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
More than 20 years of removing and reconstructing old logging
roads in the Skokomish River watershed has finally paid off with
measurable improvement to water quality and habitat, according to
experts with Olympic National Forest where millions of dollars have
been spent on restoration.
The U.S. Forest Service this week declared that the upper South
Fork of the Skokomish is now a “properly functioning” watershed,
and the major road-restoration projects are complete.
After writing for years about horrendous problems with sediment
washing out of the upper watershed, this news comes as a nice
surprise. I’ve been hearing experts talk about water-quality
improvements, but this new declaration is a major milestone in the
restoration of the entire Skokomish River ecosystem.
“This is a proud and historic occasion for the Forest Service
and our many partners who have worked very hard for over two
decades to restore this once badly degraded watershed,” Reta
Laford, supervisor for Olympic National Forest, said in a
In 2012, Olympic National Forest designated the upper and middle
South Fork Skokomish sub-watersheds as “priority watersheds.“
Forest Service officials pushed forward with action plans
containing a list of restoration projects designed to put the
watersheds on a path to ecological health.
Completion of the key restoration projects in the upper South
Fork allowed for the new designation as a “properly functioning”
watershed. This marks the first time that any watershed in Olympic
National Forest has been upgraded due to completion of all
essential restoration projects. Watershed conditions and aquatic
habitat will continue to improve as natural processes roll on.
Restoration in the South Fork actually began in the early 1990s,
when the Forest Service acknowledged that the region was
criss-crossed by a damaging network of logging roads. At nearly
four miles of road for every fourone square mile of forest, it
was one of the densest tangles of roads in any national forest.
In 1994, the Forest Service designated the South Fork Skokomish
as a “key watershed” in the Northwest Forest Plan, which called for
major cutbacks in logging and received support from President Bill
Clinton. Between the early 1990s and 2005, Olympic National Forest
completed $10.6 million in restoration work, including $7.9 million
for road decommissioning, road stabilization and drainage
In 2005, the Skokomish Watershed Action Team (SWAT) was formed
among a coalition of more than 20 government agencies,
environmental organizations and business groups with diverse
interests. The SWAT developed a unified front for promoting
restoration projects and seeking funds. Members agreed that the
focus on roads should begin with the upstream segments, later
moving downstream, while other work was coordinated on the estuary
near Hood Canal. Much of the lower area was owned or acquired by
the Skokomish Tribe, a critical partner in the SWAT.
Between 2006 and 2015, the Forest Service continued with $13.2
million in restoration projects in the South Fork, including $10.9
million on road problems. In all, 91 miles of roads were
decommissioned, closed or converted to trails, and 85 miles of
roads were stabilized or improved with new culverts and drainage
Much of the road restoration work was funded by Congress through
the Forest Service’s Legacy Roads and Trails Program. Former U.S.
Rep. Norm Dicks was instrumental in creating that program, and
congressional support has continued under the leadership of Norm’s
successor, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, and U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and
Key funding for restoration also has come from the Forest
Stewardship program, which uses receipts from commercial timber
thinning on forest lands. Other financial support — especially in
the lower watershed — has come from the state’s Salmon Recovery
Funding Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2009, I wrote a story for “Wilderness” magazine
about how these programs were bringing “green jobs” to the
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed an
in-depth study of the river’s ecosystem last year and is now
seeking funding from Congress for a series of projects in the
watershed. Check out
Water Ways, April 28, 2016.
To celebrate this milestone for Olympic National Forest, the
SWAT will recognize the work at its general meeting Friday at the
Skokomish Grange Hall, 2202 W. Skokomish Valley Road. The meeting
begins at 9 a.m., and the public is invited.
Andy Nelson, who took over as Kitsap County’s public works
director two years ago, quickly proved his worth to the local
environment when he proposed federal funding for three major
One project begins with a proposed $350,000 study of South
Kitsap’s Burley Creek watershed — an important stream that probably
has never received the attention it deserves. The other projects
are in Silverdale and Hansville.
I stumbled on Kitsap County’s proposal for Burley Creek buried
within a U.S. Senate bill to authorize water-related projects
across the country — the same bill that would authorize the
$20-million Skokomish River ecosystem restoration in Mason County.
Water Ways, April 28.)
How did a relatively small Kitsap project find its way into a
massive public works bill? You could say it was because Andy was
aware of a congressional effort to seek out local partnerships with
the Army Corps of Engineers. That effort, which began in 2014, came
about in part as response to the elimination of old-fashioned
earmarks, by which members of Congress could promote their favorite
Andy came to Kitsap County after retiring from the Army Corps of
Engineers, where he held the rank of colonel and was deputy
commander for the South Pacific Division. That’s the Corps’
regional office for California and the other Southwest states. (See
County news release.)
“Kitsap County is a great place, and we chose to come here
because of Puget Sound and the nearby mountains,” Andy told me.
“With the amount of saltwater shorelines, I anticipated there would
be ongoing Army Corps work taking place in Kitsap County.”
In fact, there were no projects in Kitsap County proposed in
partnership with the Army Corps. The Corps had previously done
studies on Harper Estuary in South Kitsap and on Carpenter Creek in
North Kitsap, but funding was never available for the actual
Andy put his head together with staffers in Kitsap County Public
Works (his department) and the Department of Community Development.
They came up with three projects to be submitted to the Corps for
consideration. In the end — and to Andy’s great surprise — these
three Kitsap projects were the only ones submitted from Washington
state during the first year of the solicitation.
The Burley Creek project is one that Tim Beachy, an engineer for
Kitsap County Public Works, had been considering in a more limited
“We were looking at the replacement of a barrier culvert on
Bethel-Burley Road,” Tim told me. “It looked like a bridge upstream
on Fenton Road could be impacted by the culvert replacement, and
there was a private bridge upstream of that.”
A barrier culvert is one identified as blocking or impeding the
passage of salmon. Replacing a culvert can alter the grade of the
stream channel, affecting bridges and culverts upstream and/or
downstream and potentially leading to unanticipated consequences
for salmon migration.
It turns out that Burley Creek contains spawning beds used by
Puget Sound chinook and Puget Sound steelhead, both listed as
threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It also contains
important spawning and rearing habitat for other salmon
At Andy’s direction, a study was proposed to look at salmon
passage at four bridges in close proximity on Burley Creek, to
consider the effects of flooding and storm damage on the roads and
bridges, and to propose further actions that might reduce pollution
affecting shellfish downstream in Burley Lagoon.
County officials met with the Corps to discuss the idea. The
Corps accepted it as a worthwhile project and proposed it for
funding. Congress will have the final word on the study, which
would be done by the Corps. If the project moves to construction,
local and state funding — probably a 35 percent match — would be
The Burley Creek study requires congressional authorization
because it is somewhat unique and does not fit under the
“continuing authority” that allows the Corps to investigate issues
such as shoreline restoration, shoreline stabilization, ecosystem
restoration or navigation, Andy told me. The Corps does not have
authority to address water-quality projects per se.
The other two projects are still being evaluated, but they will
not need congressional approval since they fall under existing
authority of the Corps.
One would be a close look at Silverdale’s waterfront at the head
of Dyes Inlet, including Clear Creek and the pocket estuary near
Hop Jack’s and Silverdale Beach Hotel. The study would look at ways
to restore ecological processes and biological diversity, including
shorelines used by forage fish, salmon, resident and migratory
waterfowl, and diverse species found in both freshwater and tidal
marshes. The project would address stormwater alternatives and
consider ways to improve passive recreation.
The last project — which was actually the first in a letter to
the Corps — would involve the restoration of freshwater and
saltwater marsh habitats in and around Point No Point County Park.
The study would look at the longterm effects of sea-level rise,
including flood control and potential damage to houses, roads, park
facilities and the historic Point No Point Lighthouse. The project
could create a more natural setting and enhance intertidal
“Nothing prevents two or even all three of these projects from
competing for funds and getting funded,” Andy said. “We may
determine that the work is not for the Army Corps of Engineers, but
we could still use the science and engineering that comes out of
these studies. To get a Kitsap County creek in the (Water Resources
Development Act) is a big deal.”
I don’t believe I’ve ever written about alligators, probably
because they don’t live in the Northwest, and it’s not easy to find
their amusing side. But American alligators are interesting, once
you get to know them.
I’ve never noticed that alligators have two kinds of walks while
traveling on land. Their ankles flex in a different way than most
reptiles. There is a “high walk,” in which the alligator pushes
itself up from the ground and moves quickly. This walk resembles
that of four-legged mammals.
They also do the “low walk,” a sprawling locomotion in which
their belly slides along the ground, though somewhat different from
a salamander or lizard. Although they normally move slowly, some
alligators can reach nearly 10 miles per hour in the high walk
during short bursts.
