Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lake Padden stewardship needed from many to preserve popular park

(Photo: Phil Humphries)
This guest editorial written by Betsy Gross, director of People for Lake Padden (Whatcom County) was published in the Bellingham Herald on Wednesday, February 27.

Two years ago, volunteers came together to study the water quality of Lake Padden and the land use of its watershed, the area whose waters drain into the lake.

With the help of Western Washington University's Huxley College faculty and students and working under the auspices of the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, we completed our lake monitoring project, a fecal coliform study and a watershed analysis.

At this time, Lake Padden's water quality appears to be stable. There currently is no trend towards a worsening of the lake's water quality that we can detect through our study. That good news needs to be maintained by making sure we are good stewards in our activities in and around the lake and its watershed.

Levels of phosphorus, which directly contributes to algae growth, are within acceptable levels except during the fall. High phosphorous concentrations combined with low nitrogen levels have resulted in significant algal blooms in the fall. The growth of algae results in a depletion of oxygen in the lake below six meters in the late summer and early fall and may result in mortality of aquatic life.

Fecal coliform levels in the vicinity of the dog park and adjacent trail areas are very high, particularly in the fall. These levels exceed water quality standards in the stream and in the lake.

Based on these water quality and land use studies, People for Lake Padden recommends the following actions to the city of Bellingham, Whatcom County, residents of the Lake Padden watershed and Lake Padden Park users:

  • Development in the Lake Padden watershed should be carefully controlled. Watershed development typically results in increases in runoff, nutrients and contaminants which will likely further degrade Lake Padden's water quality. This should be viewed, rightly, as a health risk and ultimately a liability for the city of Bellingham and Whatcom County.
  • The county and the city should use clean sand products when sanding streets during snow events, and they should sand only on the steepest streets and intersections. Using clean sand, distributing it only where it is needed, combined with street sweeping soon after snow events and regular catch basin cleaning, will reduce the negative impacts on the lake's water quality.
  • Clean up the dog park area. The city of Bellingham should install a drainage and filtration system by the Lake Padden dog park and creeks, consider restricting the dog off-leash to places without access to the creek, and add more poop bag dispensers and disposal cans.
  • Post a no-swimming or wading advisory in the area where dogs are allowed to enter the water adjacent to the ball park until fecal coliform issues are resolved.
  • The city and the county should develop and carry out a park and watershed education program focused on nutrient and fecal coliform reductions. Such a program should include:
  • Informing park users how to notify the Department of Ecology's Algae Hotline when blooms are noticed, especially if they are near the dog park or the swimming area.
  • Engage watershed residents on reducing and eliminating activities that add nutrients and fecal coliform to the lake.
  • Engage park and lake user on disposal of animal waste and advise against feeding water birds.
  • Engage Wade King Elementary School on using Lake Padden as a focus for watershed education.
  • Initiate a watershed-pledge campaign to engage residents and lake users in water-quality stewardship.
  • Work with dog and horse owners and their organizations to keep the dog park and paths poop-free.
  • Initiate a public health media campaign to make leaving dog droppings on the ground as socially unacceptable as cigarette smoking.
The complete water quality and land use reports, as well as the full recommendations to protect the lake's health, are found here.

Lake Padden is a precious gem in our park system enjoyed by many. We have a responsibility to be its wise stewards. We have an opportunity to take constructive actions while the lake is still healthy. And we can provide a valuable legacy for generations to come.

People for Lake Padden and its volunteers have taken the Lake Padden project this far, and we now turn to the city of Bellingham, which administers Lake Padden Park; Whatcom County, which oversees development in the Lake Padden watershed; and the residents in the watershed and the many users of the park and ask all to work together to maintain the health and vitality of Lake Padden.

Click here for more information on Lake Padden.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

They Eat Horses, Don’t They?

When I lived in Portland, Oregon, in the ‘60s, I bought horse meat at what I am trying to recall was called “The Horse Meat Market” downtown near the “The Buttermilk Corner.”

I hadn’t thought about that all these years— until last week’s breaking news that horse meat was found in European countries in what was had been thought to be mixtures of beef and pork. And —is nothing sacred?-- found in Ikea meatballs.

One can’t necessarily vouch for the veracity of anything recalled about the ‘60s but I do recall buying a “round steak,” absolutely red, with absolutely no fat. At the Horse Meat Market. I cooked it and ate it. As my father used to ask me: do you do things because you want to save money or because you want to go back a hundred years? I think I bought horse meat because it was cheap and because — if I were going to eat red meat — I heard it was good for me.

I still try to save money and I still try to eat wisely but I haven’t seen horse meat on the butcher racks since the ‘60s. Why not?

