Whatcom Watch Online
January 2001
Volume 10, Issue 1

Cover Story

WWU Emerges as a National Leader in Innovative Car Design

by Lori Spicher

Lori Spicher is a freelance writer living in Whatcom County.

The Vehicle Research Institute at Western Washington University has been dedicated to building a better car for over twenty years. It is generally considered one of the top schools for vehicle design in the country.

Director Dr. Michael Seal officially founded the Vehicle Research Institute in 1974. Since then he, his faculty, and students, have designed and built many cars that exceed the standards of their contemporary consumer counterparts.

Whether the goal is improved handling, fuel efficiency, crash safety or type of propulsion, the Viking cars consistently outperform any car available in the general consumer market.

U.S. Auto Industry Avoids Fuel Efficient Cars

When a bunch of students on a shoestring budget can build from scratch a car that exceeds 100 miles to the gallon, why can’t consumers buy a car that gets 50, 60 or even 70 miles per gallon? With all the industry’s resources, why do auto makers fail where the Vehicle Research Institute succeeds? In Dr. Seal’s opinion, the industry erroneously feels there is no market for fuel efficient, low emissions cars.

Hiding behind so-called consumer desires is not a new position for the auto industry. When charged with the unnecessary degree of danger in their cars, Detroit responded by saying that consumers didn’t want to buy a safer car. They did not relent until federal regulations forced safety issues upon them. Now, many auto makers use safety as a marketing tool.

Foreign Auto Makers Market New Hybrid Cars

Fortunately, U.S. auto makers are no longer the last word in the industry. Honda and Toyota are trumping this emerging market with gas-electric hybrid production cars.

It is now possible to buy a fuel efficient, low emissions, hybrid car. The battery sustaining generator is not the cleanest way to make an electric car. But until either battery technology improves dramatically or consumer requirements change, it may be the only marketable alternative to the internal combustion engine.

Most currently available batteries have a range of only about fifty miles before they need to be recharged. While this is more than enough for the average daily commute, it lacks the flexibility many consumers want.

High Efficiency, Low Emission Cars

The Vehicle Research Institute’s most exciting and noteworthy accomplishments are in the areas of emissions, fuel economy, and alternative energy sources.

In 1975, Viking 2 achieved fuel efficiency of 58 miles per gallon on propane fuel. Safety considerations were addressed in 1978 with the Viking 6, which demonstrated that a fuel-efficient car could comply with federal crash safety standards. This car achieves 118 miles per gallon at 50 miles per hour.

With the Viking 7, the Vehicle Research Institute showed that high-performance cars could be made more efficient. Its highway rating is only 50 miles per gallon, but this rating leaves production sports cars far behind.

Several award-winning hybrid Viking cars prove that emissions and fuel consumption can be dramatically reduced, while still meeting consumer demands.

Running on Sun Power

The Vehicle Research Institute’s work on solar car technology has, so far, fallen short of producing a marketable solar car, but their solar cars have won several honors.

Viking 20 won the two-person vehicle class and placed fifth overall in the World Solar Challenge. Viking 21 won its class in the 1992 Pikes Peak Solar Electric Challenge and the 1993 Tour de Sol.

Can this technology replace the internal combustion engine? Dr. Seal does not think a marketable solar powered car can be produced in the near future. The amount of energy reaching the earth from the sun is not enough to propel a car that weighs more than a few hundred pounds. An ultra lightweight car would be a radical leap for the American consumer.

The Sunless Alternative

Building on solar cell technology has lead to some truly innovative developments at the Vehicle Research Institute. Viking 29 is the world’s first thermophotovoltaic (TPV) car.

A compressed natural gas burner produces infrared energy, which is collected by solar cells. This generator charges a battery, which runs the electric motor. It is sometimes called the “Midnight Sun” generator, because the burner is analogous to a tiny sun.

Compressed natural gas is burned in a ceramic tube which glows red-hot up to 1700 degrees Kelvin. The photovoltaic cells which surround the tube receive infrared photons from the emitter and convert them to electric power.

The infrared power intensities at the cell are one thousand times higher than the sunlight on the roof of a car. The infrared photons generated activate the photovoltaic cells to produce electricity. The generator is very clean and quiet.

Though Dr. Seal says this is not quite as clean as a battery-depleting engine that is charged from the power grid, it is even cleaner than a combustion natural gas battery-charging generator.

The internal combustion engine relies on periodic explosions, which produce greater emissions. The TPV generator, which burns continuously, produces complete and clean combustion. Because the thermophotovoltaic car has the greater range of the battery sustaining systems, it is likely to be more marketable than an electric-only car.

This technology is very new, however, and needs much improvement. Dr. Seal would like to see the generator’s durability and efficiency fine-tuned. Unfortunately, further government funding has been held up because of the recent presidential election controversy.

Finding Funding for Research and Development

The Vehicle Research Institute has always needed to seek outside funding. Sponsors have included both government and private sources.

For example, The National Highway and Traffic Safety Authority funded much of the Viking 6 project. General Motors sponsored the Viking 20 World Solar Challenge entry after the car placed second in GM’s Sunrayce.

JX Crystals, a photovoltaic cell production company in Issaquah Washington, helped fund the TPV development along with the Departments of Energy and Defense. Defense? Dr. Seal is quick to point out that the Department of Defense funding is for development of a field generator that is silent, clean and has a relatively low thermal output.

