Kilmer introduces two amendments to defense bill to help veterans looking for jobs and civilian shipyard workers

On Tuesday, Representative Derek Kilmer introduced two amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to help servicemembers find jobs and authorize overtime for civilian shipyard workers overseas. The amendments will be considered by the House Rules Committee for inclusion in the NDAA bill set to be debated on the floor this week in the House.

 

Rep. Kilmer’s amendment on veteran employment – cosponsored by Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs – would encourage companies to hire veterans who are leaving the service, recently left, or have been unemployed or underemployed. It would create a pilot program within the Department of Defense that any business, regardless of size, could participate in. Businesses putting veterans on their payroll would see that factored into their bids for government contracts.

 

“Many veterans who have sacrificed on our behalf find a tough job market when they leave the armed forces,” said Kilmer. “I want to make sure we don’t forget our obligation to servicemembers. That’s why I’m introducing legislation that provides another reason for businesses interested in federal contracts to hire veterans and give them a chance to succeed in the civilian workforce.”

 

In 2013, the unemployment rate for veterans was 7.3 percent. Washington state’s 6th District is home to more than 25,000 active duty and reserve service members, along with more than 50,000 veterans and their families. Naval Base Kitsap, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, and many other important facilities and vessels are located in the 6th District. Many residents (both civilian and servicemembers) also work at nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) – Washington state’s third largest employer.

 

Rep. Kilmer’s other amendment to the NDAA would authorize overtime payments for shipyard workers who conduct nuclear maintenance on the U.S. aircraft carrier stationed in Japan. Shipyard workers at the Puget Sound Shipyard who volunteer to go overseas will lose the ability to collect overtime from the Navy this September without an extension from Congress.

 

“Civilian workers at the nation’s shipyards work tirelessly to help keep our naval edge on the seas,” Kilmer continued. “It’s time to ensure that when they go overseas to make needed carrier repairs they get paid the same as they would in the United States. It is not fair for us to ask them to leave their families for four to six months and compensate them less. I hope to see this as part of the National Defense Authorization Act we will discuss on the floor.”

 

Separately, Representative Kilmer and Representative Cole jointly introduced an amendment to the NDAA to limit the Department’s ability to furlough civilian employees funded through working capital projects when it would not save taxpayers any money.

Puget Sound & Pacific shuts down trains for repairs and inspection of rail

Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad, Inc. (PSAP) experienced three low-speed grain car derailments in the past 17 days, none of which involved any injuries or damage to non-railroad property:

  • On April 29, five cars derailed at 5 mph at South Washington Street in Aberdeen.  The track was back in service on April 30.
  • On May 9, seven cars derailed at 6 mph at Heron Street in Aberdeen.  The track was back in service on May 14.
  • On May 15, 11 cars derailed at 10 mph at Devonshire Road in Montesano.  It is estimated that the track will be back in service on or before May 18.

This series of minor derailments is a highly unusual, unacceptable occurrence and subject to a rigorous investigation.  The first two derailments were caused by localized failure of railroad ties that were saturated with moisture from recent heavy rains.  Other locations experiencing this issue have been identified and are being corrected prior to receiving another train.  The cause of yesterday’s derailment is still being determined.

“Safety is always our first priority, and PSAP will not run another train while we examine the recent track inspection results,” says PSAP president Joel Haka.  “Any issues will be addressed prior to resuming service on the affected portion of the line.”

PSAP was acquired 16 months ago by Genesee & Wyoming, the largest owner of short line and regional freight railroads in North America and a safety leader in the industry.  Since then, PSAP has been continuously upgraded with $4.3 million in track investments, including the installation of 17,500 railroad ties and 25 miles of track resurfacing, and these improvements are ongoing.  Track is inspected at least weekly, per federal requirements.

“This string of low-speed derailments is not acceptable, and we fully recognize the need to resume the safe, efficient freight service on which our customers depend,” Haka says.

Watch Your Step: Harbor Seals Pupping

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The harbor seal pupping season began earlier this month, an increase in calls to 911 over the weekend prompted Ocean Shores officer Paul Henderson to remind beachgoers that this is the time of year we will see more pups on our beaches, appearing to be stranded as their mothers will often leave their pups on the beach for several hours at a time while they’re foraging for food. It’s normal for seal pups to be alone on the beach. This does not mean they’re abandoned.
Henderson said meddling with the pups can have the opposite effect, if the mother smells people on her pup she might abandon it.
Nursing pups remain with their mothers for four to six weeks, and then are weaned to forage and survive on their own.

Location
Time of Year
Columbia River, Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor
Mid-April – June
Olympic Peninsula
May – July
San Juan Islands, Eastern Puget Sound
June – August
Southern Puget Sound
July – September
Hood Canal
August – January
* Table provided by Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, Marine Mammal Investigations.

Human disturbance near the pup may cause stress and delay the mother’s return because of natural wariness. The best thing you can do is leave the pup alone and keep your distance so its mom will return.

Seals and sea lions use shoreline habitat on a regular basis to rest and regulate their body temperature. NOAA Fisheries Service advises the public to stay at least 100 yards away from all marine mammal species to avoid disturbing or harassing them, and to protect people and pets from diseases.
All marine mammals are protected by law. You can be fined if you harass any marine mammal. If you see anyone handling or harassing a marine mammal, call the Office for Law Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964. If you believe a marine mammal is stranded or injured, or a seal pup has been alone for 24-48 hours, please call your local stranding network or NOAA’s stranding hotline at 206-526-6733.

For more information on marine mammals please visit the NOAA website at http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Marine-Mammals/index.cfm

2014 Spartina treatment season begins next month in Grays Harbor

The 2014 spartina treatment season will start June 1 and continue through October, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced, with survey and eradication efforts this year taking place in Grays Harbor, Hood Canal, Willapa Bay, Puget Sound, the north and west sides of the Olympic Peninsula and the mouth of the Columbia River.

Spartina, commonly known as cordgrass, is an aggressive noxious weed that severely disrupts the ecosystems of native saltwater estuaries in Washington. If left unchecked, spartina out-competes native vegetation and converts ecologically productive mudflats into solid spartina meadows. The invasive species destroys important migratory shorebird and waterfowl habitat, increases the threat of flooding and hurts the state’s shellfish industry.

Spartina eradication efforts have been extremely effective over the past 11 years with the state’s infested areas plummeting from a high of more than 9,000 acres in 2003 to an estimated seven acres this year.

Since 1995, WSDA has served as the lead state agency for spartina eradication, facilitating the cooperation of local, state, federal and tribal governments; universities; interested groups; and private landowners.

In 2014, these project partners expect to survey more than 80,000 acres of saltwater estuaries and 1,000 miles of shoreline in 13 counties. WSDA and other cooperators will use techniques such as digging out small infestations, or treating larger sites with the herbicides glyphosate and imazapyr. The goal is to find new infestations and prevent spartina from returning to eradicated areas.

“The cooperative effort to eradicate spartina is saving some of the state’s most productive shoreline habitat from certain loss,” said Jim Marra, manager for WSDA’s Pest Program. “Because of our success in combating this invasive species, activity has shifted from large-scale eradication to the critical, detailed work of detection and targeted eradication.”

The latest progress report is available at www.agr.wa.gov/plantsinsects/weeds/spartina as are all the annual progress reports since 1998.

Tracks repaired at the scene of Aberdeen train derailment

Puget Sound and Pacific crews completed repairs overnight to the tracks at the site of a train derailment in Aberdeen. The good weather should give them time to install new pavement over the intersection at South Washington street today.

Gary Nelson, Executive Director at the Port of Grays Harbor said in a press release yesterday that PS&P will be investigating the incident to fully understand how and why the derailment occurred early Tuesday morning.

Nelson warned that “should crude by rail opponents attempt to relate this incident to crude transport Joel Haka, Western Region VP, reports that crude transport will induce major upgrades to the PSAP and the use of trucks to inspect the rails would preclude all oil train movements.”

Nelson said in a statement Tuesday that “The railroad plays a critical role in the economic development and job creation in our community but that commitment comes second to safety. Consequently the derailment has become the primary focus of the PSAP and Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) Western Region leadership as they begin repairing and investigating the incident. The Port is confident that the railroad will be proactive in their approach to investigating the incident to fully understand how and why the derailment occurred. From that point they will review and change operating procedures to prevent similar incidents in the future. Lest the community try to correlate this incident with crude transport Joel Haka, Western Region VP, reports that crude transport will induce major upgrades to the PSAP and the use of high railing (trucks used for inspecting the track) will preclude all oil train movements over the PSAP.”

Nelson added “It is unfortunate when these events occur but the relatively low train speeds on the PSAP helped to minimize the impacted railcars to one or two. The G&W commitment to safety pays off in these situations as they demonstrate firsthand their ability to respond quickly and efficiently to minimize damage and delays to the community. With a common goal to create jobs and commerce by safely moving goods to global markets, the Port is proud to have a partner like the PSAP that is committed to safety while at the same time working to create jobs in our community.”

Repairs being made to tracks, roadway in Aberdeen after train derails early Tuesday

Crews delivered lights and generators this evening to the site of a train derailment in Aberdeen, Puget Sound and Pacific plans to have the line open again by tomorrow. The cars have been up righted, and one cleared from traffic across South Washington street as of 6 this evening, however crews were still making repairs to tracks across that remote intersection. Earlier this morning two cars were on their side with grain seeping from their tops, another two teetering with multiple cars off the tracks. PS&P crews are making repairs overnight.

Gary Nelson, Executive Director at the Port of Grays Harbor reports there were “notified of a derailment on the West end of the Poyner Yard in Aberdeen this morning at 1am. The cars were carrying grain products (DDGS). The derailment was not on Port property. No one was injured in the incident.”

Nelson said in a statement this afternoon “The railroad plays a critical role in the economic development and job creation in our community but that commitment comes second to safety. Consequently the derailment has become the primary focus of the PSAP and Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) Western Region leadership as they begin repairing and investigating the incident. The Port is confident that the railroad will be proactive in their approach to investigating the incident to fully understand how and why the derailment occurred. From that point they will review and change operating procedures to prevent similar incidents in the future. Lest the community try to correlate this incident with crude transport Joel Haka, Western Region VP, reports that crude transport will induce major upgrades to the PSAP and the use of high railing (trucks used for inspecting the track) will preclude all oil train movements over the PSAP.”

Nelson added “It is unfortunate when these events occur but the relatively low train speeds on the PSAP helped to minimize the impacted railcars to one or two. The G&W commitment to safety pays off in these situations as they demonstrate firsthand their ability to respond quickly and efficiently to minimize damage and delays to the community. With a common goal to create jobs and commerce by safely moving goods to global markets, the Port is proud to have a partner like the PSAP that is committed to safety while at the same time working to create jobs in our community.”

Train derails in Aberdeen, two grain cars spill, no injuries reported

Multiple grain cars have derailed this morning in Aberdeen. Puget Sound and Pacific reported the issue around 1:30 Tuesday. At least two cars are on their side, with grain seeping from their tops, another is teetering, and multiple cars remain off the tracks blocking South Washington street near State Street.
PS&P crews were surveying the damage this morning, no injuries were reported, and no known cause has been given for the accident.

Construction of BPA’s Central Ferry-Lower Monumental Transmission Line begins in May

The Bonneville Power Administration will begin construction of the Central Ferry-Lower Monumental Transmission Line Project in May. The new line is expected to carry over 800 additional megawatts of renewable wind energy, enough to power about half a million Northwest homes when the wind is blowing.
The 38-mile, 500-kilovolt line in Washington will connect the new Central Ferry Substation in Garfield County to the existing Lower Monumental Substation in Walla Walla County. It is expected to be energized in December 2015.
“Building the right facilities in the right place at the right time is a key principle of our long-term transmission services planning process,” said Richard Shaheen, BPA vice president for Engineering and Technical Services. “Specifically, this project will add critical transmission grid capacity, support new transmission requests from generators in the Snake River area and be a welcome boost to local and regional economies.”
For more than 75 years, BPA has been the major developer of energy infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest. Electric utilities and electric power consumers depend on BPA to maintain reliable transmission service at low rates and meet growing demands for electricity.
Central Ferry-Lower Monumental Transmission Line ProjectOver the past several years, numerous power generation projects, including large wind projects, have requested interconnection with the BPA system in the Snake River area. After studying the transmission system and identifying where capacity is available, BPA determined that there is not enough available transmission capacity to accommodate the requests. Building the Central Ferry-Lower Monumental project will allow BPA to meet the requests for transmission and allow additional power to flow between areas east of the Cascade Mountains to heavily populated areas in the west.
In August 2011, the Central Ferry-Lower Monumental Transmission Line Project was put on hold because of uncertainties regarding the need for the new line. However, in August 2013, BPA notified customers, landowners and stakeholders that it was moving forward with construction of the line. Existing customer need coupled with an agreement for Portland General Electric to acquire Phase 2 of Puget Sound Energy’s Lower Snake River Wind Project, which PGE renamed the Tucannon River Wind Farm, required construction activities to begin this spring.
The Tucannon River Wind Farm is a key infrastructure investment that supports PGE’s balanced energy portfolio. Tucannon River will help PGE satisfy Oregon’s renewable energy standard, which requires the utility to supply 15 percent of the electricity its customers use from renewable resources by 2015 and 25 percent by 2025.
In early 2011, BPA completed an environmental impact statement and preliminary engineering design for the project. BPA issued a record of decision to build the line in March 2011. Since then, BPA has conducted additional environmental review of some access road modifications and a material yard.
The contractor hired to build the new line is MYR Group, a leading specialty contractor serving the electrical infrastructure market throughout the United States. It has the experience and expertise to complete electrical installations of any type and size. MYR Group’s power line capabilities include transmission, overhead and underground distribution and substation projects.
BPA also will be holding two “Meet the Builder” open-houses in late April so the public can learn more about the construction process and schedule, speak with representatives of the MYR Group and meet the BPA project team.  To learn more about the project, go to www.bpa.gov/goto/centralferrylomo.

WDFW and Wild Fish Conservancy settle lawsuit over ‘early winter’ hatchery steelhead releases

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today it has reached an agreement with the Wild Fish Conservancy that will stop litigation against the department over its Puget Sound hatchery programs for 2½ years and permit the release of hatchery steelhead this spring into the Skykomish River.

No early winter steelhead will be released into other Puget Sound rivers in 2014.

The agreement is reflected in a federal court consent decree signed by WDFW Director Phil Anderson and Conservancy Executive Director Kurt Beardslee. The decree is designed to settle a lawsuit filed by the Conservancy last month in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

In its March 31 complaint, the Duvall-based non-profit group claimed the department’s Puget Sound hatchery steelhead programs violate the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) by impairing the recovery of wild steelhead, salmon, and bull trout. All three species are listed as “threatened” under the ESA.

While acknowledging that certain hatchery practices may pose risks to wild fish productivity and recovery, WDFW officials denied the Conservancy’s claim and said the department has taken numerous steps based on current science to ensure its hatchery operations protect wild steelhead and other listed fish species.

The department’s Hatchery Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs) are designed to ensure that all steelhead hatcheries support wild fish recovery, but those plans are still under review by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

“While I am disappointed the agreement does not allow for the release of more of the early winter hatchery steelhead we have on hand into Puget Sound rivers, I am gratified that we were able to reach agreement to release fish from our Skykomish hatchery in 2014 and support a popular recreational fishery,” Anderson said.

He added that the most important element of the agreement is the 2½-year suspension of lawsuits initiated by the Conservancy over the department’s Puget Sound hatchery programs. The suspension will allow the department to work with tribal fishery managers to resubmit HGMPs for other species raised in Puget Sound hatcheries for NMFS’ review and approval.

The federal court agreement includes the following provisions:

  • WDFW may release up to 180,000 hatchery steelhead in 2014 and again in 2015 into the Skykomish River, which flows into the Snohomish River near Monroe.
  • The Conservancy will not sue WDFW over its Puget Sound hatchery programs during the next 2 ½ years, or until NMFS approves those programs, whichever comes first.
  • WDFW will refrain from planting early winter (Chambers Creek) hatchery steelhead into most rivers in the Puget Sound region until NMFS completes its review.
  • A 12-year research program will be established in the Skagit River, during which no early winter steelhead will be released into the watershed. In cooperation with the Conservancy, WDFW will work with tribes to evaluate and potentially implement a steelhead hatchery program in the Skagit River using native steelhead.
  • The department may release hatchery steelhead into other rivers around Puget Sound when NMFS approves the department’s HGMPs. This provision will not apply to the Skagit River watershed, which will not receive early winter hatchery steelhead releases during the 12-year study period.
  • Early winter steelhead from WDFW hatcheries that cannot be released into Puget Sound-area rivers will be released into inland waters that have no connection to Puget Sound. The department will give the Conservancy 14 days’ advance notice of those releases.
  • WDFW will pay the Conservancy $45,000 for litigation expenses.

Jim Scott, who heads the WDFW Fish Program, said that until the Conservancy filed the lawsuit, the department had planned to release about 900,000 juvenile steelhead this spring into several rivers that flow into Puget Sound. The settlement means that hatchery steelhead will continue to be released into the Skykomish, while the remaining steelhead will be used to enhance the state’s inland trout fishing programs, he said.

When the lawsuit was filed, WDFW officials said the department was vulnerable to litigation because its hatchery steelhead operations had not been approved by NMFS following the ESA listing of Puget Sound steelhead in 2007. Scott said WDFW worked with tribes to revise and update its HGMPs for all Puget Sound steelhead hatcheries, and resubmitted them to NMFS earlier this year.

With the litigation settled, Scott said the department will work with tribal and federal officials on an aggressive schedule to complete the NMFS review.

Channel Point Village resumes normal operation after norovirus outbreak contained

Operations are back to normal at Channel Point Village in Hoquiam. Staff at the retirement and assisted living facility acted quickly to stop an outbreak of the norovirus earlier this month.
Stuart Brown, COO of Village Concepts said in a statement that they “were able to quickly stop the spread throughout the community and significantly limit the number of residents that were exposed. In a very short time all residents were free of symptoms and normal operations resumed. Residents are again able to enjoy their friends and favorite activities in the community.”

Founded in 1975, Village Concepts owns and operates residential and assisted living communities throughout Washington state and provides property management and consulting services for owners of assisted living communities. Village Concepts is a third generation family-owned business, drawing upon 40 years of experience and a proud tradition of providing personalized care to more than 1,400 residents in 14 senior living communities throughout Puget Sound, the Olympic Peninsula and Central Washington.