Thursday, August 14, 2014

Beating The Oil and Tanker Combine By Eating Chocolate (Ship) Brownies

Good folks at the San Juan County Fair Safe Shipping booth are selling brownies in four flavors, including Bakken Shale Brownies with Caramel Crude.  Funds raised this week and weekend go to spreading the message of Safe Shipping in the Salish Sea.

San Juan Islanders For Safe Shipping write: “Our goal is to raise awareness of the increasing number of proposed terminal projects that will increase vessel traffic and multiply the risk of oil spills in the waterways just outside our front doors -- the waters that wash up on our favorite beaches. We are especially concerned about increases in tanker traffic transporting crude oil -- crude oil spills are the most damaging and most difficult to cleanup. 

“The specific target of our action at the County Fair is the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project -- poised to increase the number of tankers seven-fold per month. We islanders need to talk to Canada and let them know we won't let that happen without them putting the safest of precautions in place. Right now, Canada is not capable of effectively cleaning up an oil spill, and that is just not acceptable to us -- especially when we stand to lose nearly 80% of our county's economy should such a disaster happen. And for what? 50 permanent jobs for Canadians and hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to Kinder Morgan....”

OK, maybe it’ll take more than eating brownies but all that we do to save our Salish Sea should at least include brownies. Eat on!

--Mike Sato

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

State Extends Comment Period For Changes To Nearshore Fish Protection Rule

August 12, 2014
Contact: Amy Carey, Sound Action, (206) 745-2441

State Extends Comment Period For Changes To Nearshore Fish Protection Rule

After repeated refusals to extend a 30-day comment period, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reversed itself after last Friday’s public hearing by extending its comment period to September 15 on major revisions to the primary state regulations specifically protecting critical nearshore habitats and at-risk fish species.

The decision followed public testimony before the state Fish and Wildlife Commission on the department’s proposed rulemaking for the state Hydraulic Code which is intended to protect fish and fish habitat from in-water development impacts of bulkheads, groins, piers and marinas. The Code was established to ensure no net-loss of the state’s critical nearshore habitats.

Prior to announcing its extension of the comment period, WDFW insisted that an extension would make little difference because of the complexity of the code revisions. “[E]xtending the comment period an additional 30 days will not provide those who are relatively new to the hydraulic code an opportunity to gain a more clear understanding of the intricacies of this package,” WDFW wrote earlier and reiterated at the start of Friday’s public hearing.

Sound Action’s executive director Amy Carey thanked the department for extending the comment deadline and acknowledged the complexity of the approximately 400 pages of documents, including 150 pages of proposed rule language.  “The point, however, is that the Hydraulic Code is the state’s primary tool for Puget Sound nearshore habitat protection and the public must always be given appropriate opportunity for involvement in the development of important environmental regulations,” said Carey.

“Although the documents may be somewhat technical in nature, we have a intelligent public throughout the region that cares about the health of Puget Sound and the proposed revisions to this code. Shutting them out by only offering a 30-day comment period was a poor decision and we comment the department for taking corrective action" said Carey.

Sound Action will be working with its membership and partners in the environmental community in the upcoming month to resolve areas of concern in the proposed rulemaking language.

Some major issues include:

·      Maintain the current definition of “protection of fish life” that clearly specifies prevention of loss or injury to fish or shellfish and protection of the habitat that supports fish and shellfish populations rather than changing to language defining “protection” as merely “avoiding or minimizing impacts through mitigation.”

·      Strengthen a definition of “no net loss” by making clear that it means there shall not be a net loss of fish life or loss to the productive capacity of fish and shellfish habitat or functions.

·      Maintain statutory requirements by eliminating use of “may,” “if possible,” and “when possible,” and make clear requirements for both department and applicant actions.

·      Add protective provisions for macroalgae, which is used by herring for spawning and by juvenile lingcod, rockfish and salmonids for refuge and as supporting habitat for important prey species.

