A draft of a Federal Action Plan to protect and restore Puget
Sound is scheduled for completion before Donald Trump takes office
on Jan. 20, according to officials involved in developing the
The plan will help demonstrate that Washington state and nine
federal agencies are aligned in their efforts to recover one of the
most important waterways in the nation, according to leaders
involved in a new Federal Puget Sound Task Force.
The task force was created in October by President Obama, who
essentially elevated Puget Sound to a high-priority ecosystem, on
par with Chesapeake Bay, the Florida Everglades and the Great
Lakes, according to a
news release from the White House.
memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed among federal agencies
replaces a less structured MOU that was scheduled to expire next
year. The new agreement calls for a five-year action plan to be
completed by June 1, but a draft should be ready by Jan. 18,
according to Peter Murchie, who manages Puget Sound issues for the
Environmental Protection Agency and chairs the task force.
“Part of the goal is to have something in front of the
transition folks … that they can then shepherd through individual
budget and prioritization processes that they’ll be doing with new
leadership,” Murchie told the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership
Council two weeks ago.
In the video “Save Our Snowmen,” frozen creatures are migrating
to cooler regions of the Earth on a mission that could affect their
very survival. This amusing video instills an unusual sympathy for
snowmen while raising a legitimate concern about climate change in
a humorous way.
Various locations, such as Puget Sound, are likely to see some
species displaced while others find a new niche as the climate
undergoes a continuing change. Mass migration is less likely than
population shifts due to predator-prey and disease pressures. I’ve
covered some outstanding reports on this topic from the University
of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group. See
Water Ways, Dec. 1, 2015.
The video also draws attention to the producer of this video,
Cool Effect, which was founded by Dee and Richard
Lawrence on the idea that small actions can mushroom and result
in significant declines in greenhouse gases. The group’s motto:
“Changing the world, one small step at a time.”
Five major Puget Sound projects have been given the provisional
go-ahead by Congress in a massive public works bill signed
yesterday by President Obama.
It seems like the needed federal authorization for a $20-million
restoration effort in the Skokomish River watershed has been a long
time coming. This project follows an extensive, many-years study of
the watershed by the Army Corps of Engineers, which winnowed down a
long list of possible projects to five. See
Water Ways, April 28, 2016, for details.
In contrast, while the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem
Restoration Project (PSNRP) also involved an extensive and lengthy
study, the final selection and submission to Congress of three
nearshore projects came rather quickly. In fact, the Puget Sound
package was a last-minute addition to the Water Resources
Development Act, thanks to the efforts of U.S. Reps. Rick Larson,
D-Lake Stevens, and Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, along with Sens.
Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.
With invasive green crabs entering Puget Sound from the north
and invasive mussels discovered in Montana to the east, the
Legislature will be called on to make some critical funding
decisions to ward off potential invaders.
Green crabs and freshwater zebra and quagga mussels are not the
only aquatic invasive species of concern. As I described in a story
published in the Encyclopedia
of Puget Sound, state officials worry about the potential
import of all sorts of harmful species via ballast water and the
hulls of vessels.
To fully address the threats through prevention and enforcement,
the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that $5.2
million per year is needed. That would move Washington ahead of
Oregon and Idaho in addressing the problems. Each of those states
spent about $1.3 million in 2014, while California spent about
$10.7 million. Washington’s current budget for dealing with aquatic
invasive species is one of the lowest in the country at $900,000 a
Increases in the program would be phased in over six years,
increasing from $900,000 a year in the current budget to $2.3
million in the next biennium, according to a proposal to be
submitted to the Legislature. It would go to $4.7 million five
years from now.
Coconut crabs are giant land-based crustaceans that can grow to
3 feet wide, claw-to-claw. The crabs, frightening to some, inhabit
islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans.
These crabs, which grow larger than any other land-based
arthropod, are known for their uncanny strength. They get their
name from an ability to break through coconut husks with their
powerful claws. They can also break a lot of other things, as
revealed in a variety of amusing videos, some of which I’ve posted
on this page.
Coconut crabs became a topic of discussion among scientists last
month when a group of Japanese researchers reported that they had
measured the strength in the legs and claws of coconut crabs. They
found that these crabs could lift four times their weight, and
their pinching power was greater than that of any other kind of
crab, even greater than the jaw strength of terrestrial predators.
The report was published in the online journal
Martha Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the Puget Sound Leadership
Council, has always spoken with a voice of both reason and passion
while guiding the Puget Sound Partnership in its efforts to restore
Puget Sound to health.
Yesterday and today, Martha attended her final meeting as a
member of the Leadership Council, the governing body of the
Partnership charged with coordinating Puget Sound ecosystem
While listening to presentations on technical and financial
issues, Martha always seems to quickly focus discussions on the key
issues of recovery while asking how to help average people
understand the complex problems.
As a reporter, I’ve enjoyed speaking with Martha, who not only
answers my questions in a direct and revealing way but also
indulges my curiosity. Our discussions often take tangents onto
other interesting subjects, sometimes leading to new stories or old
stories told in a new way.
Nobody doubts Martha’s love of Puget Sound, expressed by her
willingness to spend countless unpaid hours working for a better
If you don’t know what something is called, you can make up a
word for it — or perhaps a word to describe it. I guess that’s
nothing new; every word in the dictionary must have come from
I was amused recently when I heard an episode of “Says You” on public radio featuring
a segment on made-up words. “Says You” is a game show that enlists
a panel of well-read folks who try to explain the meaning of
obscure words in the English language.
What surprised me was when the game went off on a tangent with
the panel trying to guess the meaning of words taken from the
Addictionary, which is sort of an alternative dictionary for
made-up words not found in a regular dictionary.
So how does a game-show contestant define a word he or she has
never heard before, a word that does not even exist? Thankfully,
the made-up words used in the game were amalgams of recognizable
words, so it was fun to hear the panelists struggle to find the
definition of these new “words.” They were deemed correct only if
their definitions matched those of the people who made up the
One that I recall was “bozone,” defined as “the substance
surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating”
— as in “bozone layer.” The panel had fun discussing how the word
might relate to clowns.
When I first started covering the environment for the Kitsap Sun
in the early 1980s, I convinced a state fish biologist to make me a
copy of a notebook containing information about salmon streams on
the Kitsap Peninsula.
Hand-drawn maps of streams, both big and small, along with field
notes about the migration of salmon, stream blockages and other
information were listed in that notebook. Through the years, the
information was updated, combined with other data and eventually
transferred to electronic databases for wider access.
A few years ago, much of this little-known information was
digitized into a map that could be accessed by anyone from a web
browser. The map, using a geographic information system, is such a
valuable tool that I wanted to make sure that readers of this blog
are aware of it.
It was given the name SalmonScape, and the map
shows salmon streams across the state (click “hydrography”); salmon
migration by species (“fish distribution”); stream blockages (“fish
passage”); and hatcheries, fish traps and major dams
The first 10 toxic chemicals to be reviewed under the amended
Toxic Substances Control Act were announced this week by the
Environmental Protection Agency. After review, these chemicals
could be banned or significantly restricted in their use.
As specified by law, the first 10 chemicals were chosen from 90
listed in the TSCA Work Plan, based on their high hazard and the
likelihood of human and environmental exposure.
Incidentally, seven of the 10 chemicals to be reviewed are
contaminants that have reached sources of drinking water at various
sites across the country. Six of the seven are known or suspected
of causing cancer in humans.
These are the seven chemicals known to contaminate drinking
The gloomy feeling of rainy weather, as experienced by looking
out from the inside of your house, can be defeated with a trip to
the mountains, where all kinds of winter fun await.
Downhill skiing and snowboarding are popular activities at
Washington’s ski resorts. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are
less-vigorous options, as are sledding and inner-tubing. One of
many useful websites is
“Pacific Northwest Winter Sports.”
If these activities don’t sound like great fun, you can plan a
drive that takes you into wonderful snow conditions and provides an
opportunity to build a snowman or enjoy a snowball fight. Lodges
and visitor centers offer a retreat from the cold. You might make
friends with others who love the winter weather.