The American Kitefliers
Association has organized daily “mass ascensions,” in which at
least 100 kites of the same style take to the skies. Sport kite
competitions involve kites flying in intricate patterns or dancing
“It’s quite a rainbow of expression,” John Barresi. editor of
Kite Life magazine, told
reporter Terri Gleich in a story published July 22 in the
“Part of my world,” John said, “is sharing kites with people who
say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember I tried to fly a kite and I couldn’t.’ A
kite that is well made will fly itself. People will be amazed at
how easy it can be.”
The videos on this page give you an idea of the diversity of the
kites. Miniature kites — some as small as one inch — can be viewed
up close, and nobody can miss the giant kites, which can be up to
20 feet wide and 100 feet long. The precision and art of
construction is part of the show.
Fighting kites involve the traditional Japanese Rokkaku kites,
which are six-sided and designed for quick response, as well as
smaller fighter kites. In battle, the goal is to disable an
opposing kite or cut its string with abrasive line.
Promotional materials for this year’s festival mention indoor
kites that can be flown without any wind at all. Download the
program (PDF 10.8 mb) for details about the weeklong
An amazing number of kite festivals are held each year
throughout the country. For a complete schedule with links to the
various festivals, see Event
Calendar on the American Kitefliers Association website.
From space, Hood Canal is easily recognized by its new shade of
bimini green, a color that stands out clearly from the rest of
Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean, as shown in the photo above.
The color is caused by a large bloom of coccolithophore, a
single-celled phytoplankton bearing a shell made of white calcium
Teri King of Washington Sea Grant spotted the unusual color more
than a week ago from the ground while driving along Hood Canal.
“I thought to myself, ‘Am I dreaming of the Cayman Islands?’”
she reported on her
Facebook page. “I pulled over to the side and took a few photos
to document my observations. I then had an opportunity to grab a
water sample. Yep, a Coccolithophore bloom from Quilcene to
“It is hard to miss a bloom of this color,” Teri continued on
Facebook. “We don’t see them often, but when we do it is
remarkable. The water takes on a tropical blue green appearance
with white speckles.”
The photo from space (top) was taken last Sunday from NASA’s
Aqua satellite with equipment
used to capture the natural color. On Wednesday, a more detailed
image (second photo) was taken from the Landsat 8
Reporter Tristan Baurick describes the phenomenon in yesterday’s
Kitsap Sun. The single-celled plankton are not harmful to
people or animals, so the bloom won’t affect shellfish harvesting.
Hood Canal, as we’ve discussed many times, is prone to low-oxygen
conditions, often exacerbated by massive blooms of plankton, which
reduce oxygen through the process of decay.
The last major bloom of this kind in Hood Canal was noted in
northern Hood Canal during the summer of 2007. Samples taken at
that time showed the species of coccolithophorid to be
Emiliania huxleyi, according to a report for the Hood
Canal Dissolved Oxygen Program.
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:
Once in a while, a video shows up featuring some amazing
phenomena not well known by most people. This is the case with a
YouTube video by
Mind Warehouse called “Ten Ocean Phenomena You Won’t Believe
I’ve featured several of the phenomena you’ll see in this video
from my “Amusing Monday” series, but I admit that I did not know
that some of these things even exist — and at least one photo
appears to be a hoax that fooled the producers of the video on this
I’ve searched out a little more about each of the phenomena with
links if you would like to learn more about any of these strange
Thousands of self-cloned animals called tunicates occasionally
come together to form a giant hollow tube that may grow to 60 feet
long, according to Oceana’s
Ocean Animal Encyclopedia. Giant pyrosomes are bioluminescent,
producing their own light.
Because the tunicates can reproduce by cloning, the colony can
regenerate its damaged parts to keep the tube intact. The tunicates
that form pyrosomes are related to those found in the Salish Sea.
Check out Emerald Diving’s
In 1995, divers discovered what looked like strange “crop
circles” like those reported in farm fields, but these were on the
ocean bottom near Japan. Other circles were found, but it took a
decade before it was determined that male pufferfish make the
circles as part of a mating ritual.
“When the circles are finished, females come to inspect them,”
according to an article in LiveScience
by Douglas Main. “If they like what they see, they reproduce with
the males, said Hiroshi Kawase, the curator of the Coastal Branch
of Natural History Museum and Institute in Chiba, Japan. But nobody
knows exactly what the females are looking for in these circles or
what traits they find desirable, Kawase told LiveScience.”
Most icebergs are white, but all sorts of blue-striped icebergs
can be found in nature. They are the result of water filling a
crevice and freezing so fast that no bubbles form. Green stripes
form when algae-rich water freezes. Brown, yellow and black are the
result of sediments being picked up by the water before it freezes.
See undocumented photos and story by Mihai Andrei in
Red tides can be found all over the world. Although “red tide”
is a term often associated with poisonous plankton, many of the
orange and red tides do not produce toxins harmful to people or
In Puget Sound, blooms of a dinoflagellate called Noctiluca
sometimes create what appear to be works of art, as I described in
Water Ways in June of 2013.Eyes Over
Puget Sound, a program that monitors surface conditions,
frequently presents pictures of colorful algae blooms, including a
new edition published this morning.
One of the strongest whirlpools in the world is at Saltstraumen,
a fjord in Norway where a massive exchange of water rushes through
an opening just 500 feet wide. Review the video “Deepest Hole in the
When salt-rich water streams into the sea, it can form an
underwater finger of ice called a brinicle, sometimes referred to
as “the ice finger of death.” The super-cooled briny water is
colder than the surrounding sea, so the stream reaches out and
freezes as it goes. See the article by Douglas Main in LiveScience
or check out the blog post in
Water Ways from November 2011.
When big waves come together at sea, the result is often a giant
wave large enough to wreck an ocean-going ship or rush to shore
with tremendous force. In January of this year, a killer wave —
also known as a rogue wave — was recorded along the Pacific Coast
in Grays Harbor County at a stream called Joe Creek. See
Q-13 TV video “Rogue Wave …”
When the air is considerably colder than a calm sea or lake, ice
crystal can be extruded above the surface to form structures that
resemble flowers. This occurs when water vapor sublimes from thin
surface ice into the air without passing through the liquid phase.
The warm moist air at the surface of the ice rises and quickly
freezes in the colder air above.
Conditions leading to frost flowers often occur in the polar
regions as new sea ice forms. Once the ice grows a little thicker,
the surface cools down and the temperature difference between the
ice and atmosphere are too close for the vapor to rise and then
Robert Krulwich, who hosted a science show for
National Public Radio, discussed the phenomenon from the point
of view of Jeff Bowman, a University of Washington graduate student
in 2009 when he spotted frost flowers on his way back from an
expedition to the Arctic.
Baltic and North sea meeting point
In the Mind Warehouse video, the narrator discusses a bunch of
pictures purportedly showing the meeting point of the Baltic and
North seas. I have been unable to track down all these photos or
confirm that any of them were taken at the convergence zone of the
Baltic and North seas.
One of the photos appears to have been taken in Alaska, showing
the melt water from a glacier converging with ocean water. As in
Puget Sound, the lower-density freshwater tends to form a layer
over the salty seawater. See
Kent Smith’s photo, taken from a cruise ship, and a story about
research by the U.S.
Geological Survey taken in the Gulf of Alaska.
It’s amusing to see all the myth-versus-fact posts on various
Internet sites regarding the question of whether waters from the
Baltic Sea actually mix with waters from the North Sea. (Search for
“Baltic and North sea mixing.”) I gave up trying to find credible
photos, but there exists an actual phenomenon regarding the mixing
of the two seas. Wikipedia provides
“The Baltic Sea flows out through the Danish straits;
however, the flow is complex. A surface layer of brackish water
discharges 940 km3 (230 cu mi) per year into the North Sea. Due to
the difference in salinity, by salinity permeation principle, a
sub-surface layer of more saline water moving in the opposite
direction brings in 475 km3 (114 cu mi) per year. It mixes very
slowly with the upper waters, resulting in a salinity gradient from
top to bottom, with most of the salt water remaining below 40 to 70
m (130 to 230 ft) deep. The general circulation is anti-clockwise:
northwards along its eastern boundary, and south along the western
Living organisms can be seen to glow during a chemical reaction
that involves a light-emitting pigment and an enzyme that serves as
a catalyst for the reaction. Depending on the species,
bioluminescence may be used to escape from prey, attract prey or
signal for a mate. Sometimes researchers can’t tell why an animal
has the ability to light up. One of the best write-ups I’ve seen is
Last fall, I featured in
“Amusing Monday” a tiny creature called a sea sapphire that
flashes brilliant hues of green, blue and purple then seems to
disappear before your eyes. The organism is a copepod that is able
to shift its plates to adjust the wavelength of light reflected
from crystals underneath. When the reflected light is shifted far
enough into the ultraviolet, the little animals nearly
Harbor seals have become prime suspects in the deaths of
millions of young steelhead trout that die each year in Puget
Sound, but the seals may not be working alone.
Disease and/or various environmental factors could play a part,
perhaps weakening the young steelhead as they begin their migratory
journey from the streams of Puget Sound out to the open ocean.
Something similar is happening to steelhead on the Canadian side of
the border in the Salish Sea.
More than 50 research projects are underway in Puget Sound and
Georgia Strait to figure out why salmon runs are declining — and
steelhead are a major focus of the effort. Unlike most migratory
salmon, steelhead don’t hang around long in estuaries that can
complicate the mortality investigation for some species.
The steelhead initiative was launched by the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife and Puget Sound Partnership with
funding from the Legislature. The steelhead work is part of the
Marine Survival Project, which is halfway through its five-year
term, according to Michael Schmidt of Long Live the Kings, which
coordinates the effort in the U.S. The larger project involves at
least 60 organizations, including state and federal agencies,
Indian tribes and universities.
report on research findings for steelhead (PDF 9.8 mb)
describes the most significant results to date for our official
state fish, which was listed as “threatened” in 2007. While
steelhead populations on the Washington Coast and Columbia River
have rebounded somewhat since their lowest numbers in the 1980s,
steelhead in the Salish Sea remain at historical lows — perhaps 10
percent of their previous average.
“Because steelhead are bigger and move fast through the system,
they are easier to study (than other salmon species),” Michael told
me. “It has been a lot easier to feel confident about what you are
Steelhead can be imbedded with tiny acoustic transmitters, which
allow them to be tracked by acoustic receivers along their
migration routes to the ocean. It appears that the tagged fish
survive their freshwater journey fairly well, but many soon
disappear once they reach Puget Sound. The longer they travel, the
more likely they are to perish before they leave the sound.
While steelhead are susceptible to being eaten by a few species
of birds, their primary predators appear to be harbor seals. These
findings are supported by a new study that placed acoustic
receivers on seals and observed that some of the transmitters
embedded in steelhead ended up where the seals hang out, suggesting
that the fish were probably eaten.
In a different kind of tagging study, Canadian researchers
placed smaller passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags in a large
number of coho salmon and attached devices to read the PIT tags on
“What is most interesting to date,” states a new
report from the Pacific Salmon Foundation,“ (PDF 4 mb), “is
that we only have confirmed feeding on tagged coho salmon by four
of the 20 seals equipped with receivers. This suggests that feeding
on juvenile salmon may be an opportunistic behavior acquired by a
limited number of seals.”
New studies are underway to confirm steelhead predation by
looking at fecal samples from seals in South Puget Sound.
Researchers hope to figure out what the seals are eating and
estimate steelhead consumption.
As I mentioned at the outset of this blog post, it may be more
than a simple case of seals eating steelhead. For one thing, seal
populations may have increased while their other food choices have
decreased. Would the seals be eating as many steelhead if Puget
Sound herring populations were close to their historical
Other factors may be making young steelhead vulnerable to
predation. A leading candidate is a parasite called Nanophyetus
salmincola, which can infest steelhead and perhaps increase
their risk of predation. The parasite’s life cycle requires a snail
and a warm-blooded animal, as I described in a story I wrote for
of Puget Sound — part of a larger piece about disease as a
powerful ecological force. Anyway, the snail is found only in
streams in South Puget Sound, which might help explain why
steelhead deaths are higher among these South Sound
Experiments are underway to compare the survival of two groups
of identical steelhead, one group infested with
Nanophyetus and one not.
Depending on funding and proper design, another experiment could
test whether treating a stream to temporarily eliminate the snail —
an intermediate host — could increase the survival of steelhead. If
successful, treating streams to remove these snails could be one
way of helping the steelhead. For these and other approved and
proposed studies, check out the Marine Survival Project’s
“2015-2017 Research Work Plan” (PDF 9.3 mb).
Other factors under review that could play a role in steelhead
survival are warming temperatures and pollution in Puget Sound,
which could help determine the amount and type of plankton
available for steelhead and salmon. Could a shift in plankton
result in less food for the small fish? It’s a major question to be
I’ve mentioned in
Water Ways (3/15/2010) that transient killer whales, which eat
seals, sea lions and harbor porpoises, may be helping their distant
cousins, the Southern Resident killer whales, which eat fish. Those
smaller marine mammals compete for the adult salmon eaten by the
Southern Residents. By clearing out some of those competitors, the
transients could be leaving more salmon for the Southern
It may be too early to draw any firm conclusions, Michael
Schmidt told me, but transient killer whales may be helping
steelhead as well. Last year, when transients ventured into South
Puget Sound and stayed longer than usual, the survival rate for
steelhead from the nearby Nisqually River was the highest it has
been in a long time.
Were the whales eating enough seals to make a difference for
steelhead, or were the seals hiding out and not eating while the
whales were around. Whether there were benefits for the steelhead,
we could be seeing what happens when a major predator (orcas)
encounters an abundance of prey (seals).
It is fairly well known that the three pods of killer whales
that frequent Puget Sound are listed as endangered under the
Endangered Species Act. It is also well known that their primary
prey — chinook salmon — are listed as threatened.
It can’t be good that the whales are struggling to find enough
to eat, but we are just beginning to learn that the situation could
be dire for orca females who become pregnant and need to support a
growing fetus during times of a food shortage.
Sam Wasser, a researcher known for figuring out an animal’s
condition from fecal samples, recently reported that about
two-thirds of all orca pregnancies end in miscarriage. And of those
miscarriages, nearly one-third take place during the last stage of
pregnancy — a dangerous situation for the pregnant female.
In a story published today in the Encyclopedia
of Puget Sound, I report on Sam’s latest studies, along with
other work by a team of biologists who are using unmanned aircraft
(drones) to keep track of the physical condition of the Southern
Resident orcas, including pregnant moms.
Sam’s latest study involves measuring hormones in killer whales,
which can tell us a lot about a whale’s condition. The story of how
hormones change under varying conditions is a little complicated,
but I hope I was able to explain in my article how this works. When
adding the effects of toxic chemicals that mimic hormones, we begin
to understand the conditions that may be critical to the whales’
long-term survival or their ultimate extinction.
One longtime assumption, which may be shot down by the hormone
studies, is that the whales’ most difficult time for food comes in
winter, when salmon are generally scarce. These new studies by Sam
and his colleagues suggest that the greatest problem comes in the
spring, when the whales return to Puget Sound to discover that
spring runs of chinook salmon can no longer be found — at least not
in significant numbers.
The work with a drone carrying a high-resolution camera is
providing precise measurements about the length and width of each
killer whale. Pregnant females are especially interesting, and it
will be important to document whether physical changes observed in
the drone study can be correlated with hormonal changes seen in the
“We’ve moved toward some great sophisticated technology,” Lynne
Barre told me. “These great technologies combined can tell us more
than any one method can … such as when and where food limitations
might be affecting their health and reproduction.”
Lynne heads NOAA’s Protected Resources Division in Seattle and
oversees recovery efforts for the endangered Southern
By the end of this year, NOAA is expected to release its
five-year status report on the Southern Resident orcas. In addition
to reporting on many new findings, the document will re-examine the
risk of extinction for these killer whales and consider whether
actions proposed to help them have been carried out.
Last year, the Southern Residents were listed among eight
endangered species across the country that are headed for
extinction unless recovery actions can be successful. The eight,
selected in part because of their high profiles, are known as
“Species in the Spotlight.” In February, five-year action plans
were released for all eight species.
