$11 million in grants from Ecology to help prevent flood damage upriver

OLYMPIA – Floods cause more damage than any other natural disasters in Washington. The Department of Ecology has awarded nearly $11 million in grants to recipients across the state to help prevent damage in flood-prone communities.


Grants reach from Silverdale on Kitsap Peninsula east to Yakima County and north from Deming to Skamokawa near the Columbia River and points in between. Projects will reduce flood hazards to people, property, critical facilities and transportation corridors while helping to restore habitat and water quality for fish and wildlife. In all, 13 projects are funded through the competitive flood management grant process.


For instance, in Whatcom County some $1.4 million in state funding will be used to complete construction of a new 800-foot-long levee setback from the Nooksack River to protect the town of Deming, school buildings and sewage lagoon from floodwaters. The levee will replace an earthen berm that frequently overtops from floodwaters.


The city of Auburn will leverage $532,000 in state funding in a $5 million project to improve flood protection along Mill Creek. The project will focus on improving floodplain connectivity to respond to high-flow events and create conditions to restore riparian cover to reduce water temperatures and improve water quality for fish rearing.


In Yakima County, $1.39 million will be used to relocate an existing auto wrecking yard and purchase floodway properties in a flood-prone area along the Naches River known as the Rambler’s Park levee setback project. Improvements, including reducing the size of an existing levee, will increase the floodplain by 9 acres and create channels to improve floodplain functions. Yakima County is also receiving another $1 million for other levee work along the Naches and Yakima rivers.


Using a grant of $1.3 million, the city of Ellensburg will reduce the magnitude and frequency of flood damage to structures in west Ellensburg along the Yakima River with the restoration of floodplain functions to Currier and Reecer creeks. At the same time, new instream spawning and rearing habitat for fish will be created and riparian and floodplain areas will be planted with native vegetation. That work will protect 100 homes and businesses.


Other grant recipients include:

Kitsap County – $2 million for floodplain restoration on Clear Creek in Silverdale

Chelan County – $780,616 for improvements to Nason Creek

Pierce County – $525,000 to acquire property in floodplain for improvement on Ball Creek, Puyallup River

Tulalip Tribe – $464,044 for the Qwuloolt floodplain restoration project along Ebey Slough

City of Yakima – $200,000 for work increasing flood conveyance under two bridges crossing Wide Hollow Creek

Wahkiakum County – $50,000 to dike and address flood hazards at Skamokawa


Measles update: WA case count grows to 12, extending to third county

Measles continues to spread in Washington as cases in San Juan County have extended to a Kitsap County resident. A man in his 40s from Kitsap visited several places in Friday Harbor, including a restaurant where a contagious San Juan County man was at the same time.

San Juan County’s case count is now five, and Kitsap County has one. In Whatcom County, the case count remains at six. So far, there have been no reported measles cases related to the Whatcom County woman who attended a concert and several public venues in King and Pierce counties while contagious. Public health officials warn that the time is just starting when people who went to those places may start showing symptoms.

According to health officials, the Kitsap County man may have been exposed to measles March 21 at Cask and Schooner Public House and Restaurant, where San Juan County’s first case was also present while contagious. The Kitsap resident also traveled around Puget Sound while contagious, going to Seattle from Bainbridge Island on the Washington State Ferry System April 4, then flying to Friday Harbor. From the marina, he went to the San Juan County Department of Community Development and Planning, Cask and Schooner, and the fuel dock in Friday Harbor.

A list of the places visited by both cases while they were contagious is available online. Anyone who was in those places at the listed times should find out if they’ve been vaccinated for measles or have had measles before. People who are unvaccinated, or aren’t sure if they’re immune, and develop an illness with fever and unexplained rash should consult a health care professional immediately. Call ahead to their clinic, doctor’s office, or emergency room before arriving so people in waiting rooms aren’t exposed.

Measles is highly contagious even before the rash starts, and is easily spread when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes — if you’re not vaccinated, you can get the measles just by walking into a room where someone with the disease has been in the past couple of hours.

Washington typically has five or fewer measles cases per year; so far in 2014, there have been 12. Symptoms begin seven-to-21 days after exposure and is contagious for about four days before rash appears until four days afterward. People at highest risk from exposure to measles include those who are unvaccinated, pregnant women, infants under six months of age, and those with weakened immune systems.

