Latest from The Spokesman-Review
OLYMPIA – Residents of Eastern and Central Washington should prepare for dust storms as well as wildfires this spring and summer, state officials warned Wednesday.
Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee and other state officials reported a “snowpack drought” – a shortage of snow in some of the state’s mountain ranges that means water supplies for some rivers, streams and reservoirs will likely be low this summer. The above-average temperatures and low snowpack are expected to create dry fields and forest beds throughout the eastern two-thirds of the state.
“Spring and summer thunderstorms will bring the threat of dust storms to the Columbia Basin and lightning-caused wildfires throughout the region,” Clint Bowman, an atmospheric scientist for the state Ecology Department, said in a press release.
Strong winds blowing over plowed fields can cause desert-style dust storms known as haboobs, which can create a wall of dust and dirt, cut visibility for drivers, down power lines and cause breathing problems for infants, small children and asthmatics. The department recommends residents of Central and Eastern Washington carry a dust mask, especially for children.
UPDATED Jan. 28, 10:55 a.m. with more explanation from Department of Ecology.
RIVERS — The state of Washington adopted new state rule on instream flows for the Spokane River today, but the levels are likely to disappoint rafters and environmental groups, who had pushed for higher flows, according to a story filed by S-R reporter Becky Kramer.
The instream flow for the river’s main stem varies by season, peaking at 6,500 cubic feet per second in late spring where the river roars through downtown Spokane, and tapering to 850 cubic feet per second in late summer. Each cubic foot of water is about 7 ½ gallons.
- See a media release from the Washington Department of Ecology.
River advocates posted this detailed reaction of their disappointment for the adopted rules:
Today river advocates criticized the Washington Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) for adopting a flow rule for the Spokane River that allows further dewatering of the popular urban river. The Spokane River flows from Lake Coeur d’Alene through eastern Washington to its confluence with the Columbia River. The River supports important fisheries and wildlife, and a vibrant boating and recreation industry. Two thousand people sent comments to the agency opposing the draft rule and asking that river flows be protected.
“This is a terrible decision for the Spokane River and our community,” said Paul Delaney, a co-founder and board member of the Northwest Whitewater Association in Spokane who has been running the river for 35 years. “They never talked to us. They never did the basic use surveys of thousands of people who use the river. And then the agency disregarded basic survey information we provided on boating use of the Spokane River. In the end, the agency’s decision jeopardizes the Spokane River and the water future for this part of eastern Washington.”
The state rule sets flows for the Spokane River, including summertime low flows at 850 cubic feet per second (cfs). Flows that are not protected eventually will be taken for out-of-stream water uses, including Idaho pumpers, the City of Spokane, and the Office of the Columbia River’s Spokane-Rathdrum ASR project.
Although Ecology has defended its decision by pointing to a study that concludes that the 850cfs flow is good for fish, scientists have since pointed out that the study is inadequate for setting flows needed by Spokane River fish. The proposed flows are also inadequate for salmon fisheries, which are proposed for restoration in the Spokane River.
In setting flows, the Department of Ecology failed to consult with boaters who use the Spokane River. American Whitewater undertook a survey asking Spokane River boaters about their flow preferences. Survey results show that all boaters prefer flows higher than 1000 cfs and most prefer flows in the range of 5000 cfs. Flows less than 1000 cfs are considered unfavorable to boaters and can cause damage to some craft.
“Excluding rafters, kayakers, and canoeists in setting flows is a dangerous move for Washington State’s rivers,” said Rachael Paschal Osborn, senior water policy advisor with the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP). “Water may be political currency, but we also have stewardship responsibilities to protect the state’s rivers.”
Ecology also failed to do basic assessment of the scenic values of the Spokane River as it flows through the gorge. CELP released an atlas of 37 key observation points of the Spokane River’s downriver reach, starting at the Monroe Street bridge in downtown Spokane. The study documents five different flows ranging from 2,800 to 1,000 cfs.
“We need to protect our rivers; the water frontier is over,” said Osborn. “The law is clearly on the side of the Spokane River: ‘Perennial rivers and streams of the state shall be retained with base flows necessary to provide for preservation of wildlife, fish, scenic, aesthetic and other environmental values, and navigational values.’”
Brook Beeler, DOE communication manager, submitted further explanation from agency officials:
The rule to preserve and protect flow was written to balance all of the community’s needs for the river, including fish, recreation, water use and hydropower.
The river is a complex system and its flow is dependent on a variety of factors. They include seasonal weather, groundwater use, and operation of hydropower facilities on the river. The higher flows requested by many recreational users have rarely been seen in summer on the Spokane River since the Post Falls Dam was constructed in 1907.
It is important to note that instream flow rules do not add water to the river — they are a regulatory threshold to determine whether there is water available for new uses. The rule doesn’t require business, water providers or local government to add water to the river. In order to increase river flow, the hydropower operations on the river would need to change, which is governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license process – not the instream flow rule.
Existing water rights like the city of Spokane’s right and other water providers cannot be affected by the rule. New requests for water in Washington will be individually evaluated to determine if water is available and in the public’s interest to issue new water use permits.
We are committed to working with local governments, environmental advocates, local businesses and the community on water management decisions to preserve a clean and flowing Spokane River.
For more information, see these links:
RIVERS — The Washington Department of Ecology's proposal to set a minimum allowable flow of 850 cfs is causing a stir among river users.
- Comments on the proposal are due today, Nov. 7, by 5 p.m.
The Northwest Whitewater Association, Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club and at least one fly fishing outfitter, Silver Bow Fly Shop, are urging users to demand higher minimum flows.
Says Silver Bow owner/guide Sean Visintainer:
We need your help! The Department of Ecology has proposed a streamflow rule for the Spokane River that would set the summertime (June-Sept) flows at a very low 850cfs. This flow is substantially lower than the Spokane's normal flow even at it's lowest in late summer. This proposed 850cfs flow could potentially be very harmful to our wild Redband trout. Low flows mean less habitat, less oxygen, warmer temps, and added strain by concentrating the trout to smaller areas.
- The Spokesman-Review published this editorial on the issue.
Good news from the Department Of Ecology: Lab results revealing levels of toxic chemicals in consumer products sold in Washington are now available through an online database. The database includes test results for products such as children’s and baby’s items, clothing, personal care items, toys, children’s upholstered furniture, and electrical and electronic items. Information on more product types, such as office and art supplies, will be added in the future.
Tests show most manufacturers are following laws regulating the use of toxic chemicals.
The Department of Ecology tests products to understand where and why toxic chemicals are used, with the goal of working with businesses and green chemists to find safer alternatives. Ecology also tests products to verify manufacturers are following state laws:
The Washington Conservation Corps, a part of the Washington Department of Ecology, has opened 288 jobs that help protect and restore the environment. Working in partnership with AmeriCorps, the WCC provides annual member positions for 18 – 25 years old and no age restrictions for Gulf War Era II veterans, reservists and dependents.
Those selected to become a WCC/AmeriCorps member will gain valuable, hands-on experience working with the environment. Project work includes restoration planting, invasive species removal, trail building, and more. The most recent project supported by members is the Carlton Complex wildfire, the largest and most devastating wildfire in Washington’s history.
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. . .
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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 is hosting an open house to explain the rule and answer questions 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 14 at CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley.
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.
There will be an upcoming proposal that could greatly impact the vein of our regions existence. Check this announcement from the Department Of Ecology:
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 we give 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 Department of Ecology is currently seeking comments on two reports regarding the Holcim Inc. property along the Spokane River in Spokane Valley. One describes the extent of soil and groundwater contamination while the second evaluates cleanup options for the site.
There will be a public meeting tonight at CenterPlace Regional Event Center, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Room 213, to explain the study and cleanup options. Staff will be available at 6:30 p.m. for informal conversations. Presentations begin at 7:00 p.m.
From Ecology: Based on current knowledge there is not an immediate threat to human health or the environment. However, because of the complex nature of groundwater, proximity of the site to the river, and location of drinking water wells, Ecology required the parties responsible to investigate the contamination and evaluate cleanup options.
Holcim and its predecessor companies operated a cement manufacturing plant at the site until 1967. Cement kiln dust, a byproduct of cement manufacturing, was landfilled on the northern portion of the site before Washington state laws for dangerous waste prevented that practice.
Good news from Spokane River Forum: Thanks to a public participation grant from the Department of Ecology, they've begun work on a “one-stop-shop” of information and resources for businesses and individuals disposing of hazardous and other types of waste.
The Spokane County Interactive Waste Directory website will feature a searchable database of over 200 waste types, 150 vendors, and 30 assistance providers. It will also include general education pages and regulatory information. It builds on the Forum’s EnviroStars program, a collaborative effort of nine agencies working with small businesses to properly manage and dispose of hazardous waste.
I might be a little tardy in posting this but seeing how it didn't get much coverage, better late than never.
N.A. Degerstrom Inc. (NAD) was ordered to pay the state $40,000 to settle recent violations for mishandling dangerous waste at its Spokane Valley property. In response to a complaint in May, Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) inspectors found two illegal disposal pools of chemicals on the company’s property. The pools were filled with a variety of chemicals, some which require special disposal under state law.
NAD hired contractor Able Cleanup Technologies to remove the waste from the pools, excavate the contaminated soil, and properly dispose the materials. Ensuring proper safety and environmental practices at facilities that generate hazardous waste supports Ecology’s priority of preventing and reducing toxic threats to human health and the environment.
Good news from the Department Of Ecology: Washington’s nationally recognized E-Cycle Washington program has achieved a milestone by collecting 200 million pounds of TVs, computers and monitors for free recycling. Two-hundred million pounds equals the weight of 361 fully loaded Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
It took less than five years for the statewide E-Cycle Washington program to reach the landmark 200 million pound mark by increasing collection totals each year. In 2009, the first year of collections, 38.5 million pounds were collected, but Washington consumers were just getting warmed up. The program totals kept climbing each year, and 2013 is on pace to set another one-year record estimated by the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to be 46 million pounds.
Washington has historically had one of the highest participation rates in the country among 25 states with similar programs. This year Washington residents will recycle approximately 6.7 pounds of electronics per person.
Any marriage of convenience between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state of
They will issue separate statements, possibly with very different conclusions, about new ports near
Signs of trouble were clear last Tuesday…
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The public is invited to comment on proposed changes to state air quality standards for specific pollutants so they align with federal standards. The Washington Department of Ecology is seeking comments about incorporating the updated standards in Washington’s federally required State Implementation Plan. The plan details how the state protects and maintains air quality.
Public comment period continues through Sept. 19, 2013.
In recent years, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) have been updated to better protect people from air pollution. The health-based standards are required by the state and federal Clean Air Acts. They apply to lead, fine and coarse particles, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and sulfur dioxide.
If you oppose coal trains rumbling through Spokane on their way to the Gateway Pacific terminal there's reason to celebrate.
After 125,000 comments from Washingtonians, the Department of Ecology said it will study a broad array of environmental impacts before determining if development should move forward. The Gateway Pacific would be the largest coal export terminal in North America, exporting up to 48 million metric tons of coal per year to Asia.
The study will require many aspect the coal industry hoped to bypass. Those include:
-A detailed assessment of rail transportation impacts in Whatcom County near the project site, specifically including Bellingham and Ferndale.
-An assessment of how the project would affect human health, including impacts from related rail and vessel transportation in Whatcom County.
-An evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions from terminal operations, and rail and vessel traffic.
-A detailed assessment of rail transportation on other representative communities in Washington and a general analysis of out-of-state rail impacts.
-An assessment of how the project would affect human health in Washington.
-A general assessment of cargo-ship impacts beyond Washington waters.
-An evaluation and disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions of end-use coal combustion.
In Eastern Washington, dust storms can be a serious problem, posing a number of serious health risks. Fortunately, the Department Of Ecology has got your back with some great tips.
From DOE: It’s dust storm season when wind speeds pick up and the air can turn gritty with dirt particles from dry farming areas, construction sites, and unpaved roads.
When inhaled, dust particles settle deeply into lungs and can irritate or damage sensitive tissues in the respiratory system. People with respiratory illnesses, the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone engaged in strenuous physical activity outdoors are most at risk.
After a windstorm, fine dust remains suspended in the air or is kicked up by vehicles. In some low-lying areas where the air is stagnant, particles may settle out of the air slowly. Sensitive people who want to prepare for dust storms should pay attention to local weather forecasts and check with their doctors.
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.
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
To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.
The public provided more than 124,000 comments on the scope of the upcoming environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed bulk-cargo shipping terminal and rail spur improvements at Cherry Point.
