Monday, April 14, 2014

Kitimat Rejects Enbridge Pipeline

On Sunday, the town of Kitimat where the proposed Enbridge Pipeline would offload oily bitumen from the Alberta tar sands into tankers bound for Asian refineries, held a referendum on the proposed project. While the vote was non-binding, it was viewed as a bellwether and the company poured significant resources into campaigning and advertising to sway public opinion in the town. However, when the votes were all tallied the town had sent a resounding message, with more than 58% of Kitimat's citizens voting against the project. While Kitimat would have likely gained around 100 jobs associated with the oil terminal, the community was not prepared to accept the environmental risks and impacts the project would bring. This is the latest blow to a project that has been a major priority for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however the project has faced major opposition in British Columbia because of the threat it would pose to the coastal ecosystem and the communities that depend on it, and First Nations remain unified in their opposition along the proposed pipeline route.

More information from the CBC:

Monday, March 10, 2014

WDFW Takes Important First Steps In Designating Lower Columbia Wild Steelhead Genebanks

Despite some loud, opinionated opposition from some in the fishing lobby, WDFW made the right choice this week in announcing that they will move ahead with the designation of three wild steelhead genebanks in the Lower Columbia. Under the plan, the department will be discontinuing the release of hatchery steelhead in the East Fork Lewis as well as the North Fork Toutle and its major tributary the Green River. They have also officially designated the Wind River a wild genebank. The Wind had been managed as a defacto wild steelhead refuge since 1997 when hatchery plants were discontinued there, and since that time wild steelhead in the Wind River have made a remarkable recovery.

More information in a press release from WDFW:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Proposed BC Bill Would Allow Industrial Development in Provincial Parks

From the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society:

On February 13th the Province introduced legislation that could weaken the Parks Act significantly, allowing for greater impacts in BC’s parks to occur. CPAWS takes any changes to this Act very seriously, as it underpins the integrity of our entire provincial protected area network.

According to Bill 4, the revised Act would allow the Minister of Environment to issue park use permits for feasibility studies relating to the "location, design, construction, use, maintenance, improvement or deactivation" of roads, pipelines, transmission lines, telecommunications infrastructure, and other projects. This is a clear threat to the integrity of our protected areas system, as it essentially writes a blank cheque to industry to consider opening  up any given protected area for industrial use.

Another of the main changes is that the Act would no longer prohibit impacts in parks less than 2,023 hectares in size.  That’s almost the size of Cypress Bowl Provincial Park, or five times the size of Stanley Park.

We call upon the BC Government to reconsider these changes and to respect the integrity of the Parks Act and the protected areas that it defends. We urge our members and the public to write the Minister and let her know your views on these proposed changes.

Take Action and tell the Provincial Government to put a stop to this disastrous bill.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Increased Winter Time Flow Boosting Hanford Reach Wild Chinook

A new study has documented dramatic increases in the number of juvenile Chinook produced in the Hanford Reach following a series of agreements that have led to increased winter flows. Flows in the interior Columbia were historically very low during winter, and the agreements have created artificially high flows during the period when fry are incubating in river gravels designed to maximize fry survival. Historically, the abundance of wild fall chinook in the Columbia would have been supported and maintained by fish spawning throughout the mainstem and its many tributaries. However, with the construction of mainstem dams starting the in 1930's all of the mainstem spawning habitat has been lost with the exception of the Hanford reach which now supports the largest remaining spawning aggregation of wild fall chinook in the Columbia. Consequently, managers have been looking for ways to maximize productivity in this population and have apparently been successful at doing so using artificially high winter flows.

More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin: 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ocean Acidification Already Impacting Salish Sea

10 million scallops are dead at a shellfish farm on the east side of Vancouver Island, falling victim to rising levels of acidity in the Georgia Strait. Ocean acidification, which is caused by rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and the uptake of this CO2 into the oceans, is expected to have dramatic detrimental effects on our oceans in the 21st century. This is because many marine organisms, including shellfish, corals, and some zooplankton rely on calcium bicarbonate as a structural component to their shells or exoskeletons. As ocean acidity rises, it eventually reaches a level where these organisms can no longer build and maintain their skeletons.

This year, the pH  in the Georgia Strait, which is normally around 8.2 have been measured as high as 7.3 (lower values indicate higher acidity), resulting in catastrophic impacts on the regions aquaculture industry and potentially on a vast array of other marine organisms. While ocean acidification has not received the same level of media attention as human induced climate warming, its effects are just as insidious and it threatens to fundamentally undermine the ability of the oceans to sustain life. This is among the long list of reasons why a dramatic shift away from emissions intensive fossil fuel energy is absolutely vital or the future of our planet and the ecosystems which sustain human life.

More information:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha is Almost Gone

Dam removal on the Elwha River is almost complete after a controlled blast at Glines Canyon dam last month lowered the remaining dam to its last 35 feet above the river bed. Work began in September 2011 to remove the two dams on the Elwha, and Elwha dam the lower of the two was removed by March 2012. Now Glines Canyon is almost gone, with only 35 feet of cement left in the place of the once 210 foot tall dam. The rest of the dam is expected out by next fall, opening the entirety of the Elwha basin to migratory salmonids. With the river still transporting high loads of sediment that had been trapped behind the dams, the mainstem below the two dam sites is a relatively inhospitable place. However, already wild salmon and steelhead are finding and using spawning habitat in the tributaries and side channels above Elwha dam, and biologists have been trapping and releasing fish from the lower river into the upper basin above Glines Canyon dam in hopes of jumpstarting the recolonization.

More information from the Peninsula Daily News:

and footage of the blast from the Elwha Film website:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

New BiOp, More of the Same on the Columbia and Snake

Earlier this month the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released the latest version of the Biological Opinion (BiOp) on the recovery of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers. The BiOp is the latest version of the federal governments plan to recover wild fish in the Columbia system and once again it falls well short of the legal requirements to ensure recovery and limit the risks posed to listed wild stocks. Since the Clinton administration's first BiOp was rejected by the courts we've had 4 BiOps each of which has failed to meet the legal mandate of the ESA. Still the federal government seems more than happy to recycle, repackage and resubmit the same old garbage buying time for the Snake River dams, and moving wild fish in the Columbia ever closer to extinction.

The new BiOp relies heavily on speculation over the benefits of habitat improvements which were previously ruled to be inadequate by the courts. The latest plan is lacking in two key areas. First, despite the benefits spilling water over dams to aid downstream passage of smolts during the spring and early summer, the latest BiOp does not even consider expanding spill. Second, experts have long agreed that removing the four lower Snake River dams gives salmon and steelhead in the Snake the greatest chances of survival. Despite the cost of maintaining the dams, and their limited economic benefit, the BiOp doesn't ever consider dam removal or create an adaptive management framework for starting a discussion about dam removal if salmon populations continue to dwindle.

So we are headed back to court again, with salmon recovery advocates arguing the latest plan fails to protect wild salmon and steelhead under the requirements of the ESA.

More information in the Crosscut:

from the Idaho Statesman:

and from Save our Wild Salmon: