Man charged with attempting to redirect Western Washington River

The Attorney General’s Office filed three misdemeanor charges today against a Tahuya man accused of using heavy machinery to fill and alter the course of the Tahuya River near his home without any permits.

William Cayo Sr. is charged in Mason County District Court with violation of the water pollution control act, violation of the shoreline management act, and conducting unpermitted hydraulic activities in connection with the alteration of the channel of the Tahuya River in early February 2013.

Continue reading Man charged with attempting to redirect Western Washington River

Migratory fish return to Upper Elwha River for the first time in over a century

Thanks to a radiotracking program begun this spring, fisheries biologists confirmed yesterday that two radio tagged bull trout have migrated through Glines Canyon and are now upstream of the former Lake Mills in Rica Canyon.

Two other bull trout have also been detected above Glines Canyon, but were not located during the ground survey yesterday.  Biologists will use fixed-wing aircraft to conduct watershed-wide surveys this fall.

“To witness these first fish to migrate above Glines Canyon is both amazing and inspiring,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.  “We always knew the fish would return once the dams were removed – but these four fish passed through Glines Canyon even before the concrete was gone.”

Both of the fish currently in Rica Canyon were tagged earlier this summer at locations below the former Elwha dam site.

The radiotracking program is possible through partnerships with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Washington’s National Park Fund, allowing biologists to monitor the movements of radio-tagged salmonids in the Elwha River.

Each fish is equipped with a a uniquely coded radio transmitter that differentiates it from all other tagged fish. Radio signals from the tags are then detected by radio receivers and antennas.  Six telemetry stations were installed between the mouth of the river and just above the Glines Canyon dam site. These stations continually scan for and record data, documenting when individual fish pass by each station.  Biologists also manually track fish between Rica Canyon and the river mouth using handheld radio receivers and antennas

Eighty-seven anadromous fish have been radio-tagged so far.  Of that total, 13 bull trout, 2 winter steelhead, 5 Chinook and one sockeye salmon have been located above the old Elwha dam site.

More details on the migratory bull trout located above Glines Canyon yesterday.

  •      **  Fish #167 was captured and radiotagged on May 7 approximately 3.5 miles above the river’s mouth.  Before releasing the fish, biologists recorded its length as 19 inches.  This fish swam through the old Elwha dam site in late July and was detected above Glines Canyon in early August, before the last chunk of the dam was demolished on August 26.
  • ** Fish #200, measuring 20.5 inches, was radio-tagged on June 25 about a mile and a half upstream of the river’s mouth.  This fish swam past the Elwha dam site on July 20 and swam through Glines Canyon on August 24, just before the final blast.
  •      **  Bull trout are among the smallest of Pacific salmonids, and are federally listed as a threatened species.
  •      **  Rica Canyon is upstream of the former Lake Mills and begins about 2.5 miles above Glines Canyon.

Background and more information about the salmonid radiotracking program and Elwha River Restoration can be found at the Olympic National Park website: http://www.nps.gov/olym/naturescience/damremovalblog.htm

Coast Guard rescues two stranded boaters near Willapa Bay

A Coast Guard Air Station Astoria MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew rescued two stranded boaters near Willapa Bay, Wash., Saturday.

The 67-year-old man and 57-year-old woman were safely transported to an airfield in Raymond, Wash., where they were met by local emergency medical services for evaluation.

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector Columbia River command center received the call for assistance via Pacific County Dispatch late Saturday night after the boaters reported their 12-foot aluminum skiff was aground on a mud flat. The two individuals became stuck in the mud after leaving their vessel to attempt to walk to shore prompting another 911 call. The command center watchstanders dispatched the Jayhawk crew to respond. Once on scene they hoisted the boaters aboard and departed to Raymond.

“This case illustrates the importance of having hoist capable helicopters in the Pacific Northwest,” said Mark Dobney a command duty officer at Sector Columbia River. “With the professionalism of our highly trained helicopter crews, along with aircraft capabilities, we were able to get these two boaters the help they needed in a timely manner.”

Board of Natural Resources acts to reimburse Pacific and Wahkiakum counties for marbled murrelet restrictions

The state Board of Natural Resources yesterday authorized the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to transfer about 66 acres of forestland, managed for the benefit of Pacific and Wahkiakum counties, into conservation status. The parcels were selected because each has timber harvest restrictions related to the endangered marbled murrelet.

 

“Today’s unanimous action by the Board of Natural Resources shows how the State Forest Trust Land Replacement Program is working to support struggling rural timber economies while protecting habitat for the marbled murrelet and other endangered species,” said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands, who chairs the Board of Natural Resources.

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As a result of the board’s action, Pacific County will receive $356,000, based on the timber value of about 17 acres of State Forest Trust land, when the parcel is transferred into the Naselle Highlands Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA). The legislatively funded replacement program for state trust lands also will provide about $25,000 for DNR to purchase replacement working forestland better suited for producing revenue that supports county services.

 

In a separate action through the replacement program, Wahkiakum County will receive $320,000, based on the timber value of 49 acres of State Forest Trust land, when it is transferred into the Skamokawa Creek NRCA. DNR will use the parcel’s land value of $73,000 to buy replacement working forestland.

 

Created in 2011 by the legislature, the State Forest Trust Land Replacement Program allows DNR to transfer certain state-owned forestlands that are encumbered by federal endangered species restrictions into conservation status and replace them with other working forestlands. The replacement program targets small, economically stressed rural Washington counties that depend heavily on timber revenue to support public services.

 

Addition to Elk River NRCA
The board today also approved the transfer of 194 acres of state trust land into the Elk River NRCA through the state’s Trust Land Transfer Program. The $1.6 million timber value of the parcel, located near Westport in Grays Harbor County, will be used to support public school construction statewide. Its $349,000 land value will be used to purchase a less environmentally sensitive replacement property for the Common School Trust. The 5,413-acre Elk River NRCA contains the largest and highest quality, intact estuarine system remaining in Washington or Oregon.

 

In other actions, the board authorized DNR to offer $217,000 to purchase a 40-acre property west of Lake Roesiger in Snohomish County from a willing private seller. The acquisition will add to the Roesiger State Forest which DNR manages. The board also authorized DNR to purchase a 130-acre parcel of Douglas-fir and red alder abutting a large block of state trust forest in Pacific County for $495,000. Both properties will be managed for long-term revenue for the Common School Trust.

Process to move Chalet in Olympic National Park begins, Enchanted Valley closed to camping September 1-14

The complicated process of moving a historic two-story building about 50 feet begins today, complicated because the Enchanted Valley Chalet in the Olympic National Park is 13 miles from any developed roads.
Jeff Monroe of Monroe House Moving tells us crews and pack mules are hiking in Wednesday, lifting on Saturday and should start moving late Saturday or first thing Sunday. Helicopter flys on Thursday and Friday weather permitting.
The Parks Service has closed the Enchanted Valley to camping for the first two weeks of September to accommodate crews working in the park.

Monroe House Moving, Inc. of Sequim, Washington has been awarded the contract to move the building.  The contractor plans to complete the relocation operation by mid-September, weather permitting. 

To protect contractor and visitor safety, Enchanted Valley will be closed to all public camping for the duration of the project, September 1 through 14.  

Hikers and stock users may continue to travel through the valley, but between September 1 and September 14, must be escorted by park staff.  The camping closure and escort-only hiking restriction extends from the steel bridge at the downstream end of Enchanted Valley (mile 13 on the East Fork Quinault River Trail) to one mile upriver of the chalet. 

The Graves Creek Stock Camp (located near the Graves Creek trailhead) will also be closed between September 1 and 14 to accommodate stock animals and handlers involved in transporting supplies and equipment during the project. 

“Visitor, employee and contractor safety is our top priority,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.  “Moving a two-story structure is inherently risky. We appreciate the public’s patience and cooperation during the process of relocating the chalet.” 

Using industry standard house-moving techniques, the contractor will move the Enchanted Valley Chalet a distance of 50 to 100 feet from its current location where it is undercut and in danger of collapsing into the East Fork Quinault River.  The threats to natural and wilderness resources posed by the structure collapsing into the river warrant temporary relocation of the building.  Additionally, preventing the chalet from imminent collapse will allow time to examine and plan for the long-term future of the structure. 

The chalet relocation project was examined in the “Emergency Action to Temporarily Relocate the Enchanted Valley Chalet for the Protection of the East Fork Quinault River Environmental Assessment” (EA) and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was issued on July 25. 

The National Park Service is charged with protecting all of Olympic National Park’s priceless resources, from historic structures to fish, to the unique and irreplaceable character of the Olympic Wilderness. 

The Enchanted Valley Chalet is located 13 miles from the nearest road, deep within the Olympic Wilderness.  The chalet was constructed by Quinault Valley residents in the early 1930s, prior to establishment of Olympic National Park.  The chalet served for several decades as a backcountry lodge and more recently, as a wilderness ranger station and emergency shelter.  The chalet was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.    

Photos shared by park visitors in early January showed that the main channel of the East Fork Quinault River had migrated to within 18 inches of the 1930s-era chalet.  Last winter’s storms and high flows resulted in the Quinault’s main channel continuing to shift by at least 15 feet.   Recent photographs show that the river has undercut the building by approximately eight feet.  

Migration of the East Fork Quinault’s channel is common in the loose, unconsolidated soils of Enchanted Valley.  Storms, fallen trees, rockslides and simply the constant process of erosion can all cause the river to shift and carve a new channel. 

The EA and the FONSI, along with other supporting documents, are available for review at http://www.parkplanning.nps.gov/EVCEA.  

Hoquiam’s new Chief of Police tours jail, pilots tug

On Monday, August 19, 2014, Hoquiam Police Department’s “Chief for a Day”, Dylan Ellefson, was sworn-in at City Hall by Mayor Jack Durney.
Chief Ellefson took the oath of office to include a promise to enjoy the time with his family and new law enforcement friends while representing the Hoquiam Police Department at “2014 Chief for a Day” at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission this Thursday, August 21st.
In addition to a station tour, walk-through to check on his prisoners in the City Jail and visit to the Hoquiam Fire Department, Chief Ellefson was escorted in a Hoquiam fire engine to the Levee Street docks. Dylan and his family were treated to a private ride on a Brusco tractor tug-boat, including time at the controls of the $11 million vessel.
Since the tug is “drive by wire technology” and acts like a giant jet-propelled watercraft, Chief Ellefson maneuvered the vessel up the river. Being a kid with great familiarity with video games, Dylan was a natural and drove the tug like a pro!
The day ended with a table full of thoughtful gifts for Dylan and his family- gifts and funds all so graciously donated by our friends and neighbors here in Grays Harbor. Monday was just the first of several events for Chief Ellefson and his family.

 

Dylan is a 12-year old from Grays Harbor who is being treated for leukemia for the second time after being cancer free for seven years. Dylan has been chosen to be CHIEF FOR A DAY of the Hoquiam Police Department; he will participate in the Chief for A Day Celebration with 34 other chiefs and sheriffs from around the state at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission on Thursday, August 21, 2014.

House mover to save Olympic National Park chalet

An historic Olympic National Park lodge teetering on the edge of the Quinault River should be moved next month before it falls into the water.

The park has awarded a $124,000 contract to the Monroe House Moving company of Carlsborg to move the Enchanted Valley Chalet to safer ground.

The Peninsula Daily News reports (http://is.gd/JkU7T7) most materials will be packed in by mule because the site is in a wilderness area. The park service will provide a helicopter for big equipment.

The chalet is located 13 miles from the nearest road. It was built as a backcountry lodge in the 1930s, before the creation of the park. More recently, it has been used as a wilderness ranger station and emergency shelter.

The Grays Harbor PUD has announced a planned power outage in the South Beach area that will impact about 5,000 customers from the Ocean Spray facility in Markham west to the ocean beaches and south to Tokeland.

The outage will start at 10PM on September 11, 2014 and is expected to last until 6:00 AM on September 12.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson to resign at end of year

After nearly six years at the helm, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Phil Anderson has informed the state Fish and Wildlife Commission he will resign from his position, effective Dec. 31.

“Deciding when to move on is a difficult decision,” Anderson said. “But after 20 great years with the department, the time is right for me to step aside. I will leave knowing that the talented people I have had the privilege to work with here at WDFW are fully capable of taking on the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW, will begin the recruitment process for a new director in the next few weeks.

“Phil has done a tremendous job leading the department through some difficult and challenging issues over the past several years,” said Miranda Wecker, chair of the commission. “His strong conservation ethic, dedication to sound fiscal management and expertise in intergovernmental relations have greatly benefitted the department and the state’s fish and wildlife resources it protects and manages.”

As director, Anderson guided the department through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. During the unprecedented budget shortfall, state General Fund support for WDFW declined by nearly $50 million – 45 percent – threatening department operations and fishing and hunting opportunities throughout the state.

To address the shortfall, Anderson and his staff worked to restructure the agency while continuing to provide key services and maintain a high conservation standard for Washington’s fish and wildlife. As part of that effort, WDFW worked closely with stakeholders to develop new revenue streams and reduce the department’s reliance on the state General Fund.

Also under Anderson’s leadership, the department developed a plan to guide state conservation and management of gray wolves as they recolonize in Washington – a controversial issue that has evoked strong reactions from people on both sides of the Cascade Range.

The department implemented the plan in 2011, after working closely with a number of citizen advisors, including those representing conservationists, hunters and livestock producers. The plan establishes clear recovery objectives for gray wolves, along with procedures for addressing predation on livestock and impacts on ungulates such as deer, elk and caribou.

Throughout his career at WDFW, Anderson has played a leading role in working with Indian tribes in a number of forums, including the annual salmon co-management process known as North of Falcon. During this process, the state and tribes set seasons for marine and freshwater salmon fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas.

Anderson also has served as WDFW’s representative to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and serves as a commissioner on the Pacific Salmon Commission.

Over the last decade, Anderson and his team successfully maintained fishing opportunities by establishing new sustainable fisheries that allow the harvest of abundant wild stocks and hatchery-produced fish while meeting conservation objectives for wild populations listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Key to this effort has been the use of selective-fishing methods, including mark-selective fisheries that allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon but require that they release wild salmon. Establishing these fisheries, where appropriate, has resulted in additional harvest opportunities.

Anderson also has led WDFW’s effort to change state hatchery operations to support the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead populations.

“I am proud of the fact that we have successfully maintained fish production while reforming hatchery practices to ensure that they are compatible with efforts to rebuild wild fish populations,” Anderson said. “The job is definitely not done, but we have made tremendous strides in the right direction that bode well for the future of Washington’s fish stocks and fisheries.”

Anderson, who lives in Westport, said he plans to spend more time with his family and will look for other opportunities to contribute to resource conservation and management.

Anderson, 64, joined WDFW in 1994 after serving seven years on the PFMC as a private citizen, including as the council’s chair. Anderson was appointed WDFW director in 2009 after serving nearly nine months as the agency’s interim director. He previously served as WDFW’s deputy director for resource policy and as assistant director of the department’s Intergovernmental Resource Management Program.

U.S. Coast Guard advises strong caution to beachgoers in the Pacific Northwest

Due to the recent number of fatalities the Coast Guard strongly cautions beachgoers to be aware of possible dangers to stay safe while enjoying the Oregon and Washington coasts.

During the past two months, the Coast Guard has responded to numerous reports of beachgoers swept out into the ocean along the Pacific Northwest coast. Since July 3, four of these cases have resulted in fatalities. These include a 10-year-old girl in Long Beach, Washington, July 3, a 53-year-old man in Seaside, Oregon, July 22, an 18-year-old man in Ocean Shores, Washington, July 26 and a 19-year-old man in Garibaldi, Oregon, Monday.

“In each instance, the people who got caught in the currents were visiting from out-of-town,” said Cmdr. Bill Gibbons, chief of response, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “Visitors are more likely to enter the water unaware of the unpredictable and extreme dangers posed by beach surf along the Pacific Northwest coast. In one instance, a victim was only in water up to his knees when he was knocked down by a wave and pulled out into the ocean.”

Beachgoers are reminded to always be aware of their surroundings. Water depths can change rapidly along the coastline and waves and rip currents can be very strong and unpredictable.

“The only way to avoid the risk is to avoid going in the water,” said Gibbons.  “At a minimum, people should never enter the water alone, children should never be allowed near the water unattended, and people who are near the edge of the surf line must be prepared for what many refer to as “sneaker waves” – disproportionately large and powerful coastal waves that can appear without warning.”

Additionally, since ocean temperatures in the Pacific Northwest remain around 55 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months, wet or dry suits are advisable during prolonged water exposure.

“Tragic experiences such as the ones over the last couple of months highlight the need for beachgoers to be fully aware of the dangers while enjoying their time along the coast,” said Capt. Daniel Travers, commander, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “Incidents like the aforementioned can be reduced by planning ahead, being aware of your surroundings and observing beach safety guidelines.”

For more information on general beach safety along the Pacific Northwest coast visit http://visittheoregoncoast.com/beach-safety/ and http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov.

Olympic National Park to move Enchanted Valley Chalet

PORT ANGELES, Wash. (AP) – Olympic National Park says it’s moving forward with a plan to move a historic chalet that’s being threatened by the shifting east fork of the Quinault River.

The Enchanted Valley Chalet, located 13 miles from the nearest road, was built as a backcountry lodge in the 1930s, before the creation of the park. More recently, it has been used as a wilderness ranger station and emergency shelter.

Visitors last winter noticed the river had come within 18 inches of the chalet, and recent photographs show the river undercutting the building by about 8 feet. Park Service officials said Monday that an expedited environmental review has been completed, giving them the green light to move the building.

They’re worried that if the chalet falls into the river it could harm protected bull trout.

Plans call for moving it away from the river bank before fall rains begin, and then undertaking a more complete study and public review to figure out what to do with the structure long-term.

Officials said they do not yet have details about how and when they will move the chalet.