The plan called
“Priority Actions for Southern Resident Killer Whales” (PDF 2
mb) focuses on three primary factors affecting the whales’
survival: a shortage of food, high levels of toxic chemicals and
effects of vessels and noise. The concise 15-page document
describes some of the work being carried out on behalf of the
whales, although new ideas are coming forth all the time.
A couple years ago, I was intrigued that a number of young women
were making a living as professional mermaids. (See
Water Ways, Jan. 27, 2014). Since then, the idea of becoming a
mermaid for a day, a week or longer has caught on, with mermaid
schools opening throughout the world.
Resort and Spa in the Philippines claims to be the first
mermaid school in the world, but others were soon behind.
In New York, World of Swimming, a nonprofit corporation,
inspires young people to become swimmers through lessons, swimming
camps and other activities.
The first short video on this page features young mermaid
swimmers accompanied by music as they swim about by swishing their
tails. In the second video (also below), ABC News reporter Sara
Haines takes the plunge in a first-person report to see what it is
like to become a mermaid. The piece made the airwaves on
Good Morning America.
In Vermont, reporter Sarah Tuff Dunn goes to mermaid school for
the online publication
“Seven Days” and is thoroughly enchanted after putting on her
mermaid tail with its built-in swim fins.
“I felt the tail rise as if magically,” she wrote. “I released
my hands from the wall and began to swim … like a mermaid. A
doggy-paddling mermaid, mind you, and one who momentarily panicked
when she realized she couldn’t scissor-kick her legs.”
Sarah, who soon catches on to swimming like a dolphin, discusses
the risks of drowning with one’s legs tied together, and she
explains why mermaid schools tend to emphasize safety.
What I find interesting about this mermaid trend is that
children are getting excited about swimming. Being a mermaid or
merman expands their confidence as they hold their breath under
water for longer periods of time while building up their muscles
for what could become a lifelong interest in aquatic sports — or at
least some basic survival skills.
Congress is on the verge of passing a law that would open a door
for invasive species to sneak into Puget Sound from San Francisco
Bay — known as the most infested waterway in the country.
The proposed legislation, supported by the shipping industry, is
focused on reducing regulations surrounding the release of ballast
water, which large ships use to maintain stability. Environmental
groups and officials from at least nine states have voiced their
opposition to the proposal, saying it could result in long-term
damage to coastal and Great
Ballast water doesn’t get much attention in the media, but it
has been associated with the transfer of invasive species
throughout the world. Ships often take on ballast water at ports
where they unload their cargo before moving to their next
destination for a new load. As ships take on cargo, they discharge
ballast water from the previous location — along with any organisms
that hitched a ride.
Introduced species may multiply, displace native species and
disrupt the food web. Lacking natural predators, some invasive
species have been known to grow out of control, taking over beaches
or underwater areas.
Rules and more rules
To reduce the risk of invasive species, the U.S. Coast Guard
requires vessels from foreign countries to exchange their ballast
water at sea before entering U.S. waters. Studies have shown that
most organisms living out in the ocean don’t survive in coastal
waters, and vice versa. So it is less risky for Puget Sound to
receive ballast water picked up well off the coast than from
another coastal inlet.
Ships that don’t discharge ballast water don’t need to comply
with the Coast Guard’s ballast-exchange rule, nor do any ships
transiting the U.S. coast, such as those coming into Puget Sound
For years, fears have been growing that Puget Sound will become
invaded by species that could alter sea life as we know it today.
San Francisco Bay is dominated by more than 200 non-native species,
including the European
green crab and the Asian
clam — both of which have caused enormous economic losses to
the shellfish industry in various locations.
In contrast, Puget Sound has become home to an identified 74
non-native marine species, although early introductions of exotic
plankton — including some that produce toxins — could have gone
In reaction to growing concerns about invasive species, the
Washington Legislature passed a law in 2000 that requires ballast
exchange for ships arriving from anywhere outside a “common waters”
zone. That’s an area from the Columbia River to just north of
Vancouver, B.C. Consequently, ships from California that intend to
release ballast water into Puget Sound must first exchange their
ballast water at least 50 miles off the coast.
While the exchange of ballast water has been relatively
effective in controlling the release of non-native species, the
technique has always been considered an interim measure. Treating
ballast water to kill organisms has been the long-term goal — and
that’s where the confusion and frustration begins.
The International Maritime Organization has one treatment
standard nearing final adoption for ships throughout the world. The
Coast Guard says the IMO requirement to eliminate “viable”
organisms — those able to reproduce — is too risky. The Coast Guard
requires that organisms be killed. States may choose to issue their
own standards, and California has proposed the most stringent
treatment standards of all. Still, most of these standards are
essentially on hold pending testing and certification of specific
Shipping companies say all these costly and conflicting rules
are too difficult to navigate for businesses dealing in interstate
and international commerce. But that’s not all the rules they may
The Environmental Protection Agency became involved in ballast
water in 2008, after federal courts ruled that the shipping
industry is not exempt from the Clean Water Act. The EPA then came
up with a “vessel general permit” for ballast water and other
discharges from ships, a permit that was challenged twice by
environmental groups. Each time, the courts ruled against the
The latest EPA permit failed to require the “best available
technology” for ballast water treatment, failed to set numerical
standards, failed to require monitoring, and failed to meet other
provisions of the Clean Water Act, according to a ruling
handed down in October (PDF 6.4 mb) by the Second Circuit Court
of Appeals in New York. A revised permit is now in the works.
Legislation and politics
That brings us to the controversial legislation, called the
Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDA. The essence of the bill
is to eliminate state jurisdiction and any oversight by the EPA.
Upon enactment, only Coast Guard rules would apply, and ships from
San Francisco would no longer need to exchange their ballast water
before coming into Washington or Oregon. For an in-depth
understanding of the bill, read the
Congressional Research Service report (PDF 3.5 mb).
The lack of coastwise ballast exchange is the biggest concern of
officials along the West Coast, where similar state requirements
are in effect. In California, the problem is that VIDA would allow
the spread of invasive species from San Francisco Bay to more
pristine bays, such as Humboldt Bay. While the bill allows states
to petition for regulations to deal with local conditions, nobody
knows how that would work. The petition would need scientific proof
that the local regulations are needed and feasible, and the Coast
Guard would have 90 days to make a decision.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, VIDA became attached to
the National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved. NDAA is
a “must-pass” bill to authorize military funding and many other
things associated with national defense.
The Senate version of the defense bill does not contain the VIDA
provision. While the two bills are technically in a conference
committee, insiders tell me that top leaders in the House and
Senate must engage in political battles over the critical defense
bill and try to work out a compromise to gain approval in both
The shipping industry is lobbying hard for VIDA to stay in the
compromise bill, while environmentalists want to take it out. We
may not know which of the related and unrelated riders on the bill
will survive until the bill is ready for congressional action.
In the Senate, Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio was the original
sponsor of the legislation when it was a stand-alone bill.
Republicans would like him to get a win for the folks back home,
where Rubio is engaged in a tight election race. (See Dan
Friedman’s story in Fortune.)
President Obama, threatening a veto, lists VIDA as one of many
provisions that he opposes in the House version of the National
Defense Authorization Act. See
Statement of Administration Policy (PDF 1.2 mb). Nobody thinks
he would veto the bill over ballast water alone.
Many shipping industry officials say they don’t object to
stringent treatment standards. They only wish to avoid multiple,
confusing standards. They also would like some assurance that the
standards are technically feasible and won’t require ongoing costly
changes to equipment.
Environmentalists say they don’t want to lose the authority of
the Clean Water Act, which allows average citizens to bring
lawsuits to protect the environment.
“The Clean Water Act is a tried and true approach for
controlling water pollution problems,” said Nina Bell of Northwest
Environmental Advocates in Portland. Her group was among those that
brought the lawsuit
against the EPA (PDF 6.8 mb).
“I think we are poised to make some real progress,” Nina told
me. “VIDA opts instead to take away authority from the
Environmental Protection Agency and give it to the Coast Guard,
which has no environmental expertise. The Coast Guard has a lot of
priorities, such as keeping people safe on ships and protecting our
waters, but this is not one of them.”
The EPA has clear authority to regulate ballast water and limit
the spread of invasive species, she said. If the EPA were to issue
strong requirements, the states would not need their own
Tidal waters in Silverdale flow smoothly in and out of Clear
Creek estuary, passing under a new 240-foot-long bridge — a massive
structure that has replaced a pair of six-foot culverts.
I visited the site this afternoon, walking over to the bridge
from Old Mill Park, and I found the changes startling. Flows of
freshwater from Clear Creek joins saltwater that trickles through
tidal channels from Dyes Inlet. Tidal shifts are reshaping the
estuary, flushing out trapped sediment and leaving deposits of
gravel of varying size. When the fall rains come, salmon will be
able to linger in the estuary upstream or downstream of the bridge
before moving up into the watershed.
Traffic across the estuary was shut off for construction a
little more than a year ago. Now county officials are planning to
celebrate the opening of the new bridge on Friday of next week
(July 22). The ceremony, led by Kitsap County Commissioner Ed
Wolfe, will begin at 10 a.m. on the east end of the bridge. A
Marine Corps honor guard will present the colors, and the Central
Kitsap High School marching band will perform.
“We encourage the community to join us in celebrating this
special occasion,” Ed stated in a news release.
“The new bridge not only addresses traffic needs, but provides
additional non-motorized enhancements as well as restoring Clear
Creek estuary with the removal of culverts.”
Parking will be available at the former Albertson’s/Haggen
grocery store parking lot near the intersection of Bucklin Hill and
The $19.4 million construction project is said to be the largest
project of its kind ever undertaken by the county. The bridge
allows the roadway to be widened from two to four lanes with a new
left-turn lane at Levin Road and a center two-way turn lane
elsewhere in the area. The project adds new bike lanes, sidewalks
and pedestrian overlooks.
After the bridge opens, the contractor, Granite Construction,
will continue to finish various aspects of the project. Occasional
traffic delays can be expected, according to county officials.
Chris Butler-Minor, a master’s degree candidate at Portland
State University, is studying the ecological changes resulting from
the project with the help of volunteers. They are collecting water
samples and monitoring sediments, vegetation and invertebrates.
“It’s a yearlong inconvenience but the outcome will be improved
transportation, improved bike and pedestrian access, and the salmon
are going to love it,” Chris was quoted as saying in a
story by Kitsap Sun reporter Ed Friedrich.
I grew up with cats and have lived with cats for most of my
life. I can’t recall that any of my feline friends were fond of
water. But then nobody I know has ever taken the time to teach them
to surf on the back of a dog, ride the waves with a human or even
learn the basic command to “stay.”
These things are exactly what long-time dog trainer Robert Dollwet has
done after deciding he wanted to train cats. After moving from
California to Australia in 2010, Robert went to a local animal
shelter and adopted a lively kitten he named Didga, short for
Didgeridoo. As he proceeded through the training, Robert began
sharing his methods on a YouTube channel he named “CATMANTOO.”
Later, he added another kitten, Boomer, to his family.
The first video on this page shows Didga performing a stunt that
Robert calls “Ice surfing.” That’s because the dog (who belongs to
a client involved in dog training) is named Ice. Robert says many
of the feats shown in his videos take weeks or months for the
animals to learn.
“Please don’t try the things you see at home,” he says in a note
attached to the video. “I’d feel bad if your cat was hurt or forced
into doing something they don’t want to do. Watch my tutorials to
learn how to teach your cat.”
The second video, released in April, shows Boomer riding on a
surfboard on a river, as Robert gently paddles around.
“We’ve been doing this since he was a kitten,” Robert writes in
the notes. “I gave him lots of food while he rides on the
surfboard. He’s 11 months now, and he is so comfortable, it’s about
that time to take his surfboard riding skills to the next level —
by actual surfing on a wave in the ocean (with life vest, of
course). Stay tuned.”
The third video is an amusing story called “Didga Dreams BIG,”
which actually shows off this cat’s repertoire of tricks and
stunts. I like the way Robert demonstrates his cats’ abilities by
telling little stories in some of the videos — such as Didga’s
skateboard trip around the beach town of Coolangatta, where he
lives in Australia. See “World’s Best