Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NOAA opts for new approach on Columbia Salmon

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is reaching out to stakeholders on both sides of the Columbia/Snake salmon restoration issue in hopes of reaching concensus over a salmon recovery plan in the long divided region. Advocates for wild fish and sustainable fishing and tourism industries in the region have called for the removal of the four lower Snake River dams, pointing to the overwhelming body of scientific evidence in support of dam removal and the relatively minimal power generation capacity of the four dams. However, irrigatiors and those dependent on the in river shipping industry have thus far won out and to date none of the Biological Opions (BiOps), documents issued by the federal government guiding the recovery of ESA listed salmon and steelhead, have included dam removal as a realistic possibility. 

While the success of a stakeholder dialog remains to be seen, NOAA appears to be sincere about bringing people together to craft a lasting solution on the Columbia, hiring conflict resolution experts from Portland State University and the University of Washington to seek consensus. The university teams  will conduct interviews with up to 200 people representing stakeholders from across the board, and will seek to guide NOAA in crafting solutions that best balance the needs and interests of all groups. Given the long standing legal battle on the Columbia and the painfully incremental progress, the plan comes as a welcome change for fish advocates on the Columbia and Snake, but of course the devil is always in the details. 

More from the Oregonian:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Victory! BC Government Bans Oil and Gas Development in the Sacred Headwaters

Today, on the day that the 4 year moratorium on oil and gas development in the headwaters of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine Rivers was set to expire, the government of British Columbia announced it had reached an agreement with Shell Oil and First Nations to permanently protect 400,000 acres from oil and gas development. The move is a major victory for First Nations and conservation groups who have struggled for almost a decade to ensure that the three watersheds, globally significant for their intact habitat and salmon populations, are protected permanently from destructive oil and gas extraction. Thanks to everyone who signed petitions, wrote emails, and called the premier's office, victories like there remind us that through our collective voices we can make change, and that while progress may seem frustratingly slow and incremental we can do better for wild fish. 

More information in the Globe and Mail:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sacred Headwaters Drilling Moratorium Expires in 5 Days

The Sacred Headwaters of three of North Americas most important salmon rivers, the Skeena, Nass and Stikine, are under threat again from coal bed methane drilling. In 2004 Shell Oil was granted a tenure by the BC government to drill in the region, however following massive local opposition the BC government granted a 4 year moratorium on Shell's development of the gas tenure. Now that moratorium is set to expire on December 18th, threatening the future of three of the most productive and diverse salmon watersheds on the planet, and the culture and economy they sustain. Coal bed methane extraction in the Sacred Headwaters would bring massive industiralization into one of the most remote, pristine regions of British Columbia. 

The gas is extracted using fracking an extremely water intensive process that would not sap water from the vital headwaters of these three systems, but would pump toxic fracking fluid into the groundwater. All told the project would produce millions of gallons of waste water per year, water that will have devastating effects on fish and wildlife in the Sacred Headwaters. 

The bottom line is THIS CANNOT happen. Fracking has never been done in a salmon bearing watershed and this isn't the place to start. First Nations and other residents in the region have been adamant that this project will not go forward, but they need our support. Please take a few minutes to sign the online petition from Forest Ethics:

and email BC Premier Christy Clark to let her know you oppose drilling in the Sacred Headwaters

More information at the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition's website:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hearings on Proposed Cherry Point Coal Terminal This Thursday Dec. 13th in Seattle

This Thursday the Army Corps of Engineers are hosting a scoping hearing on the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point in Bellingham at the Washington State convention center in downtown Seattle. If you have time PLEASE turn out for this. The Puget Sound is among the most endangered marine ecosystems in the United States and the last thing it needs is this massive expansion in coal shipping. Historically Cherry Point, where the coal terminal will be located, has supported one of the largest spawning aggregations of Herring in Puget Sound. Herring are a vital part of the Puget Sound food web and the massive expansion in shipping, associated pollution and the potential for invasive species coming into Puget Sound through increased tanker traffic make this project completely unacceptable. That's not to mention the global impacts of the coal industry, one of the dirtiest sources of energy on our planet that produces acid rain, and some of the highest outputs of climate warming carbon dioxide.

Please turn out this Thursday and make your voice heard for Puget Sound.

More info from People for Puget Sound:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Idaho Statesman Editorial on Snake Sockeye

The Idaho Statesman, long a voice of reason in the debate around the future of the Snake River's four lower dams published an editorial this week highlighting the cost of the status quo for ratepayers and for Snake River sockeye. While sockeye returns have crept up from their critically low abundance in the mid-1990s when the species appeared destined for extinction, the average sockeye returning to the Snake costs $9000 to produce, and populations remain critically depressed. As the statesman points out, the only way to truly recover salmon and steelhead in the Snake is to remove the four lower Snake River dams, something which the federal government has yet to seriously consider. Until then, sockeye and other species will continue limping along on astronomically expensive hatchery life support, something which delays, but does not stop the extinction of wild salmon in the Snake River over the long term. It's time for a new set of solutions in the Columbia, and among those solutions MUST be the removal of the four lower Snake dams.

Monday, December 3, 2012

In Washington, Focus Turns to Ocean Acidification

While the effects of carbon emissions into our atmosphere are often discussed in terms of their impact on our planet's climate, the consequences of our exponentially growing emission of fossil carbon goes beyond the warming impact of carbon as a greenhouse gas. By fundamentally altering the balance of carbon storage, we are recklessly playing with planetary systems in a way that threatens to undermine the ability of our planet to sustain biodiversity, and human life. No where is this growing accumulation of carbon emissions felt more destructively than in our oceans where rising levels of atmospheric carbon are resulting in rapid rises in the acidity of the oceans water. Because many marine organisms have shells or exoskeletons made of calcium bicarbonate which dissolves readily when exposed to more acidic water conditions, even minor increases in ocean acidity can have drastic effects.

Scientists predict that by the middle of the 21st century the majority of the planets coral reefs may be in locations where ocean water has become too acidic for their survival. Closer to home many of the zooplankton that juvenile salmon rely on as prey are threatened by rising ocean acidity and our regions multi-million dollar shellfish industry has already begun to feel the effects. A blue ribbon panel of scientists and policy makers convened by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire released a list of recommendations and the governor has promised a $3.3 million investment in an ocean acidication research center at the University of Washington. Kevin Ranker, a state Senator from Orcas Island, and the chairman of the State Senate's Natural Resources committee has proposed a carbon tax similar to the one in place in British Columbia as a means of curbing carbon emissions within our state, a move that could dramatically reduce emissions in our state and place pressure on the federal government and other jurisdictions to take a more proactive to dealing with the rising cost of climate change and ocean acidication.

More information from the KUOWs earthfix:

and from the Crosscut: