U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to Review Northern Spotted Owl Endangered Species Act Status

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is commencing an evaluation of the status of the northern spotted owl, as required under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
This review is the result of a petition to change the status of the owl from threatened to endangered. The review will also serve as the five-year review of the species as required under the ESA, and which was last completed in 2011. A five-year status review evaluates whether a federally protected species should remain listed, or if it meets the criteria for reclassification.

A petition from the Environmental Protection Information Center requested the northern spotted owl be reclassified from threatened to endangered under the ESA. The ensuing 90-day finding, which will publish in the Federal Register on April 10, determined the petition included substantial information that warrants further review, which automatically triggers a 12-month species review  The Service will not make any finding as to whether the status of the species has changed until after that review.

The population of the northern spotted owl, which is currently listed as threatened, is declining across most of the species’ range. The most recent available data on the owl report a 2.9 percent range-wide population decline per year, although declines as high as 5.9 percent per year have been observed in some areas.

The two main threats to the survival of the northern spotted owl are habitat loss and competition from barred owls.  Barred owls have spread westward, encroaching on spotted owl territories and out-competing them. While the Northwest Forest Plan has helped reduce habitat loss on federal lands since 1994, the threat from barred owls has intensified. Preliminary results from an experiment testing the effects of removing barred owls from select areas of northern spotted owl habitat show promise in benefitting northern spotted owls and will help inform this review.

“The best tools we have to prevent spotted owls from going extinct are continued habitat protection and barred owl management, both of which are recommended in the recovery plan,” said Paul Henson, Oregon State Supervisor for the Service. “On a positive note, the experimental removal of barred owls is showing real promise, with early reports indicating that spotted owl populations rebound when barred owl populations are reduced. Our review of the spotted owl will tell us whether current efforts to address threats are sufficient.”

The Service will use the best available scientific and commercial information, including data from the barred owl removal experiment, in the review. To assist in the review, the Service is requesting input from the public and scientific community, including information on biology, possible threats, population trends and habitat conditions for the species. Information can be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov, or by U.S. mail or hand delivery at Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R1–ES–2014–0061, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, Va. 22041-3803.

For more information on the northern spotted owl, visit http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=B08B.

Anglers, beachcombers asked to watch for transponders from Japan

Some transponders have reportedly been washing up along the WA Coast. The Pacific County Emergency Management Agency reports these floating instruments are about the size of a 2-liter soda bottle and were set in the ocean from different ports off Japan in 2011-12 after the massive Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Researchers from Tattori University for Environmental Studies in Japan have been collaborating with Oregon State University, Oregon Sea Grant, and the NOAA Marine Debris Program on the project.

Persons who find a transponder are asked to photograph it if possible, and report the location of their find to Chan at Samuel.Chan@oregonstate.edu ; or to the NOAA Marine Debris Program regional coordinator in their area at http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/contact-us . They will provide shipping instructions to persons who find the transponders so that the instruments can be returned to the research team.

More information available at:http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2014/sep/anglers-beachcombers-asked-keep-eye-out-transponders-japan

Humpback whale washes ashore on Grayland beach

A 30 foot humpback whale washed ashore in Grayland over the weekend. Kathryn Myrsell with the Westport Aquarium tells us it appears to have been dead for at least a week, and had lacerations on it’s tail. The way is washed ashore Sunday prevents them from telling if it’s male or female. Teams from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with Cascadia Research, performed a necropsy on the whale Monday morning.

Here is a photo of Kayla Bosarge and and intern from Fish and wildlife or Cascadia Research. Kayla Bosarge who graduated from Aberdeen, High School this June and who will be going to Oregon State College next year to study Marine Biology  Kayle got to help with the necropsy on a 30 foot humpback whale, Monday August 18th at about 11 am. This was Kayla's first whale necropsy.  The whale had been dead for probably about a week and just washed ashore in Grayland Sunday August 19th.
Here is a photo of Kayla Bosarge and and intern from Fish and wildlife or Cascadia Research. Kayla Bosarge who graduated from Aberdeen, High School this June and who will be going to Oregon State College next year to study Marine Biology
Kayle got to help with the necropsy on a 30 foot humpback whale, Monday August 18th at about 11 am. This was Kayla’s first whale necropsy. The whale had been dead for probably about a week and just washed ashore in Grayland Sunday August 19th.

WA State Workers Say “No Thanks” to Furlough Days

Allen headed the negotiating team for Oregon state workers and says, in some institutions, furlough days haven’t resulted in the desired cost savings because the state has had to pay more overtime to keep them staffed. He knows the furlough issue will come up again in future bargaining.

