Wednesday, February 29, 2012

People for Lake Padden Say, 'Thanks!'

Betsy Gross (Photo: David Roberts)
People for Lake Padden director Betsy Gross wrote late in the evening of February 28:

"Tonight, Whatcom County Council voted unanimously to reject an ordinance reinstating the Yew Street Reserve Urban Growth Area.  This decision was influenced by many variables, not the least of which were the letters and calls to County Councilmembers by many individuals and organizations, including you, supporting People for Lake Padden's recommendation to delay voting on a possible rezone/ UGA designation reinstatement until such time as their scientific studies of the lake's waters/ watershed could be completed.  We thank you so much for your support; it made a huge difference.

"We will complete our land use analysis and water quality survey of Lake Padden this coming fall, and report our findings to city and county officials. We believe that these scientific studies will provide guidance for future land use decisions and stewardship of Lake Padden.  We believe that the health of Lake Padden can be protected and improved by using the best scientific methods to measure water quality and lake health.  Using that science, government agencies can adopt best management practices in pollution prevention and land use, and our communities can become more aware of the lake’s value and become more engaged in its stewardship.

"People for Lake Padden is an all-volunteer effort augmented by Western Washington University interns and academic oversight.  The studies and findings are coordinated with various government partners in the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, and the State Department of Ecology to exchange information, ensure scientific integrity, and provide quality assurance.  We can be found on the web here.

Thanks again for your support; we really appreciate it."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Puget Sound Partnership: Who Cares?

Tarboo Bay (K.Kennell)
The Senate Democrats today release their state budget proposal and we’ll see how the Puget Sound Partnership fares.

According to The Olympian, the House Democratic budget proposal cuts the Partnership’s budget by 31 percent and the House Republican budget proposes doing away with the agency.

How sad it would be to have this effort to make the Sound “swimmable, fishable and diggable” by 2020 die with a whimper. It would be the third major effort in the last 25 years — following the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority and the Puget Sound Action Team — to fall into political oblivion.

The Olympian editorializes that the value of the Puget Sound Partnership is threefold:

 • Convenes scientists to figure out what’s wrong with Puget Sound, and what can be done to fix the problems.

 • Reports on progress and setbacks on the road to Puget Sound recovery.

 • Keeps the 600 Puget Sound partners working together on common goals through an action plan that sets specific targets and holds partners accountable.

I asked one observer of the Olympia political winds what’s in store for the Partnership’s budget and future. The two-word reply: “Think McKenna.”

Puget Sound recovery and the Puget Sound Partnership were key components of Governor Chris Gregoire’s adminstration. The Partnership has suffered from past mismanagement. Its main champion the Governor is moving on. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee hasn’t championed Puget Sound recovery and is trailing Republican candidate Rob McKenna in polling.

Who is still in the Puget Sound Partnership’s corner?

I hope the final budget won’t be quite so draconian for the Partnership but it will raises the relevant point as to what the Partnership does and whether what it does is critical to the restoration of Puget Sound.

The Partnership, like the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority of the past, has no authority so theirs is a coordinating and oversight function with ‘moral authority,’ as it were. I think that ‘authority’ and the role of being the keeper of the Puget Sound Action Agenda and its performance benchmarks are reasons enough to keep the Partnership functioning.

That the Republicans  would do away with the Partnership gives enough reason to keep the Partnership and to keep the flame of Puget Sound recovery glowing.

The Partnership has squandered so many opportunities and social capital and disappointed its supporters that it would be easy to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face and say, let ‘em disappear .

But I want to keep our eyes on the prize— that of a Sound that is swimmable, fishable and diggable — and protect what we have in place, as imperfect as it has been and might even seem to be presently--  to help move us forward to that prize. I want the Puget Sound Partnership to speak out and use its "moral authority" to get that job done.

Save the Puget Sound Partnership.

--Mike Sato

Friday, February 24, 2012

Community-led Protection of Bellingham's Lake Padden

Lake Padden (Photo: Phil Humphries)
Betsy Gross, Director of People for Lake Padden, wrote the "Whatcom View" guest editorial below that was printed this morning in the Bellingham Herald.

Residents join together for Lake Padden and park

By Betsy Gross, director of People for Lake Padden

Who in Whatcom County doesn’t know about Lake Padden and its park, the jewel in the crown of Bellingham’s City park system located a few miles south of downtown?  Established 40 years ago, Lake Padden Park includes picnic areas, playground, beach, ballpark, golf course, dog off leash area, and over 5 miles of trails.