According to Eric Niler, writing on “Why Are Americans Squeamish About Horse Meat?”, “Mongolians love it. So do Bulgarians, Swiss, Belgians and French. But Americans -- no way. Eating horse meat is a culinary taboo that started early in our nation's history and continues today. Food experts say it's a distaste that is part emotional and part economic: we love our horses and even if we didn't, we're a wealthy country that can afford to eat choicer cuts of meat.”

Is it hard to think about eating or to actually eat Mr. Ed, Black Beauty, Silver, Trigger...? I’m sure some people have the same problem with Bugs, Daffy, Donald, Porky and Bambi.

Back to horse meat: According to Wikipedia, Mexico was or is the second largest producer of horse meat in the world.

There is a thriving horse meat business in Quebec, and horse meat found in Vancouver, B.C., was described by a Time Magazine reviewer as “sweet, rich, superlean, oddly soft meat, closer to beef than venison."

In Japan, order it as basashi, thinly sliced raw pieces dipped in soy sauce with ginger and onions.

And in England, Alex Renton in The Guardian blogs on “How Britain got a taste for horsemeat”:

“Restaurants and pubs up and down the country are serving up horse steaks. So where should you go for yours? Could horse catch on? It is half the price of beef and undeniably delicious. I went to a steak tasting at Edinburgh's L'Escargot Bleu bistro at the height of the scandal. Chef and patron Fred Berkmillar had packed in 12 Scottish foodies, cooks and meat suppliers and gave us rump steaks to try. One was the best 30-day-aged Orkney beef, the other Comtois horse, farmed in the Dordogne.

“You could have confused the horse with beef, but its steak – juicy, tender, just slightly gamey – won the fry-off by 12 votes to none. And we were all the better for it: horse has lots of  iron, little fat and lots of omega-3. It is healthier than beef, so long as you're not eating an old steeplechaser laced with phenylbutazone. It is not true, by the way, that "bute" is one of those horse painkillers with recreational possibilities.”

I was going to go on about d-o-g but Joe Spike my d-o-g sitting next to me is growling so I’ll stop with horse.

-- Mike Sato

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Erecting the Paywall to Save the Product

The Seattle Times tried putting itself in the same class as the New York Times when announcing Sunday that, like the New York Times and 400 other daily newspapers, it would begin charging for viewing its online content next month. In putting its content behind a paywall, Fairview Fanny now puts itself in the same class as the McClatchy Papers (Bellingham Herald, The News Tribune of Tacoma and The Olympian), the Skagit Valley Herald, and the weekly Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber. David Black’s Sound Publishing purchase of The Herald of Everett and the Peninsula Daily News may mean paywalls there may be coming soon, leaving only the daily Kitsap Sun as yet unaccounted for. (Up north, you will find paywalls at the Vancouver Sun, Victoria Times-Colonist and the Globe and Mail.)

Seattle Times executive editor David Boardman described the decision thus: “The reasons for this development are simple: The economics of the news business, and of the newspaper industry in particular, have changed dramatically over the past decade. More people than ever are reading our content in print and digital formats, but our primary source of revenue — advertising — is declining locally and nationally and no longer supports our costs to the degree it once did.”  ("Digital subscriptions needed to support quality journalism")

In December, the Bellingham Herald’s owner and publisher Mark Owings described his change this way: “Now, it's never fun to ask anyone to pay for something that has been free. But providing unlimited access across all platforms for a small amount makes sense. It also gives us the ability to protect our most valuable product -- our content. I know it really doesn't need to be said, but I'll say it anyway -- a business that gives away its most valuable product for free is doomed.” ("Pay-To-Read —What?")

Sadly, the online content of the local McClatchy papers and the Skagit Valley Herald are no different pre-paywall and post-paywall. How valuable was that product being ‘given away’ for free, and now is charged for? As I wrote in the December blog, “Let me rephrase Mark Owings’ dictum this way: “A news medium that doesn’t provide its most valuable product — its content— is doomed.”

Maybe the Seattle Times will become content rich in its online edition like the New York Times and it will be worth paying for access to online content, but I doubt they have the resources to do it, especially if they are relying on pay-to-read subscribers. Linda Thompson at writes that the online-only subscriber rate will be $3.99/week, which comes to about $207/year. ("The state of Seattle journalism, as the Times puts up a paywall ")

Print subscribers will get access to online content included in their print subscription— which makes some marketing sense if the Seattle Times thinks they will build circulation by driving online-only readers to buy a print subscription in order to keep reading content online “for free.” Maybe they’ve done their market research and they’re carrying out a well-thought out strategy— including analysis that says the $3.99/week price-point will move their market.

I doubt they know and there is much desperation as advertising revenue shrinks in the digital age and the recourse is to start charging for content much like public radio with its marathon fund drives. David Boardman may want to say, “More people than ever are reading our content in print and digital formats,” but print circulation is down and print advertising revenue is down. If more people are reading content in digital format, digital advertising revenue has not  supplemented print advertising revenue. The business model of digital format being a digital version of print format hasn’t worked for advertising.

And, according to Derek Thompson in this month’s The Atlantic, the challenges for advertising in digital format will get worse. The market is moving beyond desktops and laptops to mobile devices: “For the next 10 years, as mobile penetration screams past 60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent, this will be the trillion-dollar question: How do you build a thriving business selling ads on a four-inch screen—and what happens if you can’t?” ("The Incredible Shrinking Ad")

“One of the biggest problems with mobile advertising is that it’s not interactive, it’s just a passive ad,” Thompson quotes Scanbuy CEO Mike Wehrs. “We can make it a full interactive engagement: ‘Thank you for scanning. Do you want to watch a video? Are you interested in sellers nearby? Would you like to order it online?’ ”

Consider that kind of interactivity for mobile content across news, culture and entertainment platforms— and call that the new “newspaper.” That would not only be worth paying for, it would also be where advertisers might be looking to interact.

--Mike Sato

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Governor Jay's Valentine's Day Note to President Barack

Back in December, Santa sent a message asking the President to give us a present by designating a National Monument in the San Juan Islands. Didn’t work then, so this Valentine’s Day, Governor Jay Inslee sent a message to the President with hopes that our wishes come true:

February 14, 2013

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to urge your support for the designation of a National Monument in Washington
State’s San Juan Islands. Such a designation enjoys overwhelming support from the local
community, and will afford important protections for these treasured natural resources.

While serving in the 112th Congress, I proudly co-sponsored legislation to permanently protect as
a National Conservation Area the lands in the San Juan Islands managed by the Bureau of Land
Management (BLM). The approximately 1,000 acres of BLM lands in the islands provide
important recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat and spectacular scenery to the residents of
those islands and to thousands of visitors each year.

Secretary of the Interior Salazar has been very helpful to the locally-driven effort to protect these
lands including a significant investment of his time and talents in two meetings with the local
community. That community, with the backing of the San Juan County Council, Senators
Cantwell and Murray, Representatives Larsen and DelBene, former Governor Christine
Gregoire, and over 150 local businesses, continues to drive this effort to protect these lands as a
National Conservation Area or, if congressional gridlock has obstructed that path, as a National

I strongly support the permanent protection of these lands and urge you to consider using your
authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate a National Monument in the San Juan
Islands before Secretary Salazar leaves office.

Protecting these lands and involving the community in their management will be a lasting tribute
to Secretary Salazar’s work and will help preserve what makes the San Juan Islands a spectacular
part of our great state.

Your very truly,

Jay Inslee

You, too, can send your love note asking President Obama to designate a National Monument in the San Juan Islands before Secretary Salazar leaves office. Do it here:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Farewell, Fog City Diner. I Hardly Knew You.

Amy and I stopping for a drink at the Fog City Diner on San Francisco’s Embarcadero last weekend about half way on a trek from downtown to Fisherman’s Wharf via Chinatown and back to downtown. What a fine oasis on the shady side of the Embarcadero on a sunny day at 2 in the afternoon.

Live long enough and I’ve seen my favorite eating and drinking places close up, change hands, transform. This is the first time I came to like a place on first sitting only to find out when leaving that it’ll be gone the next time I get back to the city.

I chanced upon Fog City Diner when perusing the back page of Schott’s Food & Drink Miscellany (Ben Schott, Bloomsbury 2004) under “A Few Recommended Establishments – United States,” preceded by Lemon Grass (Cincinnati, OH) and followed by Woody Creek Tavern (Aspen, CO).

At the bar: Cold California beer and a glass of California chardonnay to start. Then a small plate of seared ahi tataki with avocado, mango and ponzu and a small plate of Dungeness crabcakes with green apple slaw and sherry cayenne mayonnaise. And to good health: mixed greens and herbs with toasted almonds, balsamic vinaigrette.

Couldn’t think of sitting and enjoying myself eating and drinking in a nicer setting where the light from the low windows bounced off the bar’s mirror and dark interior surfaces. The kind of place, once discovered, you look forward to coming back to.