"We represent plenty of members who are eligible for food stamps, single parents – and even five furlough days a year is a big economic impact on them. And so, this is a one-time thing for us. I don’t ever see us doing it again."

In Oregon, some agencies shut down altogether on furlough days, while others allow individual workers to pick their own days off and remain open with less staff. The Washington Legislature has ordered state agencies to save $48 million through pay reductions or furloughs.

The Washington Federation of State Employees says some agencies would be exempt from a furlough requirement, including the state ferry system, prisons and law enforcement. The issue will be on the bargaining table starting July 6.

Public Invited to Informational Meeting on Small-Scale Nuclear Power

When: Monday, August 24, 2009 at 3:30pm.

Where: Nichols Building, 220 Myrtle Street, Hoquiam

Energy Northwest, a joint operating agency made up of public utilities, will provide information to the Board of Commissioners on modular scalable nuclear plants. Energy Northwest is seeking potential participants in a proposed project using this new technology in Washington State. Those interested in learning more about this technology and the opportunity to develop a project in Washington State, are welcome to attend the work session at 3:30pm on Monday, August 24th in Nichols Building located at 220 Myrtle Street, Hoquiam.


Interest in Small-Scale Nuclear Power is on the rise:

A company called NuScale Power, Inc., is commercializing, a modular, scalable 40 Megawatt electric Light Water Reactor nuclear power plant. Each NuScale module has its own combined containment vessel and reactor system, and its own designated turbine-generator set. NuScale power plants are scalable, allowing for a single facility to have just one or up to 24 units. In a multi-module plant, one unit can be taken out of service without affecting the operation of the others..

NuScale plants are compact. Each component is modular and is designed for fabrication off-site at numerous existing facilities in the USA and around the world. Construction is less complex, lead times shorter, and costs more predictable and controllable. The NuScale containment and reactor vessel measures approximately 60 feet in length and 14 feet in diameter. It and all other modular components are transportable by barge, truck or rail.

In a NuScale system, the reactor pressure vessel contains both the nuclear fuel, or reactor, and the steam generators. Water in the reactor circulates using a convection process known as natural circulation. This is also described as a passive safety system because no pumps or other mechanical devices are required to circulate the water.

NuScale secured rights to the design through a technology transfer agreement with Oregon State University. OSU developed a one-third scale, electrically-heated, fully integrated test facility that replicates the entire NuScale system at temperature and at pressure. The tests in this facility have confirmed the operation of the natural circulation cooling system and have demonstrated the effectiveness of the NuScale passive safety systems.


Off-the-shelf technologies
simplify systems and design

The nuclear reactor and steam generator, also known as the Nuclear Steam Supply System (NSSS), is a self-contained assembly of reactor core and steam generator tube bundles within a single pressure vessel. Throughout the design, every effort was made to employ existing off-the-shelf technologies to minimize, and in many cases eliminate, the need for additional research and development. The primary coolant (water) is moved by natural circulation, eliminating the need for primary coolant pumps and external power. The NSSS and the passive safety heat removal systems are housed within the compact steel containment.

U.S. fabrication helps accelerate
modular manufacturing time

The reactor module, consisting of the containment and its contents, can be entirely fabricated at existing manufacturing facilities in the U.S. As a result, construction can be done on a significantly compressed schedule. Compared to a typical PWR plant, the NSSS parameters are much lower. Thermal rating of the reactor is several times smaller. Coolant pressure and steam pressure is about 50% lower than that of a typical PWR. The power generation system is greatly simplified. It implements a turbine-generator set and condensate/feedwater pump. The entire turbine-generator can be replaced with a spare unit for overhaul. Additionally, NuScale plants will use nuclear fuel assemblies similar to those in today’s commercial nuclear plants. The only difference is the length of the fuel assemblies (6 feet for a NuScale system instead of the traditional 12 feet) and the number of assemblies in the reactor.

Regulatory procedures and timeline

  • Licensing – Requires federal U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve Design Certification for reactor and Construction & Operating License prior to construction.  Initial pre-application review meeting was held with the NRC in July 2008.  NuScale anticipates filing Design Certification application in 2010.
  • Initial Operations – NuScale forecasts the first plant can be online producing electricity from 2015 to 2016.

UPDATE – Fuel barge aground near Hood River, Ore.

The lightering operations will commence at first light on Friday morning.

Tidewater and Coast Guard personnel inspected the double hull of the barge and found no damage resulting from this incident. There has been no release of any cargo into the Columbia River and no impact to the environment. The cause of the grounding is still under investigation by the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard continues to work with state and local agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, Oregon State Department of Environmental Quality and Washington State Department of Ecology to ensure a safe conclusion to the incident.