“We do not make weapons; we have no interest in making weapons and we will not make weapons in the future,” says Dr. Seal. The Defense Department is their best hope for further funding to perfect the thermophotovoltaic technology. Until more funding becomes available, the project is on hold.

The car is currently on display at the Whatcom Museum’s ARCO gallery at 206 Prospect Street in Bellingham until January 21. Dr. Seal hopes the Vehicle Research Institute will be back at work on this project within the next few months.

Further information about Viking 29 and other Vehicle Research Institute projects is available on the Vehicle Research Institute’s website at http://vri.etec.wwu.edu. An Internet search for “WWU Vehicle Research Institute” conveniently pops up this web page. Dr. Seal is open and enthusiastic about his projects, thus generally happy to answer questions.

Side Story

Dr. Michael R. Seal

Michael R. Seal is founder and director of the Vehicle Research Institute at Western Washington University, “very possibly the best school in the country for total car design,” according to Robert Cumberford, automotive design editor of “Automobile” magazine.

Since 1971, Dr. Seal, his students and staff have been designing and building award-winning experimental vehicles known for fuel economy and safety. He emphasizes hands-on, practical understanding in his lab. Students gain experience in everything from designing to fabricating parts to testing the actual product, including experimental engines for leading automakers such as Chrysler and Subaru.

Radical engineering design, Dr. Seal says, is what he likes best. His students agree and have a proud record in competitions. In 1996, the Society of Automotive Engineers named Dr. Seal one of the nation’s 10 best faculty advisers. In 1990, he was one of five Washington citizens The Seattle Times cited for their contributions to science. He also received the 1983 Ralph Teetor Outstanding Engineering Educator Award from the International Society of Automotive Engineers.

A technology educator by training and an automotive hobbyist since his youth, he holds a D.Ed. from Texas A&M University, an M.Ed. from Western Washington University, and a B.Ed. from the University of British Columbia. He and his wife, Eileen, are originally from Vancouver, B.C. After more than 20 years as his volunteer assistant, Mrs. Seal- — who wrote the Department of Defense and Department of Energy grant proposals — became a part-time paid staff member in 1994. In their “spare time,” they sail on Bellingham Bay.

Cover Story

Birch Street Subdivision Project Entangled In Legal Morass

by Larry Moss

Larry Moss is president of Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge and a nephrologist (a specialist in kidney diseases and hypertension). Born and raised in Iowa, he has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1989. He enjoys backpacking, gardening, and birding.

With more twists and turns than the Florida Electoral College, the Birch Street Subdivision project is losing steam as it runs into one legal snag after another. The controversial mammoth-sized project, in the works since 1998, was slated to construct 172 homes on 79 acres of forest land just inside Bellingham’s city limits.

As of November 1, 2000, work had ground to a halt following the issuance of a “Stop-Work” order by the City of Belling-ham for violations of the Forest Practices Act.

Council Approved Preliminary Plat

The proposal had gone through a lengthy planning and review process during 1999 before garnering preliminary plat approval by the Bellingham City Council in November 1999.

Citizens living in the vicinity of Birch Street, disgruntled that very few of their concerns had been addressed by the Planning Commission or the City Council, formed a non-profit citizens’ group “Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge” shortly thereafter. The Concerned Citizens’ mission is to preserve the quality of life in the Whatcom Falls residential area, protect neighborhood forests and streams, and promote safe, sensible development.

Appeal Filed by Citizens’ Group

In December 1999, the Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge filed an appeal before the Whatcom County Superior Court under the Land Use Petition Act. The Concerned Citizens’ contention was that the city had incorrectly issued a “determination of non-significance,” and had failed to notify the proper agencies, such as the state Department of Ecology during the planning and scoping phase of the project.

The determination of non-significance essentially meant the city planners felt that converting 79 acres of first and second-growth forest land with steep slopes, huge conifers, abundant native wildlife and two important tributaries of Whatcom Creek over to standard cookie-cutter Americana subdivision would have no significant environmental impact and, therefore, no environmental impact statement would be needed.

Court Rules Against Citizens

In May 2000, Judge Steven Mura ruled against Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge stating that the citizens’ group had failed to carry the burden of establishing that the city’s “determination of non-significance” issuance had been clearly erroneous or proving that the city had failed to mail the proper documents to the Department of Ecology (despite the lack of any entry in the Department of Ecology’s State Environmental Policy Act registry).

This was clearly a legal opinion but certainly not a common-sense one. Yet Judge Mura cited contradictory language within the statutes governing the case, including the Land Use Petition Act, the state Environmental Policy Act, and the 1995 Integration of Growth Management Planning and Environmental Review Act.

Judge Encourages Appeal to State Court

On four occasions while reading his opinion, Judge Mura encouraged the Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge and lawyer Roger Ellingson to appeal the case because its content would help reconcile the various statutes. That is precisely what Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge proceeded to do. The case now rests before the Washington State Court of Appeals with no hearing date set at this time.

Project Work Begins

Despite the pending appeal the developers, Pennbrook Company of Bend, Oregon and owner, Bellingham 88, LLC headed by Kevan Kwamme, decided to begin work on the project in early October.

Never mind the difficulties and uselessness of completing an environmental impact statement on a partially constructed subdivision project, should the Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge prevail in court. The developers’ goal was to complete stream crossings of Hannah Creek via culvert and bridge before the winter rains began.

Without any advance warning, neighbors were surprised one beautiful fall morning to suddenly see and hear all sorts of heavy equipment trundling down tiny Birch Street. Soon thereafter, the chain-saws started and beautiful old cedars and stately Douglas firs began to fall.

Loggers Cut Wrong Trees

It did not take long for things to go awry. When a surveyor arrived on scene the first day of logging (Friday, October 6), he discovered that the wrong area had been cleared! A large swath of trees had been felled and cleared on both sides of the creek for 50 to 100 feet.

A public works inspector was notified and halted work until things “could be sorted out Monday morning.” However, when Monday arrived, the crew had simply moved upstream and began clearing again — fortunately the correct location this time.

The log trucks rolled down Birch Street hauling their bounty while concerned neighbors counted and photographed and documented. Clearing the wrong stream site would prove to be only the beginning of problems for the Birch Street Subdivision Project.

Developers Lack Required Permits

Snoopy, observant neighbors are one thing that the Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge have in abundance. Inquisitive members did some checking and found that the developers had committed additional errors.

They failed to obtain a Forest Practices Act permit which is a standard Department of Natural Resources issue that even seasonal or small-time loggers are fully aware of — even to log a few trees from a personal woodlot. Among full-time loggers, this violation would be akin to driving without a license. Failure to obtain the permit carries a mandatory six year moratorium on further logging of the property. The moratorium may only be lifted by the local enforcement agency (i.e., you guessed it, the City of Bellingham). However, at this point, the City of Bellingham has no process or timetable for lifting such a moratorium having never encountered this situation before.

State Halts Timber Harvest

The Department of Natural Resources filed a “notice to comply” on October 11, 2000, effectively halting any further timber harvest and instructing the city to issue a “Stop-Work” order which, after much cajoling and badgering by the Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge, eventually was executed on October 20, 2000.

The developers appealed the decision to the regional office of the Department of Natural Resources, but at an informal hearing before a Department of Natural Resources officer on November 21, 2000, the order was upheld. The decision may be appealed further to the Washington State Forest Practices Board but is not likely to be overturned.

Hannah Creek Stream Bed Dredged and Scraped

Since all the trees near the stream-crossing had been cleared by the time the timber harvest Stop-Work order came down, construction workers busied themselves next with “preparing” West Hannah Creek. Vegetation was bulldozed, the stream bed dredged and scraped, and the sandstone banks chipped and bludgeoned away. Large forms were readied for the first laying of cement this 79 acres has ever known. The enormous cement wing walls and culvert soon followed.

Federal Law Violated

Once again, the developers’ haste proved to be their downfall. Another construction activity, another violation. This time no U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit for stream bed work had been applied for. Nettlesome neighbors had once again done their homework and spoiled the party.

The Department of the Army was notified and a sharply worded letter from the Corps District Engineer Ralph Graves to Kevan Kwamme ensued. The November 13 letter stated: “You have discharged dredged or fill material into waters of the United States without a Department of the Army permit. …. I consider this work to be in violation of Federal law.”

Engineer Graves questioned why no permit was obtained when the developers’ consultant, Associated Project Consultants, had applied for and received several Department of the Army permits in the past.

He spelled out the conditions now necessary for a permit to be issued including completion and submission of a biological evaluation by a qualified biologist. This evaluation must take into consideration the impact of the proposed development on salmon species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act enacted May 24, 1999. This violation will also involve additional federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Serious Flaws in City Planning Process

Why would a developer commit such gross violations, including the incorrect clearing of a sensitive riparian area? Was it more arrogance or incompetence? Perhaps some of both.

Nevertheless, the fact these violations were committed early in the construction phase of a controversial and closely scrutinized project raises serious questions regarding the abilities and sincerity of this developer should the moratorium be lifted.

Furthermore, these incidents point out serious flaws in the city subdivision planning and construction process. Is this “development as usual — Bellingham style”? If it had not been for diligent citizens checking on mundane permits and then notifying the proper officials, would anything amiss have been noted down at the city planning department? Sadly, I think we all know the answer to this question.

Does the fact that city planning staff failed to notify the Department of Ecology of its Park Ridge determination of non-significance decision in April 1999 surprise or anger anyone? Or does the fact that the 52 entries from Bellingham that did make it into the Department of Ecology’s State Environmental Policy Act registry for 1999 all were determinations of non-significance surprise or anger anyone? These facts concern us greatly but also serve to strengthen the resolve of our members and make us ever vigilant and pesky.

Proposal to Preserve Park Ridge as Open Space

The fate of the Birch Street Subdivision is now more uncertain than ever. The legal and administrative obstacles have allowed everyone to take a step back and contemplate other uses besides development for Park Ridge.

Last month, students at Huxley College of Environmental Studies proposed preserving Park Ridge as natural open space. Their report in the form of an environmental impact assessment (available at the Bellingham Public Library and at Wilson Library on the WWU campus) points out that the Growth Management Act requires cities and counties to identify important wildlife habitats and designate appropriate natural open space areas as a part of the planning process.

This parcel was designated as natural open space in the 1995 Bellingham Comprehensive Plan because of its size (79 acres), riparian areas, function as a wildlife corridor between Whatcom Falls Park and Galbraith Mountain, and the presence of snags, large trees and downed logs. Park Ridge’s suitability as a urban natural open space and its recreational opportunities motivated the students’ proposal.