·      Strengthen forage fish protections by including protections for potential spawning areas that have never been surveyed  and by including provisions to protect adult fish from construction impacts during spawning and pre-spawning activity. Currently less than 30 percent of Puget Sound shorelines have even been inventoried by WDFW which results in a forage fish protection gap.    

·      Strengthen protections against all shoreline armoring impacts by requiring engineer’s report documenting need in all single family bulkhead proposals and by requiring that least impact techniques be used.

These and other recommendations are included in Sound Action’s comment letter to WDFW.

# # #

Monday, August 4, 2014

[UPDATE: New comment deadline Sept. 15] State Allows Limited Opportunity For Public Input On Push For Major Changes In Nearshore Protection Code

NEWS RELEASE/For Immediate Use
August 4, 2014
Contact: Amy Carey, Sound Action, (206) 745-2441

State Allows Limited Opportunity For Public Input
On Push For Major Changes In Nearshore Protection Code

The Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the state Fish and Wildlife Commission are moving forward with plans for major revisions to the only state law specifically protecting critical nearshore habitats and at-risk fish species. The department and commission have allowed for a minimal public comment period and a single, middle-of-summer, late Friday afternoon public hearing in Olympia on August 8.

The state Hydraulic Code is intended to protect fish and fish habitat from in-water development impacts of bulkheads, groins, piers and marinas and was established to ensure no net-loss of the state’s critical nearshore habitats.

The nearshore environment in Puget Sound is where forage fish such as herring, surf smelt and sand lance spawn and where juvenile Chinook salmon grow. The decline in Puget Sound populations of killer whales, sea birds and salmon has been traced to disruptions in the prey-predator balance and loss of spawning and rearing habitats in the nearshore.

The state has proposed a full overhaul of the code guiding the application of this law and recently released approximately 400 pages of documents, including 150 pages of proposed rule language, and provided only a 14-day formal comment period with an additional 15 days for informal comment acceptance. A related 150-page draft Environmental Impact Statement was also released with only 30 days for a public comment period to run concurrently with the rule proposal. See here for the Hydraulic Code revision and the dEIS.

“The Hydraulic Code is the state’s primary tool for Puget Sound habitat protection and many of the revisions lead to a weakening, not a strengthening, of protections,” said Amy Carey, executive director of Sound Action. “The documentation and accompanying environmental impact statement are voluminous. Important regulations like these deserve much, much more time for public review and comment than the minimal time period and one hearing opportunity the department has provided.”

Sound Action’s draft comments regarding the code changes are found at “Preliminary Comments on Hydraulic Code Proposed Rulemaking” (pdf)

Carey added that Sound Action and other conservation groups had requested that WDFW extend the comment period beyond the August 15 deadline another 30 days and to provide additional public hearing opportunities in Puget Sound. The request, according to Carey, was rejected by the department.

# # #

Sound Action: Turning The Tide For Puget Sound


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Screw The Land and Water, There’s Gravel In Them Thar Hills

Pit-to-pier terminus (Peninsula Daily News)
 ‘Mining Puget Sound’ sounds like an anachronism, a by-gone day of coal mining which gave us locale names like Black Diamond and Newcastle. Mining these days promises to bring us coal on rail cars for export to far away lands. But what ‘mining Puget Sound’ these days means is ripping the land apart for gravel— and loading and shipping it out to far-off lands via the nearshore.

The most recent poster child for this kind of screw the land and water operation was the abortive attempt by the international conglomerate Glacier NW to mine Maury Island and ship its gravel via shore side barges staged in a state aquatic reserve . After a decade-long battle waged by the local group Preserve Our Islands, actions by newly elected Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark and the federal court held up Glacier NW long enough for a buy-out deal to be reached. ['State lawmakers approve funds to buy out Glacier Northwest gravel mine' ]

(Proud disclosure: Preserve Our Islands evolved into Sound Action on whose board I sit.)

Whack-a-mole: Over in Hood Canal Fred Hill Materials had been pushing for years to build a four-mile conveyor belt system to send gravel mined from its Shine pit to a 998-foot pier in the undeveloped nearshore for barging. Fred Hill Materials ran into financial difficulty but the project burrowed back under the ownership of Thorndyke Resources and has been moving forward through the Jefferson County planning process. Many of us thought the permitting process would end when Lands Commissioner Goldmark and the U.S. Navy signed a conservation easement restricting industrial development in Hood Canal waters. ['Wash., Navy sign Hood Canal conservation easement'] Now we find the process alive as a deadline approaches for comment on the project’s draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The dEIS is found at the Jefferson County site and a county public open house will be held next Monday, August 4, 5:30-8 PM, at the Port Ludlow Bay Club, 120 Spinnaker Lane, Port Ludlow. Written comments with name and street address should be sent via email  by 5 PM August 11.

John Fabian who leads the Hood Canal Coalition explained that, "when hundreds of millions of $$$ a year are out there in one’s fantasy world, people act in the most remarkable ways," meaning that the project proponents will not give up.

The Washington State-U.S. Navy easement restrictions will go to court and most likely be the subject of legislative action. If the agreement holds, the project dies.

The project proponent thinks the project will be allowed despite the conservation easement. Lands Commissioner Goldmark at the state Department of Natural Resources thinks not. ['Project manager: New state, Navy conservation easement for areas of Hood Canal won't halt pit-to-pier']

So the proposal to screw the land and the waters because there’s gravel in them thar hills continues until the project proponent withdraws the permit or lose in court or the legislature.

Well, let’s turn the screw the other way by standing for the land and the waters. Stand up, speak up, write on. It’s our turn now.

--Mike Sato

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Happy 20th Birthday, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Olympic Coast NMS
Twenty years ago this week the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary was dedicated, the nation’s 12th marine sanctuary authorized under the Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (full name: Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 aka Ocean Dumping Act).

Today, it’s impossible to imagine Congress passing such comprehensive environmental legislation. And having President Richard Nixon, a Republican, signing the legislation, as he did the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the regulatory controls of the Clean Air Act in 1970.

Congress still was a different place in 1992 when it passed the Oceans Act of 1992 which, among other things, authorized consideration of the Northwest Straits and the Olympic Coast as “active candidate” sites for Sanctuary designation.

The National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which administers the Sanctuaries Program chose to begin with the Olympic Coast designation process and, despite missteps in government-to-government consultations with coast treaty tribes, managed to hold public hearings, celebrate the official designation, and begin the management planning for the Sanctuary.

The basic regulatory framework of Sanctuary designation  is relatively benign (no drilling, digging, removing archeological items, taking and disturbing wildlife) and is meant to work in concert with other federal, state and local regulations within its borders. Prohibiting Navy bombing practice within the Olympic Coast Sanctuary and requiring vessel traffic to skirt its boundaries are two specific prohibitions. (Sanctuary Regulations)

When NOAA and Washington state were ready to begin the designation process in 1994 for what was to be called the Northwest Straits National Marine Sanctuary (extending from the Canadian border to include the straits of Haro, Rosario and Juan de Fuca to Admiralty Inlet to the Pacific, the political flames were being fanned hard against the federal government. Newt Gingrich was leading the “Contract With America” Congressional charge, land use and conservation regulations were politicized as “takings” violating property rights, and local citizens and elected officials in the proposed Northwest Straits Sanctuary area talked of United Nations black helicopters and federal government takeover.

NOAA and Washington state agency representatives at public meetings predictably withered in that politicized heat. The basic regulatory framework in a Sanctuary designation, while benign, seemed irrelevant to address real issues within the planning boundaries, and, worse yet, because they were so benign, were seen as a kind of Trojan horse that would result in more draconian federal management regulations once a sanctuary was designated.

Local governments in the Northwest Straits counties passed resolutions against a Sanctuary designation. Second Congressional District Representative Jack Metcalf inserted in federal legislation a requirement that a sanctuary could only be designated with the consent of the counties involved (without specifying what that consent entailed). But that was enough for NOAA and the state to pack their tents and call the process off.

Rep. Metcalf and Senator Patty Murray, however, agreed to address the marine issues of Northwest Straits with a local process involving local governments and citizens in the Sanctuary planning area. That’s today’s Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative -- non-regulatory, citizen-based research and education involving and involved with, but not coordinating, federal, tribal, state and local jurisdictions.

Olympic Coast NMS
It’s a good time to celebrate the success of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. It’s also a good time to reflect on how things might be different if there were a Northwest Straits National Marine Sanctuary, what difference it might have made in protecting and recovering endangered salmon and Southern Resident killer whales and addressing the forecasted increase in coal and oil vessel traffic through the Northwest Straits.

--Mike Sato

Monday, July 14, 2014

What Does It Mean To Be Hawaiian?

Laksa at Panya Bistro
The best part of thinking about what it meant to be Canadian was to be in Montreal during St-Jean Baptist Day eating hand-pulled Nouilles de Lan zhou in a large bowl, spicy, surrounded by people speaking Chinese.

Over the last couple of weeks, the best part of thinking about what it means to be Hawaiian was to be in Honolulu eating the laksa at Panya Bistro and the Belly Bowl ramen at Lucky Belly restaurant and driving my mother to hula lessons at the Alama Sisters’ hula studio.

My great-grandparents and grandparent emigrated to Hawaii from Japan, which makes me Japanese. But people who live in Hawaii are Hawaiian, like I guess I’m a Washingtonian when I’m living here along the Salish Sea. Sometimes my being Hawaiian when I’m Japanese gets confusing, especially when Polynesians in Hawaii speak for their native Hawaiian sovereignty.

Representatives of the U.S. Department of the Interior the last few weeks were holding public listening sessions with native Hawaiians on all the islands about if and how the federal government should approach recognition of native rights and claims. They listened and heard a long list of grievances from people who spoke of the injustice suffered from the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 and the subsequent annexation of the islands by the U.S. government in 1898. According to news accounts, passions ran high and any proposed recognition with government-to-government relations similar to Native American tribal relations would be rejected. Restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom seemed to be the rallying cry.

True, unlike Native American treaty tribes, no treaties were signed ceding land and rights in supposed exchange for federal protection. Land was taken when the monarchy was overthrown and land became private and federal when the islands were annexed. Who are the legitimate heirs to the land unjustly seized and what would restoration of a sovereign Hawaiian government look like in the 50th state of the union?

Ironies in Hawaii abound. Native American culture hasn’t penetrated Northwest living except for place names and maybe the ambiance of Ivar’s Salmon House and the opportunistic faux-Salish logo motifs. Whereas in Hawaii, you can fly to and fro on Hawaiian Airlines, get your electricity from Hawaiian Electric, watch Mormons dance and sing at the Polynesian Cultural Center and imagine yourself at a broadcast of “Hawaii Calls” from the Moana Hotel (the First Lady of Waikiki), if you didn’t want to join the other tourists at the “Pink Lady,” the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

But there’s also too much of the faux-”A-looow-ha” and ugly his-and-her matching prints, badly mixed mai tais, rip-off coral jewelry; you know, the tourist stuff. But hula continues to be very popular, as is Hawaiian music, and my mother, as fully Japanese and as Hawaiian as when I’m in Hawaii, still goes to Saturday hula lessons taught by Puanani Alama (sister Leilani recently passed away) and Miss Yamauchi (Makaleka). Not far away at Yama’s Fish Market, you can get more good Hawaiian laulau, kalua pig, poki, poi, lomi lomi salmon and haupia than you can eat. And go deep into Hawaiian Art Deco, currently the major exhibit at the Honolulu Art Museum, or get lost in the Hawaiian and Polynesian exhibits at the Bishop Museum, or listen to the Royal Hawaiian Band on Fridays in the park for free....

If we are what we eat, then in Hawaii I was Hawaiian, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Mexican, Chinese. Didn’t get to Italian or Filipino this time.  On the Fourth of July, the flags were unfurled, the editorials written, the fireworks shot off. I made a bowl of baked beans, roasted some hot dogs and mixed up a potato salad for the family. I guess we were Americans that day.

Which brings me back to the bowls of noodles. To the laksa, the traditional Singaporean/Malaysian/Chinese dish made any number of ways with noodles, egg, shrimp, fish cake, beef strips, bean sprouts in a broth of beef stock, coconut milk, curry, fish sauce. "Noodle dishes are important in all cultures," Alice, the co-owner, says in a news interview, calling the food at Panya “comfort food.”

Belly Bowl at Lucky Belly
And the artisan ramen at Lucky Belly goes somewhere beyond all cultures. The Belly Bowl features in its broth belly bacon and sausage with bean sprouts, soft egg, wakame (seaweed), sesame seeds, green onion and ginger. Oh, and the noodles.

Next time we have something hard to talk about, we start with a bowl of noodles.

--Mike Sato

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What Does It Mean To Be Canadian?

Nouilles de Lan zhou
I ask that having being in Montreal these last three days, reading signs in French, conversing with bartenders in English and having a great bowl of Nouilles de Lan zhou in a tiny restaurant in Chinatown where everyone was speaking Chinese.

And today is Saint-Jean-Baptist Day, a provincial holiday looked upon by the politically-motivated as an annual reminder that Quebec is French, not English, by others as a day off to party, and by others as a day somewhere in between. I did not meet anyone today agitating for an independent French Quebec; it rained today so I didn’t go the big parade or the music festival in the evening; I did go to Chinatown to have that wonderful bowl of hand-pulled noodles, beef slices, green onions, cilantro, white radish rounds, garlic and red chili oil in a broth of “30 natural  spices and Chinese medicinal herbs,” according to the colorful placemat given only to me, the only ‘foreigner’ in the place.

I’ve never asked my British Columbia colleagues what it means to be Canadian. If anything, they’ve stressed that they are not Americans. And anyway, those of us who inhabit the Salish Sea north and south of the border probably have more in common with each other and the Salish Sea than with the rest of our respective countrymen and women.

Except in rare instances, we do speak the same language. I don’t have to practice my French (poorly) when I go to Vancouver. I did before going to Montreal, the same way I practiced (poorly) before going to Brussels. But in Montreal,  the taxi driver from the airport spoke English and listened to gypsy jazz and broke into French when I ask if he spoke French. He also gave us a demonstration of Louisiana French, along with a brief linguistic analysis. You have to go to Quebec City, he said, if you want to hear only French— but even there, if you speak English, they will want to speak and practice their English.

But on the streets of Montreal I hear French: elderly gentlemen, young ladies, children, women in headscarves, black man with dreadlocks, even some Chinese. Carlos the Air Canada flight attendant announced in English, then French, en route to Trudeau Airport.

But the English-speaking bartender who grew up in Montreal shrugged when I asked him about Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. Oh, he said, that’s something bigger in Quebec City.

French is the official language of Quebec and Canada’s official languages are French and English. Language has been both the flash point and the proxy for political and cultural battles in Quebec and between Quebec and the Canadian government. Today, if you believe the man on the radio talking this morning about what Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day means, to be a Quebecer is to be the best of both French and English. He said he was proud to be Canadian.

I’m not Canadian but I think it would be great if being French and English and Hispanic and Native American and Chinese were what it meant to be Canadian. Americans usually don’t think they can learn anything from another country. We might from our northern neighbor.

--Mike Sato