Form-letters or e-mails made up approximately 108,000 of the total, submitted by people who responded to 24 organized comment campaigns identified so far. The agencies received more than 16,000 uniquely worded comments. Work continues on a final comment count and breakdown. The 121-day comment period ran from Sept. 24, 2012, to Jan. 22, 2013.
The official website, www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov, provides additional details about the scoping process, project proposals, and displays comments received.
The Washington Department of Ecology will convene its first Water Quality Standards Policy Forum from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, October 29th, 2012, as a video conference at Ecology regional offices in Bellevue, Lacey, Spokane and Yakima.
The forum will be a facilitated public policy discussion and is open to the public. There will be designated times when interested public members can provide comments and ask questions on issues being discussed.
Ecology’s goal is to involve key parties, other interests and the public as the department addresses complex science and public policy issues around adopting new human health-based water quality standards and implementation tools.
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.
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.
Looking for some exciting work and money for school? The Department of Ecology’s Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) needs applicants to fill nearly 300 AmeriCorps service positions in 16 counties across the state.
The WCC was created in 1983 and has provided opportunities and training for more than 1,700 young adults. In 1994, WCC started received federal AmeriCorps funding, allowing crews to carry out on-the-ground projects across the state. Local communities rely on WCC to complete environmental projects by forming cost-share agreements with Ecology.
Typical WCC activities include planting trees and vegetation, repairing stream and streamside habitat, constructing and upgrading trails, building fencing and providing environmental education. The WCC also includes the Puget SoundCorps, formed in 2011, to complete projects on public lands designed to help carry out the Puget Sound Partnership’s Action Agenda – the single playbook for focusing efforts to recover and protect the Sound. Last year, WCC members planted 940,000 trees and shrubs, improved or restored 1,100 acres of new fish and wildlife habitat and constructed or improved 400 miles of recreational trails.
How much fish do you eat?
Let me give you a brief rundown of why I'm asking: Washington is trying to find an official fish-consumption rate to replace outdated numbers. Due to contaminated waters, fish can harbor toxics, like mercury, PCBs and dioxins. The real question should be how much of these chemicals are ingested by humans? Enter the fish consumption rate. If the number is high, those responsible will be on the hook for cleaning the waterways since people might be eating more fish than is safe.
There was a negative editorial in the Spokesman last weekend about how this "rule-making" keeps bureaucracts bellies full so as a response, I wanted to share an excerpt from our Spokane Riverkeeper's story about the fish consumption rate in the Huffington Post:
Washington State may be called the Evergreen State, but the state's rich heritage of fish and shellfish is critical to our economy, culture and health. From tribal subsistence fishing in Eastern Washington to a thriving shellfish industry in Puget Sound; from sport fishing on the mighty Columbia River, to legendary steelhead trout of the Olympic Peninsula, fish and those who thrive on them are as much a part of Washington as all our fir trees and glaciers combined.
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.
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)
Here's an exciting summer opportunity that makes an impact: The Department of Ecology's Eastern Regional Office in Spokane plans to hire about 118 teens throughout Eastern Washington this summer to help clean up area roadsides, parks and recreation areas. Ecology Youth Corps (EYC) members also will learn how to better care for the environment.
Youths, ages 14 to 17, who live in Eastern Washington counties, can apply through April 2, 2012, to work with one of Ecology's EYC crews cleaning up litter this summer. Crews will work Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., in one of two four-week sessions. Crew locations include Chewelah, Clarkston, Colville, Inchelium, Ephrata, Moses Lake, Othello, Pasco, Pullman, Republic, Ritzville, Spokane, Walla Walla and Wilbur.
Tonight, I hope you can make it to an important public meeting regarding plans to clean up contamination at the Kaiser Trentwood Works. The site covers 512 acres along the north bank of the Spokane River over the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. Why is it so contaminated? Historic aluminum production operations and current uses as an aluminum sheet and plate rolling mill contaminated the site. Kaiser has done some cleanup work but contaminants remain like those nasty polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and metals such as lead, arsenic and chromium.
The meeting will start at 7 p.m. at Trent Elementary School, 3303 N. Pines Road, Spokane Valley. Those who attend will hear descriptions of cleanup alternatives and documents that will guide cleanup at Kaiser. Ecology is asking the public to review cleanup documents and submit comments by close of business March 6.
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.
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: