Watching Our Water Ways

Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’

Federal grants make statement about Puget Sound

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday announced that $20 million in grants will go to 24 coastal wetland projects throughout the United States.

Fully one-third of those grants will go to Washington state, and seven of the eight will be used for projects in the Puget Sound region.

“This just goes to show that Puget Sound is recognized as one of the most important estuaries in the country,” Michelle Connor, chief program officer for Fortera, told me for a story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

The Port Gamble project would involve the purchase of 1.8 miles of shoreline on the west side of Port Gamble Bay. Kitsap Sun map

The Port Gamble project would involve the purchase of 1.8 miles of shoreline on the west side of Port Gamble Bay. / Kitsap Sun map

I believe this focus on Puget Sound also could say something about state and local priorities in a time of economic hardship.

Former Gov. Chris Gregoire often said the effort to preserve and protect Puget Sound must not let up, regardless of the economy, or we could lose the precious ecosystem under the pressure of ongoing development. Here’s what she told me in an interview before she left office (Water Ways, Dec. 12, 2012).

“I think we have held our own and made some improvement, but not the improvement we should have. We have to kick it up. The population continues to grow. We’re going to have to kick it up or we are going to lose ground. I’m not proud of the fact that we are kind of treading water right now.”

Gov. Jay Inslee has his hands full trying to fully fund education. As far as I know, he has made no specific funding commitments for Puget Sound. Meanwhile, priorities for both the Legislature and Congress are evolving.

As for these new coastal grants, the total local and state match for all these projects nationwide is $21.3 million — more than the total of the federal grants. Fortunately, the local share for most of the projects in Washington state are considerably smaller than the federal share.

I’m not sure how many grant proposals were submitted, but it is clear that only those states and communities willing put out their own dollars in these tough economic times would even apply for the money.

My story in today’s Kitsap Sun deals mostly with a project that would buy 1.8 miles of undeveloped shoreline along Port Gamble Bay, but some of the other projects in Puget Sound are equally valuable. For a brief description of those projects, read the news release (PDF 147 kb) I received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The nationwide list (PDF 66 kb) contains only funding information.


Studies look at effects of stormwater on salmon

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

It’s the water, or maybe it’s just the nasty stuff that’s in the water.

A new series of studies by federal researchers is delving into the question of which pollutants in urban streams are killing coho salmon.

David Baldwin of Northwest Fisheries Science Center mixes a chemical soup of pollutants found in urban stormwater. Coho salmon will be kept in the brown bath for 24 hours to measure the effects.
Photo by Tiffany Royal, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

As I describe in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun, the new studies involve coho returning to the Suquamish Tribe’s Grovers Creek Hatchery in North Kitsap.

Of course, pollutants in streams are just one factor affecting salmon in the Puget Sound region, where development continues to alter streamflows and reduce vegetation, despite efforts to protect and restore habitat. But pollution may play a role that has gone largely unnoticed in some streams.

The new studies continue an investigation that began more than a decade ago with the involvement of numerous agencies. By now, most of us have heard about the effects of copper on salmon, but the latest round of studies will look at the collection of pollutants found in stormwater to see how they work together. It may be possible to pinpoint the chemical concentrations that result in critical physiological changes in salmon.

The latest work involves a team led by David Baldwin of NOAA Fisheries and Steve Damm of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Suquamish Tribe is providing the fish, along with facilities and support.

For information on the ongoing effort to understand how toxic chemicals affect salmon, review these pages on the website of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center:

Acute die-offs of adult coho salmon 
returning to spawn in restored urban streams

The impacts of dissolved copper on olfactory 
function in juvenile coho salmon

Mechanosensory impacts of non-point source pollutants in fish

Cardiovascular defects in fish embryos exposed 
to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

A page called “Coho Pre-spawn Mortality in Urban Streams” presents a series of videos that show the advance of an apparent neurological disease that first causes disorientation in coho salmon and then death. The video is taken in Seattle’s Longfellow Creek, an urban stream.


President’s salmon joke fails to connect with reality

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

UPDATE, Jan. 27:
Since I first posted this item, Scott Veirs pointed out that the recovery of Atlantic salmon is under the joint jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I was not aware of this, and it could help explain the president’s statement. Thanks, Scott. See below for Scott’s comment and my response.
——

President Obama made a joke about salmon in his “State of the Union” speech last night, but his statement didn’t ring true to me, so I did some checking.

President Obama delivers State of the Union.White House photo

Obama used salmon as an example of redundancy in government and the need for reorganization. His point was valid about how a confusing number of agencies are involved in salmon and their habitat, But I’m afraid he’s mistaken about who’s in charge when it comes to these migrating fish. Here’s his statement:

“… Then there’s my favorite example: The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in freshwater, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in salt water (laughter). I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked (laughter and applause).“

The truth is the National Marine Fisheries Service is in charge of most salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act, no matter where they are. NMFS, of course, is an agency under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is under the Department of Commerce.
(more…)


Environmental ed takes on social challenges

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Environmental education has undergone a revolution since the first Earth Day 40 years ago, as I describe in a story I wrote for Sunday’s Kitsap Sun, which I called “The Evolution of Environmental Education.”

Poulsbo Elementary first-grader Ella Jagodzinske, 7, looks for worms under a rock in the school's courtyard wildlife habitat.
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

Now in Washington state, requirements approved by the state Superintendent of Public Instruction are designed to take another huge step in preparing young people to understand all sorts of environmental tradeoffs and write environmental policies for the coming decades.

The word “sustainability” is emphasized in the new “Integrated Environmental and Sustainability Education Learning Standards.” Unlike other educational standards, this new approach does not include specific grade-level expectations.

The standards call for an understanding of: 1) Ecological, social and economic systems, 2) the natural and built environment, and 3) sustainability and civic responsibility.

I hope you’ll read the Sunday piece, which includes an interactive map of environmental programs and projects across the Kitsap Peninsula. You’ll meet Lisa Hawkins, a first-grade teacher who built an outdoor classroom — a certified wildlife habitat — in a courtyard at Poulsbo Elementary School.

This amazing young teacher has a special relationship with her students, especially when they are exploring freely and finding connections among living things.

Here are some links for creating habitats to foster environmental learning at all grade levels.

National Wildlife Federation

Time Out: Using the Outdoors to Enhance Classroom Performance

Certify Your Wildlife Garden

Creative Habitats for Learning

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Schoolyard Habitat Project (Chesapeake)

Schoolyard Habitat Program (Sacramento)

Lisa Hawkins, first-grade teacher at Poulsbo Elementary, engages her students in the wildlife habitat she and an earlier class created in a courtyard at the school.
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall


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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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