Visitors to Lake Padden can testify to both its beauty and its many fine recreational uses: swimming, boating, golfing, fishing, bird watching, picnicking, hiking, walking, jogging, racing, and bicycling. The Padden Park area is also habitat for deer, raccoons, wild birds of all kinds, and coyotes.

Many organizations hold their events at the lake throughout the year: the Resolution Run and Polar Bear Plunge, the Dog Days of Summer, the Padden Duathlon and Triathlon, the Masters Swim Club’s Open Water Swim, and the Greater Bellingham Running Club’s Lake Padden Relay, are a few among many.

The lake itself covers about 160 acres and the maintained trail around it 2.6 miles long – just the right distance for a walk.

For many years my friends and I have enjoyed starting our mornings with a walk at Lake Padden. During certain times of the year, however, we noticed fluorescent algal blooms covering large areas near the shoreline and wondered what was happening to the lake.

When I first moved into Lake Padden’s watershed, I did not connect what I did at home with how it affects the lake.  A watershed is just like a bowl: what happens on the sides of the bowl will eventually slide to the bottom.  So I put myself on a learning curve to become a better lake steward.

Over the years I met many fellow Lake Padden enthusiasts who held similar sentiments – a love for the lake coupled with a concern over its condition.  Out of this concern we formed in April 2011 People for Lake Padden, also known as P4LP, and committed ourselves to protecting the lake and preserving it for generations to come.

We began partnering with local organizations that could help us learn more about the lake.  We learned that water quality data existed but it was spotty and no baseline had ever been established.  Using start up donations, we hired two Huxley college interns to collect and analyze water samples and to conduct a land use mapping study of the lake’s watershed.

This year we will use the information collected on Lake Padden’s water and watershed to determine the influence of runoff on the lake’s general health. Our results will be provided to the Department of Ecology, the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County for use in making land use decisions.

We do this entirely as volunteers because we want our grandchildren to love and enjoy this beautiful lake as we do now.

This doesn’t happen without effort.  It requires stewardship – not only for those of us who live in Lake Padden’s watershed or who frequent the park, but also for the public officials who are our official guardians of this beautiful lake’s lands and whose decisions will influence the health of Lake Padden for generations to come.

Our County Council elected officials are making such a decision on February 28 regarding reinstating the Yew Street Neighborhood - in the Lake Padden watershed - to its former UGA status. If this action passes, it could increase development in Lake Padden’s watershed and could affect the health of the lake.

P4LP is requesting County Council to defer any action until the results of our water quality and watershed studies are completed.  We believe the data and analyses from these studies will provide sound recommendations to inform a knowledge-based decision making process by the County.

If you also love Lake Padden and are interested in its protection and preservation, I urge you to add your voice to ours and contact the County Council before February 28.

People for Lake Padden invites you to learn about Lake Padden and to join in protecting this beautiful local resource by visiting our website.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Community-led Protection of the San Juans

Patos Lighthouse on BLM land (PHOTO Tom Reeve)
Gandhi said: “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”

We might have a good example this Saturday when Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Senator Maria Cantwell hold a public meeting to discuss the progress that has been made, and is ongoing, to conserve and protect the San Juan Islands. The meeting starts at 10:30 AM in the Anacortes Senior Center, 1701 22nd Street. RSVP required by 12 PM (PST) Feb. 17.

For the local community, this is a great chance to thank the Secretary and the Senator for their support of the community-led efforts and a time to re-iterate to them the importance of permanently protecting these cherished lands.

The local group spearheading the effort, Islanders for the National Conservation Area, writes:

“In the late 1980s a group of Lopez Island residents formed the Friends of Chadwick Hill to prevent the logging of a local landmark which ultimately led to the protection of Chadwick Hill and Watmough Bay. The effort also built a long and supportive relationship with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages about 1,000 acres spread across the San Juan Islands. BLM currently manages 450 acres of its lands in the San Juans as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. These lands are not currently threatened, but are not under permanent protection. A few other sites are co-managed with Washington State Parks, but the remaining acreage currently has no specific planning or protection.

“Some of those original members of Friends of Chadwick now form the core of the Islanders for the National Conservation Area, which is focused on having the BLM lands in our islands officially designated as Conservation Lands to ensure their permanent protection.

“Those efforts reached a major milestone in September when Representative Larsen and Senator Cantwell introduced bills in Congress to officially designate the BLM lands in the islands as the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area. That legislation requires the BLM to manage its lands for conservation and recreation and directs the BLM to work closely with the community to build a management plan for those lands. The legislation doesn’t call for any additional acquisition of land and explicitly limits its impact to land owned by the BLM, with no impact on surrounding private lands.

