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Union leaders worry about new fish consumption standards

OLYMPIA – Washington state is rushing toward water quality standards that will be too strict and cost jobs without being backed up by good science, leaders of unions with workers in aerospace, timber and paper industries claimed Monday.

But a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee said the union leaders are jumping the gun because no decision has been made. What many call the fish consumption standards are still under review, he said. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

Protection proposed for Spokane River minimum flow

FISHING — The Spokane River could get “water rights” to maintaining minimum flows that would be especially beneficial to fish under a proposal that will be discussed in Spokane this week.

In an effort to protect and preserve water levels in the Spokane River, the Washington Department of Ecology is proposing a preliminary draft rule for the main stem of the river in Spokane County and a small portion of Stevens County.

The purpose of an instream flow rule is to give the river a water right, much like those granted to individuals, farms and municipalities. In order to issue the river a water right, the state has to go through the process of adopting a rule.

Ecology approaches instream flow rules differently in each watershed basin. Each rule area has unique needs due to geography, geology, population, and local water management.

The rule adoption process includes a robust public process and collaboration with the communities impacted by the rule. The public can provide input on the preliminary draft rule through an online feedback system. These comments may be incorporated into proposed rule language but will not be addressed formally.

A formal public comment period and hearing will be held later in the process.

If an instream flow rule is adopted, Ecology will use the rule as a regulatory flow threshold to determine whether there is water available for new uses while still protecting fish and other instream resources.

Army to issue separate coal port reports

Any marriage of convenience between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Washington for environmental statements on new coal ports was dissolved last week for what appear to be irreconcilable differences.

They will issue separate statements, possibly with very different conclusions, about new ports near Longview and Bellingham. Until Friday, the state plan was to issue a single report, although it might have had two parts with different conclusions.

Signs of trouble were clear last Tuesday…

 

 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Hitching a ride across the Pacific

OLYMPIA — By now, most people have heard or read about the striped fish that came across the Pacific in a boat after the tsunami in Japan.

But the boat that washed ashore near Long Beach was actually full of critters that made the trip. The state Department of Ecology has posted photos of some hitch-hikers on its flick page, which can be seen by clicking here.

Sunday Spin: Helping to understand Hanford

OLYMPIA –As most of official Olympia repeatedly hit the “refresh” button Thursday morning on their computers to catch the state Supremes’ decision on tax supermajorities as soon as possible, a handful of legislators got a briefing on something with the potential for far more impact to the state.

Jane Hedges of the state Department of Ecology explained the intricacies of nuclear waste tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, doing her best to calm the uproar over recent news that six of the supposedly stable tanks are, in fact, leaking.

Trying to explain most things at Hanford to laypersons can be a Herculean task. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Ruling stands: Coyote Rock docks are illegal

A dock sits below Coyote Rock development in May 2012 just after the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled that docks installed at the development were illegal. SR file photo

The Washington State Supremen Court has declined to review a Court of Appeals decision that ruled the two docks installed by a developer in the Coyote Rock development on the Spokane River are illegal. The appeals court said that shoreline exemptions can only be used by homeowners, not a developer building a spec home. This ends, for now at least, the long debate over the legaility of the docks. I'll keep an eye on what happens next. Look for a story on the issue in Friday's paper. 

Saturday’s highlights

Machines operated by Piersol Construction scrape dirt from the Flora Road landing along the Spokane River on Thursday. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

It's another sunny Monday morning, so enjoy the sun while we still have it. A look at the calendar shows that October is just around the corner. Meanwhile, we have some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has her first entry in the East Farms Diary. She will be spending time at the East Farms STEAM Magnet School in East Valley as it transitions from an elementary school and wrote about her first day in class. She gave blog readers a preview last week.

The Department of Ecology is working on several Spokane River beach cleanups to remove and/or cap sites contaminated by heavy metals flowing in from upstream. Right now they're working on Flora Road and a spot near Barker Road is next.

Correspondent Valerie Putnam reports that the city of Millwood made changes to its medical marijuana dispensary license rules. Correspondent Steve Christilaw spoke to 1962 Central Valley High School graduate Bob Keppel, who was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame for his achievements in track.

Spokane Valley beaches to be cleaned

Contaminated dirt from the north bank of the Spokane River near Harvard Road is removed by Able Cleanup Technologies to be disposed of at the Graham Road Landfill in 2008. SR file photo.

The Department of Ecology plans to clean up some beaches this summer in Spokane Valley, but they won't begin work until later in the summer when the Spokane River flow is low. Work has already been done in some areas to reduce heavy metals contamination, including at Harvard Road. Work this summer will take place at Barker Road on the north side of the river and on the south side of the river at Islands Lagoon, Myrtle Point and Flora Road. Click here for more details.

Anglers bring kids into cast of conservation experts

WATERSHEDS — While preparing my Sunday Outdoors story on the Trout in the Classroom program at Spokane County Schools, I was inspired by the men and women who helped teach the youngsters about fish, water and watersheds — not to mention some tips on how to cast a fly line.

One of the coolest stations was the session on macro invertebrates headed by Brook Beeler of the Department of Ecology.  Here's something to keep in mind:

CANARIES IN A FISH POND

Macro invertebrates (aquatic insects) are bio-indicators that help scientists assess water quality by surveying abundance of certain species based on their tolerance for water pollution. Examples:

Highly tolerant: Aquatic worms, leeches ØModerately tolerant: Dragonfly nymphs ØSuper intolerant: caddis flies, mayflies (and stoneflies in rivers)

Moderately tolerant: Dragonfly nymphs

Super intolerant: caddis flies, mayflies (and stoneflies in rivers)

Kaiser Trentwood’s cleanup plan

The cleanup plan for Kaiser’s Trentwood plant, seen here Tuesday, is estimated to cost $16 million. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

A public meeting on Kaiser Trentwood's cleanup plan is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Trent Elementary School, 3303 N. Pines Road. The Department of Ecology is overseeing cleanup of the Spokane Valley site next to the Spokane River, which is contaminated by hydrocarbons and PCBs dating back to the 1940's. The company is proposing spending $16 million over the next 30 years in addition to the $12 million already spent to clean up oil and monitor groundwater. Read reporter Becky Kramer's full story here.

Ecology Department reconsidering fish consumption advisories

FISHING — The Washington Department of Ecology is asking fish managers, researchers and consumers to comment by Dec. 30 on a plan to update outdated state fish consumption rates, such as the number of meals of bass one might eat per month before ingesting a toxic load of PCBs.

The rates also are used to identify areas for cleanup.

Washington's current consumption rates were established 20-30 years ago.

Scientists say contamination loads are too high among certain species of fish in certain rivers, lakes or ocean areas. They are particularly concerned about pregnant women and their unborn children.

Ecology's “fish consumption rates” are related but different to the current fish consumption advisories by water body, issued by the state Department of Health.

Read on for an explanation:

Going viral with doggie doo

 

OLYMPIA – Pollution in the Puget Sound is such a problem that a group trying to protect the ecosystem spent $27,000 in state money to make a catchy video, complete with dance steps, telling people how they can do something about it.

Pick up dog poop.

The 2 1/2 minute “Dog Doogity” video, which features rhythm and blues singer Martin Luther delivering the musical message of bag your doggie's dooties, is a parody of the late ‘90s hit “No Diggity” by Blackstreet. Released June 30, it is getting very positive responses, said Janet Geer of the City of Bothell and spokeswoman for a 60 community coalition in the “Puget Sound Starts Here” campaign.

The video is featured on the state-sponsored Puget Sound Partnership web site, and was made with $27,000 out of a $500,000 grant the state Department of Ecology gave the coalition. Designed for young, hip, urban adults, the video logged 30,000 hits on YouTube in just under two weeks with a 19-1 ratio of likes to dislikes.

“The response I've heard is, ‘This is great,’” Geer said.

Not everyone agrees. Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center, which keeps a close eye on budget issues, questioned whether state money should be going for a video to tell people to pick up dog poop.

“In this economic climate, it raises a question of priorities,” Mercier said. “It seems a questionable way of marketing the idea.”
  

Saturday’s highlights

Theresa Ray sorts through bananas for Spokane Valley Partners Food Bank. She works at NOVA services and volunteers at the food bank. She also brings NOVA clients with her for job training. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

I hope everyone had a great weekend and that at least part of that time was spent checking out Saturday's Valley Voice. But if you didn't, I've got links to some of the stories we brought you. Reporter Lisa Leinberger checked in with Spokane Valley Partners, which houses nearly a dozen agencies and groups under one roof to help low income residents. Correspondent Valerie Putnam reports that Millwood has changed course and will open the wading pool once someone is hired to staff it. I'm sure lots of children in the area will be happy to hear that.

The developer of the Coyote Rocks development along the Spokane River and the Department of Ecology are arguing over the ordinary high water mark of the river. The newest phase of the development may be in jeapordy if the Spokane Valley hearing examiner sides with the DOE. That decision won't come for a couple weeks. The Spokane Valley City Council spent some time last week discussing sign codes and landscape regulations and some changes may be coming on those.

Coming on Saturday

Some cooler weather should arrive with your Saturday Valley Voice this week (thank goodness). A hearing was held last week on the Trailside portion of the Coyote Rock development along the Spokane River near Plantes Ferry Park. There is a dispute between the developer and the Department of Ecology on where the river's ordinary high water mark is east of the Centennial Trail foot bridge. If the hearing examiner agrees with the DOE, the developer's attorney says it may kill the project.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger recently visited Spokane Valley Partners to check out their programs and see what is new. I'll also have the second round of reporting from Tuesday's Spokane Valley City Council meeting. The council spent some time discussing sign codes and landscaping regulations. Some changes to those rules might start going through the amendment process soon.

Gregoire names Sturdevant to head DoE

Ted Sturdevant was named this morning the new director of the state Department of Ecology.

Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the appointment to replace Jay Manning, who moved from head of DoE to be her chief of staff.

Sturdevant has been with DoE for 7 years as director of external affairs, and before that worked for Gov. Gary Locke.

He starts today, at an annual salary of $141,549.

Environmental regulators now carrying police-style ticket books…

Inspectors from the Washington state Department of Ecology have started carrying ticket books when they check for water pollution at construction sites, industrial operations or sand and gravel mines. The tickets carry fines of $500 to $3,000. On field visits, the agency says, it’s common to find oil spills, muddy runoff pouring out of construction sites and similar problems. Being able to write a ticket on the spot “will provide near-immediate consequences,” according to water quality program manager Kelly Susewind. Ecology doesn’t keep the money from the fines. It goes to local governments and tribes for water quality improvements and restoration work.