The hope of the Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge is that additional voices around the community and within city government will support this proposal and that purchase of all or part of the property for conservation, recreation, wildlife habitat, and nature study through gifts, grants, outright purchase, or money raised through bond issues will materialize. That would be a victory for all the residents of Bellingham, present and future.

Local History

The Story of How Whatcom Falls Became a Park

by Aaron Joy

Aaron M. Joy is the Bellingham Herald librarian and is completing his sociology degree at Western Washington University.

Editor’s Note: The following is the sixth in a series of articles recounting the history of Bellingham’s Parks, adapted from “A History of Bellingham’s Parks” by Aaron Joy (available for sale at the Whatcom Museum and Henderson’s Books).

Created: 1908
Location: 1401 Electric Avenue
Area: 241 acres

On the front page of The Bellingham Herald of August 19, 1904, the following endorsement was quoted from local resident Adam Chapman, with the first paragraph excerpted here:

“The question of parks is an important subject that confronts the people of the city of Bellingham. Health and recreation are of more importance than anything else to any citizen, and now is the time to form the nucleus for recreative places for the people at large, and the first stepping-stone is a well planned park. This city needs at least two good parks. There are two admirable sites — one at Whatcom Falls and the other, an ideal spot on the top of Chuckanut mountain. The fact that Whatcom Falls has no equal as the center for a park needs no comment. It is one of nature’s charming resorts and now, even in its natural state, thrills the soul of the visitor with inspiration.”

Popular Support for Park Gains Momentum

The idea of purchasing the Whatcom Falls land for park purposes soon blossomed into a massively popular cause for support by many residents and organizations as the years progressed.

Action towards the park’s creation was finally taken in 1908 when the Young Men’s Commercial Club (YMCC) used “popular subscriptions” to raise funds to purchase a tract of forty acres for $12,000 for use as a park. This price was half the value of the land, which was proposed by the previous owners as a way of quickly ridding themselves of a tax burden and “unproductive” lands.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, city governments seldom allocated funds to purchase and develop land, particularly lands slated for park use, thus leaving the task to philanthropic groups and wealthy prominent citizens.

The YMCC planned to be only temporary caretakers of Whatcom Falls Park, retaining the land only until funds became available and the Park Board could buy it for the city.

The records of the early years of the YMCC have been lost and/or destroyed, but it is known that founding members included such leading citizens as J. H. Bloedel and J. J. Donovan of the Bloedel Donovan Lumber Mills, Glenn Hyatt, last president of the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company, Fred Wood of the E. K. Wood Lumber Mill (on the site of the future Broadway Park) and early banker and proprietor of one of the first theaters in Whatcom County, Purdy’s Opera House, E. W. Purdy.

Women’s Club Improves Park Facilities

In 1910 the Whatcom Falls Park Club, a women’s club, was formed, “determined that for lack of accessibility and proper accommodations within, the joy spot of the Northwest was going to waste,” and became the unofficial caretakers of the park. With a membership fee of $1 a year and steady determination and hard work, the club soon endowed the land with numerous attractive improvements.

Within a couple years they had built two bridges, both with donated lumber, improved the trails, placed rustic seats and picnic areas throughout the park, erected restrooms, and built a pavilion. During a climax of improvement activities in 1912 the club held a fundraising campaign that eventually raised enough money to buy a three-acre neighboring tract that extended the park to Electric Avenue, connecting the park to the Lake Whatcom streetcar line.

City Buys $50,000 Park Tract

The desired future purchase of the park by the city continued to be endorsed by numerous citizens and groups, including the Whatcom Falls Park Club. In November 1913 an editorial in The Bellingham Herald quoted them as saying:

“A park such as Whatcom Falls park is an asset to the entire city that cannot be measured in monetary consideration. Such a park site in New York City would be worth millions of dollars, and no doubt they would pay several millions of dollars for a creek and park such as we have here.”

In 1916 funding finally became available and both the Bellingham Water and Park Boards approved purchase of the Whatcom Falls Park tract, offered to the city for $50,000, combined with a cemetery track of 210 acres. The purchase had a three part objective: 1) additional cemetery lands to add to the existing twenty acres, 2) completion of the acquisition of the entire water rights of Whatcom Creek, from its mouth down the four miles to its end at “Lind’s gravel pit,” and 3) “the permanent securing of valuable land at very reasonable prices for park purposes.”

In 1936 the fish hatchery was built in the park through funding from the Work Projects Administration. The fish hatchery provides game fish — steelhead, rainbow and cutthroat trout — for Washington waters.

Origin of the Stone Bridge

In 1936 the Parks Board started to become concerned over a decaying wooden bridge, built by the Whatcom Falls Park Club over the upper falls, that was in emergency need of replacement.

Coincidentally, the Bellingham Bay National Bank Building (not to be confused with the Bellingham National Bank), on the northeast corner of State and Holly Streets (today the Holly Plaza shopping complex) and former home to the Whatcom County Railway & Light Co., a streetcar company, was slated for demolition.

In 1930 the building had been arsoned, and combined with a coal mine that was causing the ground to sink, the building was declared uninhabitable and stood vacant. When it finally came down in 1938 the Chuckanut sandstone blocks that formed the arches around the building’s windows were hauled to Whatcom Falls Park. The blocks were recycled into a new bridge the following year, under the auspices of WPA and CPA projects, replacing the decaying wooden bridge.

