Category Archives: Planning

Amusing Monday: ‘Science Guy’ flips out during climate demo

“I think we’ve all broken Bill Nye — and I, for one, am absolutely on board with his gritty new reboot,” says comedian John Oliver after “the Science Guy” launches into a profanity-laced demonstration of climate change, in which he literally watches the globe go up in flames.

“I didn’t mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12,” Nye tells Oliver’s HBO audience after firing up his blowtorch. “But you’re adults now, and this is an actual crisis! Got it?”

Nye appeared yesterday on CNN’s Reliable Sources, where moderator Brian Stelter asked him about his blowup. The CNN piece, shown in the first video, goes straight to Bill’s line, “The planet’s on f—— fire! You’re not children anymore!…”

“The writers had this premise,” Nye tells Stelter, “and my performance was heartfelt. But keep in mind, you guys, that I’ve been trying to get people interested in addressing climate change since long about 1993.”

Stelter asks Nye how he hopes to get through to climate-change deniers.

“Climate change deniers, to me, are like astrology people or haunted-house people…,” Nye says. “It takes a couple years for people to change their minds.”

I was amused by the full interview on “Reliable Sources,” which includes Nye’s reaction to the recent sighting of UFOs by Navy pilots.

But the original 20-minute segment about climate change on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” is well-crafted, offering Oliver’s typical humorous take on a serious topic. The second video demonstrates how Oliver likes to feed his audience tidbits of real science and politics while sarcastically poking fun at those who seem to ignore the serious problems of our time.

Here’s to hoping that John Oliver, Bill Nye and others will continue their amusing ways to help people learn about climate change.

Unnamed stream could be named LeCuyer Creek for KPUD hydrologist

UPDATE, MAY 31
The name LeCuyer Creek was approved yesterday by the Washington State Committee on Geographic Names. The name change now goes to the state Board of Natural Resources, which sits as the state Board of Geographic Names. Action is normally a formality. The name, which will be recognized for state business, will be forwarded to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, which is likely to adopt it for federal actions as well.
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The late Jim LeCuyer, who developed a system of monitoring rainfall, streamflow and groundwater levels in Kitsap County, could be memorialized next week when a stream near Kingston is officially named LeCuyer Creek.

Jim LeCuyer

The state’s Committee on Geographic Names will meet Tuesday Thursday to consider the proposed stream name in honor of LeCuyer, who died in 2012 from a blood disorder.

Jim, who joined the Kitsap Public Utility District in 1984, came to understand the water cycle on the Kitsap Peninsula perhaps better than anyone else. When Jim took the job, one of the looming questions for government officials was whether the peninsula would have enough water to serve the massive influx of people who were coming to Kitsap County.

“Jim started doing hydrological monitoring about 1991,” said Mark Morgan, KPUD’s water resources manager who proposed the name LeCuyer Creek. “What he developed became one of the best monitoring systems in the state, some say on the West Coast.”

It is Jim’s system that I use when I report on water conditions in North, Central and South Kitsap, which are widely different most of the time.

Since Kitsap has no mountain glaciers or snowpack, all the water we get falls from the sky. It then either soaks into the ground or becomes part of a stream. Jim’s ambitious goal was to account for all that water and let people know when low groundwater levels were threatening water supplies or when low streamflows were affecting salmon spawning.

For the system to work well, the data must be rigorously and consistently maintained, month after month, year after year, Mark told me. There is no room for a haphazard approach, and Jim was steadfast in his work.

Beyond that, I can personally testify that Jim was good at putting pieces of the puzzle together, using numbers to prove his point. He would sometimes call me, especially during low-water years to explain the threat to wells and the need for people to conserve water.

A stream on Miller Bay in North Kitsap would be named LeCuyer Creek under new proposal.

I would arrive at Jim’s office, and he would spread out colorful charts and graphs across the top of the table. Then he would proceed to explain, calmly and patiently, the technical details and answer my questions.

