Comments sought on Ecology study addressing oil spills on the Chehalis River

A March 1 study on oil transport in Washington shows significant risks posed by the changing energy picture, and in particular by the growth of crude oil by rail.

In an effort to protect public health and the environment, the Washington Department of Ecology recently completed a draft contingency plan, outlining how responders would tackle an oil spill near the Chehalis River. The plan is available for public review and comment now through May 8, 2015.

The Chehalis River covers almost 120 miles as it winds through Thurston, Lewis and Grays Harbor counties. The draft plan includes 60 strategies meant to reduce damage to sensitive natural, cultural and economic resources during an oil spill.

The plan considers risks from oil trains, an oil pipeline and tanker trucks.  The Olympic Pipeline includes a 25-mile stretch that crosses several tributaries of the Chehalis River, while oil trains travel on tracks that also cross the Chehalis’ tributaries.

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“This plan covers the second-largest watershed in Washington,” said Kathy Taylor, acting program manager for Ecology’s Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response program. “With the rapid changes in oil transport, particularly with crude by rail, it’s important we have plans in place to protect our precious natural resources.”

The Chehalis River plan is one of eight geographic response plans Ecology aims to complete before June 30, using special funding the Washington Legislature dedicated to help our state prepare for oil spills.

Comments can be emailed to grps@ecy.wa.gov, or mailed to:

Washington Department of Ecology

Spill Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (MLCC-GRP)

P.O. Box 47600

Olympia, WA 98504-7600

“Pay It Forward” College Plan – One year later

SEATTLE – One year ago this week, a unique idea for sending people to college without student loans was embraced by the Oregon Legislature. The “Pay It Forward” plan was created here in Washington, and has piqued interest around the nation as policymakers look for ways to make higher education more affordable and reduce student debt.

Instead of paying tuition in advance, said John Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, students agrees to pay a small percentage of their income after graduation for a fixed number of years into a fund so that other students also can go to college debt-free.

“From our point of view, creating that access for the next generation of students is very important,” he said, “and we believe that through Pay It Forward, we can build a community of intergenerational responsibility and inter-generational rights to higher education.”

Oregon lawmakers liked the idea well enough to pass it unanimously and form a workgroup that is creating recommendations for a pilot program. They’ll be presented to that state’s Legislature in September. Burbank said proponents will try again next year to make headway in the Washington Legislature.

Sami Alloy, a member of Oregon’s Pay it Forward Workgroup, said deciding on all the details of how a whole new system of college funding could work has been complex and challenging – but also exciting. 

“We’ve seen so many students, and parents and grandparents so interested in the passage of this proposal,” she said. “And we’ve seen a lot of grassroots advocacy from families all over the state to our legislators, to get this proposal moving on the ground.”

According to the Economic Opportunity Institute, seven out of 10 college students graduate with debt that averages almost $30,000. So far, 25 states are taking a closer look at the “Pay It Forward” model.

Washington to participate in first ever nationwide distracted driving crackdown

National enforcement campaign taking place during Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Law enforcement officers in Washington State will be cracking down on distracted drivers as part of a new national distracted driving enforcement campaign this month.

Between April 10 and April 15, the high visibility enforcement efforts will target motorists who are observed driving distracted — talking on hand-held cell phones, sending text messages, and otherwise not paying attention to the road while driving.

The Target Zero Teams first rolled out in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties in July 2010, as a demonstration project with the goal to reduce fatal and serious injury collisions caused by impaired drivers. After completing the original two year project, it’s estimated more than 100 lives were saved because of the teams. In 2012, the Washington Legislature fully funded the Target Zero Teams to continue their work in the King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
The Target Zero Teams first rolled out in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties in July 2010, as a demonstration project with the goal to reduce fatal and serious injury collisions caused by impaired drivers. After completing the original two year project, it’s estimated more than 100 lives were saved because of the teams. In 2012, the Washington Legislature fully funded the Target Zero Teams to continue their work in the King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

In 2013, researchers at UW Medicine’s Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center conducted a study of drivers in Washington. They found that nearly one in ten drivers was observed using a cell phone or texting behind the wheel. Among those driving distracted, nearly half (47 percent) were texting.

“We hear from citizens on a regular basis that they want stricter enforcement of distracted driving laws,” said Washington Traffic Safety Commission Director, Darrin Grondel. “This effort gives us the chance to provide funding to more than 100 law enforcement agencies throughout Washington to do just that.”

 

The slogan of the national campaign is “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” and is being carried out during the month of April, which is National Distracted Driving Month. This effort is modeled after similar successful high visibility enforcement campaigns such as “Click It or Ticket” and “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

These and all extra patrols are part of Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030. For more information, visit www.targetzero.com. Additional information on the Washington Traffic Safety Commission can be found on the website, www.wtsc.wa.gov.

WA Lawmakers urged to think beyond school day in education funding

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington Legislature already has some marching orders, from the governor’s budget proposal to a bill by state School Superintendent Randy Dorn to raise sales taxes to fund education. A 2012 court ruling said the state must increase school funding and improve student outcomes – and advocates of after-school programs say they can help.

Lynne Tucker, education policy and advocacy director, School’s Out Washington, said research has proved that after-school and summer learning programs help kids who are falling behind academically, at a fraction of what it would cost to keep them in school longer.

“If we look at Expanded Learning Opportunities and summer learning programs as a tool and a strategy to closing the opportunity gap, it would be one of the more affordable and scalable options. And I think, given the times right now in Washington state, this would be one of our best options,” Tucker said.

Math, science and health are all part of Yakima Valley after-school programs, some of which focus on teaching kids culinary skills. Photo courtesy 21st Century Afterschool Program.
Math, science and health are all part of Yakima Valley after-school programs, some of which focus on teaching kids culinary skills. Photo courtesy 21st Century Afterschool Program.

Tucker pointed out that almost half of Washington’s public school students live in poverty, and said giving them safe after-school and summer options that keep them learning is critical to closing their achievement gap. At risk, she added, are kids whose families cannot afford specialized camps and private lessons, especially in the months between school years.

“By the time they get to ninth grade, two-thirds of the achievement gap is attributed to the cumulative, year-after-year impact from summer learning loss. So, it really sets them up for dropout, for not graduating – and down a different pathway,” she warned.

There aren’t enough of these programs around the state to serve all those who need them, however. Tucker said this session, after-school providers and children’s advocates will propose legislation to create what they’re calling an Expanded Learning Opportunities Council.

“They would talk about increasing access to Expanded Learning Opportunities, finding community-based organizations and working with them on quality programs and technical assistance, so they can create an opportunity in the community,” Tucker explained.

They are also working to implement quality standards for after-school and summer learning programs, she said, and to train more providers.

More information is at www.SchoolsOutWashington.org.

WA Lawmakers Urged to Think Beyond School Day in Education Funding

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington Legislature already has some marching orders, from the governor’s budget proposal to a bill by state School Superintendent Randy Dorn to raise sales taxes to fund education. A 2012 court ruling said the state must increase school funding and improve student outcomes – and advocates of after-school programs say they can help.

Lynne Tucker, education policy and advocacy director, School’s Out Washington, said research has proved that after-school and summer learning programs help kids who are falling behind academically, at a fraction of what it would cost to keep them in school longer.

“If we look at Expanded Learning Opportunities and summer learning programs as a tool and a strategy to closing the opportunity gap, it would be one of the more affordable and scalable options. And I think, given the times right now in Washington state, this would be one of our best options,” Tucker said.

Tucker pointed out that almost half of Washington’s public school students live in poverty, and said giving them safe after-school and summer options that keep them learning is critical to closing their achievement gap. At risk, she added, are kids whose families cannot afford specialized camps and private lessons, especially in the months between school years.

“By the time they get to ninth grade, two-thirds of the achievement gap is attributed to the cumulative, year-after-year impact from summer learning loss. So, it really sets them up for dropout, for not graduating – and down a different pathway,” she warned.

There aren’t enough of these programs around the state to serve all those who need them, however. Tucker said this session, after-school providers and children’s advocates will propose legislation to create what they’re calling an Expanded Learning Opportunities Council.

“They would talk about increasing access to Expanded Learning Opportunities, finding community-based organizations and working with them on quality programs and technical assistance, so they can create an opportunity in the community,” Tucker explained.

They are also working to implement quality standards for after-school and summer learning programs, she said, and to train more providers.

More information is at www.SchoolsOutWashington.org.

Washington Legislature funds final push to rid Puget Sound of derelict fishing nets

 

“These legacy nets have been fishing the waters of the Salish Sea for decades,” du Pré said. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to finish the job and to celebrate a true conservation success story in 2015.” Du Pré added that current fishing net loss is minimal and commercial fishers are now required to report any lost nets.

 

State Rep. Norma Smith of Whidbey Island led the legislative effort to fund the net-removal initiative.

 

“I am deeply grateful to my colleagues who helped achieve the goal of a $3.5 million appropriation for the Northwest Straits Foundation to remove the last of the legacy nets from the Puget Sound,” Smith said. “Lost in previous decades, they have had a devastating impact on harvestable natural resources and marine life. Once removed, because of the reporting requirements now in place, this challenge comes to an end. What an achievement!”

 

WDFW Director Phil Anderson said the new funding is specifically designed to support the removal of derelict fishing nets in areas of the Sound where historic fisheries coincide with bottom conditions likely to snag nets. The foundation locates those nets using sidescan sonar surveys, then dispatches recovery vessels with dive teams to retrieve them.

 

Few efforts have been made to remove nets from depths of more than 105 feet, because of safety concerns. However, the foundation recently completed an assessment of deepwater net-removal strategies that include the use of remotely operated vehicles, grapples, and deepwater divers.

 

“Working in conjunction with our partners at Northwest Straits and in the State Legislature, we have made enormous strides toward eliminating the risks posed to fish and wildlife by derelict fishing gear,” Anderson said. “This is difficult work, and it requires a real commitment from everyone to get it done. We look forward to celebrating the next milestone in 2015.”

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.

Commission approves hunting rules, new special-hunt permit applications

New hunting rules approved by the commission reflect changes in game populations since the current three-year plan was adopted last year.  They include:

  • Reducing antlerless elk hunting in the Yakima area.
  • Reducing antlerless deer hunting in northeast Washington and the Olympic Peninsula.
  • Providing additional permits for spring black bear hunting and delaying start dates for fall black bear hunting in some areas.
  • Increasing permit hunting for cougar in southeast Washington.
  • Changing the fall turkey hunt in southeast Washington from a limited permit-only hunt to a general hunt.

Along with the new hunting rules, the commission also approved a new application system for special-hunt permits that will give hunters more options by allowing them to apply for deer and elk permits in several different categories.  The system applies "points" accrued by unsuccessful permit applicants from previous years to each of the new permit categories.

Another change allows hunters who use archery or muzzleloader equipment to carry hand guns for personal protection.

The amended hunting rules, which take effect May 1, will be included in WDFW’s new Big-Game Hunting pamphlet, which will be available by late April at license dealers, WDFW offices, and online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regs_seasons.html

On another matter, the commission approved an easement on 16.5 acres of WDFW’s Chelan Wildlife Area for a Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD) electrical power transmission line. The PUD will pay WDFW $6,748 as compensation for the easement, plus an annual mitigation payment of $4,217 for wildlife habitat impacts.

The commission also approved the acquisition of:

  • 29 acres in Pierce County as a new site for WDFW’s Voight Creek Fish Hatchery, supported by $440,000 from a state legislative capital budget appropriation.
  • Almost 150 acres of tidelands and uplands in Mason County for salmon, shorebird and waterfowl habitat as part of WDFW’s South Puget Sound Wildlife Area. Those lands will be secured with $197,000 from federal wetlands grants and state wildlife grants.

The commission also received public comments on new rules proposed to address property damage and other conflicts between landowners and wildlife. As directed by the 2009 Washington Legislature (SHB 1778), the proposal includes specific requirements for both lethal and non-lethal control, and identifies new sources of technical assistance for property owners. Claims for crop damage would be paid only after an assessment by a professional crop insurance adjustor. 

The commission, which originally heard public comments the proposed "wildlife interactions" rules at a March 12-13 meeting in Olympia, will be briefed by WDFW staff on adjustments to the proposal during a May 7 conference call.

The commission directed staff to make additional landowner outreach efforts regarding the proposal before final action is taken at a June 4-5 public meeting in Spokane.  The proposed Wildlife Interaction Rules are posted on the commission’s website at http://bit.ly/db1aCT .

Grays Harbor County organizations get salmon recovery grants from state

The grants from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board ranged from $17,000 to $1.7 million. The funding goes for big and small restoration and recovery projects across the state, including work ranging from planting trees along streams to cool the water for salmon, to replacing culverts that prevent salmon from migrating to spawning habitat, to restoring entire floodplains.
 
Grants were given to projects in the below. Click here for details on each project.
 
Asotin County……………………….. $136,800
Benton County……………………… $115,362
Chelan County………………….. $1,143,123
Clallam County………………….. $4,131,462
Clark County…………………………. $510,452
Columbia County…………………. $787,113
Cowlitz County……………………… $706,695
Grays Harbor County……………. $870,343
Island County…………………….. $1,143,187
Jefferson County……………….. $2,277,856
King County………………………. $2,644,814
Kitsap County…………………….. $1,489,850
Kittitas County………………………. $328,500
Klickitat County…………………….. $265,650
Mason County……………………. $3,409,910
Okanogan County………………… $809,877
Pacific County……………………. $1,135,419
Pend Oreille County……………… $360,000
Pierce County……………………. $2,960,669
San Juan County………………. $1,458,776
Skagit County…………………….. $5,844,363
Snohomish County……………. $5,547,631
Thurston County………………… $1,320,675
Walla Walla County………………. $674,487
Wahkiakum County……………… $691,332
Whatcom County………………….. $951,215
Yakima County………………….. $1,120,053
 
 
"Local watershed groups develop these projects based on regional recovery plans and with the support of regional salmon recovery organizations. This “bottom-up” approach to salmon recovery ensures that funding is focused on what they see happening in their communities," Tharinger said. "The projects are then checked by the state’s technical review panel to make sure they will help recover salmon in the most cost-effective manner. This local and state partnership has made Washington a national model in salmon recovery."
Several populations of salmon were put on the federal list of endangered species in 1991. By then, the number of salmon had fallen to only 40 percent of historic levels in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California. By 1999, almost three-fourths of Washington’s watersheds were affected by Endangered Species Act listings of salmon and bull trout. Those listings set off a series of activities including the formation of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to oversee the investment of state and federal funds for salmon recovery. Since 2000, the board has awarded nearly $404 million in grants, funded by federal and state dollars, for 1,307 projects. Grantees have contributed nearly $160 million in matching resources, bringing the total investment to more than $564 million.
The funding comes from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and is matched by state funds from the sale of bonds. The funding for these grants was approved by Congress and the Washington Legislature earlier this year. On Thursday, Washington State received news that $80 million in 2010 federal funding for Washington and several other western states is in the final budget bill before Congress.
“We want to thank our Congressional delegation, especially Senator Patty Murray and Representative Norm Dicks, who have been champions of salmon recovery work,” Tharinger said. “Without their help at the national level, this important work wouldn’t be able to continue. All of Washington will benefit from these grants.”
The Salmon Recovery Funding Board’s citizen members are appointed by the Governor and they are: Harry Barber, Washougal; Commissioner Donald “Bud” Hover, Okanogan County; Bob Nichols, Olympia; Commissioner Steve Tharinger, Clallam County; and David Troutt, Dupont. Five state agency directors or their designees also serve as members (Conservation Commission, Department of Ecology, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Transportation). Staff support to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the process of project recruitment and review is provided by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office. Information about the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Recreation and Conservation Office is available online at www.rco.wa.gov.

Governor Chris Gregoire to Visit Lady Washington

Launched on March 7, 1989, the brig Lady Washington is touring Puget Sound in celebration of 20 years of changing people’s lives. More than one million people have walked her decks since her launch, including 200,000 school children who have participated in educational programs. The ship visits more than 40 ports a year on the west coast as the tall ship ambassador for the state and Grays Harbor County. In 2007, the Washington Legislature designated Lady Washington as the state’s official ship.

Celebrating 20 Years of Changing People’s Lives: 1989-2009 – The Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) public development authority based in Aberdeen, Wash. that owns and operates the tall ships Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington, launched March 7, 1989, now the Official Ship of the State of Washington. GHHSA’s mission is to provide educational, vocational, recreational and ambassadorial activities and experiences that promote and preserve the maritime history of Grays Harbor, the Pacific Northwest, and our nation while serving the needs of the community.