“Those bills are now awaiting action in Congress. While the supporters are pleased with our delegation’s support of the bills, getting the legislation passed into law will be challenging in the current congressional climate. Several supporters are planning a trip in March to the other Washington to meet with congressional staff and officials at the BLM to help move things forward on the Conservation Lands designation.

“For more information on the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area effort, including maps of the BLM lands and the text of the legislation, visit the web site  or send an email.

“For some activities happening on BLM lands in the San Juans visit: Iceberg Point Bird Survey; Indian Island Marine Observatory, Tides of March event March 15; Lopez Island Conservation Corp, Watmough work party February 23 ; Keepers of the Patos Light; Turn Point Lighthouse Preservation Society; Washington Water Trails, Blind Island work party May 5.”

If you can’t make the meeting, visit the San Juan Islands NCA web site  to learn more about how to support this community-driven effort.

--Mike Sato

Friday, February 10, 2012

Norm Dicks' Millions For Puget Sound

Rep. Norm Dicks
We hooted in derision when the late Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska brought federal dollars home to build the “bridge to nowhere.”

We cheered when Rep. Norm Dicks brought millions home to his son David Dick’s Puget Sound Partnership to save Puget Sound.

Kimberly Kindy in the Washington Post retold the Dicks pere et fils story in the context of what’s called “earmarks” -- special appropriations handed out by representatives and senators to special projects back home. Kindy detailed the trail of big money coming to the Partnership under David Dick’s direction, to the Environmental Protection Agency for dispersal to state Puget Sound projects, and how money was appropriated and misappropriated along the way.

Rob Hotakainen at McClatchy blogged that the Post in its story cited Dicks as one of 16 members of Congress who had taken actions to aid entities connected to their immediate families.

Nothing new, according to Brad Shannon of the Olympian:  “This is not the first time Dicks’ influence over earmarks has been called into question. A Congressional Quarterly report in 2009 said he ranked high among the more than 100 House members who secured earmarks for clients of a much-scrutinized lobbying firm, The PMA Group.... Dicks, now in his 18th term, had asked for some $11.3 million of contracts on his own and secured $800,000 more with others. Dicks also received $91,600 in campaign donations from the PMA Group and employees since 2001, the article contended.”

I’m sure, as Norm Dicks says in the Kindy story, he and his son were doing what they thought was right for the health of Puget Sound and for the people of Washington state.

Quite frankly, I thought David Dicks was chosen to direct the new Puget Sound Partnership because he was the son of Rep. Norm Dicks. I’m sorry that the Partnership under his direction did as poor a job of saving Puget Sound as it did and frittered away valuable political capital and money.

I also think the big money, the prospects of sharing in the big money, and the relationship of pere et fils also made it hard for those working on Puget Sound recovery to be candid and constructively critical of what the Partnership was and wasn’t doing.

But that’s all behind us now. New team, new game.

It’s also election year. And it's a good time to ask how protecting and restoring Puget Sound — and the Puget Sound Partnerhsip-- will play in the gubernatorial election? Outgoing Governor Chris Gregoire has held up as a priority a clean Puget Sound by the year 2020 (Fishable, Swimmable, Clammable). Will Jay Inslee? There's no mention of Puget Sound in his latest fundraising letter. Does Rob McKenna fish, swim, clam in Puget Sound?

There’s a big chunk of change going to Puget Sound protection and recovery. What have been the results thus far? The Partnership has established benchmarks and “performance measures.” Well and good, but if you want candidates and elected officials to stand by your side, best you say what the money’s bought in results. Not how the money’s been spent but how things are better as a result of what’s been spent.

I think we enviros and our fellow travelers should be the toughest critics to make sure the money’s spent well— before taking it in the teeth from the polluters, developers and Tea Baggers.

Oh, and we should remember to make good on the claim that investing in environmental protections creates jobs: how many jobs have Norm Dick’s millions created? That’s powerful stuff.

--Mike Sato

Monday, February 6, 2012

Screwed: Komen’s Pooch


Maybe M.I.A.’s flipping America the bird during Super Bowl halftime festivities will be enough to make folks forget the Susan B. Komen For The Cure’s massive screw up over de-partnering then re-partnering with Planned Parenthood last week.

I doubt it will be that easy.

The Foundation first announced via an Associated Press story that it would no longer provide funding, based on its new funding criteria, to organizations that are under investigation. Planned Parenthood provides breast examinations and related care to thousands of women unable to afford health care but is under investigation by an anti-abortion Florida congressman.

The Foundation got blasted in the media, by elected officials and on social media networks and, by week’s end, apologized to its donors, reversed its decision and reinstated funding to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood, for its part, received nearly three times in donations the amount of funding it would have lost.

What in the world was going through the skulls at Susan B. Komen For The Cure? Did their PR people advise them that something like a news release to the wire service would allow the Foundation to fly under the radar of public perception and opinion? Do people who give stupid advice and take stupid advice like this still have jobs at the Foundation?

"Komen has lost touch over the years and just become increasingly insulated and out of touch from the people on the front lines, the people who donate and walk and participate in their fundraisers," says Women with Cancer blogger Jody Schoger.

Where should this rate on the Screw the Pooch scale of PR debacles?

Above or below Netflix hitting the rewind button after customers cried foul on plans to split up its DVD rentals and streaming services, effectively doubling customer monthly fees?

Above or below Bank of America becoming one of Occupy Wall Street’s poster villains before retracting plans to charge $5 monthly fees for all debit-card users?

Above or below Mitt Romney finally showing that he makes more than $56,000 a day without working?

It’s wise, they say, never to overestimate people’s knowledge of the facts nor to underestimate people’s intelligence. I certainly hope so.

--Mike Sato

Friday, February 3, 2012

On The Wrong Side of Wetlands

Permitted land development should not by law destroy the chemical, physical and biological functions of wetlands.  Any adverse effects should be avoided or mitigated on site.

But land developers are also allowed to destroy wetlands by paying for their creation or enhancement elsewhere. This ‘mitigation banking’ according to the state Department of Ecology has, “With proper implementation... the potential to increase ecological benefits, save money for project applicants, and improve efficiencies in application and permitting processes.” What is wetland mitigation banking?

King County, with the blessing of developers and the environmental group People For Puget Sound, has its own ‘banking’ system. Streamlined process for wetlands proposed

Justifying the destruction of wetlands by building wetlands somewhere else always struck a dissonant note but now a study, published in the January issue of PLoS Biology, examined data from more than 600 restored or man-made wetlands and found that in key ways, they don’t measure up to the real thing.

“It’s much better to protect what we have now than to keep degrading it and put in the kind of substitutes that are not going to recover in many, many years. Or they are not going to recover ever,” said David Moreno-Mateos, the study’s lead author.  Restored wetlands no match for real thing

We like Jerry Parker’s approach. In response to the news article in The Herald ( Snohomish wetland could become a major attraction for bird watchers  ) he wrote: “Enjoyed reading your article about a nature trail in the wetland  adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant.  Missing, however, was any mention of the relation between the wetland and the treatment plant.  Areas around the world are increasingly using wetlands to provide final treatment (polishing) for  wastewater.  Arcata CA has created vast wetlands on what was   previously a shoreline dump to provide not just final polishing but  most all of the treatment to its wastewater prior to discharge.

"A follow-up article might address this.”

--Mike Sato

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Toro, Poke and Ceviche

Last weekend I enjoyed a piece of a toro nigiri sushi. Toro is from the fatty belly of the bluefin tuna. I know, I know— eating any part of a bluefin tuna should get me 50 lashes with a wasabi root-- but it was an incredible taste experience.

I promise that’s the first and last time I’ll eat toro sushi or sashimi.

In my ordinary life, I’ve limited my appetite for raw fish to ahi, or yellowtail tuna, even though Greenpeace in 2010 red flagged the catch as unsustainably harvested. Yellowfin as sashimi is a ceremonial dish and an expensive indulgence in Hawaii at New Year’s meals but It’s also a more affordable, year-round treat prepared as poki, a raw dish prepared with cubed ahi, sweet onion, green onion, soy sauce and sesame oil. That’s the basic recipe but there are variations adding kukui nut, Hawaiian seaweeds, hot peppers and more.

(Last weekend’s San Francisco-style poke came with bits of chopped pineapple. Ugh.)

There’s no excuse for eating bluefin tuna, thank you, but I think I can assuage the shame of eating yellowtail which might be endangered, threatened or unsustainably harvested by eating cerviche, bits of fresh raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice and spiced with chilli peppers, onion, salt, cilantro, and pepper. The amount of fish to the total volume of the dish is relatively modest and the fresh taste sensational.

I had my samplers of cerviche at Fresca, a Peruvian restaurant on Fillmore. I’ve might be tempted to try it at home but it sure was a lot more fun eating it in San Francisco.

--Mike Sato