“The data and systems we have today is because of Jim,” said Bob Hunter, general manager of Kitsap Public Utility District. “He knew we were in a unique spot on this peninsula with no glacial runoff. It was his idea to collect the data to determine if (the water supply) is influenced by the water purveyors or if it is truly tied to rainfall.”

Those questions are still being pursued, but it appears from the latest studies that the Kitsap Peninsula will have adequate water supplies for the foreseeable future, provided people adopt a variety of conservation measures and that utilities are able to move water from place to place.

In early 2012, looking forward to retirement, Jim sat down with Bob to discuss the future.

“I told him that I wanted him to hire his replacement,” Bob recalled, adding that continuity was so important that he wanted the new person to have a year to learn from Jim. The PUD went through the normal hiring process and interviewed several applicants.

After the search had gone on awhile, Jim came to Bob and said, “I know of only one person who you can trust with managing the data,” according to Bob who added, “Knowing Jim as long as I did, I knew he meant that.”

Jim recommended his own son, Joel, for the job, and the KPUD board approved the hire, which has worked out well for everyone.

While Joel was in training, his father came down with an illness and was taken to Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, where he died. After his death, his family learned that he had a form of lymphoma.

The stream chosen to bear the name LeCuyer Creek drains into Miller Bay near White Horse Golf Course west of Kingston, where Jim and his family lived for about 20 years before moving to Port Ludlow. The stream is a little more than a half-mile long and has never had an official name.

Born April 10, 1953, Jim received bachelor degrees in environmental science and biochemistry from Saint John’s University and the University of Minnesota. He worked for Northern States Power Company and Grain Belt Brewery, both in Minneapolis, and Honeywell in Deer Park, Ill., before moving to Seattle, where he took a job with James Brinkley Company, which manufactures equipment for pulp and paper mills.

In 1984, Jim went to work for Kitsap Public Utility District, where I first met him. At the time, he was scrambling to add new data by testing monitoring wells throughout Kitsap County. Check out the Kitsap Sun, Nov. 12, 1991. Among the stories I wrote involving Jim was a drought in 2009 — a condition we may be facing again this year. See Kitsap Sun Oct. 3, 2009.

Jim, whose family said his work with KPUD was “the job of his dreams,” also loved outdoor sports, animals and spending time with his family. He was 59 years old when he died on Dec. 10, 2012. In addition to his son Joel, he is survived by his wife, Jody; his daughter, Jackie; and two brothers, Bob and Bill.

The Committee on Geographic Names will hold a hearing on the proposed name LeCuyer Creek on Thursday in Olympia. To provide comments, go to the webpage of the Committee on Geographic Names within the Department of Natural Resources.

Sandra Staples-Bortner to retire from Great Peninsula Conservancy

Sandra Staples-Bortner, executive director of the Great Peninsula Conservancy, will retire at the end of this month after 11 years on the job. Those involved in the regional land trust say she will leave the organization much larger and stronger than before her arrival.

Sandra Staples-Bortner
Photo: Kenna Cox

Great Peninsula Conservancy — which protects salmon streams, forests and shorelines — was formed in 2000 by the merger of four smaller land trusts: Kitsap, Hood Canal, Indianola and Peninsula Heritage land trusts. See Kitsap Sun, May 23, 2000.

The goal was to create an organization large enough to hire full-time staff and manage a growing slate of properties, according to Gary Cunningham, longtime board member who was instrumental in the merger. The conservancy struggled financially in its early years, he said, but Sandra helped turn things around.

“She has definitely done the things that the board knew had to be done to make this a financially viable and stable organization that can protect property in perpetuity,” Gary told me.

Sandra was able to improve connections with people in the region, increase donations of land, implement fund-raising activities and ensure stewardship of the lands under control of the Great Peninsula Conservancy, he said. Sandra already understood the environmental issues, Gary added, and she quickly picked up on the legal and technical details — such as working out conservation easements to formalize land-management.

“We depend on the local community to keep us healthy,” Sandra told me. “Our founders did a great job in starting out, and we revise our procedures every couple of years to make things work better.”

With community support and grants from government agencies, the number of properties has grown along with more staffers to focus on specific efforts, such as acquisitions and fund-raising. The organization has played a role in conserving 10,500 acres, compared to 2,100 when Sandra arrived.

“I feel GPC has reached a strong point in time,” she said. “We have really talented, dedicated staff doing exciting conservation projects and reflecting desires to save this wonderful peninsula.”

Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder said Sandra played a critical role in the Kitsap Forest and Bay Campaign, as she helped coordinate a coalition of diverse groups. She also helped to make the conservancy a partner in the Hood Canal Coordinating Council’s In-Lieu Fee Mitigation Program, a process that allows for complete compensation for environmental damage from development.

“It has been a great partnership,” Rob told me. “Sandra has had that great can-do vision, and she has had her fingers in a lot of things that will leave a lasting legacy.”

One of the more recent goals is to increase the public’s connections to the properties, such as leading community hikes to view important fish and wildlife areas. Information kiosks are being constructed to provide information about some of the larger properties.

Another new project is an outdoor camp for at-risk individuals, she said. “Most of them have never done anything like hike or spend time outdoors.” See job post for NextGen Outdoors Camp.

“Sandra has a knack for connecting people to the land and inspiring people to want to help save it,” said GPC President Kit Ellis in a press release. “She has made it easy for each of us to make a difference by joining a volunteer work party or making a donation.”

I asked Sandra to describe the most important land acquisition that occurred during her tenure, and she started off by talking about the ecological values protected by the recent acquisition of Camp Hahobas, a former Boy Scout Camp.

Then she mentioned the massive Kitsap Forest and Bay Project in North Kitsap, Grover’s Creek Preserve near Indianola and Felucy Bay Reserve on the Long Branch Peninsula. She talked about working to save much of Petersen Farm as an agricultural property, then she started talking about smaller acquisitions of importance. I think she could have gone on and on, describing the natural values of each property without choosing a favorite — as one might talk about their children or grandchildren.

For reference, here are links to some of these properties:

“They all have interesting stories,” Sandra noted.

Acquiring property or conservation easements to protect a property often begins with a love of the land by a longtime property owner or by family members who inherit the beloved property, Sandra said.

“Many land owners are as much about saving land as we are,” she noted.

To maintain each property, the organization tries to get a cash donation, known as a stewardship bequest. If the owner wants to donate an important piece of land but cannot provide stewardship funding, then GPC will seek outside tax-deductible donations or government grants.

High priorities for acquisition are salmon streams, shoreline areas and connected forest parcels that can help preserve wildlife-migration corridors, Sandra said. Also important are properties that allow people to enjoy wildlife.

“We’re fortunate on this peninsula that we still have amazing timberlands,” she noted, adding that private and state forestlands contain key habitats and should be maintained as working forests as long as possible.

In her retirement, Sandra plans to travel with her husband, play with her two young grandchildren and spend even more time outdoors.

Laura Blackmore takes over as director of Puget Sound Partnership

Laura Blackmore, deputy director of Puget Sound Partnership, will slide into the agency’s executive director position when she comes into work next week.

Laura Blackmore

Laura has built a reputation as a facilitator, helping to meld diverse ideas into cohesive policies. That experience should serve her well in the director’s post, where she will take on the primary role of shaping the direction of the Partnership for the coming years.

“Puget Sound is in trouble, and we know what we need to do to fix it,” Laura told me. “It took us 150 years to get into this mess, and it will take us awhile to get out. What we need is the political will to keep going.”

Puget Sound Partnership was created by the Legislature in 2007 to oversee recovery efforts throughout Puget Sound.

In appointing Laura to the post, Gov. Jay Inslee said he is confident that she will build on the success of her predecessor, Sheida Sahandy, who helped transform the agency with innovations that honed the restoration efforts. Sheida served as executive director for five years.

“Laura’s extensive experience with the Puget Sound Partnership, her longtime work with tribal governments, and her work on salmon recovery and water quality will position her well to lead the agency,” the governor said in a news release.

Laura, who joined the Partnership in 2015, has been at the center of salmon-recovery initiatives developed by the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council. She’s also been a key player in the development of the Action Agenda — the overall blueprint for ecosystem recovery — and she helped oversee development of the “implementation strategies” that define actions taken by a multitude of agencies and groups.

Laura told me that much progress has been made in improving habitat for fish and wildlife, as reflected in the 2017 “State of the Sound” report. People will see more progress when the next report comes out later this year, she added. Shellfish beds have been reopened to harvest; estuaries have been restored for salmon; and flood plains have been reconnected to streams to reduce flooding and improve the ecosystem. Still, chinook salmon and the orcas that depend on them have been struggling — so restoration efforts must be intensified.

“We have a lot of work in front of us,” she said, “but this was one of the best legislative sessions for the environment that we’ve had in years.”

Much of the legislation, as well as appropriations, came from recommendations by the governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force. Listed in the budget, for example, are:

  • $85 million to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP), which provides local grants to purchase and protect critical wildlife habitat, streamside habitats, agricultural lands and recreation facilities.
  • $50 million for the Floodplains by Design program, which reduces flooding, restores salmon habitat, improves water quality and enhances outdoor recreation by moving houses and roads back from the rivers and allowing the waters to take a more natural course.
  • $49.5 million for Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration, which will fund $30 million in watershed-restoration projects plus provide money for three large-scale projects: Middle Fork Nooksack Fish Passage Project, Dungeness River Floodplain Restoration, and Riverbend Floodplain Restoration on the Cedar River.
  • $44 million for the Department of Ecology to provide grants to local governments for projects that reduce stormwater pollution.
  • $25 million in state funds to match up to $50 million in federal funds for sustainable and measurable habitat projects that benefit salmon and other fish species.
  • $7.8 million to launch three projects in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers known as the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project (PSNERP). They are located at the Duckabush Estuary in Hood Canal, plus the North Fork Skagit River Delta and Nooksack River Delta, both in North Puget Sound.

The Legislature passed laws to to reduce the risk of an oil spill on Puget Sound, to improve compliance with shoreline-protection rules and to decrease the disturbance to killer whales caused by boat traffic.

One issue that Laura will face this year is what to do about the Year 2020 ecosystem indicator “targets” that were established in the early years of the Puget Sound Partnership, which was created by the Legislature in 2007. Many of the targets, such as measures of salmon recovery, have not been reached, as proposed in the legislation that created the Partnership.

As past directors have said, the year 2020 was an initial goal with aspirational targets, but the effort to protect and restore Puget Sound must continue.

“Even if you get to a place where Puget Sound is healthy, you will want to maintain that into the future,” Laura said, just as a healthy human body must be maintained for long-term survival.

New targets need to be developed, she said, and that effort will begin next month during the regular meeting of the Leadership Council, which oversees the work of the Puget Sound Partnership.

Laura, 45, came to the Partnership from Cascadia Consulting Group, where she was in charge of water and natural resources issues, such as helping to facilitate the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council and Chinook Monitoring and Adaptive Management Project.

Before becoming deputy director at the Partnership, she served as director of Partner Engagement and was involved in other interactive roles. Last year, she served on the governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force.

Friday was the last day at the Partnership for Sheida Sahandy, who said this about Laura in a news release:

“I am proud to leave the agency in the best shape it’s ever been, strong and focused. Laura brings a great deal of experience, knowledge and commitment to Puget Sound recovery to this role, and I have full faith that she will continue to lead the Partnership in the right direction.”

Jay Manning, chairman of the Leadership Council, said Laura is well organized and works great with all sorts of people.

“She identifies the task at hand and makes sure it gets done,” he said. “I am super-exited to work with her.”

Laura holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., and a master’s degree in environmental management from Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Duckabush restoration promises major benefits for five species of salmon

An ecosystem-restoration project that would replace two bridges across the Duckabush River and restore a 38-acre estuary on the west side of Hood Canal has moved into the design phase with funding from state and federal governments.

Bridge over the Duckabush River
Photo: Jayedgerton, Wikimedia Commons

The project, which would improve habitat for five species of salmon along with a variety of wildlife, is the subject of a design agreement between the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Projects like this are key to improving the overall health of Hood Canal and Puget Sound,” WDFW Director Kelly Susewind said in a news release. “We have a variety of challenges in conserving our salmon populations, so creating more habitat for juvenile salmon to eat and grow before they journey into open waters is one of the most important things we can do.”

The Duckabush restoration was one of the top projects identified through the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project, or PSNERP, a collaboration among WDFW, the Corps and other partners to determine where restoration dollars would best be spent.

Chinook salmon, the primary prey of the critically endangered Southern Resident orcas, are expected to benefit from improved spawning and rearing habitat in the Duckabush River and estuary. Duckabush chinook are part of the mid-Hood-Canal population, which is among the stocks that have dwindled to low levels, forcing unusual reductions in salmon fishing — not only in Puget Sound but out to the coast.

In addition to chinook, the restoration is expected to benefit chum (both summer and fall populations), pink and coho salmon, along with steelhead.

The Duckabush estuary was bisected years ago when fill material was laid down in the marshlands to form the base of Highway 101. The river was constrained into two small channels spanned by what are now aging bridges. A conceptual design for the restoration project calls for removing the fill along with the two bridges, both considered functionally obsolete, and building a modern 2,100-foot-long bridge to span the restored estuary.

The bridge will be elevated above the existing road level to maintain surrounding elevations. An added benefit to the elevated bridge is that an elk herd in the area will be able to cross the road under the bridge, avoiding hazardous conflicts with traffic that frequently occur now.

The project, including the roadwork and a long list of other changes to restore the estuary (see diagram below), could cost up to $90 million, with 65 percent paid by the federal government. Besides benefitting the ecosystem, the project is expected to improve transportation, decrease flooding and possibly upgrade water quality, according to Seth Ballhorn, nearshore communications manager for WDFW. Valuable shellfish beds in that area have been closed because of pollution, he noted.

Design of the project, including the new bridge, is expected to cost between $7 million and $10 million, with the state’s portion listed in the capital budget now working its way through the Legislature. Bridge design will be under the jurisdiction of the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“We see this as a multi-benefit project,” Ballhorn said. “We are getting more than habitat restoration, and we want the community to get involved and provide input on this effort.”

Public meetings about the project are expected to begin in early summer in Brinnon as part of the state’s environmental review. The design phase is expected to take two to three years.

“It’s great to initiate the design phase with WDFW on a project that will benefit Puget Sound’s chinook and orcas at such a critical time,” said Col. Mark Geraldi, Seattle District commander for the Corps of Engineers.

“In 2016, congress authorized three PSNERP projects that could ultimately restore 2,100 acres of critical habitat,” he said in the news release. “We’ve been working on this for a very long time, and getting to this point is a testament to the hard work and dedication by the federal and state agencies, tribes, academia, and other organizations who’ve been involved.”

The other two top-ranking projects that need further discussion before moving into design involve a 1,800-acre restoration of the Nooksack River estuary and a floodplain/wetland restoration in the North Fork of the Skagit River. See Water Ways, Dec. 17, 2016.

A conceptual map of the Duckabush River estuary project includes a long bridge spanning the estuary (white). Click twice to enlarge.
Graphic: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Amusing Monday: Climate-change comedy grows more intense

The growing urgency of climate change is altering the nature of comedy among those who tell jokes for a living. I’ve noticed a greater intensity in the satire, as warnings from scientists become more specific about the imposing reality of climate change.

Rachel Parris of the BBC’s “Mash Report” discusses this dire topic in a most cheerful way, as you can see in the first video.

“Some of you have been asking, ‘Rachel, all this feels kind of inevitable,’” Rachel says in the video. “’Would it be better if we just give up and let the world burn? Who really needs birds and trees? I’d rather just be taking pictures of my own face.’”

Maybe the damage would be less, Rachel continues, if we all went limp and “floppy” like a drunk person falling out of a window.

Climate-change comedy used to be mostly jabs about higher temperatures and rising oceans. When he hosted “The Tonight Show,” Jay Leno would toss out one-liners about what would happen if the Earth continued to warm beyond 2015: “Hillary Clinton might actually thaw out.”

Reader’s Digest once suggested new names for cities when the polar ice caps melt, names such as “Atlantis City, New Jersey.”

Mary Pols, a reporter for the Press Herald in Portland, Maine, uncovered the Leno and Reader’s Digest jokes and others while touching on the history of climate-change comedy. Her story focused mostly on a local man, Jason Wentworth, who gave up his green laundry business to launch a career in comedy, focusing on climate change. He has even set up a Go-Fund-Me account to get started, as seen in the last video on this page.

Jason’s routine often targets his own audience with jokes about the failure of people to address climate change on an individual level. I would think this would leave audience members feeling at least a bit uncomfortable. Here’s one of Jason’s jokes cited by Mary Pols:

“So many people say, ‘I would ride public transit more, but it is so inconvenient.’ My response is, ‘Have you tried it?’ I want to talk about how inconvenient it is to row Grandma in a canoe to a Red Cross center after a hurricane and then return to your house to rip out wet sheetrock. Or if you live in Paradise, California, it is super inconvenient.”

“Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” sharpened its approach after dire warnings came out from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as you can see in the second video.

“We don’t really worry about climate change, because it is too overwhelming, and we’re already in too deep,” says co-host Colin Jost. “It’s like if you owe your bookie a thousand dollars, you’re like, “Oh yeah, I gotta pay this dude back.’ But if you owe your bookie a million dollars, you’re like, ‘I guess I’m just gonna die!’”

It seems some of the late-night hosts are becoming less humorous about climate change and more direct in their sarcasm. I featured video clips from Stephen Colbert’s show in Water Ways in February. The third video on this page is a clip from “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” who has always found the right sarcastic voice for his news-based commentaries.

Climate Sense: Sharing a little optimism about climate change

One of the most optimistic stories I’ve read — and listened to — about climate change comes from Dan Charles, National Public Radio’s food and agriculture reporter. In a three part-series, Dan takes us on a trip to the year 2050, imagining a time when the world has solved the climate change problem.

Also in my readings this week, I’ve stumbled on some stories about scare tactics in Congress and how to turn back the clock on climate emissions.

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A new federal law recognizes Washington’s maritime heritage

The Maritime Washington National Heritage Area — which now encompasses about 3,000 miles of saltwater shoreline in Western Washington — was created yesterday within a wide-ranging lands bill signed into law by President Trump.

Maritime Washington National Heritage Area encompasses most of the saltwater shoreline throughout Western Washington.
Map: Maritime Washington NHA feasibility study

Created to celebrate the maritime history and culture of Puget Sound and Coastal Washington, the Maritime Washington NHA is the first designated area of its kind in the United States to focus entirely on maritime matters.

The designation is expected to provide funding to promote and coordinate maritime museums, historic ships, boatbuilding, and education, including discussions of early marine transportation and commerce in Washington state.

“We are thrilled about this,” said Chris Moore, executive director of the nonprofit Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. “The stories we want to convey are important to so many people.

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Plastic bags and straws reined in with two bills passed by state Senate

Washington State Senate has tackled the problem of marine debris by approving one bill to ban the use of plastic grocery bags and a separate bill to discourage the use of plastic straws. Both bills have now moved over to the House of Representatives for possible concurrence.

Issues of waste, recycling and compostable materials have been the subject of much debate in the Legislature this year, with at least a dozen bills attempting to address these multiple problems.

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Climate Sense: The road to clean energy – politics, technology and culture

Experts say it is possible, in the not-too-distant future, for the United States to generate nearly all its electrical energy from sources that do not produce climate-changing greenhouse gases. But first some political and technical hurdles must be crossed.

In this week’s “Climate Sense,” I share some news articles that I found noteworthy, as well as an interesting description of five movies about climate change — including the one in the video player here. Films can help bring about cultural change, as mentioned in a review of five films about climate change (Item 6 at the bottom).

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