Army Corps of Engineers also
identified other worthy projects that did not qualify for funding
through the Corps. Some of those projects are being funneled
through other state and federal programs. Projects recently
approved by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board:
Reconnecting Weaver Creek, $200,000: A new
750-foot channel will connect a stagnant portion of Weaver Creek to
the free-flowing Purdy Creek, and about 25 logs will be installed.
In addition to improved flows, the project will boost oxygen levels
in the stream. The sponsor, Mason Conservation District, will
contribute $153,000 from a separate federal grant.
South Fork Logjams, $225,000: Twenty-two
man-made logjams will be added to the Holman Flats area in the
South Fork of the Skokomish River to create salmon habitat, reduce
sediment flows and stabilize the stream channel. This area was once
cleared for a reservoir that was never built, resulting in excess
sediment that destroys salmon spawning beds. The sponsor, Mason
Conservation District, will contribute $469,000 from a separate
Logjam priorities in Upper South Fork,
$305,000: Mason Conservation District will study a 12-mile stretch
of the Upper South Fork of the Skokomish to develop a prioritized
list of the best places to install future logjams. Logjams are
designed to improve fish habitat, reduce sediment movement and
stabilize stream banks. The conservation district will contribute
$54,000 and labor.
Logjam designs for Skokomish, $265,000: Mason
Conservation District will work with landowners to select a design
for logjams on a 1.6-mile stretch of the Skokomish River that lacks
shoreline structure. The conservation district will contribute
$47,000 in donations of equipment.
Concepts for moving Skokomish Valley Road,
$363,000: Moving the road away from the South Fork of the Skokomish
River would allow for the removal of levees, restoration of the
river banks and reconnection of the river to about 60 acres of
floodplain. This project would investigate possible locations for a
new road as well as the possible addition of a meander to the river
channel and the removal or relocation of a bridge over Vance Creek.
The sponsor, Mason Conservation District, will contribute $64,000
from a separate federal grant.
Japanese whalers recently returned to the Antarctic with a new
plan to kill 333 minke whales for scientific research, defying
official positions of many countries throughout the world.
Japan called off the annual whaling program for one year after
the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s commercial
whaling operation failed to meet the basic requirements of
scientific research. Japan had been using an exemption for research
to get around a ban on whaling under international treaty.
Japan submitted a new “research” plan for this year’s whaling,
but the document has yet to receive any official sanction. In fact,
Japan’s return to the Southern Ocean has been condemned by at least
33 government leaders.
Russell F. Smith II, U.S. commissioner to the International
Whaling Commission, said the U.S. government does not believe it is
necessary to kill whales to carry out scientific research
consistent with objectives of the IWC. Two key IWC committees have
raised serious questions about Japan’s whaling program, he
“Japan has decided to proceed with the hunt without addressing
several significant issues raised in their reports,” Smith said in
statement. “One of the key issues raised during both the Expert
Panel and SC (Scientific Committee) meetings was that Japan had not
justified the need for lethal whaling to carry out its research.
Unfortunately, rather than giving itself time to modify its
research program to fully address these issues, Japan has decided
to restart its program now.”
Japan’s plan for whaling this winter (summer in the Southern
Hemisphere) is to kill 333 minke whales, down from 935 minkes in
plans for previous years. In this new plan, the Japanese government
has not sanctioned the killing of humpback or fin whales, for which
the previous goal was 50 of each.
Although the Japanese government has declared that an annual
harvest of 333 minke whales is sustainable, the International
Whaling Commission has not approved the whale hunt nor even begun
discussing possible quotas or how any harvest, if approved, would
be allocated among other countries.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government has informed the United
Nations that it will no longer submit to the jurisdiction of the
International Court of Justice for “any dispute arising out of,
concerning, or relating to research on, or conservation, management
or exploitation of, living resources of the sea.” See story,
Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 19, 2015.
Australia, which brought the international lawsuit against
Japan, is now considering another round in the legal battle. The
effort could put Japan back in the spotlight, even though success
would be unlikely if Japan spurns the court’s jurisdiction,
according to reports in the
Sydney Morning Herald on Dec. 8, 2015.
Australian courts also ruled against the Japanese whalers for
violating protection provisions within the Australian Whale
Sanctuary around Antarctica, although Japan does not recognize
Australia’s jurisdiction. The whaling company, Kyodo Senpaku
Kaisha, was fined $1 million (in Australian dollars) for contempt
of an injunction against killing Minke whales within the
Other countries have joined the overall opposition to Japanese
whaling. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said his country’s
ambassador to Tokyo delivered a “strong” formal message to Japan
from 33 countries. Read the statement on the
New Zealand Embassy’s webpage.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which directly interfered
with the movements of Japanese whaling ships in past years, may
take a more low-key role on whaling this year. The organization’s
ships have become involved in new campaigns to halt poaching of
other species, including the endangered toothfish in Antarctic
news release Oct. 13, 2015.
Sea Shepherd’s U.S. affiliate was enjoined by the U.S. courts
from interfering with the whaling operations, but Sea Shepherd
Australia continued the high-seas battles, as featured in the
television series “Whale Wars”
on Animal Planet.
Now, the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin, which was undergoing
repairs in Melbourne, Australia, is headed into the Southern Ocean
on its second campaign against toothfish poaching. Alex
Cornelissen, CEO of Sea Shepherd Global, says new battles against
the Japanese whalers are not out of the question.
“Sea Shepherd is an anti-poaching organization,” Cornelissen
said in a
news release. “We are ready to find, document, report on and
where possible intervene against poaching operations that threaten
the precious balance of life in the Southern Ocean; whatever form
those poachers might take, whatever life they threaten.
“If Sea Shepherd comes across criminal activity, then our
history speaks for itself,” he added. “We will, as always, directly
intervene to prevent that crime from taking place.”
Sea Shepherd U.S., which was thwarted in direct action by the
courts, has now filed a counterclaim in those same U.S. Courts,
hoping to get a legal injunction against the Japanese government
for its whaling activities. The legal campaign is called
“Operation Ultimate Justice.”
“For years, Sea Shepherd took direct action against the whalers
on the seas, saving one whale at a time from the Japanese
harpoons,” said Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson. “But if we are to
bring the illegal slaughter to an end once and for all, we cannot
simply defeat the Japanese whalers on the water; we need to defeat
them in the courts.”
In 50 years, Puget Sound residents will see mostly the same
plants and animals they see today, but some changes can be
expected. Our favorite species may disappear from places where they
are now common.
Climate change is expected to bring higher temperatures, shifts
in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels and ocean
acidification. Some species will no doubt cope where they are. Some
will not. Some could move to more hospitable locales, perhaps
farther north or to higher elevations in the mountains.
“There are going to be some winners and some losers,” research
biologist Correigh Greene told me. His comment seemed to sum up the
situation nicely, and I used this quote in the final installment of
a three-part series I wrote for the
Puget Sound Institute and the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.
What stands out in my mind is how Puget Sound’s food web could
be disrupted in unexpected ways. For example, tiny shelled
organisms — key prey for many fish species — are already dying
because they cannot form healthy shells. And that’s just one effect
of ocean acidification.
The observations mentioned in my story and in the report itself
come from a variety of experts who understand the needs of various
species — from those that live in the water to those dependent on
snow in the mountains. What will actually happen on the ground
depends on many variables — from the buildup of greenhouse gases to
changing trends such as El Nino.
As things are going, it appears that this year will be the
warmest on record. The global average surface temperature is
expected to reach the symbolic milestone of 1 degree Celsius above
the pre-industrial era, according to the World Meteorological
Organization. The years 2011 through 2015 have been the warmest
five-year period on record, with many extreme weather events
influenced by climate change, according to a
five-year analysis by WMO.
The new report from the Climate Impacts Group discusses various
scenarios based on total emissions of greenhouse gases. High
scenarios presume that emissions will continue as they are now. Low
scenarios presume that people will dramatically reduce emissions.
What will actually happen is unpredictable at this time.
Greenhouse gas emissions are used to predict carbon dioxide
concentrations in the atmosphere, ultimately pushing up the average
global temperature. The first graph below shows the range of annual
emissions (in gigatons of carbon) depicted by the various
scenarios. The next graph shows how the emissions translate into
atmospheric concentration. One can take any of the scenarios and
see how the levels translate into temperatures at the end of the
century. For a more complete explanation, go to page 19 of the
report, where these graphs can be found.
Five years ago, I could not have predicted that Washington state
would end up in a serious conflict with the federal government over
water-quality standards to protect people’s health. But it has
happened, and there’s no clear resolution in sight.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency will hold a “virtual
hearing” on this issue in December. Read on for details, but let me
first provide some recent history.
In November 2010, I wrote about the Department of Ecology’s
newest undertaking, as the agency embarked on an effort to define
“how clean is clean” in protecting public health in state waters.
Water Ways Nov. 4, 2010, and also
Kitsap Sun Nov. 2, 2010.
It was obvious at the time that the state would need to increase
its existing fish-consumption rate of 6.5 grams per day — a key
factor in the formula used to calculate the allowable concentration
of toxic chemicals in the water. After much discussion and delay,
the state eventually proposed a rate of 175 grams per day — 27
times higher than the existing rate.
The controversy arrived when the state proposed a cancer risk
rate of one in 100,000 — a risk 10 times higher than the existing
rate of one in a million. The higher cancer risk rate would
somewhat offset the effect of the much higher fish-consumption
rate. Other factors were changed as well, as I described in the
second of a two-part series in the
Kitsap Sun, March 11, 2015.
When Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state’s newly proposed
standards, he also proposed new legislation to study and reduce the
sources of toxic chemicals of greatest concern. The Legislation
failed to gain enough support for passage during the past
The governor has since pulled back from the original proposal
and agreed to return to a cancer risk rate of one in a million. A
new proposal is expected to be announced after the first of the
year, Meanwhile, the EPA is moving forward with its own proposal,
probably more stringent than what we’ll see from the state. I
outlined the likely differences in
Water Ways on Oct. 8.
On Dec. 15 and 16, the EPA will hold what it’s calling a
“virtual hearing” on the proposed water-quality criteria that the
agency developed for Washington state. The web-based call-in format
is designed to save considerable money, according to Erica Slicy,
contact for the event. Given interest across the state, multiple
in-person hearings in numerous locations would be needed to
accomplish what two phone-in hearings can do, she said.
People will be able to watch the virtual hearing and/or testify
registering on EPA’s website. The event will be recorded and
transcribed so that people will be able to review the comments
later. Written comments will be taken until Dec. 28.
If the state comes up with proposed water-quality standards, as
expected, the EPA could put the federal proposal on hold while the
state’s proposal undergoes considerable scrutiny. Meanwhile, I’m
sure supporters of the more stringent standards — such as Indian
tribes and environmental groups — will continue to be frustrated by
As the new report describes, increased flooding, more frequent
landslides and decreased salmon runs are likely, along with
declines in some native species and increases in others. We are
likely to see more successful invasions by nonnative species, while
summer drought could cause more insect damage to forests and more
“When you look at the projected changes, it’s dramatic,” said
lead author Guillaume Mauger in a
news release. “This report provides a single resource for
people to look at what’s coming and think about how to adapt.”
The report includes examples of communities taking actions to
prepare for climate change, such as merging flood-management
districts to prepare for increased flooding in King County and
designing infrastructure to contend with rising sea levels in other
“In the same way that the science is very different from the
last report in 2005, I think the capacity and willingness to work
on climate change is in a completely different place,” Mauger
Sheida Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound
Partnership, said the people of Puget Sound must be prepared for
changes that have already begun.
“To protect Puget Sound, we need to plan for the ever-increasing
impacts of climate change,” she said in a
news release. “This report helps us better understand the very
real pressures we will face over the coming decades. The effects of
climate change impact every part of what we consider necessary for
a healthy Puget Sound: clean water, abundant water quantity, human
wellbeing, and a Puget Sound habitat that can support our native
Work to compile the report was funded by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency via the Puget Sound Institute at UW Tacoma, the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the state of
The report will become part of the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound,
where my climate-change stories will reside after publication over
the next three weeks. I’m currently working part-time for the Puget
Sound Institute, which publishes the encyclopedia and is affiliated
with the University of Washington — Tacoma.
For other news stories about the report, check out:
Measuring the progress of Puget Sound restoration is a very
difficult thing to do.
Millions of dollars have been spent to restore streams,
wetlands, estuaries and shorelines. Millions more have been spent
to improve stormwater systems and to clean up contaminated
At the same time, billions of dollars have been spent by
commercial and residential developers in the Puget Sound region.
The results are ongoing changes to the landscape and unknown
alterations to ecosystems.
In the overall scheme of things, are we taking two steps forward
and one step back, or is it two steps back and one step
Puget Sound Partnership’s biennial “State of the Sound Report,”
released this week, attempts to tell us how things are going in the
effort to restore Puget Sound to a healthy condition. Progress is
being made in restoring habitat, according to a
news release about the report, but “measures for chinook
salmon, Southern Resident Killer Whales, herring and other native
species show a decline, and local improvements in water quality
still don’t add up to improvements at the regional scale.”
“These mixed results are the reality of working in a complex
ecosystem that is under tremendous pressures right now,” said
Sheida Sahandy, the partnership’s executive director. “It’s why we
need to make smart, timely investments in our partners’ hard work
to restore and protect habitat, prevent stormwater pollution and
reopen shellfish beds,”
Puget Sound Partnership has developed 37 ecosystem indicators
for tracking progress. They are organized under 21 categories
called the Puget Sound “vital signs.” If you want understand the
latest information, you must look to the new “Report on the
Puget Sound Vital Signs (PDF 9.9 mb).
Four indicators are meeting — or nearly meeting — regionally
identified targets, including those related to inventorying septic
systems, slowing forest loss, and two measurements showing
improvements in the quality of marine sediment.
All indicators for habitat restoration are making incremental
None of the indicators for species or food-web health are
While there has been local-level progress in some indicators,
the results do not add up to regional progress. For example, while
marine water quality is relatively good in some bays (making them
safe for harvesting shellfish and for swimming), other bays have
very poor water quality and are not meeting standards.
I believe these vital signs can help us understand the functions
of the Puget Sound ecosystem and give us an idea about the progress
in restoration. I even used them as a broad outline for my two-year
investigation into the health of Puget Sound and the species found
in the region. If you haven’t done so, I urge you to take a look at
the series, “Taking
the Pulse of Puget Sound.”
At the same time, these 37 indicators often fail to capture many
of the nuances of Puget Sound health, such as species distribution,
population dynamics and primary productivity — all aspects of
Southern Resident killer whales, for example, are now fewer than
when the ecosystem indicators were approved. That could be related
to the number of chinook salmon — the orca’s primary prey — which
also are in decline. But what are the problems facing the chinook?
Lack of spawning habitat? Increased predation by seals and other
marine mammals? Not enough forage fish, such as herring, surf smelt
and sand lance? In turn, what is limiting the growth of the forage
fish populations? The amount or right type of plankton to eat,
spawning habitat, predation, or something else?
It is often said that the ongoing development of Puget Sound is
damaging the ecosystem faster than it is being restored. But I have
not seen convincing evidence to show which way things are going.
The vital signs indicators are not adequate to answer this
question. Lagging indicators — especially population counts — don’t
tell the whole story. But one thing is certain: Without the
investment we have all made in Puget Sound restoration, conditions
would be far worse than they are today.
Over the past few years, the Puget Sound Partnership is getting
better at establishing priorities that will make the most
difference. But it is still mind-boggling to think of the number of
places that have been degraded over 150 years of development, all
needing work to bring things back to a functioning part of the
Puget Sound ecosystem.
Getting the priorities right and getting everyone working
together is an enormous challenge. Coordination must involve
federal, state, tribal and local governments, private businesses
and conservation groups. That was why the Legislature created the
Puget Sound Partnership and issued a special mandate. It seems to
me that the people leading the restoration effort understand their
It was nice to see a recognition of this coordination problem by
U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer and Denny Heck, who introduced the Save Our
Sound Act, designed to coordinate federal actions with those of the
Puget Sound Partnership, which tries to involve all segments of
society. This SOS bill is now supported by all of Washington
state’s congressional delegation. Check out a
summary of the bill on Heck’s congressional website; read the
story by Tristan Baurick in the
Kitsap Sun; or review the op-ed
piece by Heck and Kilmer in The News Tribune.
The role of local governments in the restoration effort cannot
be over-stated. As restoration continues, damage from ongoing
development must be limited. Concepts of “no net loss” and
“best-management practices” are important — but the key is to
locate development where it will do the least ecosystem damage,
then use construction techniques that will cause the least
disruption of ecological functions.
Breakthroughs in scientific understanding and new solutions to
old problems can make a big difference. Jen McIntyre of Washington
State University finally published her findings about the effects
of stormwater on coho salmon. More importantly, she and her
colleagues revealed how to solve the problem by filtering the
stormwater through compost — or essentially the natural material
found on the forest floor. The study was published in the Journal
of Applied Ecology (PDF 338 kb).
Development regulations by local government have always been a
weak link in the effort to restore Puget Sound. I have been
discouraged by the lack of progress in some cities and counties. In
the face of uncertain science, it has been too easy for local
officials to do the minimum required by state government then turn
around and blame the state when local residents complain about the
higher costs of development.
On the other hand, I am encouraged that more and more local
officials are taking scientific studies to heart, learning how to
judge scientific uncertainty and taking actions to help save the
ecosystem. Stormwater regulations have been a bitter pill to
swallow for many local officials, but creative approaches, such as
I described in the
“Pulse” series could be one of the best things that local
government can do. Another major role of local government is to
protect and restore shorelines, about which I will have more to say
in the near future. (“Water
Ways, Aug. 15, 20115.)
Overall, when I see the beauty of Puget Sound and consider the
combined energy of thousands of people who really care about this
waterway, I can’t help but remain optimistic that the effort to
save Puget Sound is on the right track.
Beards Cove Community Organization and Newberry Hill Heritage
Park Stewards are this year’s winners of the Hood Canal
Environmental Achievement Awards.
The awards, sponsored by the Hood Canal Coordinating Council,
recognize people and groups that have taken actions and fostered
relationships to improve the health of the Hood Canal
The 500 property owners in the Beards Cove community were
credited with developing relationships with Great Peninsula
Conservancy and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to
restore an estuary near the Union River on the North Shore of Hood
The Beards Cove Restoration Project completes the final segment
of 1.7 miles of unbroken saltmarsh along the shoreline. The project
removed 45,000 cubic yards of fill, derelict structures and a
septic system. The work included reconfiguring the shoreline and
planting the area with native vegetation, all to enhance salmon
The Beards Cove project was described in a
Kitsap Sun story by Arla Shepherd Bull and in a
Water Ways blog entry I wrote about the history of the Beards
Cove development leading to the need for restoration.
Stewards working to improve Newberry Hill Heritage Park are
protecting fish and wildlife in the area, which includes the
Anderson Creek watershed, which drains to Hood Canal. The group
built a fence to protect a beaver dam, which provides habitat for
coho and other fish, along with a foot bridge that maintains access
to a flooded trail. The group helped develop a forest-management
plan to restore ecological health to the park. Members are known
for expanding their knowledge about forests, streams and
The awards will be presented Friday at a conference that will
celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Hood Canal Coordinating
Council. Speakers will include Donna Simmons, one of the council’s
founders who will describe the history of the organization. U.S.
Rep. Derek Kilmer will discuss his Save Our Sound legislation and
how to move forward with ecosystem restoration. I will contribute
to the discussion by talking about my reporting career as it
relates to Hood Canal.
The event will be held at Lucky Dog Casino Event Center. Those
who would like to attend should contact Robin Lawlis at the
coordinating council, (360) 394-0046 or email@example.com. For
information, check the fact
sheet on the HCCC’s website.
The Hood Canal Coordinating
Council was established in 1985 to improve the water quality of
Hood Canal. It has expanded its mission to include improving the
ecological health of the canal. The group is made up of the county
commissioners in Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties along with
the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Skokomish tribes.
Individuals with an interest in recreation and protecting the
environment are needed to help determine how millions of dollars in
state and federal grants are spent on projects related to habitat
restoration, farmland preservation, parks and outdoor
It is easy to overlook these various advisory committees that
evaluate projects proposed for grants each year. I often report on
the outcome of the grant decisions without describing the process
of evaluation, recommendation and listing by the Recreation and
Conservation Funding Board.
Volunteers play a vital role in understanding the proposals,
ranking them and making them better. They can also take part in
determining overall board policies used in the approval — such as a
current proposal to change policies related to farmland, trails and
changes to property-acquisition projects. See “Policies and
Rulemaking” on the website of the Recreation and Conservation
Office. For this round, comments are due by tomorrow.
Volunteers with special knowledge and abilities are always
needed, but average citizens also have a role to play in these
decisions. Information about duties and becoming a volunteer can be
found on RCO’s “Advisory
Committees” webpage. These volunteer positions are unpaid
except for travel expenses when money is available.
The RCO is looking to fill positions on nine advisory
committees, which will begin working on the next round of grants in
the spring and summer of next year. Applications are due by Oct. 30
for the following positions, which are four-year appointments.
The first group addresses grants in the Washington
Wildlife and Recreation Program:
Local Parks: One local government official and
two citizen volunteers are needed to focus on grants related to
acquiring, developing and renovating local parks.
Habitat Restoration: One citizen volunteer is
needed to focus on grants relating to buying and restoring
shorelines and state-owned land. The volunteer should be familiar
with the subject.
Trails: A volunteer is needed to address grants
to buy, develop and renovate non-motorized trails. An interest in
regional trails is important.
Water Access: One citizen and two local
government volunteers are needed to discuss grants related to
improving access for nonmotorized, water-related recreation.
Farmland Preservation: Two citizen volunteers
are needed to consider grants related to maintaining working farms.
Volunteers should be farmers who actively manage farms or
State Parks: One local government volunteer is
needed to help prioritize grants for buying and developing state
parks. A statewide perspective on parks and recreation is
State Land Development and Renovation: One
citizen volunteer and three local government volunteers are needed
to address grants for developing or renovating outdoor recreation
facilities on state land. A statewide perspective on parks and
recreation is important.
Other grant programs:
Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account: One citizen
and two local government volunteers are needed to deal with grants
to buy and improve shorelines for public use. The citizen volunteer
should be familiar with aquatic lands restoration or protection,
while the local government volunteers should be familiar with
recreation and public access interests.
Land and Water Conservation Fund: Two citizen
and three local government volunteers are needed to work with this
federal funding program, which provides grants to preserve and
develop parks, trails and wildlife lands. Congress failed to
reinstate this popular program before it expired under federal law,
but there is considerable political pressure to keep it going. The
committee will evaluate proposals in case Congress acts. The money
comes from oil and gas leases on federal lands.
If you have questions not answered on the website, you
can contact Lorinda Anderson by phone at (360) 902-3009 or TTY
(360) 902-1996 or by email.
UPDATE, Oct. 2, 2015
The Navy has released its
final environmental impact statement on Northwest testing and
training operations. The document does not consider an option for
avoiding “biologically significant areas” when using sonar or
explosives, as in the legal settlement for operations in California
and Hawaii. It is yet to be seen whether National Marine Fisheries
Service will add new restrictions when issuing permits for
incidental “take” under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Here is
news release (PDF 548 kb).
A legal agreement approved this week to limit the Navy’s use of
sonar and explosives in “biologically important areas” of Southern
California and Hawaii represents a “sea change” in the Navy’s
protection of marine mammals, says Michael Jasny of the Natural
Resources Defense Council.
Encouraged by the cooperative effort to reach an out-of-court
settlement with the Navy, Michael said the deal could have
implications for future Navy activities in the Northwest and
throughout the country.
The NRDC and seven other environmental groups filed suit over
Navy plans to train with sonar and explosives in Southern
California and Hawaii with no specific geographic limitations. The
environmental groups argued that one good way to reduce injury and
death to marine mammals is to avoid areas where large numbers of
whales and dolphins congregate to feed, socialize and
A federal judge ruled in favor of the environmental groups,
saying “it makes no sense” for the Navy to insist that its training
exercises require the use every square mile of ocean. The ruling
drew the Navy into settlement negotiations.
“This settlement resulted from a constructive good-faith effort
on all sides,” Michael Jasny told me by phone. “That, in itself,
represents a real change in the way the Navy has interacted with
the conservation community. It took litigation to create this
window of opportunity to advance policy to be consistent with
Michael said research by the Navy and other groups has shown how
marine mammals are killed and injured by Navy sonar and explosives.
As the science has evolved, so have the tools to reduce impacts —
such as maps showing where marine mammals hang out, maps that can
help the Navy reduce its harm to many species.
Michael said it has been shameful to watch the National Marine
Fisheries Service — the agency charged with protecting marine
mammals — stand by and issue permits that allow the Navy to do
whatever it wants. Now, he added, the negotiations between the Navy
and environmental groups provide a blueprint for how NMFS can
better live up to its mission of protecting marine mammals.
“Frankly, after years of fighting about these issues, we are
seeing folks on both sides very willing to find solutions,” Michael
said. “Folks on the Navy side have generally been willing to come
to the table. The Navy would not have entered into this agreement
if it believed these measures prevented it from achieving their
military readiness objective.”
For its part, the Navy tends to downplay the significance of
this week’s settlement.
“After a federal court ruled in favor of plaintiffs’ claims, the
Navy faced the real possibility that the court would stop
critically important training and testing,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matt
Knight, spokesman for the Pacific Fleet. “Instead, NMFS and the
Navy negotiated in good faith with the plaintiffs over five months
to reach this agreement.”
In a written statement, Knight said the Navy’s existing
protective measures are “significant” and the agreement increases
restrictions in select areas. Those restrictions will remain in
place until the current permit expires on Dec. 24, 2018.
“It is essential that sailors have realistic training at sea
that fully prepares them to prevail when and where necessary with
equipment that has been thoroughly tested,” Knight said in the
statement. “This settlement agreement preserves critically
important testing and training.”
In an email, I asked the Navy spokesman how the agreement might
translate into special protections in other areas, particularly the
Northwest where we know that Navy ships cross paths with many
different kinds of whales and dolphins. His answer was somewhat
“The Navy continues to work with NMFS to develop necessary and
appropriate measures to protect marine mammals,” he wrote back.
“The Navy’s current protective measures afford significant
protections to marine mammals. That said, the Navy will not
prejudge what measures will be appropriate to address future
The Navy is about to complete an environmental impact statement
that outlines the effects of its testing and training operations in
Puget Sound and along the Washington Coast. In comments on the
draft EIS and proposed permit, environmental groups again called
attention to the need to restrict operations in places where large
numbers of marine mammals can be found. For example, one letter
signed by 18 conservation groups addresses the operational details
in the Northwest Training and Testing Range:
“Despite the vast geographic extent of the Northwest Training
and Testing Study Area, the Navy and NMFS have neither proposed nor
adequately considered mitigation to reduce activities in
biologically important marine mammal habitat. Virtually all of the
mitigation that the Navy and NMFS have proposed for acoustic
impacts boils down to a small safety zone around the sonar vessel
or impulsive source, maintained primarily with visual monitoring by
onboard lookouts, with aid from non-dedicated aircraft (when in the
vicinity) and passive monitoring (through vessels’ generic sonar
“The NMFS mitigation scheme disregards the best available
science on the ineffectiveness of visual monitoring to prevent
impacts on marine mammals. Indeed, the species perhaps most
vulnerable to sonar-related injuries, beaked whales, are among the
most difficult to detect because of their small size and diving
behavior. It has been estimated that in anything stronger than a
light breeze, only one in fifty beaked whales surfacing in the
direct track line of a ship would be sighted. As the distance
approaches 1 kilometer, that number drops to zero. The agency’s
reliance on visual observation as the mainstay of its mitigation
plan is therefore profoundly insufficient and misplaced.”
Even before this week’s out-of-court settlement, environmental
groups were urging the Navy and NMFS to delay completion of the EIS
until they fairly evaluate new studies about the effects of sonar,
explosives and sound on marine mammals. Measures to protect whales
and other animals should include restrictions within biologically
important areas, they say.
This week’s out-of-court settlement included limitations on the
use of sonar and explosives in the BIAs of Southern California and
Hawaii. For details, check out the
signed order itself (PDF 1.5 mb) with associated maps,
or read the summary in news releases by
Earthjustice. Not all BIAs that have been identified are
getting special protection under the agreement.
Biologically important areas for whales, dolphins and porpoises
include places used for reproduction, feeding and migration, along
with limited areas occupied by small populations of residents. For
a list of identified BIAs, go to NOAA’s Cetacean
and Sound Mapping website. For additional details, see NOAA’s
release on the subject.
Michael Jasny said he is encouraged with the Navy’s
acknowledgement that it can adequately conduct testing and training
exercises while abiding by restrictions in specified geographic
areas. He hopes the Navy uses the same logic to protect marine
mammals on the East Coast, including Virginia where seismic
exploration increases the risk; portions of the Gulf of Mexico; the
Gulf of Alaska; the Mariana Islands; and, of course, the Pacific
Zak Smith, an NRDC attorney involved with Northwest sonar
issues, said the settlement in California and Hawaii should
encourage the National Marine Fisheries Service to apply the same
mitigation to testing and training to waters in Washington, Oregon,
California and Alaska.
“I would hope when they come out with a final rule that the
Fisheries Service would have engaged with the kind of management
approach that we did in the settlement,” he said. “The Fisheries
Service and the Navy should sit down and review biologically
significant areas against the Navy’s training and testing
Clearly, if you read through the comments, environmental groups
are dismayed about the Navy’s potential harm to marine mammals and
its failure to address the problem:
“The sonar and munitions training contemplated in the Navy’s
NWTT Draft Environmental Impact Statement is extensive and details
extraordinary harm to the Pacific Northwest’s marine resources….
Even using the Navy and NMFS’s analysis, which substantially
understates the potential effects, the activities would cause
nearly 250,000 biologically significant impacts on marine mammals
along the Washington, Oregon, Northern California, and Southern
Alaska coasts each year – more than 1.2 million takes during the
5-year life of a Marine Mammal Protection Act incidental take
I’m not sure it is necessary for me to point out that without
significant changes to the Navy’s current plans, we are likely to
see another lawsuit over routine testing and training