Ada Hogle Abbott of Western Washington College of Education’s Art Department (now Western Washington University) designed the new Chuckanut sandstone bridge.

Disaster Strikes in 1999

In 1999 the park received an unpredicted surge of restoration projects and a partial facelift, due to the disastrous outcome of the unexpected explosion of a gasoline pipeline running through the park. The explosion scarred the park, particularly around Whatcom Creek, when it sent a raging gasoline-based fireball burning down the creek boiling everything in its path, both fish and plants, and killing three young people.


The Rusted Shield

State Agencies Condone and Facilitate the Decline of Wild Salmon

by Daniel Jack Chasan

Daniel Jack Chasan is a Vashon Island writer and attorney.

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh part of a series on the history of Washington State government and its attempts to circumvent environmental laws. This paper, The Rusted Shield, was commissioned by the Bullitt Foundation and is being reprinted with permission.

Part Seven

If the short-term interests of traditional “stakeholders” and the long-term interests of wild salmon coincided, there would be no endangered species listing, no sense of crisis. They do not coincide.1 But salmon do not call their legislators to complain. A desire to please — or at least not antagonize — certain key stakeholders is deeply ingrained in the responsible agencies.

State Agencies’ Constituents Are Fishers, Developers, and Power Companies Rather Than the Fish.

Lichatowich says, “When I worked for the state institutions what I heard over and over again was that our constituents were hunters and fishermen.” However, he notes that fishing and hunting license fees contributed only a small percentage of the agency budget, so non-sportsmen, mere taxpaying citizens, paid most of the bills, but were not considered to be constituents.2

The Federal Power Commission has been conducting a “relicensing” process for the City of Tacoma’s illegal Cushman Dam. The process has dragged on for years. The Skokomish tribe, which has a treaty right to salmon in the Skokomish River, has intervened, and has sued the city for $5.7 billion.

The state Department of Ecology has been involved. Ecology told the Federal Power Commission frankly that Cushman relicensing would violate the Coastal Zone Management Act — but in the interests of avoiding delay for Tacoma, Ecology declined to object. Ecology stated that “the project as proposed by Tacoma does not comply with Washington’s Coastal Zone Program, and will not be conducted in a manner consistent with the program requirements.” Nevertheless, “in order to avoid any additional delay to the licensing of this project, Ecology hereby declines its right to take action under its Coastal Zone Management authority.” 3

Not long ago an engineer received a call from a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife official soliciting his help for a landowner who was trying to secure Fish and Wildlife approval for a project. The engineer was surprised; he would have expected the landowner himself to call — not a representative of the agency that would subsequently review his work.4

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has actually drained wetlands to provide pheasant habitat convenient to Seattle-area hunters.5

Salmon Are Treated as if They Were Fungible

As a society, our goal has been to put fish in the nets of commercial fishers and on the hooks of sport fishers. Government has tried to distribute the fish among political “constituents.” Hatchery fish serve just as well as wild ones for this: a constituent can catch, sell or barbecue one as well as the other. If small wild runs mingle in the Sound or the ocean with larger hatchery runs, the state has often let fishermen take so many hatchery fish that the smaller run of wild fish has been endangered.

“Harvest areas are ‘zoned’ by species for specific wild stock or hatchery fish management emphasis,” former Washington Department of Fisheries scientist Sam Wright has written. “What this means is that any commingled wild stock in a hatchery fish management zone will be harvested at the high fishing rate necessary to fully harvest hatchery fish. In virtually all cases, severe overfishing results [on] wild stocks.” 6

The state has knowingly sacrificed wild runs. In 1997, the environmental impact statement for the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wild Salmonid Policy states bluntly that “current fish management plans and practices overfish 89 wild stocks in order to harvest co-mingled hatchery fish at rates that are not sustainable by wild populations.” 7

“Most people do not believe that a fish management agency should condone extinctions or at least not until a formal environmental review process has occurred,” Wright has written. “The extinction plans are, unfortunately, working.” 8

Harvest and Hatchery Problems Are Not Treated as Seriously as Habitat Problems

In the current discussions of saving wild salmon, many people have suggested that harvest is not really much of an issue, and have avoided dealing forthrightly with hatcheries. Environmental groups soft-pedal harvest issues to avoid alienating commercial fishermen or tribes, and to focus attention on the habitat losses that are their traditional concerns. Government takes much the same tack. One high-ranking federal official has described the remaining harvest problems as “a piece of cake.” The idea that we can take harvest and hatcheries off the table, Lichatowich suggests, enables fishery management agencies to pretend that they are not part of the problem.9

There is not much commercial fishing in the Sound any more and Lichatowich says one can argue that harvest is not a problem because “at the [harvest] levels they’re talking about, they’re only going to catch a few wild fish.” But managers “treat [the incidental wild catch] as though it’s a harvestable surplus. That’s dumbfounding to me. Where you’re down to the last five percent, to talk as if there’s a harvestable surplus is just mind-boggling.” 10

The sport catch is not what it used to be, either, but sport fishing for salmon in Puget Sound has long been considered a kind of birthright, and it retains a very vocal constituency. Sport fishing for black mouth in the Sound has been a particularly hallowed local institution. But sport fishing regulations ignore the fact that “black mouth” are actually immature chinook, and that when chinook spend years in the Sound, the black mouth fishery may deplete the migrating salmon population for two years running before the fish are ever officially harvested.11

Next Month — Part Eight:
Where We Must Go Next: Recommendations


1. Because they do not, the desire to involve stakeholders in the decision-making process has often compromised salmon management. Upstream quotes Sam Wright’s observation that, “Fishermen make poor management allies due to their perpetual optimism about strengths of the salmon runs and their understandable preoccupation with short-term economic considerations.” Committee on Protection and Management of Pacific Northwest Anadromous Salmonids, op. cit.
2. Lichatowich, personal communication.
3. Washington Department of Ecology letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, May 6, 1997, cited in brief of Skokomish Indian Tribe; The Federal Power Act makes dam licensing a federal prerogative, but a state can use its own prerogatives under other federal laws to influence the process—if it wants to. “In ruling that the state could impose minimum flow conditions on a FERC-licensed project, through section 401 of the Clean Water Act, Justice O’Connor’s opinion for the [U.S. Supreme] Court referred to an attempted separation of water quantity concerns (as reflected in the FERC licensing process) and water quality concerns (under the Clean Water Act) as an ‘artificial distinction.’ She noted that ‘[i]n many cases, water quantity is closely related to water quality; a sufficient lowering of the water quantity in a body of water could destroy all of its designated uses, be it for drinking water, recreation, navigation or, as here, as a fishery.’ Advocates of water law reform should adopt Justice O’Connor’s holistic view of the water resource and view the FERC relicensing process as a central element in restoring water flows in many Northwest river basins.” Blumm, Michael, “Seven Myths of Northwest Water Law and Associated Stories,” 26 Environmental Law 141, 149 (quoting PUD No. 1 of Jefferson County v. Washington Dep’t of Ecology, 114 S. Ct. 1900) (1996).
4. Beardslee, Kurt, Washington Trout, personal communication.
5. ibid.
6. Wright, Sam, “Fishery Management of Wild Pacific Salmon Stocks to Prevent Extinction,” Fisheries, Vol. 18, No. 5 (May, 1993).
7. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Wild Salmonid Policy (September 1997).
8. Wright, op. cit.
9. Lichatowich, personal communication.
10. ibid.
11. Wright, personal communication.


Profile of a Socially/Environmentally Concerned Local Artist

by Russell Hugo

Russell Hugo is originally from a small town south of Olympia, WA. He has lived in the Bellingham area long enough to discover that we have some of the best hiking in the Northwest. He has also enjoyed the opportunity to write for music/video related publications over the years.

For this issue we interviewed local artist Dana Lyons. Dana recently played in town for the one-year anniversary of the World Trade Organization conference. Also playing that evening was the independent film “This Is What Democracy Looks Like.” The event was heralded as a successful and appreciated outlet for the community.

Also worth noting is his song “Cows With Guns,” which charted at number one for an entire year on the nationally syndicated Dr. Demento radio program.

Dana is well-known for his sense of humor and friendly demeanor. But he continues to pursue his serious and urgent concerns for everything from the environment, to social and political topics. He tackles them with great respect and fairness through both music and activism.

QUESTION: Let’s start by introducing yourself and your style of music.

ANSWER: My name is Dana Lyons. My style of is probably closest to folk, but I prefer to call it country- comedy- grange-rock-fusion. Some folks have referred to me as the godfather of grange. You know Neil is the godfather of grunge.

QUESTION: How long have you lived and played in the Whatcom area?

DANA LYONS: I’ve lived here since 1991. Actually I have been playing here since 1985, when I lived in Seattle.

Q: What brought you to the area?

LYONS: It was my girlfriend at the time.

Q: How long have you been playing guitar and writing songs? LYONS: I started piano lessons at age seven, guitar at age 12. But I started writing songs when I was 14.

Q: What is your feeling on playing “at home” versus on tour?

LYONS: Playing at home is scary. Because you know everybody and they can see if Lyons has learned anything new in the last ten years or not. The last show I played, which was the World Trade Organization show, I tried very hard to play new songs because of that fear.

Q: You have played quite a bit over the years. Who is/was one of your favorite acts to play with?

LYONS: I love playing with Jim Page, a folk singer from Seattle. He is an amazing songwriter. Here in town we have killer musicians; I love playing with Tim McHugh, Brett Lovins, Jim Lindquist, Mike Simmons, and Burke Mulvaney on hand drums.

Q: I thought I would get your take on a local hot topic. What are your thoughts on the new proposed SE2 power plant in Sumas?

LYONS: The power is not for here. It is just another example of some big corporation wanting to make some money and pollute our countryside.

Q: I know you were heavily involved in the “Run for your life” gathering. Would you mind stating its purpose once again, and how did you feel about its impact in the end?

LYONS: I think the purpose for the “Run for your life” was kind of a humorous way of drawing attention to the dangers that Georgia Pacific poses to our community. I thought it very effective and very funny. There are two main things we need to do. Shut down the toxic waste incinerator that’s in the middle of our town, which Georgia Pacific runs. And also, get the chlorine out of our town.

Q: Where is the waste incinerator located? Is it on the premises?

LYONS: It’s part of the plant. It is the biggest stack that you see. They call it the “Hog fuel incinerator.” They ship in tons of toxic waste a day, from Canada, to burn in our downtown. It’s just ridiculous.

Q: And your thoughts on the mercury cleanup plans?

LYONS: The first thing I would do is say zero emissions to the air or water. I think the Department of Energy is lame. If Georgia Pacific simply switched from bleached to non-bleached paper, which a bunch of mills already have in the country, they could stop releasing a lot of the pollution and still keep all of the jobs. If they want to be responsible corporate citizens they need to reinvest in our plant to modernize it. Asking them to retool for chlorine-free non-bleached paper supposedly will cost them about eighty million dollars. That’s less money than they make in one year here. That way they could still make a modest profit, reinvest and have a modern plant.

Q: On the promotional end of things, I know that radio has been a huge supporter of your work. With the connection between corporations and the media, and the window of opportunity to hear music such as yours shrinking considerably day by day, I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

LYONS: The radio in this country (commercial radio) blocks out virtually everyone but people who are on big labels. It was a miracle that “Cows With Guns” got on commercial play. I actually know of no other songs that got that much commercial play without being on a major label.

Most musicians don’t realize that we are severely disadvantaged in America as opposed to other countries. Other countries require their radio stations to play their country’s musicians a percentage of the time.

I believe in Canada they are required that 15 percent of the songs on any radio station have to be by Canadian players [musicians]. And Australia it’s the same. In Australia, when someone makes a video they are virtually guaranteed to get play on Australian MTV. And they will get radio play. Other countries promote their artists.

What I would recommend we do here in America is to make it a law that 10 percent of songs on the radio have to be by bands from that state. If they made a law like that we wouldn’t have to be competing with Sony and Warner Brothers all of the time.

Q: What about college radio as an alternative?

LYONS: The problem with college radio is the big labels have infiltrated those too. KUGS [Western Washington University station] is a good example of it. It used to be a community radio station. Major labels have worked hard to influence the programming on college radio. Now there are only a few community shows on there. This has happened to college radio stations all over the country. Incidentally, National Public Radio lobbied to have a lot fewer low-bandwidth stations, because they didn’t want to compete. National Public Radio in the eighties was responsible for taking away many of our community radio stations. I think we should all be aware of that.

Q: Do you have any plans for the near future to head in to record a new studio album?

LYONS: I do. I have a bunch of new songs I want to put on a new album. The last couple of months I have been touring trying to raise money to record that album. As you may know, making albums is very expensive. I have to wrap up this tour first, then take two to three months to work on songwriting. This next album I really don’t see any revolutionary changes in style. I just want to take each song, give it everything it and try to make it beautiful sounding.

Q: With the inception of the internet, Do-it-Yourself (DIY) artists were granted a new lease on music distribution and promotion. A few have expressed sincere disappointment in the execution of certain affairs. What is your take on this?

LYONS: I think the internet is really important. I think the thing that is going to evolve into the musician’s favor is the access to online radio stations. All of a sudden we musicians can have our own station for really no extra money at all. It’s not the end-all answer by all means.

You still have to promote, still have to gig. In the old days someone had to listen to your tape or call the 2 a.m. show on KUGS to hear your song. Now if someone hears your gig, and tells their friend “Hey you’ve got to hear this band.” Go look at the website, or look at Mp3.com.

Q: What is your take on the current Bellingham arts scene?

LYONS: I think we are in the middle of a renaissance. I don’t want to say that too loudly, because I don’t want to attract riff-raff from Seattle.

We have an incredible scene here in Bellingham because we haven’t been discovered. I think the longer we go undiscovered the better. It’s incredible the amount of great artists, writers, musicians, theater people, and journalists in this town. I don’t know how long this is going to last, but we should all appreciate what we have now.

Q: How about we end the interview with a good film or book recommendation for our friends.

LYONS: If you want a realistic portrayal of the music world, you should watch “Spinal Tap,” an important rock and roll film documentary.

Whatcom Watch Award

George Jartos is “Watcher of the Year”

The Whatcom Watch staff would like to express their appreciation to George Jartos for his willingness over the years to share his cartooning talents with us. He often comes up with whitty, insightful cartoons on short notice to illustrate Whatcom Watch articles, like last month’s front page. On these pages is a selection of favorite Jartos cartoons, some of which have appeared in our previous issues.

George Jartos was born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He attended the University of Colorado for one semester. George spent three years in the army as a paratrooper.

After studying at the Art Students League in New York City for six months, he lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and Berkeley, California. Over the years George has worked as a commercial fisherman, security guard, machine operator, minor league pro football player, longshoreman, dishwasher, sign painter, and artist’s model.

George moved to Bellingham in 1970. He has worked as an illustrator/cartoonist since 1976 in order to support himself as a sculptor. He hopes to have a gallery show of his sculpture in a few years. George’s cartoons appear in national magazines around the world, including Japan, England, the United States, and Australia.

George distributed monthly issues of Whatcom Watch to many downtown locations where readers pick them up.

Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro is giving George a free dinner, in recognition of his generous contributions through the years.

-----------------Lots of pictures go here!---------------


The Pacific Northwest Is a Global Fuel Cell Epicenter

by Patrick Mazza

Patrick Mazza is staff writer-researcher for Climate Solutions. This article is excerpted from Climate Solutions’ report, “Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution: How the Northwest Can Lead.”

In the global ascent of fuel cells to become a major 21st century energy source, some of the most significant drivers are Pacific Northwest companies and institutions.

When Daimler-Chrysler and Ford begin selling fuel cell cars in 2004, the engine will be the product of a Vancouver, B.C.-area company, Ballard Power Systems. One of the world’s leading fuel cell developers, Ballard in 1998 joined with Daimler and Ford in an $800 million global partnership.

Ballard fuel cells already run three city buses each in Chicago and British Columbia. In January 2000, Ballard unveiled the production model car fuel cell, 50 percent smaller and 50 percent more powerful than previous incarnations. The 800-employee firm also announced it will build a $300-400 million North American plant. On those announcements, Ballard stock soared 25 percent.

The company is also working with Coleman on 1-to-25-kilowatt fuel cells for portable generating applications. Ballard is also moving into power plants for buildings. By 2003 it aims to market a 250-kilowatt unit capable of powering whole neighborhoods.

Government Support

Ballard is a prime example of how public investment can drive regional clean energy industries into the lead. The British Columbia provincial government over the past few years has devoted $30 million to Ballard and overall fuel cell development. That laid the groundwork for the recent announcement of Canadian federal investment in a Vancouver-based fuel cell research center.

Public support on the U.S. side is coming from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), which is sponsoring the first residential-scale fuel cell demonstration project by an electrical utility anywhere. By July 2000, BPA and several utility partners will install 10 three kilowatt fuel cells in homes unconnected to power lines or in need of backup power.

If results are satisfactory, they will install another 100 by 2002. The hand-crafted units are now $50,000 apiece, but costs will steeply plummet with mass production. Johansen has issued a challenge to regional utilities to offer micropower at five cents per kilowatt hour over the next five years, making it competitive with grid-delivered power.

Fuel source for the original ten units is methanol, which is mostly derived from natural gas. But further units could use a variety of fuels including ethanol which can be made from farm crops. While ethanol releases carbon dioxide, emissions will effectively be zero since growing new feedstock will soak up CO2.

Breakthroughs by a Bend, Oregon company help make the Bonneville fuel cell initiative possible. Northwest Energy Systems has developed a fuel processor to extract hydrogen, which drives fuel cells, from fossil and biomass fuels. It is small and economical enough to run home-scale units. The company stands to make $3.5 million if all 110 units are installed.

Also in the fuel processor game is Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which recently drew an “R&D Magazine” R&D 100 Award for developing an ultra-compact processor to be used in vehicles.

Air-Conditioner Size Fuel Cells

Yet another utility-connected company is jumping into fuel cells. Spokane-based Avista Labs, part of the old Washington Water Power, will begin delivering residential fuel cells by the end of May 2000. At least 200 of the 720-watt air-conditioner-size fuel cells will be customer tested over the next two years in preparation for a two-kilowatt device to be marketed in three to four years. The January announcement that Bill Gates has bought five percent of Avista is one sign of growing interest in fuel cells by high tech investors.

Avista has come up with a unique design which solves a critical fuel cell problem. Fuel cells can be damaged by impure fuel, necessitating shutdown and repair of the entire unit. Avista’s fuel cell eliminates that need with modular design. The cell is composed of a dozen videotape-size elements that can be individually removed and replaced even as the unit is operating.

Wastewater Gas Powers Plant

In Portland one of the nation’s first three fuel cells powered by wastewater gas has operated at the Columbia treatment plant since July 1999. The 200-kilowatt unit helps power the facility and is fueled by the plant’s major byproduct, methane which, if allowed to escape, is a highly powerful greenhouse gas.

While its electricity is about one-third more expensive than grid power, the unit provides reliable current during outages, obviously crucial for sewage treatment. After a test phase, the city may install more fuel cells at the plant.

Fuel cells are coming on quickly to take a major place in the clean energy revolution, thanks in significant part to the drive and innovation of visionary Northwest companies and public agencies.

Land Trust Purchases First Property With Book Profits

The Whatcom Land Trust has purchased the first property using income from sales of its popular book, “Whatcom Places.”

The 19.5-acre property includes nearly 1000 feet of riverfront, and is located one-half mile west of the Mosquito Lake Road Bridge over the North Fork of the Nooksack River. East of the property is the Land Trust’s newly created Deming Homestead Eagle Park behind Carol’s Coffee Cup on Truck Road.

The site was purchased from a private landowner entirely with profits from book sales. Published in 1997, “Whatcom Places” is an award-winning photo essay on the county that has sold over 7,000 copies. All book profits are specifically restricted to direct land acquisition and preservation by Whatcom Land Trust.

“Everyone who ever purchased a copy of ‘Whatcom Places’ has had a hand in conserving this land,” says book editor and Land Trust board member Bob Keller.

“This property is valuable for salmon spawning, eagle feeding, and winter elk migration,” says Gordon Scott, Whatcom Land Trust conservation director. “It fits perfectly into our SEE (Salmon, Eagle, Elk) program,” Scott observes, “and in this case, thousands of people buying a beautiful book made it possible.”

Whatcom Land Trust is a local, nonprofit nature conservation organization founded in 1984. Its mission is to help people preserve and protect wildlife habitat, scenic, agricultural, and open space lands in Whatcom County. Whatcom Land Trust presently protects over 5,600 acres of land in Whatcom County through donated conservation easements, gifts of land, and collaboration with local governments and corporporations.

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