Channel Point Village takes measures to prevent spread of norovirus

While they didn’t give exact numbers, a retirement and assisted living community in Hoquiam is working to prevent an outbreak of norovirus. In a press release this morning they said “Channel Point Village has responded to the recent outbreak of the norovirus. Staff is taking all necessary precautions to keep the virus contained, including serving meals to residents in their apartments to prevent contamination.

“We take this situation very seriously and are working diligently to ensure the health of our residents,” said Tracy Willis, director of corporate development of Village Concepts.

Families have been informed and are working with Channel Point staff to follow appropriate protocol and interventions as outlined by the Department of Health.

A source tells us they are allowing visitors, and are asking that they take extra precaution to help prevent the spread further.

Village Concepts is a third-generation family-owned business that owns and operates retirement and assisted living communities throughout Washington state, including Bothell, Burien, Covington, Enumclaw, Gig Harbor, Hoquiam, Issaquah, Marysville, Milton, Moses Lake, Oak Harbor, Port Angeles and Sedro-Woolley. For more information about Village Concepts, visit www.VillageConcepts.com.

Washington wolf population kept expanding last year, according to WDFW survey

MOSES LAKE – Gray wolves established four new packs and expanded their territory in the state over the past year, state wildlife managers told the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at a public meeting here today.

That assessment was based on an annual survey by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) that confirmed the presence of 13 wolf packs, five successful breeding pairs and at least 52 individual wolves in 2013.

Donny Martorello, WDFW carnivore specialist, said the latest findings point to continued growth in the state’s wolf population under state and federal recovery plans.

“While we can’t count every wolf in the state, the formation of four new packs is clear evidence of steady growth in Washington’s wolf population,” he said. “More packs mean more breeding females, which produce more pups.”

All but eliminated from western states in the last century, wolves are now protected under Washington law throughout the state and under federal law in the western two-thirds of the state.

The commission, an appointed panel that sets policy for WDFW, approved the plan in 2011 that guides state management and recovery of wolves in Washington.

In developing its annual update, WDFW used a combination of aerial surveys, trackers and signals from 11 wolves fitted with active radio-collars, Martorello said.

Three of the new packs – Ruby Creek, Dirty Shirt and Carpenter Ridge – were formed by wolves that split off from the existing Smackout Pack in northeast Washington, he said.

A fourth new pack, the Wenatchee Pack, appears to be made up of two female wolves from the Teanaway Pack, whose territory stretches between Ellensburg and Wenatchee.

Under the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, a wolf pack is defined in the state plan as two or more wolves traveling together.

Despite their growing numbers, wolves were involved in far fewer conflicts with humans and livestock in 2013 than in the previous year, Martorello said.

Stephanie Simek, WDFW’s wolf conflict-resolution manager, said the department investigated 20 reported attacks on pets and livestock last year, but found that wolves were actually involved in only four of them. Confirmed wolf attacks left one calf dead and three dogs injured, she said.

By comparison, wolves killed at least seven calves and one sheep in 2012, leaving six additional calves and two sheep injured, Simek said. Most of those attacks were made by the Wedge Pack on a single rancher’s cattle in northeast Washington, she said.

WDFW ultimately killed seven members of the Wedge Pack to stop the escalating series of attacks, although two wolves were still travelling as a pack in the same area in 2013, she said.

“That was an extraordinary event that we do not want to repeat,” said Martorello, noting that no wolves were killed by WDFW last year.

The 2013 survey does, however, reflect the death of five wolves, due to causes ranging from a car accident on Blewett Pass to a legal hunt on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Simek outlined several steps WDFW has taken in the past year to reduce conflicts with wolves:

  • Cooperative agreements: The department entered into cost-sharing agreements with 29 livestock producers, who have made a commitment to take proactive steps to avoid conflicts with wolves. Typical strategies include improving fencing and sanitation, employing range riders and using non-lethal hazing methods to repel wolves.
  • Increased staffing: WDFW created a new 13-member Wildlife Conflict Section to work with livestock producers, landowners and entire communities to avoid conflicts with wolves. Seven of those positions were new hires in 2013.
  • Wolf Advisory Group: A new nine-member advisory group was established to recommend strategies for encouraging more livestock owners to enter into cooperative agreements, providing compensation for wolf-related economic losses, and other issues. Members of the group represent hunters, livestock producers and conservation groups.

“These actions have greatly improved the department’s ability to manage our growing wolf population and meet state recovery goals,” Martorello said.

Under the state’s wolf-management plan, wolves can be removed from the state’s endangered species list once 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years among three designated wolf-recovery regions – or 18 successful breeding pairs in one year among three designated wolf-recovery regions.

A successful breeding pair is defined as an adult male and female with at least two pups that survive until the end of the calendar year.

In 2013, WDFW documented three successful breeding pairs in the Eastern Washington recovery region and two pairs in the North Cascades recovery region. No wolf packs or breeding pairs have been documented on the South Cascades/Northwest Coast recovery region.

Meanwhile, the federal listing of gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act is currently under review. In June 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal to delist gray wolves nationwide. A decision is expected by the end of 2014.

An overview of the 2013 wolf survey is posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/. A full report will be available on that site by April 4, 2014.

Weekender Report: Enjoy Valentine’s Day together fishing for salmon, watching elk

[pagebreak:North Puget Sound]

Fishing:   With fishing for steelhead and other game fish scheduled to close early on several rivers in the region, the focus is shifting on the marine areas where blackmouth salmon fisheries are under way. 

“The San Juan Islands are the best bet for salmon anglers as we head into February,” said Steve Thiesfeld, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Fishing has been good for blackmouth in the San Juans, and hopefully that will continue throughout the month.”

Anglers fishing Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) – as well as marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) – have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon. Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is only open for salmon through Jan. 31.

Thiesfeld said there also have been reports of some nice-size blackmouth caught in Marine Area 9, especially around Possession Bar off the southern tip of Whidbey Island.

Another option is jigging for squid . Winter is prime time to fish for squid in Puget Sound. Good spots include the Elliott Bay Pier in Seattle and the Edmonds Pier. More information on squid fishing is available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/squid/ . Information on fishing piers is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/piers/ .
 
Fishing for steelhead and other game fish is closing early in several river systems in Puget Sound and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to protect wild steelhead. The early closures will affect the Nooksack, Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Skagit river systems, as well as several streams along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

Most rivers will close Feb. 1, although some waters near WDFW fish hatcheries will remain open through Feb. 15 to provide anglers an opportunity to catch and keep hatchery steelhead. “We’re closing these rivers early because of conservation concerns,” said Jim Scott, assistant director for WDFW’s Fish Program. “With low numbers of wild steelhead expected back, we need to take this action to protect those wild fish that do return.”

Anglers are reminded that the lower Green River (King County) and the White, Carbon and upper Puyallup rivers closed to fishing for steelhead and other game fish Jan. 16. The upper Green River closes Feb. 1. For more information on all the closures, check the emergency rule changes on WDFW’s website at http://bit.ly/eWIYg3

With several of the region’s rivers scheduled to close, freshwater anglers might turn their attention to local lakes. Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish are good spots to fish for perch, cutthroat and smallmouth bass , said WDFW fisheries biologist Danny Garrett. “Lake Sammamish has been producing consistent angling action for cutthroat trout that range from 14-18 inches,” he said.

Before heading out, anglers should check the rules and regulations for all fisheries on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

The Puget Sound crab fishery is now closed, and crabbers are reminded that they are required to report their winter catch to WDFW by Feb. 1. Reports are due for the season running Sept. 7 to Jan. 2, whether or not crabbers actually fished or caught crab. To submit catch reports, crabbers may send their catch record card to WDFW by mail or file their report on the department’s licensing website. The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system is available Jan. 3-Feb. 1 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html .  

Hunting: The waterfowl hunting season wraps up statewide at the end of January. Hunters, who have through Jan. 30 to hunt ducks and geese, should check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for details.

Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk or turkey are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2010 tag purchased. Hunters can file a report by calling (877) 945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2011 hunting license.  

WDFW is accepting enrollment applications through Feb. 15 for its Master Hunter program . The department enlists master hunters to participate in controlled hunts to remove problem animals that damage property or threaten public safety. For information, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/masterhunter/ or call 360-902-8412. 

Wildlife viewing: Have 15 minutes to spare for bird science? That’s virtually all it takes to contribute to the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an annual survey of birds sighted throughout the North American continent over a four-day period. This year’s bird count is scheduled Feb.18-21, when birders of all levels of experience are invited to count the number of birds they see in a 15-minute period and enter their tally, by species, on the GBBC website ( http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc ). Participants can conduct their count in their own backyards, in a neighborhood park or anywhere they choose. 

Later in February, birders can take part in the Port Susan Snow Goose and Birding Festival in the Stanwood and Camano Island areas. The festival is scheduled for Feb. 26-27, and will feature tours and speakers for the experienced and beginning birder. For more information, visit www.snowgoosefest.org/

 

[pagebreak:South Sound/Olympic Peninsula]

Fishing: Several areas of Puget Sound open to blackmouth salmon fishing in February, more wild steelhead are moving into coastal rivers and another razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled for mid-month.

If tests are favorable, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will proceed with an evening razor clam dig at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch. Tentative opening dates and evening low tides are:

  • Feb. 17, Thursday – 5:53 p.m. (-0.9 ft.); Twin Harbors 
  • Feb. 18, Friday – 6:33 p.m. (-0.9 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch 
  • Feb. 19, Saturday – 7:13 p.m. (-0.5 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch  

Clam diggers are reminded that they should take lights or lanterns for the nighttime digs and to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out. No digging will be allowed before noon on any of the five razor-clam beaches. Harvesters are allowed to take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2010-11 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.

Meanwhile, anglers can find hatchery steelhead at some of the region’s rivers. “Fishing for hatchery steelhead is winding down in the north coast streams, but anglers should continue to find fish in the Chehalis River Basin,” said Kirt Hughes, regional fishery manager for WDFW, who recommends the Satsop, Skookumchuck and Wynoochee rivers. 

Beginning Feb. 16, wild steelhead-retention rules go into effect on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Those eight rivers are the only waters in Washington where wild steelhead retention is allowed. Anglers will be allowed to retain one wild steelhead per license year on one of the eight rivers. 

For more information on steelhead fishing regulations, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Elsewhere, fishing for steelhead and other game fish will close early in several river systems in Puget Sound and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to protect wild steelhead. The early closures will affect the Nooksack, Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Skagit river systems, as well as several streams along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

Most rivers will close Feb. 1, although some waters near WDFW fish hatcheries will remain open through Feb. 15 to provide anglers an opportunity to catch and keep hatchery steelhead. “We’re closing these rivers early because of conservation concerns,” said Jim Scott, assistant director for WDFW’s Fish Program. “With low numbers of wild steelhead expected back, we need to take this action to protect those wild fish that do return.”

Anglers are reminded that the lower Green River (King County) and the White, Carbon and upper Puyallup rivers closed to fishing for steelhead and other game fish Jan. 16. The upper Green River closes Feb. 1. For more information on the closures, check the emergency rule changes on WDFW’s website at http://bit.ly/eWIYg3

On the other hand, saltwater salmon fishing opportunities will expand Feb. 1, with the opening of marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal). In addition, salmon fisheries also get under way in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait) open Feb. 16. 

Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist, recommends trolling Coyote Bank, located about 13 miles north of the Washington shore between Port Angeles and Dungeness Spit. “Coyote was one of the more consistent producers last year, and hopefully that will continue this season,” he said. “But make sure you keep your eye on the weather if you’re heading out that way.”

Salmon fishing is already under way in Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound), where anglers have had some success hooking resident coho. Best bets include the Tacoma Narrows, the Squaxin Island area and in Eld Inlet off Evergreen Beach, said Larry Phillips, regional fish biologist for WDFW. 

Anglers should check the regulations for salmon fisheries on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Looking for some competition? Anglers can take part in the Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby over Presidents’ Day Weekend near Sequim. Prizes include $10,000 for the largest fish, $5,000 for second place and $1,500 for third place. Details are available at http://gardinersalmonderby.org/

Puget Sound crabbers are reminded that they are required to report their winter catch to WDFW by Feb. 1. Reports are due for the season running Sept. 7 to Jan. 2, whether or not crabbers actually fished or caught Dungeness crab. To submit catch reports, crabbers may send their catch record card to WDFW by mail or file their report on the department’s licensing website. The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system is available Jan. 3-Feb. 1 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html .  

Hunting: The waterfowl hunting season wraps up statewide at the end of January. Hunters, who have through Jan. 30 to hunt ducks and geese, should check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for details.

Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk or turkey are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2010 tag purchased. Hunters can file a report by calling (877) 945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2011 hunting license.  

WDFW is accepting enrollment applications through Feb. 15 for its Master Hunter program . The department enlists master hunters to participate in controlled hunts to remove problem animals that damage property or threaten public safety. For information, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/masterhunter/ or call 360-902-8412. 

Wildlife viewing: Have 15 minutes to spare for bird science? That’s virtually all it takes to contribute to the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an annual survey of birds sighted throughout the North American continent over a four-day period. This year’s bird count is scheduled Feb.18-21, when birders of all levels of experience are invited to count the number of birds they see in a 15-minute period and enter their tally, by species, on the GBBC website ( http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc ). Participants can conduct their count in their own backyards, in a neighborhood park or anywhere they choose.

 

[pagebreak:Southwest Washington]

Fishing:   Ocean bright spring chinook salmon will be moving into the Columbia River in increasing numbers in the weeks ahead, setting the stage for one of the state’s most popular fisheries. Anglers typically start landing early-returning “springers” in early February, but the fishery usually doesn’t catch fire until March.

“This is a good time to dust off your gear, prepare your boat and maybe do a little prospecting,” said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “You want to be ready to go when the bulk of the run arrives.”

According to the pre-season forecast, a total of 198,400 upriver spring chinook will return to the Columbia River Basin this year – well below last year’s run of 315,345, but close to the 10-year average. Then again, 40,000 of this year’s fish are expected to be five-year-olds, compared to 7,855 last year. In addition, 62,400 of the 104,000 fish headed back to the Willamette River are projected to be five-year-olds.

“We’re definitely expecting more big fish this year,” Hymer said. “Five-year-olds can run from 18 to 30 pounds apiece.”

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are scheduled to meet Feb. 8 to work out fishing seasons and regulations for both the spring chinook fishery and white sturgeon fishery below Bonneville Dam. In the meantime, seasons and regulations listed in the 2010-11 Fishing in Washington pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ ) will remain in effect.

As in previous years, only hatchery-reared fish marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained. All wild spring chinook, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released unharmed. 

Fishing for spring chinook is currently open on the Columbia River below the Interstate 5 Bridge, where the limit is two adult fish per day. Anglers may also retain two adult springers per day on the Cowlitz and Deep rivers, but are limited to one adult fish a day on the Lewis and Kalama rivers.

“The Cowlitz River and waters near the Willamette River are probably the best bets early in the season, because spring chinook usually start showing up there first,” Hymer said. 

Meanwhile, anglers continue to reel in hatchery steelhead from waters ranging from the Cowlitz River to the John Day Pool and beyond. In general, the steelhead in the lower tributaries are winter-run fish, while those above Bonneville Dam are left over from last year’s summer run, Hymer said.

“Hatchery-reared late-run winter steelhead are still moving up the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers and should be available to anglers for weeks to come,” he said.

Columbia River anglers can also retain one sturgeon per day in the lower Columbia below the Wauna powerlines or in the Bonneville, The Dalles or John Day pools. Anglers can also retain a fish per day Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam. 

Fishing strategies vary from area to area. Hymer said boat anglers fishing the Bonneville Pool have done well by anchoring above the deeper holes and plunking with smelt, squid, sand shrimp, or roll-top herring. In the lower river, anglers have had some success fishing for sturgeon that gravitate toward the warmer waters flowing from the Willamette River. Fishing for smelt (eulachon) is closed to humans, but sturgeon still follow them up the Cowlitz River as far as Castle Rock, where anglers are waiting for them.   

Fishery managers are scheduled to set new seasons for sturgeon Feb. 8. Until then, most seasons and regulations listed in the 2010-11 Fishing in Washington pamphlet will remain in effect until then. The exception is that angling is closed on the mainstem Columbia at Sand Island near Rooster Rock State Park through April 30.   Until then, all angling is prohibited from a line between the upstream end of Sand Island to a marker on the Oregon shore, downstream to a line between the lower end of Sand Island and a marker on the Oregon shore.

Trout anglers should be aware that Battle Ground Lake and Klineline Pond are both scheduled to be stocked with 2,000 half-pound rainbows from Vancouver Hatchery in February. But fishing could be just as good on 13 other regional lakes that were stocked with tens of thousands of trout in January.

“Those fish – particularly the bigger ones – tend to stick around for a while when the weather is cold and anglers don’t spend as much time on the water,” Hymer said. “That will change once the weather breaks and fishing picks up.”

The weekly trout-stocking schedule is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/ .

Hunting: The waterfowl hunting season wraps up statewide at the end of January. Hunters, who have through Jan. 30 to hunt ducks and geese, should check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for details.

Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk or turkey are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2010 tag purchased. Hunters can file a report by calling (877) 945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2011 hunting license.  

WDFW is accepting enrollment applications through Feb. 15 for its Master Hunter program . The department enlists master hunters to participate in controlled hunts to remove problem animals that damage property or threaten public safety. For information, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/masterhunter/ or call 360-902-8412. 

Wildlife viewing: Have 15 minutes to spare for bird science? That’s virtually all it takes to contribute to the Great Backyard Bird Count , an annual survey of birds sighted throughout North America over a four-day period. This year’s bird count is scheduled Feb.18-21, when birders of all levels of experience are invited to count the number of birds they see in a 15-minute period and enter their tally, by species, on the bird count website ( http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc ). Participants can conduct their count in their own backyards, in a neighborhood park or anywhere they choose. 

Meanwhile, WDFW biologists have been conducting a bird count of their own. In recent weeks, regional staff members have spread out across southwest Washington to participate in the national midwinter waterfowl survey, the primary source of population information for these birds. One team counted nearly 13,000 water birds between Bonneville and John Day Dam on the Columbia River. Among them were 100 tundra swans, sighted in the Columbia River Gorge, most around Franz Lake.  Many birds were also counted at Beacon Rock State Park.  

Rather see raptors ? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold its first “Eagle Watch” event Saturday, Feb. 5 from 1-4 p.m. at The Dalles Dam Visitor Center. Agency employees will make spotting scopes and binoculars available at the free event so visitors can get a close-up view of eagles roosting at Westrick Park, at the west end of the powerhouse across the river from the visitor center. At 2:30 p.m., a park ranger will present “Birds of the Columbia Gorge” about bird adaptations and how to use a field guide. For more information please contact The Dalles Lock and Dam Ranger Office at 541-506-7819 or visit http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/recreation/home.asp .

 

[pagebreak:Eastern Washington]

Fishing: Of all the mid-winter fishing opportunities now available in the region, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish biologist Chris Donley recommends fishing Lake Roosevelt – the huge Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam.

“Lake Roosevelt’s kokanee fishery is usually pretty good at this time of year,” Donley said. “Large kokanee, measuring 20 inches and more, are caught near the surface by trolling small flies and plugs in four-to-six feet of water. It’s also the start of the lake’s fishing season for walleye , which are starting to stage at the mouth of the Spokane River to make their annual spawning run up the river.”

Anglers also continue to pull rainbow trout out of Lake Roosevelt, Donley said. Night fishing for Roosevelt’s three-to-five-pound burbot should be productive, too.

Even bigger burbot, up to 10 pounds, can be caught in Sullivan Lake in Pend Oreille County. Burbot are nocturnal predators, so night fishing is most effective, said Donley, noting that burbot are now gathering to spawn. “If you find one you usually find others,” he said.

Depending on temperature fluctuations, ice fishing should remain good at several winter-season or year-round fisheries in the region. Spokane County’s Hog Canyon Lake and Stevens County’s Hatch and Williams lakes should continue to provide rainbow trout catches through the ice. Action at Lincoln County’s Fourth of July Lake seems to have slowed, and ice conditions may be questionable.

Yellow perch fishing through the ice should continue to be good at Spokane County’s year-round Eloika and Silver lakes and Stevens County’s Waitts Lake, which closes Feb. 28.

Sprague Lake might be a good bet for rainbows, but reported “iffy” ice conditions in late January are a reminder that anglers need to be cautious. Look for ice-fishing safety tips at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/ice_fishing/ . Whitman County’s Rock Lake provides open water fishing on rainbow and brown trout for the hearty angler who can brave the wind chill.

Snake River tributaries, like the Grand Ronde, Tucannon, and Touchet rivers, are usually the place to target steelhead in February. Joe Bumgarner, WDFW fish biologist, said the Grand Ronde in particular is improving, although more creel checks will just be getting under way during the month of February to determine actual catch rates.

WDFW fish hatchery crews are gearing up to get catchable rainbow trout stocked this month in waters that open March 1, mostly in the southeast corner of the region.

Wildlife viewing:   The 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), Feb. 18-21, is a way for wildlife enthusiasts of all kinds across the continent to help scientists learn more about bird populations, distribution and movements in late winter. Led by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada, with sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited, GBBC participants count birds anywhere – in backyards or at wildlife refuges – for as little as 15 minutes a day or as long as they wish during the four-day period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time, and report their counts through an online checklist at http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/ .

As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or anywhere in the United States and Canada. They can also see how this year’s numbers compare with those from previous years. The count is conducted in February to provide a snapshot of how birds are surviving the winter and where they are located just before spring migrations begin in March.

One place in the region where waterfowl are usually found during February is on the flooded parts of farm fields in Whitman County and southern Spokane County. Kurt Merg, WDFW wildlife biologist, said these “sheet waters” consistently harbor large groups of migrating pintails, widgeons and other ducks and geese. “These are great places to drive through, and with binoculars or scopes from the roadside, observe early courtship behaviors of these birds,” Merg said.

If you don’t know one duck from another, pack a bird field guide or use your mobile online device to check out “Ducks at a Distance” ( http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/duckdist/index.htm ), a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Guide to Waterfowl Identification.

Other wildlife watching at this time of year can be closer than expected as winter-weary animals seek easier travel corridors or forage.  WDFW Wildlife Biologist Woody Myers advises motorists to slow down on roads through deer, elk and moose country and wildlife viewers to maintain respectable distances from animals. “It is still winter throughout the region,” Myers said. “Keep your distance from wildlife that are likely experiencing stress from persistent snow cover, cold temperatures and limited forage.”

 

[pagebreak:Northcentral Washington]

Fishing:   With warming air and water temperatures, steelhead fishing picks up a bit at this time of year on the upper Columbia River, said Bob Jateff, a district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  Most of that action is above Wells Dam on the mainstem Columbia River and in sections of the Methow River.
 
Steelheading also picks up with warming trends on the Entiat River, where a few fish are usually caught at the mouth. The Wenatchee River has been slow, but fish can still be caught in the mainstem Columbia River between Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams.

Fishing for whitefish on both the Similkameen and Methow rivers also can be good, said Jateff, noting that fly anglers using small weighted nymphs under a strike indicator seem to do best. The whitefish daily limit is 15 with no minimum size requirement.  Selective gear rules are in effect for whitefish in areas that are currently open for steelhead.

Ice fishing for rainbow trout has been good at several Okanogan County lakes, including Big and Little Green, Davis, Rat, and Sidley.
 
Sidley Lake, near Molson and the Canada border, is the scene of the 7th annual Northwest Ice Fishing Festival on Feb. 19. The day-long event is hosted by Molson Grange and sponsored by the Oroville Chamber of Commerce. Ice fishing is conducted from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with registration fees of $20 per adult and $10 for youth 14 years of age and under. Prizes are awarded for biggest and heaviest fish caught. Food, music, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and dog sledding are also available. For more information contact Robin Stice at Eden Valley Guest Ranch, (509) 485-4002, or
info@edenvalleyranch.net .

Another popular ice-fishing spot in Okanogan County is Patterson Lake near Winthrop, where anglers can hook rainbow trout and yellow perch . In Chelan County, ice fishing for rainbows, perch and other fish at Roses Lake near Manson was good earlier in the winter but warming trends have reduced ice thickness and safety.

Chad Jackson, WDFW Columbia Basin district fish biologist, said most lakes in the south end of the region that are open were either treated last fall and have no fish in them yet, or are covered with unsafe ice. “Stay tuned for more fishing coming to the Basin in March,” Jackson said.

Wildlife viewing:   The 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), Feb. 18-21, is a way for wildlife enthusiasts of all kinds across the continent to help scientists learn more about bird populations, distribution and movements in late winter. Led by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada, with sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited, GBBC participants count birds anywhere – in backyards or at wildlife refuges – for as little as 15 minutes a day or as long as they wish during the four-day period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time, and report their counts through an online checklist at http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/ .

As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or anywhere in the United States and Canada. They can also see how this year’s numbers compare with those from previous years. The count is conducted in February to provide a snapshot of how birds are surviving the winter and where they are located just before spring migrations begin in March.

Rich Finger, WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist, said the local big waters – Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir – are usually the best bet for seeing lots of the earliest waterfowl migrants, such as Canada geese and pintail ducks. Bald eagles can also be readily observed in the same areas where they’re taking advantage of the influx of waterfowl.

Up in the other end of the region, WDFW Sinlahekin Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Justin Haug reports good opportunities to see both wintering and migrating raptors. He recently photographed a northern pygmy owl near Blue Lake. Other species usually seen or heard mid- to late winter include northern saw-whet owl, western screech owl, great horned owl, red-tailed hawk, northern harrier , and bald and golden eagles .

The Methow Valley’s annual “Nature of Winter Snowshoe Tours ” are available every Saturday during the month of February, plus Sunday, Feb. 20. Local naturalists lead the tours about winter ecology, wildlife and tracks, snow conditions and more. These family-friendly tours leave at 11 a.m. each Saturday from the North Cascades Basecamp in Mazama, which co-hosts with the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA).  

MVSTA snowshoe trail passes ($5) are required and available at the North Cascades Basecamp or Mazama Ski Shop.  Reservations are not required; space is available on a first-come, first-served basis and limited to 10 participants. Call MVSTA at 996-3287 or email events@mvsta.com for more information.

 

[pagebreak:Southcentral Washington]

Fishing: Anglers continue to reel in hatchery steelhead from portions of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, although the prospect of catching sturgeon close to home will undoubtedly prompt some to switch gears. Starting Feb. 1, the McNary Pool – also known as Lake Wallula – will reopen for retention of white sturgeon that measure 43 to 54 inches from their snout to the fork in their tail.

Centered near the Tri-Cities, it draws anglers from throughout the region, said Paul Hoffarth, a regional fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Open waters extend from McNary Dam to Priest Rapids Dam, and into the lower Snake River upstream to Ice Harbor Dam.

“From the Tri-Cities, you can reach the fishery in 20 minutes in either direction,” he said.

Hoffarth said the opening at Lake Wallula should take some pressure off the fishery under way at Lake Umatilla (John Day Pool), where anglers have been chiseling away at a 165-fish annual quota. “That quota has been reached very early in recent years, so anglers should go soon – and keep an eye out for updates – if they plan to fish Lake Umatilla.”

For additional information, see the 2010-11 Fishing in Washington pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Meanwhile, steelhead fishing has been up and down, typical of the winter fishery, with some of the best catches reported in the Ringold area, Hoffarth said. In the Tri-Cities area, the fishery is open through March for retention of hatchery steelhead from John Day Dam upstream to the wooden power line towers at the old Hanford town site. 

Another section of the Hanford Reach is open to fishing for hatchery steelhead from the Highway 24 bridge (Vernita Bridge) upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. Fishing in that area is one of a number of angling opportunities funded by the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement Fee. 

The lower Snake River is also open for the retention of hatchery steelhead through March 31. The daily limit in the Snake River is three hatchery steelhead and barbless hooks are required. 

Walleye fishing can get slow in winter, but there’s always a chance of catching a lunker. Hoffarth said some of the largest walleye of the year are boated during the winter months near the Tri-Cities – including the 19.3-pound state record taken in Lake Wallula in 2007. 

Hunting: The waterfowl hunting season wraps up statewide at the end of January. Hunters, who have through Jan. 30 to hunt ducks and geese, should check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for details.

Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk or turkey are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2010 tag purchased. Hunters can file a report by calling (877) 945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2011 hunting license.  

WDFW is accepting enrollment applications through Feb. 15 for its Master Hunter program. The department enlists master hunters to participate in controlled hunts to remove problem animals that damage property or threaten public safety. For information, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/masterhunter/ or call 360-902-8412. 

Wildlife viewing: Have 15 minutes to spare for bird science? That’s virtually all it takes to contribute to the Great Backyard Bird Count , an annual survey of birds sighted throughout North America over a four-day period. This year’s bird count is scheduled Feb.18-21, when birders of all levels of experience are invited to count the number of birds they see in a 15-minute period and enter their tally, by species, on the bird count website ( http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc ). Participants can conduct their count in their own backyards, in a neighborhood park or anywhere they choose. 