Alligators are common in cartoons, both still and animated. Here
I feature a music video with the theme song of a musical group
based in Finland, Arnie
Alligator and the Jungle Drum. Among the many alligator
characters invented through the years is Wally Gator, a character
by Hanna-Barbera that I remember from my childhood. All the Wally
Gator cartoons can be seen on Kiss Cartoon.
In addition to cartoons, we find lots of alligators on T-shirts,
coffee mugs and other items, especially among students at the
University of Florida, where the mascot is the Gator.
A few alligator jokes:
Q: Why don’t alligators like fast food? A: Because they can’t catch it!
Q: What do you get if you cross an alligator
with a flower? A: I don’t know, but I’m not going to smell
Q: What do you call an alligator in a vest? A: An Investigator
Q: What do you call an alligator that sneaks up
and bites you from behind? A: A tail-gator.
Q: Why shouldn’t you taunt an alligator? A: Because it might come back to bite you in the
Customer: “Do you have alligator shoes?” Clerk: “Yes, sir. What size does your alligator
A man walked into a Florida bar with his alligator and asked the
bartender: “Do you serve lawyers here?” Bartender: “Sure.” Man: “Good. One beer for me and a lawyer for my
Q: Is it true an alligator won’t attack you if
you are carrying a flashlight? A: It depends on how fast you are carrying it.
Q: How do you tell the difference between a
crocodile and an alligator? A: You will see one later and one in a while.
Most of these jokes are from the website Jokes 4
Us, which probably picked them up from somewhere
Alligators continue to grow throughout their lifetime. Male
American alligators average 8 to 10 feet long, females slightly
smaller. Very old males can get up to 15 feet long.
Alligators are apex predators, eating fish, amphibians,
reptiles, birds, and mammals. But they have also been found to have
a vegetarian side. The can eat fruit directly from trees, including
wild grapes, elderberries and citrus fruits.
The temperature at which an alligator’s eggs develop will
determine whether the offspring are male or female. Temperatures
above 93 degrees will result in males. Temperatures below 86
degrees will result in females. Temperatures in-between produce
Alligators make a variety of sounds, although they have no
vocal cords. By blowing out air, they produce calls for claiming
territory, signaling distress, threatening competitors and finding
mates. Besides such bellowing, they can growl, hiss and make a
cough-like sound called a chumpf.
The Environmental Protection Agency has finally completed a new
rule that defines which waterways across the country fall under
federal jurisdiction for clean-water permits.
Enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act has been stuck in a
state of confusion since 2006, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled
that the Army Corps of Engineers was overreaching by requiring
permits for all sorts of waterways beyond the agency’s
jurisdiction. For background, check out my
Water Ways post from March 25, 2014, in which I describe the
court’s interpretation of “waters of the U.S.” — the key phrase in
The EPA requisitioned a scientific report about hydraulic
connectivity, concluding that even small streams can affect
downstream waters. The final language in the rule, designed to
reduce judgment calls by federal regulators, says tributaries would
come under federal jurisdiction only if capable of delivering
significant pollution downstream. Such tributaries would need to
have flowing water or related features — such as a streambed, bank
or high-water mark.
The rule has worried farmers, who want to make sure the federal
government does not try to regulate ditches designed for irrigation
and drainage. Language in the final rule says ditches will not be
regulated unless they are shown to be a remnant of a natural stream
that has been diverted or altered.
Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary for the Army, said the rule
represents a “new era” for the Clean Water Act. As she stated in a
“This rule responds to the public’s demand for greater clarity,
consistency, and predictability when making jurisdictional
determinations. The result will be better public service
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rule is grounded in
science and law. For downstream waters to be clean, upstream waters
also must be clean, she said.
McCarthy said the language was revised significantly since the
first proposal, taking into account more than a million public
comments and discussions in 400 meetings across the country. As she
told reporters in a telephone conference call:
“I think you will see that we have made substantial changes that
basically made this rule clearer, crisper and did the job we were
supposed to do. And I’m very proud of the work we have done
McCarthy also told the reporters that climate change increases
the importance of protecting water resources:
“Impacts from climate change — like more intense droughts,
storms, fires and floods, not to mention sea-level rise — affect
our water supplies. But healthy streams and wetlands can help
protect communities by trapping flood waters, retaining moisture
during drought, recharging groundwater supplies, filtering
pollution and providing habitat for fish and wildlife.”
The new rule was applauded by many environmental groups,
including the Sierra Club. Michael Brune, executive director,
“No longer will the Supreme Court’s confusing decisions on the
issue allow dirty fossil fuel companies to threaten people’s health
by dumping toxins into our lakes, rivers, and streams.”
Still, plenty of people contend that the EPA and Army Corps have
contrived this new rule to continue their over-reach into streams
that should be beyond federal jurisdiction. House Speaker John
Boehner, R- Ohio, issued
this statement in response to the EPA’s release of the new
rule, sometimes called “WOTUS” for “waters of the U.S.”
“The administration’s decree to unilaterally expand federal
authority is a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs.
House members of both parties have joined more than 30 governors
and government leaders to reject EPA’s disastrous WOTUS rule. These
leaders know firsthand that the rule is being shoved down the
throats of hardworking people with no input and places landowners,
small businesses, farmers and manufacturers on the road to a
regulatory and economic hell.”
The House has already passed a bill, HB
1732, that would put the brakes on implementation of the new
rule and send the EPA back to the drawing board for new language.
As you could expect, the vote was mostly along party lines. If the
Senate approves the bill, it is likely to be vetoed by the
The new rule is scheduled to go into effect 60 days from its
publication in the Federal Register. For more details, visit the
EPA’s website “Clean
Big money is beginning to come together for planning,
engineering and design of major restoration projects along the
Skokomish River. If approved by Congress, the cost of construction
could exceed $40 million — a lot of money to you and me, but maybe
not so much for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Last week, the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board approved
grants for more than 100 projects in 29 counties throughout the
state. The total, from state and federal sources, was about $18
million for this round of funding.
Mason County was one of the big winners this time, receiving
$1.25 million for seven projects, including a $360,000 contribution
to planning and engineering for transformative projects on the
Skokomish. The total cost for a “35-percent level of design” is
expected to be $2.45 million, mostly from the Corps of Engineers.
That level of design is needed to give top officials in the Corps
and members of Congress a good idea of cost before they commit to
the massive undertaking along the Skok.
I’ll address the specific Skokomish River projects, along with
new information from the Corps, in a separate blog post to come.
For now, I’d like to describe other projects approved in the latest
round of SRF Board funding.
In addition to the design work on the Skokomish, the Mason
Conservation District will move ahead with the construction of 21
man-made logjams in the Holman Flats area along the South Fork of
the Skokomish. That is an area that was logged and cleared in
preparation for a dam that was never built.
The clearing destabilized the river and degraded salmon habitat
for more than a mile downstream. The logjams will add structure to
the river and create places for fish to hide and rest, ultimately
improving the channel itself. The $362,000 from the SRF Board will
be supplemented with another $900,000 in grants.
Beards Cove, $297,000: This project, outside of
Belfair on Hood Canal, will remove fill, structures and invasive
plants and restore the grade to the way it was before development
in 1973. The project will restore about a quarter-mile of natural
shoreline and seven acres of tidal marsh. Along with a separate
seven-acre land-preservation agreement and other efforts, about 1.7
miles of Hood Canal shoreline will be preserved forever. Great
Peninsula Conservancy will use a separate $491,000 grant from the
state’s Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program.
Allyn Shoreline, $14,000: Mason Conservation
District will complete final designs to enhance 480 feet of
shoreline along Case Inlet in Allyn, including removal of about 120
feet of bulkhead.
Likes Creek, $85,000: South Puget Sound Salmon
Enhancement Group will remove a culvert under the Simpson railroad
that blocks salmon migration on Likes Creek, a major tributary of
Goldsborough Creek. Another grant will provide $43,000 for the
project, and Mason County will assist with removal of another
Goldsborough Creek, $111,000: Capitol Land
Trust will buy 420 acres on the North Fork of Goldsborough Creek
near Shelton. The property provides habitat for endangered salmon
and steelhead. The land trust will contribute $20,000 in donated
Oakland Bay, $24,000: Capitol Land Trust will
use the money to remove invasive and dead vegetation and maintain
12 acres of shoreline plantings on Deer, Cranberry and Malaney
creeks. About $5,000 in donations will be added.
Three projects were funded in Kitsap County:
Springbrook Creek, $62,000: Bainbridge Island
Land Trust will assess the creek’s watershed and design five
salmon-habitat projects for one of the island’s most productive
streams. The land trust will contribute $11,000 in donations of
Curley Creek, $33,000: Great Peninsula
Conservancy will assess how to protect salmon habitat in Curley
Creek in South Kitsap, one of the largest salmon and steelhead
streams in the area. The conservancy will contribute $6,000 in
donations of labor.
Steelhead assessment, $50,000: Kitsap County
will analyze existing information on steelhead habitat in the East
Kitsap region, south to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, to help with a
recovery plan for the threatened fish. The county will contribute
Other notable projects include the following in King,
Snohomish, Thurston and Whatcom counties:
Mill Creek, $327,000: The city of Kent will
built a floodplain wetland off Mill Creek near the confluence with
the Green River, an important stream for chinook salmon and
steelhead as well as coho, chum and pink salmon and cutthroat
trout. The project includes the construction of 1,000 feet of new
off-channel habitat, where salmon can find refuge and food during
floods, and 43 log structures. Work also will restore seven acres
of native vegetation. A local grant will provide $1.4 million.
Stillaguamish River floodplain, $402,000: The
Stillaguamish Tribe will purchase 200 acres on the North Fork and
main stem of the river, remove invasive plants and restore about 25
acres of riverbank with native vegetation.
Black River wetland, $90,000: Capitol Land
Trust Grant will buy 54 acres to conserve a rare wetland unique to
the Black River and protect 1.3 miles of side channel. The property
is adjacent to 75 acres already protected by the land trust in the
Black River Sub-basin, one of the largest remaining wetland systems
in Western Washington.
Nooksack River logjams: The Nooksack Tribe will
receive $320,000 for logjams in the South Fork Nooksack and
$283,000 for the North Fork Nooksack. Eight logjams in each stream
will slow the river and provide resting pools for salmon. Federal
grants will add $56,000 in the South Fork and $60,000 in the North
In announcing the $18 million in salmon-restoration grants
statewide, Gov. Jay Inslee commented:
“Salmon are important to Washington because they support
thousands of jobs in Washington — fishing, seafood-processing, boat
sales and repair, tourism, and more. When we restore land and water
for salmon, we also are helping our communities. We get less
flooding, cleaner water and better beaches. We also make sure that
our grandchildren will be able to catch a fish or enjoy watching
the return of wild salmon.”
Funding for the grants comes from the sale of state bonds
approved by the Legislature along with the Pacific Coastal Salmon
Recovery Fund, approved by Congress and administered by the
National Marine Fisheries Service.
David Trout, who chairs the SRF Board, said the restoration
projects are a lifeline for salmon:
“Without these grants that fund incredible projects, we wouldn’t
have any salmon. That’s unacceptable. We’ve seen these grants make
a difference. They create jobs, support local communities and their
involvement in salmon recovery, and most importantly the projects
are helping bring back the fish.
“After more than a decade of work, we’ve seen that in many areas
of the state, salmon populations are increasing or staying the
same. At the same time, we still have some important areas where
fish populations are continuing to decline. We can’t get
discouraged and must continue working at this. It’s too important
to stop now.”
Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club has decided against undertaking a
formal environmental cleanup of its property on Seabeck Highway —
at least not any time soon, according to club officials.
The property is listed as a “hazardous site” by the Washington
Department of Ecology, mostly because of lead and metals associated
with shooting activities. The club had entered into the state’s
Voluntary Cleanup Program — which puts a property owner in charge
of the cleanup — but then withdrew from the program in late
Marcus Carter, executive officer for KRRC, told me that the club
had been assured by state officials that if it entered the
Volunteer Cleanup Program, it would not be placed on the state’s
Hazardous Sites List.
“But they went ahead and ranked us anyway,” he said.
I wrote about that ranking in the
Kitsap Sun in January of 2013. The gun range was rated a “2” on
a scale from 1 to 5, with “1” being the worst. I noted in the story
that many sites ranked a “2” go without action for years. KRRC
later disputed the ranking, saying available evidence should place
it no higher than a “3.”
A letter written in October by Bruce
Danielson (PDF 889 kb), attorney for the club, explained why
KRRC was withdrawing from the program. He also noted, “Our
voluntary participation has been an unacceptable drain on valuable
resources that KRRC can no long afford to expend for no
As an example of wasteful spending, Danielson cited a charge for
a “fraudulent” phone call from the state Attorney General’s Office
related to the site. The unwarranted billing was dropped, he noted,
but only after significant effort by club officials.
Marcus Carter said he realizes that the shooting range could get
stuck on the “Hazardous Sites List” for many years, similar to the
situation with the Navy’s Camp Wesley Harris. The abandoned
shooting range on Navy property also was ranked a “2.” Other than
an initial cleanup, the Navy has taken no steps to get the property
removed from the list. For a full list of hazardous sites, download
Hazardous Sites List (PDF 535 kb).
Marcus said the club initiated an extensive recycling program
years ago to regularly remove lead and other contaminants from
earthen berms that stop the bullets. The only contamination outside
the range itself are small amounts of materials where shooting took
place years ago, he said.
“Nothing is leaving our property,” Marcus insisted. “There have
been no suggestions from DOE to make our operations more efficient
or to do anything differently.”
As described in a
Kitsap Sun story in April of 2012, the gun club has been
following an approach generally accepted by the federal
Environmental Protection Agency:
“The club has relied on using EPA’s ‘best management practices’
to avoid being deemed a hazardous waste site subject to cleanup.
State law does not include such provisions, but Ecology endorses
EPA’s suggested practices, which are outlined in a 1997 letter
written by Jeff Hannapel in EPA’s Office of Solid Waste.”
I then quoted from the Hannapel’s letter:
“The agency has taken the position that the discharge of
ammunition or lead shot does not constitute hazardous waste
disposal, because the agency does not consider the rounds from the
weapons to be ‘discarded.’ Furthermore, the lead shot has not been
‘discarded’ by virtue of its discharge at the shooting range,
because the discharge is within the normal and expected use pattern
of the manufactured product. Accordingly, lead shot would be
considered scrap metal for regulatory purposes.”
Ecology officials admit that they don’t have enough money to
force property owners to clean up the most-contaminated sites, let
alone those lower on list.
For several years, the group CK Safe and Quiet, which includes
residents living near the shooting range, has been urging Ecology
to get the site cleaned up. The group has expressed concerns about
contamination leaving the site and getting into nearby
In 2011, the organization filed a notice saying it would sue for
cleanup under the federal Clean Water Act, which allows
citizen-initiated lawsuits. I mentioned the claims in a
Kitsap Sun article at the time.
The group never filed the federal case, pending legal action
against the club by Kitsap County, which focused on land-use and
noise issues. A ruling in the county’s case was recently handed
down by the Washington State Court of Appeals. See
Kitsap Sun story by reporter Josh Farley.
Some members of CK Safe and Quiet say they are now considering a
renewal of their Clean Water Act claims. Ryan Vancil, an attorney
who wrote the
2011 letter (PDF 134 kb), no longer represents the group, but
members are consulting with a new lawyer.
Connections among streams, wetlands, rivers and lakes are at the
heart of a new rule proposed today to clarify the intent of the
federal Clean Water Act and to spell out the authority of federal
Specifically, the rule proposed jointly by the U.S Environmental
Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers calls for protecting
most natural water features under the Clean Water Act. The rule
embodies the notion that small tributaries and wetlands are likely
connected to larger tributaries, rivers, wetlands and natural
channels, even though they may not always appear connected.
The proposed rule is designed to reconcile scientific
understanding of hydraulic connections with two U.S. Supreme Court
rulings, which hold that federal jurisdiction applies only to
permanent water features and their connecting waters. In the 2006
“Raponos v. United States” (PDF 535 kb), the court was highly
critical of the Army Corps of Engineers for its effort to squeeze a
wide variety of waterways under the definition of “waters of the
“In applying the definition to ‘ephemeral streams,’ ‘wet
meadows,’ storm sewers and culverts, ‘directional sheet flow during
storm events,’ drain tiles, man-made drainage ditches, and dry
arroyos in the middle of the desert, the Corps has stretched the
term ‘waters of the United States’ beyond parody. The plain
language of the statute simply does not authorize this ‘land is
waters’ approach to federal jurisdiction….
“In sum, on its only plausible interpretation, the phrase ‘the
waters of the United States’ includes only those relatively
permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water
‘forming geographic features’ that are described in ordinary
parlance as ‘streams, oceans, rivers [and] lakes.’ See ‘Webster’s
Second.’ The phrase does not include channels through which water
flows intermittently or ephemerally, or channels that periodically
provide drainage for rainfall.”
The Supreme Court ruling has caused confusion, especially in
situations where hydraulic connections were not obvious and could
be questioned by property owners who wished to avoid federal
“All tributary streams, including perennial, intermittent, and
ephemeral streams, are physically, chemically, and biologically
connected to downstream rivers via channels and associated alluvial
deposits where water and other materials are concentrated, mixed,
transformed, and transported…
“Wetlands and open-waters in landscape settings that have
bidirectional hydrologic exchanges with streams or rivers … are
physically, chemically, and biologically connected with rivers via
the export of channel-forming sediment and woody debris, temporary
storage of local groundwater that supports base flow in rivers, and
transport of stored organic matter.”
In the Puget Sound region, the connections among waterways are
fairly obvious. In more arid states, however, the connections may
occur only during rainy periods, if then.
press release, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the
proposed rule fits the Supreme Court’s narrower reading of the
Clean Water Act while maintaining the historical coverage of the
“We are clarifying protection for the upstream waters that are
absolutely vital to downstream communities. Clean water is
essential to every single American, from families who rely on safe
places to swim and healthy fish to eat, to farmers who need
abundant and reliable sources of water to grow their crops, to
hunters and fishermen who depend on healthy waters for recreation
and their work, and to businesses that need a steady supply of
water for operations.”
Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works,
“Today’s rulemaking will better protect our aquatic resources,
by strengthening the consistency, predictability, and transparency
of our jurisdictional determinations. The rule’s clarifications
will result in a better public service nationwide.”
Specifically, the proposed rule clarifies that under the Clean
Most seasonal and rain dependent streams are protected.
Wetlands near rivers and streams are protected.
Other types of waters with more uncertain connections to
downstream water will be evaluated through a case specific analysis
of whether the connection is or is not protecting similarly
Agricultural exclusions are retained, and agencies have
identified 53 conservation practices that will be considered exempt
from Corps permits.
“The EPA’s new Clean Water Act rule finally restores protections
so that we can begin the hard work of cleaning up our waters for
our children to swim in, fish in, and drink from.
“No doubt, polluters will rail and lobby against this rule and
any other clean water safeguards that keep them from dumping their
toxic waste in our communities and waters, or that hold them
accountable for their pollution.”
“We cannot back down on protecting the waters that eventually
flow through our faucets. Our children, our health, and our very
drinking water are at stake. We urge the Obama administration to
resist the polluter lobbies and quickly move forward in protecting
our waterways and our families.”
Not everyone was thrilled with the new rule. Colorado Gov. John
Hickenlooper and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval of the
Western Governors Association wrote a letter to McCarthy and
Darcy complaining that state officials have been left out of the
conversation, despite state authority to regulate water use.
In a March 10 letter, Phillip Ward of the
Western States Water Council urged agency officials to delay
publication of the proposed rule until EPA’s connectivity report
undergoes peer review:
“EPA has indicated that its draft connectivity report will serve
to inform the final rule on CWA jurisdiction. However, the draft
rule’s submission to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
before the finalization of the connectivity report raises concerns
that the final report will have little or no influence on the final
“Additionally, many western states have submitted individual
comments for the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) to consider in
its review of the draft connectivity report. EPA should carefully
evaluate the SAB’s consideration of these comments and any
subsequent recommendations from the final report.”
“EPA was told to make changes to the rule so that everyone
understands exactly when a builder needs a federal wetlands permit
before turning the first shovel of dirt. Instead, EPA has added
just about everything into its jurisdiction by expanding the
definition of a ‘tributary’ — even ditches and manmade canals, or
any other feature that a regulator determines to have a bed, bank
and high-water mark.”
A feigned controversy involving Robert Redford and Will Ferrell
is bringing some light-hearted attention to a serious effort to
restore the Colorado River delta.
In a series of videos released last week, Redford reaches out
for public help to restore the delta where the Colorado River once
flowed into the Gulf of California. The new campaign, called “Raise
the River,” is based on buying up old water rights and putting the
water into the river.
“So please,” Redford says, “will you join me at
‘raisetheriver.org’ and find out how you can get involved?”
William Ferrell doesn’t buy idea, and he mocks Redford’s
“We got ol’ Sundance ridin’ around, trying to raise the Colorado
River and restore its flow,” Farrell says. “I say, ‘Do we really
need more river?’ I mean, hell, we got plenty of ocean. Let’s move
it… The way to fix this thing is to send money, so myself and some
other scientists can begin the process of moving a small portion of
the ocean back toward the wet part of the river.”
As you can see from the video on this page, Redford maintains
his serious posture throughout the back-and-forth banter, while
Farrell seemingly tries to provoke him.
I believe these videos fully qualify as an “Amusing Monday”
post, but I can’t avoid touching on the more complete story, which
goes beyond fun and games. As Jill Tidman, executive director of
the Redford Center, stated in a
“We saw this idea of a fictitious debate between Mr. Redford and
Mr. Ferrell as a novel way to generate greater awareness of the
very serious issues facing the Colorado River. Bringing a sense of
humor to the effort opens the door for a much greater audience and
offers everyone a chance to be part of winning this campaign—and
this is one we are going to win.”
The media campaign, developed by the ad firm Butler, Shine,
Stern & Partners of Sausalito, Calif., will roll out new videos
with Redford and Ferrell through April. A related event is planned
for television on March 22 — World Water Day — when “The History of
Water” premieres on PIVOT TV. That’s channel 197 on Dish and 267 on
Direct TV. PIVOT is not listed for the local cable outlets in
Campaign supporters are excited about an event starting on March
23, when the United States and Mexico will release about 105,000
acre-feet of water into the Colorado River below the Morelos Dam on
the U.S. Mexican border. An initial high flow for several days will
be followed by a lower flow for nearly eight weeks.
Francisco Zamora Arroyo, director of the Colorado River Delta
Legacy Program at Sonoran Institute, stated in a news release:
“The pulse flow is a vital part of our ongoing restoration
efforts. We know that relatively small amounts of water can make a
big difference in the health of the delta region.”
In a brochure, “Raise the
River” (PDF 1.4 mb), organizers report that this flow, which is
less than 1 percent of the river’s annual average flow, will begin
to restore the wetland forests and marshes of the delta.
The goal is to raise $10 million to restore 2,300 acres by 2017.
To restore an acre of delta, it takes about 8 acre-feet of water
flowing in the river, according to the brochure, and it costs about
$450 to buy an acre-foot from the holders of existing water rights.
By conserving water, residents, farmers and other water users can
maintain their activities while contributing to the restoration of
this unique ecosystem.
In an impressive new video, members of the Skokomish Watershed
Action Team tell the story of the Skokomish River, its history and
its people, and the ongoing effort to restore the watershed to a
more natural condition.
The video describes restoration projects — from the estuary,
where tide channels were reformed, to the Olympic Mountains, where
old logging roads were decommissioned to reduce sediment loading
that clogs the river channel.
“I thought it was really well done,” SWAT Chairman Mike Anderson
told me. “Some people have remarked about how well edited it is in
terms of having different voices come together to tell the story in
a single story line.”
The 14-minute video was produced with a $20,000 grant from the
Laird Norton Family Foundation, which helped get the SWAT off the
ground a decade ago, when a facilitator was hired to pull the group
The foundation’s Watershed
Stewardship Program invests in community-based restoration,
said Katie Briggs, the foundation’s managing director. In addition
to the Hood Canal region, the foundation is supporting projects in
the Upper Deschutes and Rogue rivers in Oregon.
As Katie explained in an email:
“LNFF has been interested in the collaborative work in the
Skokomish for a number of years, and we have been consistently
impressed with the way an admittedly strange group of bedfellows
has pulled together, set priorities, and moved a restoration agenda
forward in the watershed.
“We think their story is compelling, and by being able to share
that story in a concise, visual way, they could not only attract
more attention to the work they are doing in the Skokomish, but
also potentially influence and share with other communities
grappling with similar kinds of challenges.
“By helping SWAT tell their story, we’ve also gained a tool
through which we are better able to share what it is we care about
with the larger Laird Norton family and others interested in the
foundation’s approach to watershed stewardship.”
The video project was overseen by Tiffany Royal of the Northwest
Indian Fisheries Commission and a subcommittee of SWAT members.
North 40 Productions was chosen to pull together the story, shoot
new video and compile historical footage.
“It captures a lot of the collaboration and restoration,”
Anderson said, “but it doesn’t cover everything. It leaves out most
of the General Investigation and the Cushman settlement.”
The General Investigation is how the Army Corps of Engineers
refers to the studies I wrote about Sunday in the
Kitsap Sun (subscription) and in
Water Ways. The Cushman settlement involves an environmental
mitigation project on the North Fork of the Skokomish funded by the
city of Tacoma and related to relicensing of the Cushman Dam power
Alex Gouley of the Skokomish Tribe said he hopes that the video
will help tell the story of the Skokomish watershed, as with other
tribal efforts such as watershed tours, educational workshops and
classroom field trips.
Alex said he and other tribal members appreciate all the work
done by each member of the SWAT, from Forest Service employees to
the county commissioners, from Green Diamond Resource Company
(formerly Simpson Timber) to small property owners in the
“By coming together, everyone is able to make more informed
decisions about the projects they are working on,” he said.