Children should be vaccinated with two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, with the first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second at four-to-six years. Adults should have at least one measles vaccination, with some people needing two. The state Department of Health immunization program has more information about measles and measles vaccine.

The Department of Health website (www.doh.wa.gov) is your source for a healthy dose of information. Also, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Meetings scheduled to discuss fishery management on 13 lakes with loons

Earlier this year, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission requested that the department seek additional public input on the impacts of small lead fishing tackle on common loons, which could be harmed by ingesting small lead weights and jigs lost by anglers.

“After we receive input from the public at the two upcoming meetings, we plan to meet again with the advisory group and develop a final set of recommendations,” Whalen said.

WDFW fishery managers are scheduled to brief the commission — a nine-member citizen panel that sets policy for WDFW — on the final set of proposed fishery-management alternatives during the commission’s meeting in October. The public also will have an opportunity to provide comments on the alternatives during that commission meeting.

The lakes where loons breed include Ferry, Long and Swan lakes in Ferry County; Calligan and Hancock in King County; Bonaparte, Blue and Lost lakes in Okanogan County; Big Meadow, South Skookum and Yocum lakes in Pend Oreille County; Pierre Lake in Stevens County; and Hozomeen Lake in Whatcom County.

West Nile virus activity unprecedented in Washington during 2009 season

Residents of six Washington counties were confirmed with West Nile virus infection. Benton County had nine cases, Grant had one, Klickitat had two, Spokane had two, Whatcom had one, and Yakima had 21. All but two of these people were exposed in Eastern Washington — and they may have been exposed out of state. The Whatcom County resident was exposed while camping in Eastern Washington. Some samples are still being tested.

Of the 36 people, 28 had severe disease — including encephalitis, meningitis, and/or paralysis. Eight of them had mild illness with a fever and headache. A resident of Benton County and one from Yakima County were identified through blood donor screening as having the virus, but they aren’t counted for national reporting because they didn’t have symptoms. Blood banks in the country routinely screen donations for West Nile virus. If the virus is detected, infected blood is removed from supply, and health officials are notified.

The 2009 season ended with the return of colder fall weather. During that season 71 horses, one dog, 22 birds, and 341 mosquito samples tested positive for West Nile virus. Through this testing the virus was detected in 14 counties, with Grays Harbor, Franklin, Mason, and Walla Walla counties having their first-ever West Nile detections since monitoring began in 2001.

Washington had the nation’s highest number of horses infected with West Nile virus. Nearly half of all horses infected either died from the illness or were euthanized. This season’s environmental monitoring shows the virus is firmly established in Eastern Washington and continues to spread in Western Washington.

State and local public health agencies, mosquito control districts, other state agencies, and volunteers participate in West Nile virus environmental monitoring. The state Department of Health also began using an online dead bird reporting system to help local health partners track dead bird sightings in their communities. More than 400 dead birds were reported across the state using this new online tool.

West Nile virus is a bird disease that’s spread by infected mosquitoes. The best way to reduce the chance of infection is to avoid mosquito bites. Even though cold weather has reduced the risk of mosquito bites, the state health department encourages residents to take preventive actions that are helpful in the off-season. Dump water that collects around your home and make sure gutters are cleaned and free of debris.

More information on West Nile virus in Washington (www.doh.wa.gov/wnv) is on the state Department of Health Web site.

Grays Harbor County Listed to Receive Grant Funding for Shoreline Policies and Development Regulations

"From the San Juans to the Sound’s southern tip, 120 of the 130 local governments in the Puget Sound region are still using largely the same shoreline master programs they adopted in the 1970s," said Ecology’s Gordon White, who oversees statewide shorelands activities. "Yet in the past 30 years, the area’s population has ballooned by nearly 60 percent. If we hope to restore, protect and preserve the Sound, we’ve got to start by managing our shoreline areas wisely."

White said in a budget-cutting year, the 2009 Legislature added $3 million more than in the last state budget cycle to help local communities revise their shoreline master programs. The additional money was targeted to specifically help Puget Sound cities and counties update their shoreline policies and regulations.

The $6.3 million will be divided among six counties and 64 cities based on factors such as miles of shoreline, number of shoreline types, population and growth rates. The money will protect and restore more than 3,000 miles of marine, stream and lake shorelines throughout Puget Sound.


"This joint state-local effort to revise the region’s shoreline programs is one of the top priorities of the Partnership’s Action Agenda to help salmon recovery and restore and protect Puget Sound," said Puget Sound Partnership Executive Director David Dicks. "The old master programs have lead to the unsustainable development of Puget Sound shorelines and an outdated set of standards for shoreline land owners to work through. Updating our shoreline programs also will improve Puget Sound water quality and keep our beaches clean and available for our citizens to use and enjoy."

The $6.3 million is part of a broader multi-year effort to help all Washington’s 266 cities and counties with shorelines update their shoreline regulations by December 2014. A schedule for specific counties and cities to revise their shoreline master programs is set by statute under the state Shoreline Management Act.

During the 2007-09 state budget cycle, Ecology provided $4.5 million to 46 cities and counties across the state to help update their shoreline master programs.


State law requires jurisdictions to periodically review and revise their shoreline regulations. More than 70 cities and counties, including others in the Puget Sound, are currently updating their programs.

Ecology adopted new shoreline program guidelines in 2003 that establish the basic requirements for updating local programs. The guidelines were resulted from a negotiated settlement between business interests, ports, environmental groups, shoreline user groups, cities and counties, Ecology, and the courts.

The state guidelines allow each city and county flexibility to customize the regulations to fit their local land-use circumstances and vision of local waterfront development. The process is designed to bring diverse local interests to the table to work collaboratively including waterfront property owners, builders, farmers, environmental and conservation interests, recreation users, local governments, tribes and state agencies. The guidelines also require local jurisdictions and the state to ensure the regulations do not infringe on private property rights.

Every community starts their update with a thorough inventory of existing land-use patterns and environmental conditions. Once completed, shoreline master programs combine local plans for future shoreline development and preservation with new shoreline development ordinances and permitting requirements.

So far, 10 Puget Sound jurisdictions completed their updates using Ecology’s 2003 guidelines including Whatcom County as well as Auburn, Coupeville, Darrington, Ferndale, Marysville, Monroe, Orting, Port Townsend and Sultan.

Ecology has final approval authority for each city and county shoreline program, which becomes part of the statewide shoreline master program.

Hot August, Not-So-Hot Primary?

Some of the hottest races are in King County, including Seattle’s seven-way race for County Executive as well as the mayor’s race; Ostrom says there are plenty of others.

"In Snohomish County, there are some important races between candidates who are focused on protecting rural areas and quality of life, and other candidates who are more pro-development. In Whatcom County, there are some real important races too, between some progressive candidates and folks who are more conservative.

Washington voters should have received ballots by now. For those who haven’t, it’s time to call the county auditor’s office and request one. The Washington Secretary of State’s office has contact information for all county auditors and election departments listed online at www.secstate.wa.gov. Pierce County is the only Washington county that still has polling places.

Fuse Washington puts out an online voters guide, which Ostrom says includes information about the candidates’ backgrounds and who has endorsed them. It’s at progressivevotersguide.org.

Coast Guard assists 3 aboard disabled vessel

SEATTLE — Coast Guard assisted an injured boater and two other passengers off of Point Francis, Wash., Thursday.

Coast Guard Station Bellingham, Wash., was contacted via cell phone at 1:45 p.m. by the passengers of a 28-foot pleasure boat requesting assistance.

A male passenger was injured while a trying to fix the engine after it failed.  

A 33-foot boat crew from Station Bellingham responded to the scene.  Two crewman boarded the disabled vessel to stabilize the injured man and the 33-foot boat crew towed the disabled boat to Fairhaven Marina in Bellingham, where Whatcom County Fire and Rescue transported the injured man to St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The condition of the injured man is unknown at this time. 

Governor Signs Attorney General’s Digital Crime Lab Bill

Virtual digital crime labs include the tools required for examinations of digital evidence, connected via a high-speed network. These labs enable investigators, experts, analytical tools, and evidence to be located in different locations. A virtual lab may be securely accessed over the Internet. Digital evidence can include encrypted data, electronic communications, data storage devices, cell phone photos, audio, and video.

The AGO and the State Patrol will now evaluate the costs and effectiveness of state-of-the-art technologies used by digital forensic labs in other states, and report back to the Legislature in six months.

The Senate bill was sponsored by former Whatcom County Sheriff Sen. Dale Brandland, R-Bellingham, and others. A companion bill in the House was sponsored by retired Seattle Police Sergeant Rep. Al O'Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace and others. The measures passed unanimously in both chambers.