WDFW Commission plans to select new director, consider sportfishing rule proposals

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to select a new director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) during a public meeting Jan. 9-10 in Tumwater.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW, will convene at the Comfort Inn Hotel and Conference Center, 1620 74th Ave. SW. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 9 and 8 a.m. the following day.

An agenda for the meeting is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/ .

During the meeting, the commission is scheduled to select one of four candidates for WDFW director. The commission interviewed eight candidates for the director’s position in December before selecting the four finalists.

The current director, Phil Anderson, announced in August he is resigning from his position at the end of the year. However, at the commission’s request, he has agreed to remain on as the head of the agency until a new director is in place.

In other action, the commission is scheduled to consider proposed sportfishing rule changes. The rules are specific to the mainstem Columbia River, its tributaries and lakes within the basin.

Public comment on the proposals – which cover fishing seasons, daily limits, and other rules – ended after the commission’s public hearing in early December. The proposals are available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/ and include changes that would: 

  • Close all rivers, streams and beaver ponds in the Columbia River Basin to fishing unless otherwise stated in the rules pamphlet, and implement additional conservation measures to provide greater protection for juvenile anadromous fish.
  • Change open dates for most year-round lakes to March 1 through Oct. 31 for lakes in Asotin, Franklin, Kittitas, Yakima and Walla Walla counties.
  • Eliminate the retention of sturgeon on the Snake River and its tributaries. Catch-and-release sturgeon fishing would be maintained.
  • Adjust size and daily catch limits for kokanee in Cle Elum Lake, while removing daily limits for eastern brook, brown, and lake trout.

In other business, the commission will accept public comments on draft options for a new policy to address conservation and fishery objectives for Willapa Bay salmon fisheries. The draft policy options are available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/willapa_bay_salmon/ .

Also at its upcoming meeting, the commission will:

  • Hold a public hearing to discuss sturgeon management in the lower Columbia River, including the possibility of reopening waters below Bonneville Dam to retention fishing;
  • Receive a briefing on the Columbia River Fishery Management policy; and
  • Discuss the North of Falcon policy, which provides direction to fishery managers in defining annual salmon fishing seasons in Washington’s waters. 

State Auditor’s Office finds deficiencies in Cosmopolis city payroll, and policy

A recent audit of the City of Cosmopolis showed two findings by the State Auditor’s Office. An accountability finding said that Cosi didn’t have adequate controls over their finances, and found several deficiencies in the city’s handling of payroll.
The city pays it’s 13 employees monthly, and offers a 50% draw once per month. The report said that the employee responsible for payroll routinely received more than one draw on their salary – and in one case didn’t record that draw, resulting in a $550 over payment. The report also noted that all electronic payroll records prior to fiscal year 2013 were deleted from the City’s system. The city allows for $250 in annual reimbursements for “non-uniform” clothing, the Auditor’s Office couldn’t determine a public purpose for this policy. Former Mayor Vickie Raines was also mentioned in the report. She was apparently reimbursed for meals and lost wages while attending Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority meetings. Raines said while the City Council approved the reimbursements, the city had no written policy outlining the process. The finding said that the city shouldn’t reimburse her for the Authority meetings, as they were independent from city functions – although she was attending as an appointed representative of the city.

A second finding noted that the city’s finances have declined in the past two years, their General Fund balance went from $70-thousand at the end of 2012, to negative $155-thousand in October of this year. The city council on Monday voted to transfer funds from the city’s Makarenko Park fund to balance the budget.

In a response to the findings the city said that a new electronic payment system would better track and archive payroll, also noting that the employee responsible for payroll; the city’s Finance Director Kathy Welch, had retired recently.

Miss Massachusetts promotes water fluoridation at Aberdeen City Council meeting

Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn stopped by the Aberdeen City Council meeting last night with one message “For every dollar spent on community water fluoridation, thirty-eight dollars are saved in treatment costs. This is a public health measure that you really get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s safe, research has shown that.”

The former Miss Grays Harbor (2013) is a second year doctor of dental medicine student at Harvard University, she was in town visiting family and had heard about recent considerations of removing the fluoride. She said last night. “Massachusetts is a very different state than ours. When I tell people that some cities are considering not having fluoride in their water they are just stunned, they are like ‘I didn’t even think that was an option’ because it’s something that they believe in and they all think it’s a really good idea.”

Miss Mass Lauren KuhnKuhn recently wrote a paper on the state of dental public health, and explained to the council last night that removing fluoridation from the Aberdeen water supply could cost in the long run. “Even if every person had dental insurance and could afford dental visits and have everything taken care of, there are just not enough dentists in the United States to provide that care.”

The Aberdeen council passed a motion in October to draft an ordinance that would discontinue adding fluoride to Aberdeen’s water, but a decision on the matter was put on hold and will be discussed in January.

The Centers for Disease Control says community water fluoridation is a “safe and healthy way to effectively prevent tooth decay.” CDC has recognized water fluoridation as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

City of Aberdeen eyes downtown parking lot for proposed pocket park

We could see a new park in downtown Aberdeen, but this “pocket park” would still have parking at the corner of Broadway and East Wishkah. Mike Dickerson with the group “Our Aberdeen” said “the Community Foundation was willed this property, what we needed to do tonight was to get the city council on record that staff can approach the Community Foundation to see whether the land can be donated.” From here they’ll discuss how a park would look in half of the former paid parking area next to City Center Drug. “When they stopped charging [for parking], a lot of cars parked there 8 or 9 hours a day. Some of the people that are using it currently are employees, so it didn’t seem that this would be a great inconvenience for businesses there.”

The park would be in the middle of several venues for downtown events, and would take up half of the current parking lot. Dickerson said “The difficulty has been that there’s never been a place that people could congregate downtown.”

The group has a proposed vision for the park, which was designed by a retired Aberdeen engineer at no cost to the city. Dickerson said they may ask the public for design ideas, and nothing is written in stone just yet.

 

Search continues for missing hiker Jim Griffin

Seven NPS searchers, comprising 3 teams, continued to search the Olympic Hot Springs area for missing Port Angeles resident Jim Griffin on Sunday, December 28.

Griffin, age 60, who frequently hikes the 2½ mile trail to the hot springs, went for a day hike to the springs on Monday, December 22. On Wednesday, December 24, around 10:00 p.m. friends reported Griffin overdue when he did not show up for Christmas Eve dinner. Three NPS searchers began the search that evening and searched through the night. On Christmas Day, two 2-person search teams searched for Griffin. Several friends of Griffins, including the reporting party, assisted in the search efforts. Griffin’s day pack was found Christmas Day about fifty feet off trail, within a distance of ½ mile from the trailhead. On Friday, eight search groups, including three dog teams, searched until dark. Yesterday incident staff spoke with a party who were in the same hot spring pool as Griffin on Monday. They believe he left the springs at about 4:00 or 4:30, which would have him hiking back to the trailhead in the dark. Griffin was a well prepared hiker, and likely had a headlamp.

Saturday’s search team included twenty-one searchers and two dogs. They completed an intense grid search covering 100% of the area within a 500 foot radius of the location where Griffin’s day pack was found.

Today, Sunday, the search continued on a smaller scale, with three search teams. The teams expanded the perimeter that had been searched yesterday. They also searched Cougar Creek drainage to the east of where Griffin’s pack was found, and the area on the south side of the Hot Springs Trail above Boulder Creek. The search areas are dense with heavy brush and downed-trees, and the slopes are dangerously steep and precipitous.  A group of Griffin’s friends searched in the area today as well.

The field search will be suspended after today, but investigations will continue.

If anyone was at the Olympic Hot Springs, on the trail, or at the parking lot on Monday, please contact park dispatch at 360-565-3115.

Third day of searching for missing hiker near Olympic Hot Springs

Searchers from Olympic National Park, Olympic Mountain Rescue, Tacoma Mountain Rescue, Clallam County SAR, Jefferson County SAR, and two dog teams from German Shepherd’s Search Dogs continued to search the Olympic Hot Springs area for missing Port Angeles resident, Jim Griffin on Saturday.

Griffin, age 60, who frequently hikes the 2½ mile trail to the hot springs, went for a day hike there on Monday, December 22. On Wednesday, December 24, around 10:00 p.m. friends reported Griffin overdue when he did not show up for Christmas Eve dinner. Three NPS searchers began the search that evening and searched through the night. On Christmas Day, two 2-person search teams searched for Griffin. Several friends of Griffins, including the reporting party, assisted in the search efforts on both Thursday and Friday.

On the afternoon of Christmas Day, Griffin’s day pack was located fifty feet off trail, about ½ mile from the trailhead. On Friday eight search groups, including three dog teams, searched until dark. The park also attempted to use Griffin’s dog in the search, but the dog was not able to indicate where Griffin might be.

On Saturday morning a total of 21 searchers and two dogs resumed the search at 7:30. The search teams completed a grid search within 500 feet of the location where Griffin’s day pack was found. The searchers covered one hundred percent of the search area in a grid pattern about ten feet apart, but no clues were found.

Tomorrow, Sunday, the search will continue on a smaller scale as weather and snow conditions allow. Additional search operations after Sunday will be decided tomorrow.

Park incident team members spoke to a couple today who had a conversation with Griffin at the hot springs. They believe he left the hot springs around 4:00 p.m. on Monday, December 22, which would mean he hiked back in the dark. If anyone was at the Olympic Hot Springs, on the trail, or at the parking lot on Monday, please contact park dispatch at 360-565-3115. Even the smallest piece of information might help in the search.

Search continues for missing hiker in Olympic National Park

Searchers from Olympic National Park, Olympic Mountain Rescue, and three dog teams from German Shepard’s Search Dogs continue to search the Olympic Hot Springs area for missing Port Angeles resident, Jim Griffin.

Griffin, age 60, went for a day hike on the Olympic Hot Springs Trail on Monday, December 22. On Wednesday around 10:00 p.m. friends reported Griffin overdue when he did not show up for Christmas Eve dinner.

Three NPS searchers began the search that evening and searched through the night. On Christmas day, two 2-person search teams searched for Griffin. In the afternoon they found Griffin’s day pack fifty feet off trail, about ½ mile from the trailhead. The hike from the trailhead to Olympic Hot Springs is 2½ miles. Griffin’s pack did not contain gear for an overnight trip, so he was likely on a day hike. Griffin frequently takes day hikes to the Olympic Hot Springs.

Searchers will search until dusk and start the search again tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. There have been no additional leads today.

Razor clam dig approved Dec. 31 through Jan. 7

Clam diggers can ring in the New Year by filling their buckets with razor clams during an eight-day opener beginning Dec. 31.

State shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved the dig after marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat.

“Digging razor clams over the New Year’s holiday is a true Northwest tradition,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

The best digging typically occurs one to two hours before low tide, said Ayres, noting that digging is not allowed at any beach before noon.

“With afternoon low tides in their favor, diggers can hit the beach in the daylight and still have plenty of time to clean and cook their clams for a New Year’s meal,” he said.

Beaches in Washington with razor clam fisheries include: Long Beach, which extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point. Twin Harbors Beach, which extends from the mouth of Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor. Copalis Beach, which extends from the Grays Harbor north jetty to the Copalis River, and includes the Copalis, Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas. Mocrocks Beach, which extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, including Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Seabrook, Pacific Beach and Moclips. Kalaloch Beach, which extends from the South Beach Campground to Brown’s Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in the Olympic National Park. (This beach is closed to harvest until further notice)
Beaches in Washington with razor clam fisheries include:
Long Beach, which extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point.
Twin Harbors Beach, which extends from the mouth of Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor.
Copalis Beach, which extends from the Grays Harbor north jetty to the Copalis River, and includes the Copalis, Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas.
Mocrocks Beach, which extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, including Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Seabrook, Pacific Beach and Moclips.
Kalaloch Beach, which extends from the South Beach Campground to Brown’s Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in the Olympic National Park. (This beach is closed to harvest until further notice)

Upcoming digs are scheduled on the following dates, beaches and low tides:

Dec. 31, Wednesday; 3:05 p.m., 0.6 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis
Jan. 1, Thursday; 4:01 p.m., 0.2 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis
Jan. 2, Friday; 4:49 p.m., -0.2 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis
Jan. 3, Saturday; 5:32 p.m., -0.5 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis
Jan. 4, Sunday; 6:12 p.m., -0.5 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Jan. 5, Monday; 6:48 p.m., -0.5 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
Jan. 6, Tuesday; 7:23 p.m., -0.3 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
Jan. 7, Wednesday; 7:57 p.m., -0.1 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
Under state law, diggers can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

“Of course weather always plays a factor, but in recent weeks many diggers have harvested their limits and picked up good-sized clams of 4 to 5 inches,” Ayres said.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2014-15 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

Looking ahead, WDFW will announce the final word on a dig tentatively scheduled to begin Jan. 17 after marine toxin tests have been completed. Below is the proposed razor clam dig, along with evening low tides and beaches:

Jan. 17, Saturday; 4:15 p.m., 0.1 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis
Jan. 18, Sunday; 5:02 p.m., -0.6 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Jan. 19, Monday; 5:47 p.m., -1.1 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
Jan. 20, Tuesday; 6:30 p.m., -1.4 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
Jan. 21, Wednesday; 7:13 p.m., -1.4 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
Jan. 22, Thursday; 7:56 p.m., -1.1 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
Jan. 23, Friday; 8:40 p.m., -0.6 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Jan. 24, Saturday; 9:25 p.m., 0.1 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis
WD FW has razor clam recipes as well as advice on digging and cleaning clams on its webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/ .

Red Cross says house fires top disaster response in Washington

This year the Western Washington region of the Red Cross helped more people affected by home fires than all other disasters combined. Local volunteers responded at all hours of the day with food, blankets and comfort to help more than 3,186 people in Washington state with nowhere else to turn after home fires from Jan. 1 to Dec. 1, 2014.

The Red Cross also provided financial support to 994 households in Washington state after home fires to help replace lost belongings and begin the long road to recovery. Nationally, the Red Cross responds to a disaster in the community every 8 minutes and the vast majority of these are home fires.

“While tornadoes, floods and hurricanes tend to dominate the headlines, people often underestimate the frequency and devastation caused by home fires, and that’s where the Red Cross comes in,” said Chuck Morrison, executive director of the Snohomish County chapter of the Red Cross. “Our work doesn’t end after the smoke clears, every day local volunteers are helping people to recover and get better prepared.”

Continue reading Red Cross says house fires top disaster response in Washington

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife seeks help spotting sick birds

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking the public’s help in testing waterfowl and other wild birds for a type of avian influenza that has killed tens of thousands of chickens and domestic turkeys in British Columbia and has recently been detected in wild birds in Washington. An infected domestic guinea fowl has also been confirmed in Oregon.

Although the virus poses no apparent threat to human health, highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza can be deadly to domestic poultry and, rarely, wild birds.

State wildlife managers ask that anyone who sees a wild bird that is sick or dead call WDFW at 1-800-606-8768. They are particularly interested in waterfowl and birds such as eagles, hawks, falcons, ravens, and gulls that prey on them or scavenge their carcasses.

In addition, field staff from WDFW and two federal agencies will ask hunters’ permission to collect samples from birds they have harvested to test for the disease in several counties. Those efforts will be focused in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston and Clark counties.

“The sampling procedure takes less than a minute per bird, and will help us determine the prevalence of the disease in wild birds,” said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl section manager. “Waterfowl are carriers of the disease, but often don’t show symptoms. The primary risk is to domestic chickens and turkeys.”

Kraege noted that WDFW tested more than 10,000 wild birds for bird flu viruses from 2005 to 2011, and found bird flu viruses in about 10 percent of all birds tested. None, however, were associated with any illnesses or mortality.

WDFW is part the state’s multi-agency response to highly pathogenic H5 bird flu that also includes the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) the Washington Department of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Wildlife Health Center, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Canadian inspectors first confirmed the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain of avian influenza at two British Columbia poultry farms during the first week of December. Aware of that finding, WDFW had two birds – a gyrfalcon and northern pintail duck – found dead in Whatcom County tested for bird flu the following week.

The gyrfalcon, used for hunting and fed wild duck by its owner, was found to have a highly pathogenic H5N8 form of the virus. Another duck found dead at Wiser Lake was infected with H5N2, similar to the strain found in poultry in British Columbia.

On Dec. 18, the USDA confirmed the presence of the H5N8 virus in guinea fowl and chickens in a backyard poultry flock in Winston, Oregon.

State and federal agriculture officials strongly recommend that poultry producers prevent contact between their birds and wild birds. Migratory waterbirds (ducks, geese, shorebirds) are now migrating southward from Alaska along the Pacific Flyway, making domestic birds especially susceptible to contracting the disease.

WDSA asks that anyone who spots sick or dead domestic poultry report their observations at 1-800-606-3056.

While it is extremely unlikely that hunters or people feeding wild birds could contract bird flu from wild birds, the following common-sense precautions are always recommended to reduce the risk of contracting any wildlife disease:

  • Do not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead.
  • Wear rubber gloves while cleaning game or cleaning bird feeders.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game.
  • Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes immediately after handling game or cleaning bird feeders.
  • Wash tools and work surfaces used to clean game birds with soap and water, then disinfect with a 10 percent solution of chlorine bleach.
  • Separate raw meat, and anything it touches, from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination.
  • Cook game birds thoroughly. Meat should reach an internal temperature of 155 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill disease organisms and parasites.

For more information about avian influenza, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/avian_flu/ .