Meanwhile, WDFW’s winter feeding program is now under way at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, where hundreds of hungry elk and big-horn sheep have descended from the high country to ride out the winter weather. The animals are now on view from the visitor center 15 miles northwest of Yakima, where they gather to dine on alfalfa hay and pellets. Volunteers from the Wildlife Education Corps are on hand to talk about the elk and the history of the wildlife area.

Oak Creek visitors can check the recorded message on the headquarters phone (509) 653-2390 for updates on feeding and elk-viewing tours. Tour reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance by calling (509) 698-5106. For driving instructions and more information on the wildlife area see http://bit.ly/hW6VAu on WDFW’s website.

Brace for winter and enjoy Wasington Wildlife

All good advice for the hardy souls planning to to dig razor clams on ocean beaches over the New Year’s weekend. Digging will be allowed after noon on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch. Twin Harbors will also be open for an extra night of digging Jan. 2.

 

“Digging razor clams on New Year’s Eve is a Northwest tradition,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. “Last year, more than 22,000 people marked the season by digging razor clams.”

 

Rather avoid the crowd? Bald eagles are now on display from the Skagit Valley to Lake Roosevelt, while snow geese and other migratory birds are gathering throughout the coastal lowlands. Wintering elk are also on view in a number of areas, including the feeding station at WDFW’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area northwest of Yakima off Highway 12. For information on the feeding schedule, see the southcentral regional report below.

 

Meanwhile, WDFW is reminding big-game hunters and Puget Sound sport crabbers that deadlines for reporting their harvest in 2010 are drawing near. Hunters have until midnight Jan. 31 to report their success in hunting deer, elk, bear and turkey during the past year. Those who file their reports by Jan. 10 will be entered into a drawing for one of five deer permits or four elk permits. Sport crabbers have until Feb. 1 to report their catch during the winter season.

 

For more information on reporting procedures – as well as fishing, hunting and wildlife-watching opportunities available around the state – see the regional reports below.

 

[pagebreak:North Puget Sound]

 

Fishing:  In January, weather conditions often dictate where an angler chooses to fish. “If the rivers are in shape, steelheading is a good bet,” said Steve Thiesfeld, salmon manager for WDFW. “But if the rivers are blown out, blackmouth salmon fishing in the marine areas of Puget Sound is probably a better option.”

 

Areas currently open for salmon fishing include marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton). Anglers fishing those marine areas have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon.

 

Thiesfeld said anglers should focus on the San Juan Islands, where fishing for blackmouth traditionally has been decent this time of year. Later in the month, anglers also might want to consider fishing Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet), which opens for salmon Jan. 16. “It’s been slow in other areas of central Puget Sound – marine areas 10 and 11 – during the last weeks of December,” he said. “But hopefully the fish will be there mid-January and the fishery will start strong.”

 

Meanwhile, the Puget Sound crab fishery is winding down. The fishery closes at sunset on Jan. 2, and crabbers are reminded that they are required to report their winter catch to WDFW by Feb. 1. Reports are due for the season running Sept. 7 to Jan. 2, whether or not crabbers actually fished or caught crab. To submit catch reports, crabbers may send their catch record card to WDFW by mail or file their report on the department’s licensing website. The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system is available Jan. 3-Feb. 1 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html .

 

Winter is prime time to jig for squid in Puget Sound. Good spots include the Elliott Bay Pier in Seattle and the Edmonds Pier. More information on squid fishing is available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/squid/. Information on fishing piers is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/piers/.

 

In freshwater, several rivers are open for hatchery steelhead fishing, including the Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie. “As long as the weather cooperates and the rivers stay fishable, anglers should have some good opportunities to hook a hatchery steelhead,” said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.

 

Freshwater anglers also might want to try fishing for perch, cutthroat and smallmouth bass at Lake Washington or Lake Sammamish. Anglers targeting perch should fish near deep ledges between 60 and 100 feet, said WDFW fisheries biologist Danny Garrett, who recommends using nightcrawlers. “Perch are generally caught within a couple feet of the bottom,” he said. For cutthroat or smallmouth bass, try trolling the same depth with hard baits near the bottom or around schools of smelt.  “Anglers will likely have to put in some time to hook a smallmouth this time of year, but the bass that are caught are often trophy-sized fish,” Garrett said. 

 

Before heading out, anglers should check the rules and regulations for all fisheries on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

 

Hunting: Most big-game hunts in the region will be closed by the start of January, although, waterfowl hunters still have time to bag ducks and geese. Waterfowl hunters, who have through Jan. 30 to hunt ducks and geese in the region, should check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for details.

 

WDFW will make an announcement in early January – after aerial surveys – on whether the tentatively scheduled brant hunt in Skagit County will open. While more than 10,000 brant typically winter on Washington’s waters each year, at least 6,000 brant must be counted in Skagit County before hunting is allowed there. Hunters should keep checking WDFW’s website for an announcement on the season, which is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 15, 16, 19, 22, 23, 26, 29 and 30.

 

Hunters who would like to participate in the Snow Goose Quality Hunt program on Fir Island and in the northern Port Susan Bay area should visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/snow_goose/ for information on the rules and requirements.

 

Another option is the new Waterfowl Quality Hunt Program, which provides duck and goose hunting opportunities at more than 40 sites in Whatcom, Skagit and north Snohomish counties. For more information on the program, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/wqhp/.

 

Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk or turkey are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2010 tag purchased. Hunters can file a report by calling (877) 945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov. Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2011 hunting license.  On the other hand, hunters who submit their reports by Jan. 10 will be entered into a drawing for five deer permits and four elk permits in various areas of the state.

 

New this year, WDFW is requiring hunters to file separate reports for general-season hunting activities and for special-permit hunts for deer, elk, black bear and turkey. That change will give game managers more information about hunters’ success during both kinds of seasons. Whether reporting online or over the phone, hunters should follow the prompts until they receive a confirmation number for each report.

 

Wildlife viewing: The Audubon Society continues to compile bird sightings from the annual Christmas Bird Count, which comes to a close in early January. For more information on bird sightings in Washington, check the Current Year Results heading on Audubon’s website at http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.

 

This compilation of sightings provides important information about bird populations, in Washington and throughout the Americas. But keeping a list of birds seen throughout each year is also a personal endeavor, a common practice among birders, veterans and novices alike. Some birders record their sightings in journals, others on computer software programs. Some keep track in their field guides where and when they saw each species. The Washington Ornithological Society (WOS) offers a wealth of information on birds and birding, including a checklist available at http://www.wos.org/

 

Birders along the Skagit River shouldn’t have any trouble marking the bald eagle box on their checklist. January is a great time to see the raptors wintering in the area. Each winter, hundreds of the eagles spend December and January along the river, where the carcasses of spawned salmon provide a feast for the birds. After a few weeks of dining, the eagles head north to their summer homes in Alaska and British Columbia.

 

Birders in the region may also want to check out the flocks of snow geese wintering in the Skagit Valley. Thousands of snow geese congregate in the Skagit Valley each winter, and can be found in the area from mid-October through early May. A great place to view the birds is at the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit of WDFW’s Skagit Wildlife Area. For more information on the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit, visit WDFW’s website at http://bit.ly/9Hk0Vs.

 

[pagebreak:South Sound/Olympic Peninsula]

 

Fishing: Winter has arrived, but area anglers can still catch hatchery steelhead on several coastal streams, salmon in Puget Sound and razor clams on five ocean beaches.

 

A razor clam dig has been approved at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch. Opening dates and evening low tides are:

 

  • Dec. 31, Fri. – 3:40 p.m., (0 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Jan. 1, Sat. – 4:31 p.m., (-0.4 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Jan. 2, Sun. – 5:18 p.m., (-0.7 ft.), Twin Harbors

 

Clam diggers are reminded that they should take lights or lanterns for the nighttime digs and to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out. No digging will be allowed before noon on any of the five razor-clam beaches. Harvesters are allowed to take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

 

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2010-11 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.

 

Meanwhile, winter hatchery steelhead fisheries are in full swing at a number of the region’s streams. “If the weather cooperates, steelhead fishing should be good throughout January,” said Kirt Hughes, regional fishery manager for WDFW.

 

Anglers fishing the Quillayute and portions of the Bogachiel, Calawah, Hoh, and Sol Duc rivers have a daily limit of three hatchery steelhead. In the Grays Harbor area, anglers fishing the Chehalis, Humptulips, Satsop and Wynoochee have a daily limit of two hatchery steelhead.

 

Hughes reminds anglers that they will not be allowed to catch and keep wild steelhead on eight Olympic Peninsula rivers until mid-February. In early 2010, the annual opening date for wild steelhead retention was changed from Dec. 1 to Feb. 16 on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Those eight rivers are the only waters in Washington where wild steelhead retention is allowed.

 

The change, adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission last February, was made to protect the early portion of the run, said Hughes. He noted, however, that anglers will still have an opportunity to catch and keep a wild fish during the peak of the return.

 

Freshwater anglers looking to hook salmon also have opportunities in January. Anglers can find late-run coho salmon in some of the region’s rivers, including the Humptulips, Naselle, Satsop and Willapa, said Hughes. “The Skookumchuck also is a good bet for anglers fishing for late-run coho, as well as steelhead,” he said.

 

For winter chum salmon, anglers should try fishing the Nisqually.

 

On Puget Sound, Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound) remains open for salmon. However, regulations for Marine Area 13 change Jan. 1, when anglers will have a daily limit of one salmon. Anglers should be aware that salmon fisheries in marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 12 (Hood Canal) close Jan. 1. Before heading out on the Sound, anglers should check the regulations on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

 

The Puget Sound crab fishery closes at sunset on Jan. 2, and crabbers are reminded that they are required to report their winter catch to WDFW by Feb. 1. Reports are due for the season running Sept. 7 to Jan. 2, whether or not crabbers actually fished or caught Dungeness crab. To submit catch reports, crabbers may send their catch record card to WDFW by mail or file their report on the department’s licensing website. The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system is available Jan. 3-Feb. 1 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html .

 

Opportunities to dig clams at Hood Canal increase Jan. 1, when Belfair State Park in Mason County opens for littleneck, butter, manila and other clams. Recent surveys indicate that the clam population will support a fishery at the park. For more information on clam-digging opportunities in Hood Canal and elsewhere, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/beaches/.

 

Hunting: Most big-game hunts in the region will be closed by the start of January, although, waterfowl hunters still have time to bag ducks and geese. Hunters have through Jan. 30 to hunt for ducks in the region. Goose hunts in Goose Management Area 3 also are open seven days a week through Jan. 30. However, hunts in Goose Management Area 2B (Pacific County) are limited to Jan. 2, and Saturdays and Wednesdays only from Jan. 5-15. The brant hunting season in Pacific County is open Jan. 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29 and 30.

 

Waterfowl hunters should check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for details.

 

Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk or turkey are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2010 tag purchased. Hunters can file a report by calling (877) 945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov. Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2011 hunting license.  On the other hand, hunters who submit their reports by Jan. 10 will be entered into a drawing for five deer permits and four elk permits in various areas of the state.

 

New this year, WDFW is requiring hunters to file separate reports for general-season hunting activities and for special-permit hunts for deer, elk, black bear and turkey. That change will give game managers more information about hunters’ success during both kinds of seasons. Whether reporting online or over the phone, hunters should follow the prompts until they receive a confirmation number for each report.

 

Wildlife viewing: The Audubon Society continues to compile bird sightings from the annual Christmas Bird Count, which comes to a close in early January. For more information on bird sightings in Washington, check the Current Year Results heading on Audubon’s website at http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.

 

This compilation of sightings provides important information about bird populations, in Washington and throughout the Americas. But keeping a list of birds seen throughout each year is also a personal endeavor, a common practice among birders, veterans and novices alike. Some birders record their sightings in journals, others on computer software programs. Some keep track in their field guides where and when they saw each species. The Washington Ornithological Society (WOS) offers a wealth of information on birds and birding, including a checklist available at http://www.wos.org/

 

[pagebreak:Southwest Washington]

 

Fishing: Winter steelhead are still the name of the game in the Columbia River Basin, although several other fisheries are beginning to compete for anglers’ attention. Sturgeon fishing reopens Jan. 1 from the mouth of the Columbia to McNary Dam, and state hatchery workers have begun planting dozens of regional lakes with thousands of rainbow trout.

 

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has also scheduled an evening razor-clam dig to run over New Year’s weekend. Digging will be allowed after noon on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch.  On Jan. 2, digging will be allowed at Twin Harbors only.

 

Meanwhile, anglers continue to reel in adult hatchery-reared winter steelhead – along with some late-run coho salmon – from a number of Columbia River tributaries. The Cowlitz River is still the best bet for steelhead, although the Lewis, Kalama, Grays, Washougal, Elochoman and White Salmon rivers, and Salmon Creek in Clark County are also producing fish, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.

 

“As usual, river conditions basically determine success at this time of year,” Hymer said. “Most anglers do best when water levels are rising or dropping. It’s a lot harder to catch steelhead in the peaks and troughs.”

 

As with all steelhead fisheries in southwest Washington, only hatchery fish with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar may be retained. All wild steelhead must be released. The daily limit on all area rivers is two hatchery steelhead.

 

Starting Jan. 1, anglers may also retain up to two adult hatchery chinook salmon per day on the mainstem Columbia from the I-5 Bridge downstream and in the Cowlitz and Deep rivers. The daily limit is one chinook per day in the Lewis and Kalama rivers. While the bulk of the spring chinook run isn’t expect to arrive until March, Hymer said some lucky anglers will likely start catching early-arriving fish by late January or early February.

 

“It’s a good to keep the chinook regulations in mind, even if you’re fishing for steelhead,” he said. “Somebody has to catch the first springer of the year, and it could be you.”

 

WDFW recently released preliminary forecasts of Columbia River salmon and steelhead returns for 2011, predicting an upriver run of 198,400 adult spring chinook compared to an actual return of 315,300 last spring. However, the upper Columbia summer chinook run is expected to be significantly higher than in 2010.

 

The preliminary forecasts, along with currently anticipated fishing seasons, are posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html. Current fishing rules are described in 2010-11 Fishing in Washington pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/) and the Northwest River Forecast is available at http://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/.

 

Ready to catch some sturgeon? All fishing areas will open to anglers Jan. 1 from the mouth of the Columbia River to McNary Dam, except for a small area in Sand Island slough upstream from Beacon Rock as outlined in the current regulation pamphlet. Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are scheduled to meet Feb. 8 to consider changes to current catch quotas, but Hymer said that won’t affect the fishery until later in the season.

 

“The main concern right now is the cold weather,” Hymer said. “A warming trend would likely improve the bite when the season gets under way.”

 

But there will be no fishing of any kind for eulachon smelt this year, he said. Once abundant in the Columbia River Basin, eulachon were listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act last May. Since then, Washington and Oregon have closed all sport and commercial dipping in the Columbia River system.  In addition, Washington has closed all marine and freshwater areas statewide for eulachon smelt.

 

Anglers can, however, still use any frozen smelt they have in their freezer as bait, said Capt. Murray Schlenker, WDFW enforcement chief for southwest Washington. “There’s no law about possession,’’ he said. “You just can’t fish for them.’’

 

As an alternative, anglers might consider spending a winter’s day fishing for trout on a local lake. Throughout January, WDFW plans to stock more than two-dozen lakes in southwest Washington with thousands of rainbow trout ranging from 8-12 inch “catchables” to 5-8 pound broodstock.

 

“There’s a lot of interest in trout fishing in winter,” said John Weinheimer, another WDFW fish biologist. “During breaks in the weather, people come out to fish for them like crazy.”

 

The timing of the fish plants will vary according to the weather and the availability of tanker trucks, but Weinheimer said last year’s stocking plan is a good indication of which lakes will fish. That stocking plan is posted at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/region5/ on WDFW’s website.

 

“All of these lakes are ice-free in winter,” he said. “Given weather conditions, we don’t encourage anyone to fish through the ice in southwest Washington.  It just isn’t safe.”

 

Hunting: Most big-game hunts in the region will be closed by the end of December, but waterfowl hunters still have time to bag ducks and geese throughout the region. Hunters have through Jan. 30 to hunt for ducks and geese, although goose hunting is now closed at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, where the season’s sub-quota for dusky Canada geese has been reached. 

 

Except for New Year’s Day, the remainder of Management Area 2A is open to hunting for ducks and geese Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays through Jan. 30. For more information, see the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

 

Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk or turkey are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2010 tag purchased. Hunters can file a report by calling (877) 945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov.

 

Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2011 hunting license. On the other hand, hunters who submit their reports by Jan. 10 will be entered into a drawing for five deer permits and four elk permits in various areas of the state.

 

New this year, WDFW is requiring hunters to file separate reports for general-season hunting activities and for special-permit hunts for deer, elk, black bear and turkey. That change will give game managers more information about hunters’ success during both kinds of seasons. Whether reporting online or over the phone, hunters should follow the prompts until they receive a confirmation number for each report.

 

Wildlife viewing: Winter weather in the Columbia River Gorge can be downright inhospitable, but migrating tundra swans don’t seem to mind. Several hundred birds, each weighing up to 18 pounds, have settled in the area, where they have been dining on slugs, snails, insects, crayfish and plants. They especially like the native wapato, a tuber that grows at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Franz Lake near Washougal, and in Mirror Pond across the Columbia River.

 

The swans typically remain in the area through March, when they make the 3,725-mile trip back to their nesting grounds in the Arctic tundra. The number of tundra swans visiting the area appears to have declined since the early part of the decade, when 2,000 birds were observed on some of the larger lakes. Even so, human visitors can still see hundreds of swans feeding at Ridgefield, Franz Lake and other parts of the gorge.

 

Some of those swans will no doubt be tallied during the 111th annual Christmas Bird Count, which runs through Jan. 5 in southwest Washington and throughout the Americas. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists birdwatchers – veterans and novices alike – to contribute their sightings over a 24-hour period to the world’s longest-running bird database. Check out this year’s tally under the Current Year Results heading on Audubon’s website (http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count).

 

[pagebreak:Eastern Washington]

 

Fishing:  Lake Roosevelt is the region’s hot spot for January fishing, says WDFW eastern regional fish program manager John Whalen. The huge Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam provides winter fishing opportunities for big net-pen-reared rainbow trout. Boat and shore anglers can take up to five trout a day, although only two over 20 inches can be retained. Roosevelt also has kokanee, walleye, smallmouth bass, burbot, lake whitefish and yellow perch, but the rainbows star at this time of year.

 

Four winter-only rainbow trout lakes – Stevens County’s Williams and Hatch and Spokane County’s Fourth-of-July and Hog Canyon – have been producing well since opening Dec. 1. Access and style of fishing, through the ice or open water by boat or from shore, vary with winter conditions.

 

No agency or organization is responsible for measuring ice thickness on area lakes, so there are no guarantees that fishing through the ice is safe, said WDFW central district fish biologist Chris Donley. According to U.S. Coast Guard guidelines, no one should venture onto lake ice unless it is at least four inches thick, clear and solid. As much as nine inches may be needed to safely support snowmobiles or other vehicles.

 

Drilling a hole in the ice from a safe, near-shore location can give anglers an idea of ice depth. However, drilling only provides an estimate of the ice depth because shallow water near shore freezes quicker than deeper water in the middle of a lake where springs may slow the freezing process. Ice depths vary throughout a waterway due to underwater structures, springs, geothermal activity and water movement.

 

Donley suggests following these winter fishing tips:

 

  • Don’t fish alone. Let others know where you and your fishing partners are going and when you plan to return.
  • Keep fishing holes small and few. When drilling fishing holes with an ice auger, keep the diameter under eight inches. Bigger holes are not necessary to land fish and can create a safety hazard for others.
  • Watch your step. Avoid ice fishing near feeder streams or known springs; brush, logs, plants or docks; multiple ice cracks or ice that is popping or otherwise audible. Also, avoid dark-colored ice; it may be weak.
  • Spread out. Too many people congregated in one area may be too much for the ice to support. Disperse weight and fishing holes.
  • Be prepared for weather conditions. Dress in layers and wear thermal underwear, fleece or wool, and wind and waterproof outerwear, especially for feet, hands and head. Take extra clothes, food, water, sand for on-ice traction, and a sled for easy on-ice transport of all equipment.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. Carry equipment such as ice picks or awls, rope, and personal flotation devices. Also pack a first-aid kit and matches for starting a fire.

 

Donley says there’s also good trout fishing opportunity through the winter at several large year-round waters, including Rock in Whitman County, Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line, and Waitts Lake in Stevens County.

In Lincoln County, WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area manager Juli Anderson reports shoreside openings in Z Lake, thanks to an aeration system. “I don’t know how many folks are trekking in to Z Lake to fish those rainbow trout, but they’re available,” she said.

The Snake River steelhead catch season continues, but according to WDFW fish biologist Joe Bumgarner, it’s been one of the slowest in the past decade. He guessed that those who brave the elements on the river will likely average no better than 25 hours of fishing per steelhead caught. “Lately angler effort has been so low, and checked fish so few and far between, that it’s really hard to say what an average catch rate is,” Bumgarner said.

Hunting:  The last weeks of waterfowl and upland game bird hunting can be some of the most productive, depending on snow and ice conditions and hunters’ willingness to tough them out.

 

WDFW regional wildlife program manager Kevin Robinette explains that when smaller waters are iced up, ducks and geese concentrate on bigger, open waterways, such as the Pend Oreille and Snake rivers. For a successful hunt, waterfowl hunters need to be prepared to access those areas in winter conditions bring trained retrieving dogs, he said.

 

Hunting seasons for ducks and geese continue through Jan. 30 in most parts of the region. Goose hunting in Spokane and Lincoln counties is open Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only through Jan. 23, plus on Monday, Jan. 17 for the Martin Luther King holiday, then every day Jan. 24-30.

 

WDFW’s Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area manager Juli Anderson notes that Hungarian (gray) partridge are hanging out closer to plowed roads at this time. Upland game bird hunting continues through Jan. 17. Bird hunters should check bag limits and other rule details in the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

 

Hunters licensed to hunt for deer, elk, black bear and turkey have a chance to win one of nine 2011 special hunting permits if they report this year’s hunting activities by Jan. 10. All hunters of those species, whether successful or not, are required to submit hunting reports for by Jan. 31. Failure to meet the deadline can result in a $10 fine, payable before a hunter can purchase a 2011 license. Hunters can report by phone (877 945-3492) or the Internet https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov .

 

New this year, WDFW is requiring hunters to file separate reports for general-season hunting activities and for special-permit hunts for deer, elk, black bear and turkey. That change will give game managers more information about hunters’ success during both kinds of seasons. Whether reporting online or over the phone, hunters should follow the prompts until they receive a confirmation number for each report.

 

More information on mandatory hunt reporting is available on page 13 of the Big Game Hunting pamphlet, available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

 

Wildlife viewing:  January’s typical snowy, cold conditions throughout the region often bring foraging wildlife closer to people. That can make for unique viewing opportunities, but it can also create problems. Moose wandering around town can be fun to watch, but should be given a wide berth, said WDFW central district wildlife biologist Howard Ferguson of Spokane.

 

“Dogs especially need to be controlled to avoid problems with moose,” Ferguson said. “This will not only to keep them from chasing moose at this stressful time of year for all wildlife, but also protect dogs, themselves. Moose see dogs as predatory wolves and some will go out of their way to attack dogs.

 

People should keep some distance between themselves and moose, too. “Use binoculars, a scope or a telephoto camera lens to enjoy them, rather than approaching too closely. And even if a moose is munching your shrubbery, it’s best at this time of year to just leave them alone. Most will wander off in a short time.”

 

WDFW habitat biologist Sandy Dotts of Colville reports deer, turkeys and quail are highly visible during warming, thawing periods when they take advantage of open south-facing slopes to forage.

 

WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area manager Juli Anderson relays reports from volunteer Kim Thorburn of snow buntings among the usual horned larks, and even one “unhappy-looking” western meadowlark  that evidently didn’t migrate south.

 

Spokane Audubon welcomes birdwatchers of all levels to join a “Banana Belt” field trip to southeast Washington and Idaho on Jan. 22. Trip leader Cindy McCormack says birders will convoy to the Lewiston/Clarkston area “looking for warmer weather as well as the thousands of waterfowl that winter in that milder climate.” Target species include loons, grebes, scoters, and other wintering waterfowl, and night heron, barn owl, lesser goldfinch, and other wintering passerines. Contact Cindy McCormack (nwbirder@gmail.com or 939-4448) for futher details.

 

[pagebreak:Northcentral Washington]

 

Fishing: WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp says steelhead fishing in the upper Columbia River is usually slow at this time of the year, but there are exceptions. “There have been reports of fish being caught within the mainstem Columbia, as well as the Okanogan and Methow rivers,” Jateff said. Anglers should keep a close eye on air temperatures, because anything over 32 degrees keeps the rivers fishable and free of ice.”

 

Jateff reminds anglers of the mandatory retention of adipose-clipped hatchery steelhead from Priest Rapids Dam upstream including the Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, Okanogan, and Similkameen rivers.

 

As a change of pace from steelheading, Jateff suggests that anglers try fishing the Methow River for its sizeable population of mountain whitefish. “These fish can be caught readily on flies,” he said. The daily limit is15 whitefish, no minimum size, with selective gear rules in effect for whitefish in all areas that are currently open for steelhead.

 

Winter rainbow trout lakes in the Okanogan are usually in good shape for ice fishing in January. Jateff recommends Davis Lake in the Winthrop area, Big and Little Green lakes in the Omak area, and Rat Lake near Brewster. For anglers seeking yellow perch, Patterson Lake near Winthrop has a good population of six to 10-inch perch, as well as a few kokanee and rainbow trout.

 

Other popular ice fishing lakes in Okanogan County are Sidley, located east of Oroville, and Bonaparte, located east of Tonasket.  Sidley has rainbow trout and Bonaparte has eastern brook trout and kokanee.

 

Jateff warns anglers to be aware that ice conditions can change at any time and become unsafe. According to U.S. Coast Guard guidelines, no one should venture onto lake ice unless it is at least four inches thick, clear and solid.  As much as nine inches may be needed to safely support snowmobiles or other vehicles. The ice can reach these standards after at least a week of below-freezing temperatures, both day and night.

 

Ice depths vary throughout a waterway due to underwater structures, springs, geothermal activity and water movement. Rivers and streams rarely have safe ice because of constant currents. Thawing and re-freezing can create air pockets that leave ice “honeycombed” or porous and significantly weakened.

 

Drilling a hole in the ice from a safe, near-shore location can give anglers an idea of ice depth. However, this approach provides only an estimate of the ice depth, because shallow water near shore freezes quicker than deeper water in the middle of a lake where springs may slow the freezing process.

 

WDFW does not measure ice on fishing lakes and cannot guarantee ice-fishing safety. But here are a few tips to help keep an outing safe:

 

  • Don’t fish alone. Let others know where you and your fishing partners are going and when you plan to return.
  • Keep fishing holes small and few. When drilling fishing holes with an ice auger, keep the diameter under eight inches. Bigger holes are not necessary to land fish and can create a safety hazard for others.
  • Watch your step. Avoid ice fishing near feeder streams or known springs; brush, logs, plants or docks; multiple ice cracks or ice that is popping or otherwise audible. Also, avoid dark-colored ice; it may be weak.
  • Spread out. Too many people congregated in one area may be too much for the ice to support. Disperse weight and fishing holes.
  • Be prepared for weather conditions. Dress in layers and wear thermal underwear, fleece or wool, and wind and waterproof outerwear, especially for feet, hands and head. Take extra clothes, food, water, sand for on-ice traction, and a sled for easy on-ice transport of all equipment.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. Carry equipment such as ice picks or awls, rope, and personal flotation devices. Also pack a first-aid kit and matches for starting a fire.

 

Hunting: The Columbia Basin, in January, can provide some of the best waterfowl hunting opportunities in the state, depending on winter weather conditions. Both resident and migrant ducks and geese from the north concentrate on the Basin’s big open water, including Banks Lake, Rufus Woods Lake, Wanapum pool and other Columbia River reservoirs; the Stratford Wildlife Area’s Billy Clapp Lake; Moses Lake; and Potholes Reservoir.

 

Duck hunting continues through Jan. 30. Goose hunting is open Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only through Jan. 23, plus Martin Luther King holiday on Monday, Jan. 17, and every day from Jan. 24-30.

 

Pheasant, quail and partridge hunting continues through Jan. 17. If snow cover stays in the usual haunts for these birds, January can be very productive for upland game bird hunters who are willing to brave the elements and have dogs. Bird hunters should check bag limits and other regulations in the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

 

Hunters licensed to hunt deer, elk, black bear, or turkey have a chance to win one of nine 2011 special hunting permits if they report this year’s hunting activities by Jan. 10. All hunters of those species, whether successful or not, are required to submit hunting reports for by Jan. 31. Failure to meet the deadline can result in a $10 fine, payable before a hunter can purchase a 2011 license. Hunters can report by phone (877 945-3492) or the Internet https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov .

 

New this year, WDFW is requiring hunters to file separate reports for general-season hunting activities and for special-permit hunts for deer, elk, black bear and turkey. That change will give game managers more information about hunters’ success during both kinds of seasons. Whether reporting online or over the phone, hunters should follow the prompts until they receive a confirmation number for each report. More information on mandatory hunt reporting is available on page 13 of the Big Game Hunting pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

 

Wildlife viewing: January can be a terrific month for wildlife viewing in northcentral Washington. For example, thousands of waterfowl can now be seen on the Columbia River between the mouth of the Okanogan River at Brewster, near Entiat and along the Wanapum pool where Interstate 90 crosses, reports WDFW habitat biologist Ken Bevis of Winthrop.

 

“Vast mixed flocks of coot, widgeon, greater and lesser scaup, redheads, ring-necked duck, Canada geese, canvasbacks, bufflehead and many other species, spread out on the big water,” Bevis said.  “These birds come from places far north, and winter in the relatively warm waters of the Columbia.”

 

Spending time in at one spot can yield memorable observations. “Spectacular bald eagle attacks on flocks can result in the formation of “coot balls”, similar to herring being attacked by predatory fish,” Bevis said. “The eagles will haze these dense accumulations of ducks, trying to scare a slow bird out, or pick off a straggler when the flock panics and flies to escape. The flocks shift up and down the river in unpredictable patterns, but reliable concentrations are seen at Brewster and Entiat. Study the flocks with a spotting scope and see how many species of waterfowl you can identify.”

 

[pagebreak:Southcentral Washington]

 

Fishing: Anglers continue to reel in hatchery steelhead from portions of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, although the lure of bigger fish will undoubtedly prompt some to switch gears. Starting Jan. 1, Lake Umatilla – also known as the John Day Pool – will reopen for retention of white sturgeon that measure 43 to 54 inches from their snout to the fork in their tail.

 

Anglers planning on taking part in the fishery should be aware that the annual sturgeon quota for Lake Umatilla is 165 fish, said Paul Hoffarth, a regional fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “In recent years, the quota has been reached in a couple of months, so I’d advise anglers to get out early if they want to take a sturgeon home for dinner,” he said. 

 

Another option is Lake Wallula (McNary Pool), including the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam, which will reopen for sturgeon retention Feb. 1.

 

Meanwhile, steelhead fishing has been up and down, typical of the winter fishery, said Hoffarth, who noted that some of the best catches on the Columbia River have been reported in the Ringold area. In the Tri-Cities area, the fishery is open for retention of hatchery steelhead from John Day Dam upstream to the wooden power line towers at the old Hanford town site through March 31, 2011.

 

Another section of the Hanford Reach is open to fishing for hatchery steelhead from the Highway 24 bridge (Vernita Bridge) upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. Fishing in that area, which opened Dec. 8, is one of a number of angling opportunities funded by the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement Fee. 

 

The lower Snake River is also open for the retention of hatchery steelhead through March 31. The daily limit in the Snake River is three hatchery steelhead and barbless hooks are required. 

 

Walleye fishing can get slow in winter, but there’s always a chance of catching a lunker. Hoffarth said some of the largest walleye of the year are boated during the winter months near the Tri-Cities – including the 19.3-pound state record taken in Lake Wallula in 2007.

 

Hunting: Most big-game hunts in the region will be closed by the end of December, including the general-season cougar hunt in the Kittitas-Yakima zone. But waterfowl hunters can continue to bag ducks and geese through Jan. 30. Hunting rules are outlined in the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for details.

 

Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk or turkey are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2010 tag purchased. Hunters can file a report by calling (877) 945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov.

 

Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2011 hunting license.  On the other hand, hunters who submit their reports by Jan. 10 will be entered into a drawing for five deer permits and four elk permits in various areas of the state.

 

New this year, WDFW is requiring hunters to file separate reports for general-season hunting activities and for special-permit hunts for deer, elk, black bear and turkey. That change will give game managers more information about hunters’ success during both kinds of seasons. Whether reporting online or over the phone, hunters should follow the prompts until they receive a confirmation number for each report.

 

Wildlife viewing: WDFW’s winter feeding program is now under way at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, where hundreds of hungry elk and big-horn sheep are expected to descend from the high country to dine on alfalfa hay and pellets. Now that the snow is flying, managers at the wildlife area are expecting a strong turnout at feeding stations 15 miles northwest of Yakima. Bald eagles can also be observed feeding on spawned-out coho salmon at Oak Creek and along the Yakima River.

 

Oak Creek visitors can check the recorded message on the headquarters phone (509) 653-2390 for updates on feeding and elk-viewing tours. Tour reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance by calling (509) 698-5106. For driving instructions and more information on the wildlife area see http://bit.ly/hW6VAu on WDFW’s website.

 

Meanwhile, birders will be counting birds for the 111th annual Christmas Bird Count, which runs through Jan. 5 in the Columbia River Basin and throughout the Americas. Sponsored by the Audubon Society, the annual event enlists birdwatchers – veterans and novices alike – to contribute their sightings over a 24-hour period to the world’s longest-running bird database. Check out this year’s tally under the Current Year Results heading on Audubon’s website (http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count).

Ecology Seeking Public Comment on Updates to State Shoreline Rules

In developing the proposal, Ecology considered comments and recommendations from the state Shellfish Aquaculture Regulatory Committee, a broad-based committee created by state lawmakers that met for 18 months from 2007 through 2009. The committee included representatives from shoreline property owners, the shellfish industry, local governments, state agencies and tribal governments.

Ecology’s draft geoduck aquaculture rule would grandfather 237 existing sites covering about 360 acres – unless there would be a change in planting or harvesting geoducks that creates a new shoreline impact.

Growing geoduck for personal consumption and recreational harvesting of wild geoduck are exempt from the new rules.

“The proposed rule changes will help address potential controversy by making it clear that local governments must plan ahead for geoduck aquaculture projects,” White said. “Planning ahead provides each local government and community an opportunity to help avoid disputes before they occur.”

Ecology also is proposing to change how and when local governments can make small changes, called limited amendments, to their existing shoreline master programs. The draft rule would clarify when and under what circumstances these can occur. It would discourage local governments from making changes while they are comprehensively updating their existing shoreline programs

Several other draft rule changes are designed to clean up outdated provisions, including updating the rules to match state law.

Ecology will conduct four open houses and public hearings for the draft rules. During the open houses prior to each hearing, the public can ask questions and get an overview of the proposed changes. The open houses and public hearings are scheduled for:

* Wednesday, Sept 8, 2010, in Moses Lake – Open house at 6:30 p.m., followed by 7 p.m. public hearing at Big Bend Community College, Masto
Conference Center, 7662 Chanute St. N.E.

* Monday, Sept. 13, 2010, in Everett – Open house at 6 p.m., followed by 7 p.m. public hearing at Everett Station, Weyerhaeuser Room, 3201 Smith Ave.

* Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010, in Lacey – Open house at 6 p.m., followed by public hearing at 7 p.m. at Washington Department of Ecology
Headquarters Building, downstairs auditorium, 300 Desmond Drive S.E.

* Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010, in Aberdeen – Open house at 6 p.m., followed by public hearing at 7 p.m. at Grays Harbor Community College,
Bishop Center, 1620 Edward P. Smith Drive.

Ecology will take public comments on the proposed rules until 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18, 2010. Written comments and questions should be
submitted to Cedar Bouta, Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, Wash. 98504-7600.

Comments can also be submitted electronically at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/shorelines/smp/rulemaking.html, sent
via email to ShorelineRule@ecy.wa.gov, or faxed to 360-407-6902.

Child Seat Belt Patrols Return to Grays Harbor County

For the best protection of children and to abide by the law, parents should try to adhere to the following when buckling up their child:

Child ages: 0 – at least 12 months and at least 20 pounds – use a rear-facing infant seat. Keep your child rear-facing as long as your child car seat allows.
Age: 13 months to age four – use a child car seat with a five-point harness.
Age: four to 4’9” tall – use a booster seat. Boosters should only be placed with a lap and shoulder belt.
Age: up to age 13 – children must ride in the rear seat of the vehicle.

The local pilot project is coordinated by The Grays Harbor County Traffic Safety Task Force. Similar projects are running in the Spokane, Moses Lake, and Wenatchee areas.

Parents needing more information about correctly installing their child car seat or about this project can call Susan Bradbury at 360.249.3711 x576 or visit www.800bucklup.org.

TEAM OF TEACHERS FROM ABERDEEN WINS QWEST GRANT

Like the other winners in the state, the project at Stevens School incorporates several subjects, including career and technical education, science, math, reading, writing and social studies. 
 

“I am very excited for the four teachers who have been awarded the Qwest technology grant,” Kathleen Werner, the principal at Stevens School, said.  “I am most excited for the students who will be working on a project that brings relevance to their learning! The project will allow the students to use technology to engage in active learning to solve real-world problems. Congratulations to our teachers.”

The students will be asked to help answer the question, “Where would be a good place to build a new school?” Each grade level will tackle a different aspect of the question, from conducting site surveys, drawing maps and estimating square footage needs to gathering data and tackling environmental impact and mitigation issues.

  
 
The teachers envision a learning experience for students that draws from outside experts and uses the tools of various professions to solve problems. “Effective                           
technology usage must engage our students in authentic, active learning, be cross-
curricular, give students opportunities to share work and have it evaluated by others,” the teachers wrote in their application. 
 

The winning project was selected by representatives from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Governor’s Office, Qwest Foundation, Microsoft and several Washington educators.

 

 

SEATTLE

— The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction today announced the nine winners of this year’s Qwest Teachers and Technology grants. st-century learning environments that use real-world technologies to solve real-world problems.

Grant award projects

The nine schools that were awarded 2009 Qwest Foundation Teaching and Technology Grants:

ESD 101:

Cheney Middle School (Cheney School District)

ESD 105:

Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School (Yakima)

ESD 112:

Kelso High School (Kelso)

ESD 113:

Pioneer Primary School (Pioneer)

ESD 113:

Stevens Elementary School (Aberdeen)

ESD 121:

Eckstein Middle School (Seattle)

ESD 121:

Garfield High School (Seattle)

ESD 189:

Kulshan Middle School (Bellingham)

ESD 181:

Moses Lake High School (Moses Lake)

For a complete list of teachers and awarded projects, click here.

The winning projects were evaluated and selected by representatives from OSPI, the Governor’s Office, Qwest Foundation, Microsoft and several Washington educators.

For more information about the Qwest Teachers & Technology grant program, contact Julia Fallon, 360-725-6246 (julia.fallonl@k12.wa.us), or Nathan Olson, 360-725-6015. (nathan.olson@k12.wa.us).

About OSPI

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

For more information, visit the OSPI Web site at http://www.k12.wa.us.

About Qwest Foundation

The Qwest Foundation’s core principle is that investing in education provides lasting value for the future. The Qwest Foundation awards grants to community-based programs that generate high-impact and measurable results, focusing on pre-K through 12 education

.

– ### –

The grants fund classroom projects ranging from designing a school building to educating the community on the ecosystems at risk in the Hood Canal to exhibiting a museum-quality photo gallery of Seattle’s Central District.

Qwest Foundation grants help teachers create 21

"Every year it becomes more critical that we lead our students to global literacy, turn them into expert problem-solvers and make sure they are fluent in technology," said State Superintendent Randy Dorn. "These are the basic skills students will need in the future. Our partnership with the Qwest Foundation supports the development of these skills. It also addresses different learning styles and raises the bar on student achievement."

Each of the nine winning teachers or teacher teams will receive $10,000 for learning projects that integrate digital technologies. Five of the projects are math- and science-based, four center around learning goals in reading and writing and three projects are designed with a focus on social studies. All the projects integrate Web 2.0 technologies and the state’s standards for educational technology.

"This grant program been an excellent opportunity for Qwest to make a positive difference in the lives of Washington students and to help teachers," said Qwest Washington President Kirk Nelson. "We have been honored to help now dozens of teachers in our state with these creative classroom projects."

Since 2007, Qwest Foundation support has made it possible to award grants to 60 Washington state educators (individual teachers and teacher teams) who use digital technologies to improve their instructional practice, and engage and motivate their young learners. Informally, Qwest Foundation awardees participate in a professional learning community through which they network, share expertise and inspire each other’s creative development as teachers.

Brave fall weather to hunt elk, catch salmon or dig razor clams

Those same conditions, including an early snowfall in the mountains, has also helped to improve success rates for deer hunters during the modern-firearm season, said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager.  That season wraps up by the end of October, followed by general elk-hunting seasons running Oct. 31-Nov. 8 in eastern Washington and Nov. 7-17 on the west side of the state.

For more information about upcoming elk hunts, see WDFW’s Big Game Hunting pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm .  Bird hunters can check the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Season pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/water.htm for area-specific hunting regulations.

Anglers may be more interested to know that chum salmon are gathering at the mouth of the Hoodsport Hatchery in Hood Canal, catch rates for hatchery steelhead are improving on the Snake River and hatchery coho are still biting well on the Cowlitz and Klickitat rivers.

In addition, two areas of Puget Sound are set to reopen Nov. 1 for late-season crab fishing and two razor clam digs are tentatively scheduled for later in the month.  Starting Nov. 1 at sunrise, recreational crab fishing will reopen in Marine area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and most of Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) seven days a week.  (The portion of Marine Area 9 south of a line from Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point will remain closed for the season.) 

More razor-clam digs are scheduled Nov. 4-7 and Nov. 14-17, subject to the results of marine toxin tests.  Final word on those digs will be available on WDFW’s shellfish hotline (866-880-5431), website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/ ) and local news media.

 

For more information about fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities available around the state, see the regional reports below:

North Puget Sound  

Fishing: Anglers are still hooking a few coho in the region’s rivers and streams, but chum will soon be taking center stage. Meanwhile, some anglers fishing areas of Puget Sound have been reeling in blackmouth and will soon have the option of dropping a crab pot in select areas.

Starting Nov. 1 at sunrise, Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and most of Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) will reopen for sport crabbing seven days a week through Jan. 2, 2010. The portion of Marine Area 9 south of a line from Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point will remain closed for the season.

Crab fishing also will remain open seven days a week through Jan. 2 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu) and 13 (south Puget Sound), where the fishery has continued uninterrupted since summer. Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal), currently open Wednesdays through Saturdays, will close for the season at 6 p.m. Oct. 31.
 
Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 6 (Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island), where the summer catch reached the annual recreational quota.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. For more information about recreational crabbing in Puget Sound, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab .

While on the Sound, why not fish for blackmouth ? Effort has been low, but anglers have hooked a few of the resident chinook in central Puget Sound. Anglers fishing Marine Area 10 have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Beginning Nov. 1, opportunities for blackmouth will increase, as marine areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 open for chinook. Anglers fishing those marine areas will have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon. Anglers are reminded that Marine Area 7 closes to salmon retention Nov. 1.

In the rivers, the coho season is winding down and chum salmon will soon be arriving in greater numbers. There are reports of anglers still catching a few coho in the region’s streams but, overall, fishing has been slow. 

Lake Sammamish is also an option for freshwater salmon anglers, who have a daily limit of four salmon, and can retain up to two chinook. All sockeye must be released, and fishing is closed within 100 yards of the mouth of Issaquah Creek.

Lake Washington also is open for salmon, but only for a few more days. Anglers fishing the lake, which is open through Oct. 31, are allowed four coho per day (minimum size 12 inches) from waters north of the Highway 520 Bridge and east of the Montlake Bridge.

Before heading out, anglers should check the regulations for all freshwater and saltwater fisheries in WDFW’s Fishing in Washington pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).

Hunting: Wet and windy weather has made for good waterfowl hunting early in the season, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager. "Hunters did well during the first couple weeks of the season because the weather distributed the birds throughout the area," he said. "There’s more blustery weather in the forecast, and that should continue to improve hunting prospects on both sides of the Cascades."

More and more snow geese and dabbling ducks continue to arrive in the area, Kraege said. "It’s still early in the migration, but the numbers of birds should continue to increase as we head into November," he said.

Goose hunts are open through Oct. 29 in the region, and then start again Nov. 7. However, snow, Ross and blue geese seasons in Goose Management Area 1 (Skagit and Snohomish counties) will run from Oct. 17 through Jan. 31 without a break. The duck hunting season also is open through Jan. 31.

Kraege reminds hunters who want to participate in the Snow Goose Quality Hunt program on Fir Island and in the northern Port Susan Bay area that they must have written authorization to hunt for snow geese in Goose Management Area 1 and written authorization to hunt the quality hunt units. Hunters also must possess a Washington small game hunting license and a state migratory bird validation, as well as a federal migratory bird stamp.    

For more information on how to participate in the quality hunt program, which is a cooperative project with several local landowners and residents, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/snow_goose .

Upland bird hunters have until the end of November to bag pheasant . Pheasant hunters should note that the department will release pheasants this fall at the Skagit Wildlife Area’s Samish Unit rather than the Headquarters Unit, where a substantial portion of land is no longer suitable for pheasant hunting. WDFW is temporarily moving its pheasant release program to the Samish Unit because an estuary restoration project has returned portions of recreational land on the Headquarters Unit to intertidal habitat for fish and wildlife. Pheasants will be released several days a week on the Samish Unit through Nov. 7.

The early modern firearm season for deer runs through Oct. 31. Up next for hunters is the modern firearm season for elk, which gets started Nov. 7 in select game management units. Other hunts open in the region include, cougar, grouse, California quail and bobwhite seasons. Bear hunts are also open, but the season closes Nov. 15

Hunters can find more information on hunting season prospects at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects . Before going afield, hunters should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm ) and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/water.htm ) for details.

Wildlife viewing: More and more birders are making their way to the region to view snow geese , which also continue to arrive in increasing numbers. About 80,000 snow geese winter in western Washington each year. Most of those snow geese congregate in the Skagit Valley, and can be found in the area from mid-October through early May.

Several birders have even spotted some blue geese among this year’s flock. The blue geese , rare visitors to western Washington, were reported numerous times in a field on Fir Island. One birder spotted seven blue geese, along with 18 cackling geese and a juvenile white-fronted goose . "They formed their own tight little group within the larger flock," according to the report on the Tweeters birding website ( http://www.scn.org/earth/tweeters/ ). "I have never seen so many blue geese in one spot."

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are beginning to make preparations for the annual Christmas Bird Count , scheduled Dec. 14, 2009 through Jan. 5, 2010.  Specific counting dates have already been announced in several areas of western Washington, where birders turn out by the hundreds to count and categorize the birds they see to benefit avian science.  Those interested should watch the Audubon website at http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/ for details.

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South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing:   Anglers targeting chum and coho in Puget Sound and area streams will soon have some other options to consider. A late-season Dungeness crab fishery will get under way Nov. 1 in select areas, and two razor clam digs are planned later in the month.

Starting Nov. 1 at sunrise, recreational crab fishing will reopen in Marine area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), and most of Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) seven days a week through Jan. 2, 2010. The portion of Marine Area 9 south of a line from Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point will remain closed for the season.

Crab fishing also will remain open seven days a week through Jan. 2 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu) and 13 (south Puget Sound).  However, only a few more days remain to catch crab in Marine Area12 (Hood Canal), which is open Wednesdays through Saturdays through Oct. 31.

Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 6 (Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1, 8-2 (east of Whidbey Island) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island), where the summer catch reached the annual recreational quota.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.

Recreational crabbers are required to send in a winter catch card or report their catch online by Jan. 15. People failing to submit their winter reports will receive a $10 fine when they apply for a 2010 Puget Sound crab endorsement. For more information about recreational crabbing in Puget Sound, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab .

Meanwhile, chum salmon are gathering in front of the Hoodsport Hatchery facility in southern Hood Canal, where the fishery has been open since Oct. 16. Although it’s the early part of the run, the numbers are building, said Mark Cylwik, WDFW hatchery specialist. "The run normally peaks just before Thanksgiving, so November is a good month to enjoy some chum fishing," Cylwik said. A recent creel check on the Hoodsport shore showed 20 anglers with 10 chum. To avoid competition with tribal beach nets, Cylwik recommends fishing on days other than Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the Skokomish Tribe has been conducting its fishery. Anglers can call (360) 877-5222 for a recorded message about Hoodsport fishing conditions.

The mouth of Kennedy Creek near Shelton also is known for attracting chum, but so far the run has been light. A creel check conducted Oct. 24 showed 39 anglers with seven fish. Other traditionally good November chum rivers are the Skokomish and Nisqually rivers, where salmon fishing is currently under way. Starting Nov. 1, anglers can target chum in several other streams, including the Dosewallips and Duckabush rivers in Jefferson County and Minter Creek in Pierce/Kitsap Counties.

Because retention rules and fishing regulations vary on the many rivers and streams throughout the region, anglers are advised to check the 2009-2010 Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm before heading out.

On the Chehalis River in Grays Harbor County, participation and catch rates have slowed as salmon head out of the mainstem and into the tributaries, said Scot Barbour, WDFW fish biologist. Twenty-four anglers recently checked at the Fuller Bridge on the river had five hatchery coho , while 11 anglers checked near Montesano had two.

"The Wishkah and Satsop rivers are good bets right now and lots of people have been fishing the Humptulips," Barbour said. "But this time of year, success depends on the weather and the height of the river. Anglers need to hit the rivers when they’re high enough to bring in salmon, but not so high that they’re unfishable."

Barbour reminds anglers that only hatchery coho with a clipped adipose fin and jack chinook and coho may be retained on a number of area rivers, including the Chehalis, Elk, Johns, Satsop, Wishkah and Wynoochee rivers in Grays Harbor County and the Skookumchuck River in Thurston County.

Anglers fishing in the Quillayute system – which includes the Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Calawah and Dickey rivers – can keep two adult salmon, plus two additional adult hatchery coho as part of the six-fish daily limit. No wild coho may be retained.

In the South Sound, anglers fishing in marine areas 11 and 13 (Vashon Island to South Puget Sound) may retain wild chinook as part of their two-fish daily limit, but will be restricted to one chinook starting Nov. 1. Also starting that day, anglers may retain wild coho caught in Marine Area 13.

Anglers are advised to check the 2009-2010 Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm before heading out.

Meanwhile, anglers looking for some late-season trout fishing might consider a trip to Black Lake in Thurston County, where 2,500 one-pound rainbows will be stocked in time for the Oct. 31 weekend. "In the past this late fall plant has resulted in good catch and effort through the winter," said Larry Phillips, WDFW fish biologist. "In addition to these fish, anglers often encounter large hold-over fish from last spring’s planting, as well as wild coastal cutthroat." 

On the coast, many of the 30,250 razor clam diggers who participated in the Oct. 16-19 season opener on five ocean beaches took home their 15-clam limit. More digs are tentatively scheduled Nov. 4-7 and Nov. 14-17, subject to the results of marine toxin tests.

For a change of pace, anglers may want to venture out some evening and try jigging for squid , which generally make their way through Puget Sound in fall and winter. Good bets include the Les Davis Pier in Tacoma and the Elliott Bay pier in Seattle.

Squid fishing is open year-round with a daily limit of five quarts or 10 pounds. Best success usually occurs at night. Legal gear includes a baitfish jig, a maximum of four squid lures or a hand dip net. Each angler must have a separate container. Squid fishing is closed in Hood Canal (Marine Area 12). More information on squid fishing is available at  http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/squid . Information on fishing piers is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/piers/ .

Hunting: The early modern firearm season for black-tailed deer wraps up Oct. 31. Up next for hunters is the modern firearm elk season which opens Nov 7-17 in select game management units. "The Williams Creek area south of Raymond is our best elk area," said Greg Schirato, WDFW regional wildlife manager. "Another good area to look for elk is the North River unit south of Aberdeen."

The late-buck, black-tailed deer hunting season starts with a modern firearm hunt that runs Nov. 19-22 in western Washington. Following that four-day hunt, archers and muzzleloaders will take to the field Nov. 25 for the late deer and elk season, (Nov. 26 for late-muzzleloader deer season).
 
Hunters planning to participate in any hunting season should check WDFW’s 2009 Big Game Hunting pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm before heading out.

The statewide season for ducks, coots and snipe resumed Oct. 24 while goose-hunting reopens Nov. 7 in Management Area 3. Goose management area 2B (Pacific County), under way since Oct. 17, is open Saturdays and Wednesdays only.
 
Hunters may also pursue pheasant, quail and bobwhite through Nov. 30. An extended pheasant-hunting season runs Dec. 1-15 at Skookumchuck, Fort Lewis, Kosmos, Scatter Creek, Belfair, Whidbey Island (except Bayview) and Lincoln Creek release sites. The statewide forest grouse hunting season continues through Dec. 31.

Additional information about bird-hunting seasons is available in the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet, http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/water.htm .

The general black bear season will close Nov. 15, while cougar hunting in the region is open through March 31, 2010. Hunters are allowed one cougar and two bear during the season, but only one bear may be take in eastern Washington.

Hunters should be aware that the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has suspended garbage service at eight DNR campgrounds on state trust lands in Clallam and Jefferson counties. DNR asks the public to pack out what they pack in. Campgrounds include Bear Creek in Clallam County and Hoh Oxbow, Coppermine Bottom, Cottonwood, South Fork Hoh, Willoughby, Minnie Peterson and Upper Clearwater in Jefferson County.  

Wildlife viewing: Each weekend throughout November, visitors can walk the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail for an up-close look at thousands of chum salmon returning to local streams. Located just above the Kennedy Creek estuary on Totten Inlet, the trail is off U.S. Hwy 101 between Olympian and Shelton. The stream is one of the most productive chum salmon streams in Washington. While there visitors can find numerous species of migrating shorebirds or hike around the estuary. More information on the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail is located at http://www.spsseg.org/ .

Birders venture to many places looking for common and rare bird sightings, including sewage treatment plants (STP) that often host numerous species. Recent visitors to the Hoquiam STP found several rarities as well as birds typically found in the area. Reports on the Tweeters website ( http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/TWET.html ) included sightings of an orchard oriole, clay-colored sparrow, chestnut-collared longspur and palm warbler among the more typical song sparrows, golden-crowned sparrows, chickadees, kinglets and Hutton’s vireo .

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Southwest Washington

Fishing:   Hatchery coho salmon are still providing most of the action on the lower Columbia River, although bank anglers fishing for sturgeon immediately below Bonneville Dam are also catching fish.  About one in 10 took home a keeper during the week ending Oct. 26. 

From the Wauna power lines near Cathlamet upstream, anglers can keep one white sturgeon daily measuring between 38 and 54 inches fork length on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only. Anglers are reminded the statewide annual limit is five fish per license year (April through March).

Meanwhile, anglers looking for hatchery coho have several good options to choose from, both above and below Bonneville Dam.  The hotspot is still the Klickitat River, where bank and boat anglers have been taking home an average of one fish apiece. Fishing pressure has been heavy throughout the lower river, and boat anglers have been doing well trolling prawn/spinner rigs just off the mouth.

Fishing also continues to be productive in the Cowlitz, North Fork Lewis and Kalama rivers, said Joe Hymer, WDFW fish biologist.  The Elochoman and Washougal rivers would also be good bets, he said.  As of Oct. 21, nearly 35,000 adult coho had returned to the Cowlitz salmon hatchery, the highest count by that date since at least 1990. 

"We are now fairly confident that total coho returns to the Columbia River Basin will meet or exceed the pre-season forecast of 700,000 fish, making it the biggest run since 2001," Hymer said.  "The great thing is that the fish are still biting fairly well.  The rain has really recharged fishing throughout the system."

Anglers fishing the Cowlitz River have also been intercepting some chinook, steelhead and sea-run cutthroat (especially near the trout hatchery).  Hymer noted, however, that all adult chinook salmon intercepted on the Cowlitz River from Blue Creek upstream to Mill Creek must be released.  For other regulations in effect on the Columbia River and its tributaries, he recommends that anglers check the WDFW website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ) before heading out.

One new emergency rule listed there allows Columbia River anglers to retain up to three adult coho salmon from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upriver to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco.

Those fishing the mainstem Columbia near the mouth of the Lewis River should also be aware that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin blasting and dredging the shipping channel around Warrior Rock on the north end of Sauvie Island on Nov. 1. All watercraft will be prohibited from entering a 1,500-yard safety zone around the site without permission.  Boaters who wish to enter the safety zone can contact the Coast Guard at VHF 13 or VHF 16 for specific instructions.  For additional information, see http://www.crci-project.info .

Ready for winter?  Hymer noted that four winter-run steelhead recently turned up in the trap at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery, a portent of another fishing season ahead.  That fishery usually starts to ramp up around Thanksgiving, he said. "Talk about a quick transition," he added.  "I’m still trying to get used to the fact that summer’s over and fall is here."

Anglers who want to make the most of the current season might want to try Swift Reservoir, which will remain open to fishing for game fish and salmon through Nov. 30.  Fishing has been reported to be excellent for rainbows averaging 12-13 inches with some up to 20 inches.  Hymer also suggests fishing Silver Lake near Castle Rock for crappies .  Anglers have reportedly been doing well there too in recent days, he said.

Hunting:   The final days of October found hunters taking aim at a variety of species around the region, including deer, cougar, ducks, geese, coots and snipe .  Heavy rains have eased after the mid-month openers for those species, contributing to decent success rates for those hunts.

Deer hunting with modern firearms closes at the end of the day Oct. 31, but the other hunts will continue – with some variations – in the weeks ahead.  Hunters can also look forward to the start of the modern-firearm season for elk , which runs Nov. 7-17 in selected game management units throughout western Washington.

David Anderson, WDFW wildlife biologist, noted that elk hunters in southwest Washington generally have one of the highest success rates in the state.  "Conditions are looking pretty good this year," Anderson said.  "We didn’t have a severe winter and the recent snowfall is helping to move elk down from the higher elevations."

He strongly recommends that hunters check WDFW’s Big Game Hunting pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm ) for rules about specific areas before heading out.  Bird hunters are similarly advised to check the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Season pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/water.htm ) for area-specific hunting regulations.

As outlined in those pamphlets, ongoing hunts for cougars and geese will expand into additional areas in the days ahead:

  • Cougar season:   The general-season cougar hunt in Klickitat County will begin Oct. 31.  The season began two weeks earlier in most other areas of the state, but was delayed in Klickitat County and five other counties to accommodate a permit hunt with the use of dogs later in the year.
  • Goose season:   Goose hunting will open Nov. 14 in Goose Management Area 2A, which includes Wahkiakum County, Cowlitz County and part of Clark County.  That area opens later than other areas to protect dusky geese. See Page 17 of the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Season pamphlet for more information.

Wildlife viewing:   Migrating waterfowl are now reaching peak levels in southwest Washington, providing prime viewing opportunities for people throughout the region. Swans, geese, ducks and other waterfowl of all descriptions are on display throughout the Vancouver Lowlands, including seven subspecies of Canada geese ranging from common cacklers to less-common Aleutian geese .

With hunting seasons under way in many parts of the region, some birders have called WDFW to ask whether they should wear hunter-orange clothing while in the field. "It’s not a legal requirement for bird watchers," said Bill Tweit, a WDFW policy analyst and avid birder. "But it only makes sense to let hunters know where you are when you’re sharing the same area, since we are partners in outdoor recreation."

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are beginning to make preparations for the 110th annual Christmas Bird Count, scheduled Dec. 14, 2009 through Jan. 5, 2010.  Specific counting dates have already been announced in several areas of southwest Washington, where birders turn out by the hundreds to count and categorize the birds they see to benefit avian science.  Those interested should watch the Audubon website at http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/ for details.

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Eastern Washington

Fishing:  Steelhead fishing on the Snake River continues to heat up as temperatures cool. Joe Bumgarner, a WDFW fish biologist, said limited creel checks indicate good catch rates in various river sections. Anglers who were recently checked in the Wallula area, from the Washington-Oregon state line to the mouth of the Walla Walla River, averaged just under 11 hours of fishing per steelhead caught. From Ice Harbor Dam to Lower Monumental Dam, anglers averaged just under 12 hours per catch, and from Lower Monumental to Little Goose Dam, slightly more than 11 hours per catch. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recent creel checks on the Lower Grand Ronde River showed an average of just over nine hours of fishing per steelhead caught on the Washington section, from Bogans Oasis to state line.

Bumgarner reminds Snake River system steelheaders that barbless hooks must be used and all wild steelhead must be kept in the water and released immediately. Because of the abundant return of hatchery-marked steelhead (clipped adipose or ventral fin with healed scar), up to five can be retained daily.

Many streams, rivers and lakes throughout the region close to all fishing Nov. 1.  Waters that remain open year-round and are currently providing good catches of rainbow trout , include Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line and Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam.

Hunting:   Joey McCanna, WDFW upland game bird specialist, said field checks of pheasant hunters over the season opening weekend in Whitman County – from Penawawa Canyon on the Snake River boundary on the south end to the Revere Wildlife Area on the northwest end – indicate that a total of 63 hunters had bagged 43 young-of-the-year pheasants and 13 adult pheasants, for an average of just under one bird per hunter. "In areas with good cover, hunters were getting several shots at birds," McCanna said. 

The best areas to hunt pheasants are usually along river and stream drainages, from Rock and Union Flat Creek and the Palouse River to the Snake, Touchet, Walla Walla, and Tucannon rivers. Agricultural areas with good habitat conditions – brushy hillsides and draws – are prime, but of course hunters need to seek permission to access private land. Acreage enrolled in WDFW’s "Feel Free to Hunt" and "Register to Hunt" programs can be a good bet, and hunters need to scout out those program signs in the field. McCanna notes that more than 22,000 acres in the south end of the region were recently posted "Feel Free to Hunt."

Game-farm-raised rooster pheasants have also been released on the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area in Ferry County, the Fishtrap Lake site on the Lincoln-Spokane county line, and several other release sites in the south end of the region. Details are posted on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/ewapheas.htm .
 
The modern firearm elk season runs Oct. 31 through Nov. 8 in several units throughout the region. The southeast district is traditionally the best, with the greatest numbers in the Blue Mountains, but only spike bulls can be harvested.

"Calf survival has improved in recent years, but is still 15 percent below optimum levels, which does have a negative impact on the number of spike bulls available for harvest," WDFW Biologist Pat Fowler said. "The Wenaha sub-herd (GMU-169) still remains below historic population levels, which hurts overall hunting opportunity in the Blue Mountains. But hunters can expect prospects to be similar to previous years."

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman said elk hunters should come prepared because there is snow in the upper elevations of the Blue Mountains.

Central district units 124-142 are open for any elk, bull or cow, but private land access must be secured for most hunting. WDFW district wildlife biologists Howard Ferguson and Mike Atamian recently helicopter-surveyed elk in and around Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in the Cheney (130) unit and counted a total of 260 elk –  35 bulls, 146 cows, and 79 calves.  That total was down compared to previous years of the same aerial survey, but they also saw a herd of about 100 elk just outside the survey area. Including those animals would bring the count above the yearly average of 316. The biologists are currently attempting a ground count and composition of the herd.

Ferguson reminds hunters the refuge is not open to elk hunting this year, but might be by next fall. For now, private property access permission must be obtained.

WDFW biologist Dana Base says elk are fewer and farther between in the northeast district, but the population does not appear to have been as heavily impacted by the last two winters as white-tailed deer. "Finding elk is the biggest challenge here," he said. "There’s so much closed canopy forest where they can effectively hide and ‘sit out’ the season."

Base said that the modern firearm hunting season for white-tailed deer continues through Oct. 30 in units 101-124. Checks of deer hunters just north of Deer Park off Hwy. 395 indicate an average number of hunters and good harvest rates, compared to past years. On Oct. 25, 138 hunters were checked with 15 deer for an 11 percent success rate. Last year on the same weekend, 136 hunters had seven deer for a 5 percent success rate.  Late white-tailed deer hunts in units 105-124 will run Nov. 7-19.

Wildlife viewing: Frosty mornings and even snow in some areas are reminders to backyard birdwatchers that now is the time to stock supplemental feeding stations and provide ice-free water sources to enjoy close-up wildlife viewing.  WDFW wildlife biologists advise keeping backyard bird feeding stations clean and bird-friendly. For more details check http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/backyard/winter_feed.htm .

Northcentral Washington

Fishing:   Methow River hatchery steelhead fishing recently expanded, thanks to greater numbers of wild fish moving upriver. Now open is the section from the second powerline crossing upstream from Pateros to the first Hwy. 153 Bridge. The daily limit is four adipose fin-clipped, hatchery-origin steelhead, with a minimum size of 20 inches.

The regulations state that anglers must retain any of these fish they catch, since the open area expansion is intended to reduce the number of excess hatchery-origin steelhead on the spawning grounds. Increasing the proportion of naturally produced spawners is expected to improve genetic integrity and stock recruitment of upper Columbia River steelhead through perpetuation of steelhead stocks with the greatest natural-origin lineage, said Bob Jateff, WDFW district fish biologist.

Anglers are required to release all steelhead with an intact adipose fin. Any steelhead caught with an intact adipose fin may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately. Any steelhead with one or more round holes punched in the caudal (tail) fin must also be released.

Selective gear rules apply, no bait is allowed and a night closure is in effect.  Boats with motors are not allowed. 

Hunting:   WDFW waterfowl specialist Mikal Moore reports that the waterfowl hunting season opener in the Columbia Basin had mixed success.  "Before the cold weather moves in and ducks start to focus on field feeding, hunters should concentrate on shallow water ponds with abundant seeds," he said.

Good bets include Gloyd Seeps Wildlife Area off Road 16 and Stratford Road, the Winchester and Frenchman Regulated Access Areas, small potholes associated with the North Potholes Wildlife Area, the Columbia Basin National Wildlife Refuge’s Marsh Unit 1, and Baile Memorial Youth Ranch and Windmill Ranch Regulated Access Areas near the town of Mesa, Moore said.

Moore said goose hunters will find thousands of small Canada geese staging in the Stratford Area, feeding on nearby wheat fields. "The birds are taking off to feed at first light and returning to Stratford Reserve around 10:30 a.m." she said.  "Mixed in with the Canada geese are a few hundred lesser snow geese and the occasional tundra swan." 

WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist Rich Finger predicts goose hunting will ramp up in November when early season migrant Canada geese (Lesser and Taverners) begin to scatter from their initial staging area at Stratford Lake to alfalfa or grain fields within feeding distance from Moses Lake and the Columbia River. 

Finger reminds waterfowlers of lands enrolled in the Corn Stubble Retention Program for public hunting.  Fields are typically identified and enrolled during November and locations vary by year. Call or visit the Ephrata regional office for details.

Deer hunting ended Oct. 25 in the region. WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin reports greatly improved success rates measured at the traditional Chewuch deer hunter check stations in the Methow Valley.

"Check station data from both weekends of the season indicated nearly identical hunter pressure compared to last year," Fitkin said. "But the success rate improved by 88 percent over what we observed last year, despite the issuance of fewer antlerless permits.  Later season dates and cooler, wetter weather likely improved the success rate. The average age of harvested bucks was the highest in years, and the body condition of harvested animals appeared to be consistently excellent."

No reports in yet on how pheasant hunters are faring since the season opened Oct. 24. Hunters who want to take advantage of game-farm-raised rooster releases should see http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/ewapheas.htm for site details

Wildlife viewing:   WDFW waterfowl specialist Mikal Moore says birdwatchers will find thousands of small Canada geese staging in the Stratford Area, feeding on nearby wheat fields. 

"The birds are taking off to feed at first light and returning to Stratford Reserve around 10:30 a.m." she said.  "Mixed in with the Canada geese are a few hundred lesser snow geese and the occasional tundra swan ." 

Frosty mornings and even snow in some areas are reminders to backyard birdwatchers that now is the time to stock supplemental feeding stations and provide ice-free water sources to enjoy close-up wildlife viewing.  WDFW wildlife biologists advise keeping backyard bird feeding stations clean and bird-friendly and recommend checking out all the "do’s and don’t’s" details at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/backyard/winter_feed.htm .

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Southcentral Washington

Fishing:   Paul Hoffarth, WDFW district fish biologist, reports Columbia River steelhead fishing in the Tri-Cities area has been picking up in the past week.

Although the steelhead and salmon sport fishery above the wooden powerline towers is closed, the steelhead fishery below the powerline towers is scheduled to continue through April 15, 2010.

"In the Ringold area this past week bank anglers averaged one steelhead for 6.6 hours of fishing and boat anglers averaged one steelhead for 4.8 pole hours, or 2.5 steelhead per boat," Hoffarth reported.

Hoffarth noted that through Oct. 25, an estimated 1,509 steelhead have been caught between the Highway 395 bridge at Pasco/Kennewick and the wooden powerline towers. Of these, 982 hatchery steelhead were harvested and 344 wild steelhead were caught and released.

The three-hatchery steelhead limit for the Columbia River from the Hwy 395 bridge at Pasco/Kennewick upstream to the old Hanford town site wooden powerline towers reverts back to a two hatchery steelhead limit Nov. 1.

Perry Harvester, WDFW regional habitat program manager, says some standard techniques are being used for the steelhead.

"Trolling lighted Brad’s Wiggler plugs work at night, and using dyed shrimp with purple/pink/black jigs in various combinations under a float work day or night," he said.  "Plugs and spinners can work during the day as well, but appear less effective than lighted plugs at night. In areas with faster moving water, drifted eggs or shrimp work, too."

Harvester also reports there are still bright coho salmon in the Klickitat River and in the Columbia River off the mouth of the Klickitat. The catch limit within that reach of the Columbia River was recently raised to three adults. 

Jim Cummins, WDFW fish biologist, reports a few of the region’s year-round lakes have recently been stocked with hatchery rainbow trout . He notes most rivers and streams are closed after Oct. 31. The exception is the Yakima River catch-and-release fishery, which should continue to provide opportunity this fall until colder weather sets in.

Hunting:   Mikal Moore, WDFW waterfowl specialist, reports the Yakima Basin is providing excellent duck hunting since the season opener Oct. 17.

Jeff Bernatowicz, WDFW district wildlife biologist, reminds pheasant hunters, whose season opened Oct. 24, that the Millerguard release site for game-farm-raised rooster release has moved to the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area. "Target shooting became a safety problem at Millerguard," he explained. The new Whiskey Dick pheasant release site is located near Whiskey Dick Mountain, with best access from the Interstate 90 exit 115. Go north 1.2 miles through Kittitas until Patrick Ave., turn right on Patrick for 0.2 mile, left on No. 81 Road, one mile to Vantage Hwy., right on for 6.6 miles to an unmarked gravel road entrance.

The modern firearm elk season opens Oct. 31 and Bernatowicz reminds hunters that game management units (GMU) 328 (Naneum), 329 (Quilomene), 334 (Ellensburg), and 335 (Teanaway) have been changed to a "true spike bull" regulation. 

A true spike bull is one with both antlers without branching originating more than four inches above where the antlers attack to the skull.

"The change was made because most of the yearling bulls were being harvested during the general elk season," he said. "The low recruitment has left the Colockum herd well below bull escapement objectives."

Bernatowicz also notes an error in the hunting rules pamphlet – GMU 330 (West Bar) is not open to general season elk hunting.

As for prospects, Bernatowicz expects bull harvest to be down. "Our elk calf ratio data collected in February and March was consistently low across the range," he said. "In the Colockum herd, with a total of 4,000 elk, we have 20 calves per 100 cows and just five bulls per 100 cows. In the Yakima herd, with a total of 9,200 elk, we have 30 calves per 100 cows and 17 bulls per 100 cows. Since calves surveyed in March are spike bulls in the fall, chances of taking one this season are down."

Michael Livingston, WDFW biologist, says elk hunting in the southeast district is limited to lands surrounding the west and south boundaries of the Hanford Reach National Monument (GMU 372). 

"Hunts are geared toward addressing crop damage on surrounding wheat farms, vineyards and orchards," he said.  "Access is extremely limited to either a couple pieces of state land north of Prosser and Benton City and private land through special permit drawings." Livingston said the best way to secure access is to apply for a special permit through the Landowner Hunt Program. If selected, permit holders are guaranteed a one-day guided hunt.

Most permits are limited to antlerless opportunity for youth hunters, but a few if any elk permits are issued each year. Surveys in January 2009 yielded a total herd estimate of 639 elk with 49 bulls and 15 calves per 100 cows. The high bull ratio is typical for this herd since they can seek refuge on the federal Hanford lands during hunting season. The calf count was below average and was likely a result of the stress the cows experienced from a wildfire that burned in August 2007.

Wildlife viewing: Frosty mornings and snow in some areas are reminders to backyard birdwatchers that now is the time to stock supplemental feeding stations and provide ice-free water sources to enjoy close-up wildlife viewing. WDFW wildlife biologists advise keeping backyard bird feeding stations clean and bird-friendly and recommend checking out all the "do’s and don’t’s" details at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/backyard/winter_feed.htm

Ecology penalties total $629,740 in the third quarter of 2009

The most common accounts receiving collected penalties are:
  • Coastal Protection (RCW 90.48.400 and RCW 90.48.390)
  • Vessel Response (RCW 90.56.335)
  • Underground Storage Tank (RCW 90.76.100)
  • Air Pollution Control (RCW 70.94.015)
  • Biosolids (RCW 70.95J.025)
  • State Toxics Control (RCW 70.105D.070)
  • Oil Spill Prevention (RCW 90.56.510)
  • Reclamation (RCW 18.104.155 and RCW 89.16.020)
  • Electronic Recycling (RCW 70.95N.130)
County of Violation
City of Violation
Date Issued
Penalty Recipient
Description of Violation
Amount
Media Contact
Clark
Vancouver
7/6/09
Berry Plastics Holding Corp.  
Failed to file quarterly discharge monitoring reports as required by law. The reports are necessary to ensure stormwater discharges from the site meet water quality standards.
$2,000
 Kim Schmanke, 360-407-6239
Clark
Vancouver
4/23/09 (From 2nd quarter.)
Salmon Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
This facility failed to conduct required quarterly monitoring since 2005.
$2,000
Kim Schmanke, 360-407-6239
Grant
Moses Lake
9/3/09
Palmer, Craig & Todd
Agricultural burning without a permit when permits had been obtained in the past for the same exact location.
$2,090
Jani Gilbert,
509-329-3495
Grant
Warden
7/23/09
Central WA Excavation
Central Washington Excavation burned a portion of a house in Warden, violating the regulation against burning prohibited materials.  
$3,000
Jani Gilbert,
509-329-3495
Grays Harbor
Hoquiam
9/17/09
Smith Creek Birdwatchers Association
An excavator conducting unpermitted work in a wetland spilled 90 gallons of hydraulic oil.  The spill wasn’t cleaned up or reported as required by state law.
$2,000
Kim Schmanke, 360-407-6239
Grays Harbor
Elma
7/16/2009
Elma Rock N Redi Mix, LLC, (formerly Wildcat Enterprises)
Multiple violations of its sand and gravel permit, including the failure to monitor process water and stormwater discharges for staying within acceptable pollution limits and reporting those results to Ecology as required.
$9,000
Kim Schmanke, 360-407-6239
Skagit
Sedro Woolley
9/22/09
Skagit Hill Recycling Inc.
Accepted and stored non-inert waste in the excavated portion of an inactive gravel mine, with no measures taken to protect groundwater quality. See Ecology’s news release.
$46,000
Larry Altose,
425-649-7009
King
Seattle
8/27/09
Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel Co.
Spilled sand and gravel from shore-side bunkers into the Lake Washington Ship Canal violated other permit conditions and failed to respond to an earlier Notice of Violation.  See Ecology’s news release.
$12,000
Larry Altose,
425-649-7009
King
Seattle
7/17/09
Fog Tite, Inc.
Discharged industrial wastewater into a storm drain and failed to properly monitor industrial stormwater into city storm drains.  See Ecology’s news release.
$18,000
Larry Altose,
425-649-7009
King
Kent
7/23/09
Burlington Environmental LLC Kent, Tacoma
The state’s largest dangerous waste processor will pay $58,000 and fund two years of audits to support major environmental and safety reforms at Tacoma and Kent facilities under a settlement agreement with Ecology.  See Ecology’s news release.
$288,000
Larry Altose,
425-649-7009
Kittitas
Easton
7/9/09
Nathan Weis; Easton Ridge Land Co. LLC.
Used waste oil to ignite several burn piles, violating outdoor burning regulations.
$2,500
Joye Redfield-Wilder, 509-575-2610
Lewis
Toledo
8/14/09
Robert Thompson
The site’s operator failed to reapply for sand and gravel permit coverage when it restarted mining operations, even after several notifications by Ecology. The permit sets pollution limits on water discharged from the operation.
$1,000
Kim Schmanke, 360-407-6239
Lincoln
Odessa
9/2/09
Cenex Harrington
Delivered petroleum to an underground storage tank without a valid permit.
$1,000
Jani Gilbert,
509-329-3495
Lincoln
Ritzville
7/16/09
Mike Kuest
Michael A. Kuest illegally burned a field in grass seed production.
$3,400
Jani Gilbert,
509-329-3495
Pierce
Tacoma
7/10/09
John J. Hauff, Jr.
Discharged oil in the Hylebos Waterway from a partially demolished, submerged vessel.
$1,750
Kim Schmanke, 360-407-6239
Pierce
Tacoma
7/14/09
Manke Lumber Co.
Ongoing problems following its industrial stormwater permit requirements, and non-compliance with an Ecology order to correct stormwater pollution problems.
$69,000
Kim Schmanke, 360-407-6239
Skagit
Mount Vernon
8/25/09
Galen Johnson doing business as Hillside Enterprises LLC
Took inadequate erosion-prevention measures and failed to conduct inspections required by water quality permit at Hillside Motel construction site, 23002 Bonnie View Road. Stormwater flows to wetlands that drain Carpenter Creek.
$1,000
Katie Skipper, 360-715-5205
Skagit
Sedro Woolley
9/22/09
Skagit Hill Recycling Inc.
Accepted and stored non-inert waste in the excavated portion of an inactive gravel mine, with no measures taken to protect groundwater quality. See Ecology’s news release.
$46,000
Larry Altose,
425-649-7009
Skagit
 
8/14/09
Olmstead Transportation Co.
Overfilled a fuel tank and spilled diesel fuel to Maddox Creek and Big Ditch. Failed to report the spill, which covered more than nine stream miles from Mount Vernon to Skagit Bay. See Ecology’s news release.
$14,500
Larry Altose,
425-649-7009
Snohomish
Woodinville
7/23/09
Wellington Hills Business Campus
Discharged muddy stormwater to county storm drains, which flow to Little Bear Creek. The project lacked erosion and soil-control best management practices. See Ecology’s news release.
$62,000
Larry Altose,
425-649-7009
Spokane
Deer Park
7/15/09
Big D Septic
Dumped septic sludge on the company’s property, violating the state’s biosolids management regulations.  Big D does not have a permit to apply septic sludge to the land as agricultural fertilizer. See Ecology News Release.
$2,500
Jani Gilbert,
509-329-3495
Thurston
Tumwater
9/30/2009
AmCor Packaging
Failure to apply for the necessary industrial stormwater permit from Ecology.
$2,000
Kim Schmanke, 360-407-6239
Walla Walla
Walla Walla
7/8/09
Cliffstar Corporation
Discharged a large, concentrated load of high strength wastewater to the city of Walla Walla’s sanitary sewer without prior approval.
$3,000
Jani Gilbert,
509-329-3495
Whatcom
Bellingham
9/10/09
Greenbriar Construction Corp.,
Discharged muddy stormwater and operated without a construction stormwater permit at Emerald Cottages project on Telegraph Rd. See Ecology’s news release.
$36,000
Larry Altose,
425-649-7009
 
 

 

For more detail about Ecology’s enforcement policy and actions, please see the 2007 Enforcement Report at www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0801015.pdf

WSDOT Completes 50th Project Funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

This week by the numbers (project dollars in millions)

Individual highway projects

State

Local

Total

Notes

Total funds

$340

$152

$492

 

Obligated funds1

$222.6 (65%)

$134.5 (88%)

$357.1 (73%)

All funds must be obligated by March 1, 2010

Projects certified

39 (100%)

153 (100%)

192 (100%)

 

Projects obligated

36 (92%)

141 (92%)

177 (92%)

FHWA has obligated some or all funds for the projects

Project delivery to date

Operationally complete

15 (38%)

35 (23%)

50 (26%)

Two state projects reported complete this week

Awarded/
under way2 

30 (74%)

135 (88%)

165 (86%)

Includes completed projects

Advertised

31 (79%)

138 (90%)

169 (88%)

Includes completed and awarded projects

Certified, awaiting advertisment

7 (18%)

15 (10%)

22 (11%)

These projects, including several receiving surplus funds, are planned for upcoming advertisement.

Safety funding buckets ($12 stimulus)

Rumble
Strips

Cable
median
barrier

Total

Notes

Completed

10

0

10

State stimulus funds only

Awarded

17

6

23

 State stimulus funds only

Advertised 

27

7

34

 State stimulus funds only

Transit projects

Large
urban

Small
urban

Nonurban/
rural

State total

Percent of total $179 awarded

97%

97%

100%

98%

Number of Transit projects obligated

33 of 35

18 of 19

20 of 20

52 of 55
FTA counts all rural projects as one project

August
employment

State

Local

Total

Notes

Payroll

$5

$4.3

$9.3

New data available next week

Hours

130,386

121,739

252,125

Up from 144,308 total hours in July

FTEs

754

704

1,458

FTE = 173 hours per month

Employees

2,220

3,213

5,433

Note: Not a count of unique employees

1$4M in state enhancement funds provided to locals. While WSDOT controls $340M, the total for obligation authority is $344M, which is the basis of the percentages in this table, and basis for USDOT review on 3/01/2010.
2One engineering project under way does not include an advertisement phase.

 

Key issues: State

Ribbon-cutting planned for three projects October 22 near Moses Lake – WSDOT will host a ribbon-cutting event to celebrate completion of a contract that funded two Recovery Act projects and a Transportation Partnership Account-funded project in Grant County. The SR 17/Moses Lake to Ephrata paving included resurfacing eight miles of SR 17 from the Grant County Airport to the junction with SR 282, and from there, five miles of SR 282 to the junction with SR 28 in Ephrata. Construction crews also built more than four miles of passing lanes funded by the 2005 gas tax.

WSDOT submits more accountability reports – WSDOT submitted new accountability reports to the Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Congress on October 20. The reports, including new employment data for work through September 30, 2009, will be posted online soon.

One more highway project awarded –
Local project

Key issues: National

Over 8,000 highway projects now obligated – President Obama joined Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on October 14 at a Virginia project to announce that over 8,000 highway projects have been obligated and 4,697 are now under construction.

New Preliminary National Rail Plan unveiled – The Federal Rail Administration announced it has completed a preliminary national rail plan highlighting both freight and passenger rail. The effort comes as the stimulus provided $8 billion for new investment in high-speed passenger rail nationwide.

FRA reviewing high-speed rail applications - The Federal Rail Administration conducted initial reviews of the 45 corridor development applications under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program to confirm the requests from 24 states received by October 2 were complete, according to the weekly Department of Transportation newsletter. On October 14, FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo said the agency does not expect to make any award announcements until after January 1. Announcements are expected before or on February 17, 2010.

Inspector General’s Office announced audit plans for Recovery Act – On October 16, the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General released an updated plan to use the $20 million it received to monitor the agency’s stimulus program. Planned audits include:

  • Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration evaluations of improper payments and whether the agency has adequate internal prevention and detection controls.
  • Three reviews of Federal Aviation Administration aid to airports, including grant awards, employment creation and reporting, and expenditure oversight.
  • Other audits include oversight of public agencies, ensuring data quality, and oversight of the $1.5 billion TIGER and $8 billion High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grants.

Stimulus project of the week

Stimulus-funded project will help reduce crossover collisions

A project envisioned more than a decade ago is now coming to fruition, thanks to the financial boost provided, in part, by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding.

The missing link of shared-use path that connects the Lacey Woodland Regional Trail to the Chehalis Western Trail and the City of Lacey is finally under construction. During the four months the trail has been under construction, it has employed an average of 60 workers per month and reached a peak of 84 workers in September. The $2.5 million project cost is covered by $1 million in stimulus funds, along with other federal, state and local funding sources.

“We’ve been talking about this trail since 1992,” said Assistant City of Lacey Manager Scott Spence. “With the ARRA funds we were able to accomplish this task – it could have remained on the books for quite a long time without it."

The project completes 2.2 miles of separated trail featuring a 10-foot wide paved surface for walkers and bicyclists with a gravel shoulder for joggers. Marked crossing-islands are being constructed at major streets, and landscaping and lighting are being installed in key locations.

“We expect the trial will be used predominantly for recreation. It will link south Thurston County to the Puget Sound and Woodland Creek Park in Lacey,” said Spence. “Since the trail goes through the city’s commercial core, it also supports alternative modes of transportation and gives commuters an option to get out of their cars. That benefits the city both in terms of traffic congestion and air quality.”

The trail will be opened for use by the end of November, with remaining landscaping work scheduled for completion in February 2010.

Important dates

October 22: Ribbon cutting on SR 17/SR 282 Moses Lake to Ephrata – Paving
October 30: Recovery.gov to publish OMB performance reports online
November 10: Washington’s second monthly performance report due
January 10: Next quarterly report due to OMB
February 17: Deadline for the U.S. Department of Transportation to announce TIGER grants and High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail awards (both are expected earlier)
March 1: Deadline for obligating federal highway funds

Websites of interest

WSDOT ARRA website: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/funding/stimulus
Washington recovery website: http://www.recovery.wa.gov/
Federal recovery website: http://www.recovery.gov/
FHWA recovery website: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/economicrecovery/index.htm
Federal Transit Administration recovery website: www.fta.dot.gov/recovery
Federal Rail Administration recovery website: http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/2153
Federal Aviation Administration recovery website: http://www.faa.gov/recovery
OMB recovery website: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/recovery_default/