“Enjoy yourself, next month we close,” said Augustin, the barkeep. San Francisco hosts America’s Cup and shore-side construction is in full swing across the Embarcadero. “New place,” he said.

“Will you come back to your job in the new place?”

“I don’t know,” Augustin said. “I do this for 26 years but I don’t know.”

I don’t know either. I only know what I found in an ABC News item posted a few days earlier on February 7:

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Some big changes coming to an iconic San Francisco restaurant -- the "Fog City Diner" is closing.

The diner was unique when it opened back in 1985. Now the owners say it's time for a change.

The restaurant will close on March 15th for a major overhaul. In its place, a new eatery called the "Fog City Restaurant" will reopen.

The owners say it will be "American-style" with a new bar.

No word on the opening date for the revamped "Fog City."

I’ll hold to the diner’s current motto: “We love you, but No Cry Babies.

Ben Schott will have to revise his list. I’ll stop by the next time to see if Augustin has returned to his job and what “American-style” means in San Francisco.

--Mike Sato

Monday, February 4, 2013

Build Them In Washington

Long before the ‘buy local’ movement got going, environmentalists and labor unions worked together to get legislation passed that would give a leg up to Washington shipbuilders to build new ferries locally. That was the Build Them In Washington campaign.

Twenty years later, legislators want to open the bidding (and the building) to shipbuilders in other states if they can save on cost. ( See: “Lawmakers want new audit to focus on costs of 64-car ferries” and “Lawmakers want audit of spending on newest ferries” )

Dave Groves, editor of the Washington State Labor Council’s website, took a trip down memory lane in his weekend guest editorial, “Buy Washington! Yes, including ferries” reminding us that, “The Build In Washington law has been renewed several times in a bipartisan fashion, most recently in 2008 when lawmakers authorized the emergency replacement of the WSF's steel electric-class boats due to hull erosion. That work went to Seattle-based Vigor Industrial, formerly Todd Pacific Shipyards, which will soon celebrate a century in business. But now, some legislators are wondering if we should build cheaper ferries elsewhere. The Build In Washington law passed because lawmakers recognized the importance of spending our tax dollars here, to create jobs here, and to sustain an industry here. Those jobs have a multiplier effect on our state's economy, creating more jobs and sustaining more businesses.”

From the environmental point of view, we supported giving in-state preferences because Washington shipbuilders had to comply with stricter environmental protection laws than shipbuilders in other states, like Louisiana, which gave out-of-state shipbuilders competitive advantage. Giving a preference in the bidding leveled the playing field. Giving a preference didn’t only benefit the economy, it benefitted the environment as well.

The Build Them in Washington campaign and the Jobs in the Woods campaign, legislation that created living wage restoration jobs for laid-off timber workers, were sterling examples of environmentalists and labor working together. These campaigns are also poster child examples of how what is good for our environment is also good for our economy.

Try to remember these successful campaigns, especially when environmentalists and labor supposedly end up on opposite sides on issues such as building coal export facilities. There has to be leadership on both sides that can find common ground to put truth to the mantra, “good for the environment, good for the economy.”

--Mike Sato

Friday, February 1, 2013

Waiting For Mr. Mole

Since the ground thawed from the last hard freeze, Mr. Mole has been busy along the edge of the cement walkway building his mountains of soil. The only time I’ve seen a mole was an unpleasant encounter when I trapped one a long time ago in a garden in Oregon. This one in our yard I’ve never seen but the dog sure smells him.

If Mr. Mole happens to put in an appearance tomorrow like Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog is expected to, I’ll let you know if he sees his shadow.  I doubt there will be much of a shadow. But I’ll bet there will be a few more molehills.

We don’t have groundhogs to fool with in the Northwest but we do have gophers, most notably the Mazama pocket gopher proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. These gophers, not to be confused with moles, are also burrowing critters and they do put in appearances above ground in the shrinking habitat of South Puget Sound prairies.

Maybe the town of Littlerock, the gateway to some remaining prairie lands, will hold a Gopher Day when Littlerock Lil makes an annual appearance.

In the meantime, I’ll just consider Mr. Mole one of my unseen neighbors. While waiting for him to show himself one of these days, I’ll contemplate his appearance in The Wind in the Willows and wonder why he has so many other manifestations in addition to his role as muldvarp-- as in muld (dirt) and varp (toss)-- or “dirt tosser.”

Mole: a growth on the human skin
Mole: a large rock structure on a shore serving as pier or breakwater
Mole: a boring machine used to tunnel through rock
Mole: a spy who operates from within an organization
Mole: an abnormal mass of tissue in a uterus
Mole: a spicy Mexican sauce made with chili peppers and chocolate

--Mike Sato