Whatcom Watch Online
April 2001
Volume 10, Issue 4

Cover Story

Orca Decline Spurs Effort for Endangered Species Listing

by Matt Parker

Matt Parker is a senior majoring in economics and environmental studies at Western Washington University, who will graduate this spring. He spent fall quarter as a volunteer for the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

“Hot damn! There they are! Looks like we won’t fly home without a couple of hits today.”

“You can say that again, captain! I’ve been waiting all day to see the slick, black bodies of those beasts! Let’s fly in and blow ‘em clean out of the water!” “Fair enough, but we need to focus now. Shooting a killer whale from up here isn’t as easy as it seems. Let’s take her in nice and easy….”

This Is Not a Fictitious Scene

We allowed the United States Air Force to use orcas for target practice in the 1950s. Now, people from all around the Pacific Northwest are shocked by a report that found only about 84 orcas of the southern resident population remain to pierce the glossy surface of the inland waters of Washington and British Columbia with their distinctive black dorsal fins.1

The report, which exploded into news headlines late February after being distributed by the Center for Biological Diversity of Tucson, Arizona, gave the whales a one-out-of-five chance at surviving beyond the next 300 years.2 Three-hundred years, that is, if the stars are aligned over the orcas and there are no major oil spills or other catastrophic events, natural or unnatural, that lessen their chance at survival.

Despite precariously low numbers, these historic symbols of Pacific Northwest sea lore are not protected under the Endangered Species Act by an “endangered” or “threatened” designation. Some environmental activists and scientists, however, refuse to accept this ecological injustice, and are preparing a petition that could lead to an Endangered Species Act listing for the orcas.

Benefits of Endangered Species Listing

Kieran Suckling, the executive director for the Center for Biological Diversity who is spearheading the petition, knows just how beneficial an “endangered” designation would be for the orca population. “Though everyone knew salmon populations were crashing for years, the government did little to seriously address the problem until the salmon were listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA listing will take orca conservation from wishful thinking to real legal mandates,” Kieran said.

Short of strapping congressmen to the glistening backs of swimming orcas, listing the whales is the only way to bring official governmental attention to them. The publicity created by a listing would invoke more people to demand the preservation of these whales through activism and financial contributions to environmental groups.

At least as important as publicity, the Endangered Species Act allows for the creation of species “recovery plans.” One such plan for the orcas would force the government to formally address the likely extinction event by developing a list of species recovery steps. This planning process is one step towards compelling Uncle Sam to look under his couch cushions for orca funding.

Critical Habitat Designation

In addition to a recovery plan, the Endangered Species Act allows for “critical habitat” designation. Critical habitat, for the orcas, would be any part(s) of the marine ecosystem orcas depend upon for survival. Classified habitat would garnish special protection and even enhancement from various government agencies. With regards to the southern resident orcas, National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency responsible for listing the whales, would be a main agency responsible for conserving orca habitat.

“Habitat” can extend beyond the immediate waters used by the orcas to areas critical to prey populations. For example, salmon and herring spawning areas, including stream riparian zones (in the case of salmon), might be deemed vital to orca population success. Accordingly, this could result in further protection for salmon spawning ecosystems, lower fishing quotas for salmon and herring, stricter whale-watching restrictions and any other mandates deemed necessary to insure the survival of the whale population.

Without a petition to the National Marine Fisheries Service for an endangered species listing, these species-saving measures have a cat’s chance at a dog show of being implemented.

“In theory, the National Marine Fisheries Service could pro-actively list the population on its own. In practice, however, the agency never lists anything without a petition submitted by citizens,” Suckling said.

Scientific Documentation to Be Submitted

The citizens, in this case, are respected scientists and environmental advocacy groups who are working on a lengthy technical petition. The Center for Whale Research, People for Puget Sound, Friends of the San Juans, the Whale Museum and more have contributed months of volunteer labor to the petition cause.

The finished product, which is scheduled for submittal by the end of March, will be a 100-page collection of the latest and most accurate scientific documentation of anthropogenic orca population stress. Filling the pages will be analyses of polychlorinated biphenyl contamination, population viability, species life history, whale-watching effects and current regulation impacts.

Submitting the document only starts the cogs of the governmental engine churning. A final decision regarding endangered status doesn’t have to be made by the National Marine Fisheries Service, theoretically, for 24 months, but the process could drag itself out. Regardless of the jabba-like speed of the listing process, Suckling believes the petition alone will help the orcas. “Though the listing process could take two or more years, the mere threat of listing usually spawns a host of habitat protection measures and additional conservation funding,” he said.

Revealing the culprit of orca population decline, human activity, is the key to the petition’s success; species dwindled exclusively by mother nature cannot secure an endangered listing. Orca population numbers have jumped around over the decades, but an overall decline in animals can be blamed on humanity. “It is true that the southern resident population has experienced fluctuations in the past 40 years. We can definitively show that the declines were caused by humans; they are not natural,” Suckling said.

Dining on PCBs

“The most contaminated animals on the planet,” according to famous oceanographer and explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, orcas suffer from an industrial hangover. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), used industrially in the 1930s through the 1970s in the United States, saturate their bodies, likely affecting their immune and reproductive systems.

Beluga whales in Canada’s St. Lawrence estuary with polychlorinated biphenyl body concentrations less than one-fifth that of southern resident orcas exhibit low birth rates, degraded immune systems and subtle physiological disturbances.3

Southern resident whales literally dine on polychlorinated biphenyls while they eat massive quantities of contaminated salmon. Salmon feed on herring that bioaccumulate the chemicals through the plankton they eat. Plankton simply assimilate the contaminants from the water around them, water tainted by the chemical runoff of America’s past and the daily sprinkling of atmospherically carried polychlorinated biphenyls from countries all over the globe where the chemicals are still being used.

Orca Food Source Dwindling

Orcas jet through the frigid Puget Sound hunting fish that are not only contaminated, but also increasingly scarce. Several species of salmon, fish that account for up to 90 percent of orcas’ diets,4 are depleted in orca ecosystems. Some of these salmon species, similar to orcas, have suffered population decline from overfishing, habitat degradation and prey reduction.

An underwater freak show at Cherry Point exemplifies the dwindling population of important salmon prey. Mangled and sometimes infertile, blue-green herring born in the state’s biggest stock at this polluted Whatcom County location face possible extinction.5 They represent yet another species suffering some sort of environmental hazard. Some scientists suspect this prey stock, which many Puget Sound marine animals depend upon, is plagued by industrial activity and dumping at Cherry Point.

Though chemical contamination and dwindling food stocks are the major reasons for orca deaths, boats loaded with camera-toting tourists could be disturbing the whales. The extent to which whale-watching affects the orca population, however, is understandably difficult to scientifically document and quantify.

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Orcas are now the poster-child for the Puget Sound and connected waters. This favorite northwest sea hunter embodies the health of our local marine ecosystem just as Chief Seattle stood for the honor of Pacific Northwest Native Americans. The orcas’ proud silhouettes define the horizon with the snowy peaks of the jagged Olympics. Their impressive 20-foot bodies, painted sharply with contrasting black and white, are models for environmental advocacy advertisements, movies and even stuffed animals sold the nation over. What better creature could bring sound to the voiceless beckoning of the fertile, flowing sea?

Listing the orcas as an endangered species is one tangible, if small, step the National Marine Fisheries Service can take to improve the overall ecological health of Pacific Northwest waters. Please, if you feel so moved, call/write them with the number/address listed below and tell them why you believe the southern resident orcas need to be listed as endangered before it is to late to save them. The listing process will not work without your help.

Status of Northwest Power Projects

by Connie Hoag

Connie Hoag represents the 2nd District on the Whatcom County Council

On March 5, 2001, I spoke with Jeff King, with the Northwest Power Planning Council, and verified the power projects in the Northwest. This is the current status of projects which are either under construction or have permits in hand, but have not yet begun construction.

I have not listed projects which are still in the permitting process, as these may have issues that may prevent permitting. There are also projects further south which will be available to provide power for West Coast and Northwest demand, but I have not included those in the accompanying list [see sidebar: Projects Currently Under Construction in the Northwest on page 5]. According to Dick Watson, Northwest Power Planning Council, on the West Coast 6,900 megawatts will be available by summer of this year, and another 1,300 by December.

Small Hydro

Additionally, the Northwest Power Planning Council estimates approximately 300-400 megawatts of power could be produced by small run-of-the-river hydro projects, at an average cost cap of five to six cents per kilowatt (comparable to gas and wind). These projects are generally above natural barriers (such as waterfalls) to migratory fish, so avoid many Endangered Species Act issues.

They also do not require large reservoirs, but instead rely on gravity due to drops in terrain. West of the Cascades, the peak flows are November-May, which correspond with our peak seasonal power demands.

In British Columbia, estimates have been placed on 1,000 megawatts of availability from proposed run-of-the-river plants.


The Northwest Power Planning Council estimates, based on a report adopted in 1997, that cost-effective conservation can provide in excess of 1,500 megawatts of power availability.

Load Management

The Northwest Power Planning Council estimates that 1,500 megawatts of power could be made available through load management, which they have practiced in the past, but are not currently utilizing.

Projects Currently Under Construction in the Northwest

Plant               Output 	Type 						Estimated completion
Coyote Springs 2    200 MW 	Gas-fired combined cycle 	June 2002
Hermiston Project	536 MW 	Gas-fired combined cycle 	Second quarter 2002
								with cogeneration 			
Kalamath Co-gen     484 MW 	Gas-fired combined cycle 	July 2001
								with cogeneration 			
Rathdrum 			270 MW 	Gas-fired combined cycle 	Nov. 2001
Stateline Wind 		300 MW 	Wind 						In stages, 200 MW July-Dec.
														2001, balance in 2002
Hydro upgrades 		 66 MW 	Upgrade existing equipment 	2001
	Total Megawatts 1,856 

Permitted But Not Yet Under Construction in the Northwest

Plant 			Output 	Type 						Comments
Chehalis 		520 MW 	Gas-fired combined cycle 	Plan to use dry cooling
Cowlitz Co-gen 	395 MW 	Combined cycle co-generation
Everett Delta 	242 MW 	Gas-fired combined cycle 	Lacks permit for natural gas line
Frederickson 	249 MW 	Gas-fired combined cycle
	Total Megawatts 1,406

Northwest Regional

Plant 			Output 	Type 						Comments
Power Facility 	838 MW 	Gas-fired combined cycle 	Far from grid and gas line
Satsop 			630 MW 	Gas-fired combined cycle 	Just purchased by Duke Energy 
													from Energy Northwest (WPPS)
	Total Megawatts 1,468

Comments: Of the above sites, the sites considered “active” are Satsop, Frederickson, and Chehalis. The balance have obtained permits, but have not indicated an interest in moving forward at this time.

Commonly Asked Questions About Sumas Energy 2 Plant

by Connie Hoag

QUESTION: Is this plant the answer to the current energy crisis?
ANSWER: No. SE2 has asked EFSEC not to be required to build within five years. There are already six projects under construction in the Northwest, with enough power for 1.8 million new homes. Another six plants, with power for 2.8 million homes, have permits in hand, but have not yet begun construction. Additionally, on the West Coast, power for 8.2 million homes will be available by the end of this year.

QUESTION: Is Sumas a good location for a power plant?
ANSWER: No. The site is in a floodplain, with recent floods covering the site. It sits directly atop an active earthquake fault, with 1,000 feet of unconsolidated sediments between the surface and bedrock. It is hemmed in by mountains to the north and east, trapping pollutants, and causing ambient pollution levels above healthful limits. There are additional problems with aquifer impacts, flooding, and noise.

QUESTION: Would the plant be OK if they removed the diesel?
ANSWER: No. Even without the diesel, the plant emits nearly three tons per day of hazardous pollutants in a confined air shed that is already compromised, and the problems with flooding, earthquakes, noise, and aquifer impacts remain.

QUESTION: Is this the cleanest plant ever proposed?
ANSWER: No, there are plants with better technologies which have been permitted in other areas.

QUESTION: What does NESCO mean when they say this plant is so “clean?”
ANSWER: They are referring to the ratio of nitrogen oxide, not to the total pollutant output of the plant. For example, they say that SE2 will be cleaner than SE1. However, when questioned further, they will admit that the amount of pollution will be much greater, but the ratio on nitrogen oxide is less. The sheer size of the plant will make it one of the heaviest polluters in the area. Their nitrogen oxide emissions would equal 50 percent of Fraser Valley nitrogen oxide point sources.

QUESTION: Is this plant “state of the art”?
ANSWER: No. They are employing SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) technology to reduce nitrogen oxide outputs, which is a technology that has been around for over a decade. Selective Catalytic Reduction requires ammonia, and this plant will emit 278 tons per year of ammonia because of this choice of technology. SCONOX is a newer technology, which in field tests reduced nitrogen oxide much lower than the proposed SE2 ratio, requires no ammonia, and also reduces carbon monoxide. It is permitted in two other power plants at this time.

QUESTION: Will air quality improve because this plant burns natural gas rather than coal?
ANSWER: No. There are no coal plants in our air shed, and experts agree that coal plants will not be shut down because of this plant. QUESTION: Will this plant cause health problems? ANSWER: Yes. It emits over three tons per day of hazardous and toxic pollutants, and will raise ambient levels above healthful limits.

QUESTION: Why does NESCO say that it meets all standards?
ANSWER: They are referring to standards which are based on 25-year-old medical data. Our current standards do not adequately protect public health. Recent studies by the American Lung Association, Harvard Medical, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Environmental Protection Agency, Environment Canada, and the American Cancer Society, along with hundreds of other epidemiological studies all demonstrate that this plant will cause statistically significant adverse health impacts. There is also debate as to whether this plant will cause violations of Canadian air standards. It will cause violations of Canadian health reference levels. NESCO is concentrating on whether they cross a legal threshold, not whether they cross a health threshold.

QUESTION: Will offsets remove the problem?
ANSWER: No. The air that children at Sumas Elementary School breathe will be too high in pollutants. Offsets in other areas will not benefit them.u

Lummi Ownership of Reservation Tidelands is Disputed

by Marlene Dawson

Marlene Dawson is a member of the Whatcom County Council where she recently served two years as chair. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from Western Washington University. She resides at Sandy Point within the boundaries of the Lummi Nation. Marlene’s hobbies include gardening and research of local Indian history.
Editor’s Note: This is a response to the March 2001 article, “An Open Letter to Whatcom Watch Readers” (page 3).

I wish to thank the staff of Whatcom Watch for the opportunity to respond to the piece submitted by Pauline Hillaire in your March edition.

I wish to place myself on the written record as having no desire to undermine the Lummi tribe’s sovereignty. A major difference between my position and certain tribal members is how we define words.

Ms. Hillaire has indicated I have discredited the Lummi Nation’s effort to settle a tideland lease agreement with residents. I don’t believe I have publicly made any statement as it relates to this negotiation. As long as Ms. Hillaire has raised the issue, I will express my personal thoughts on the matter.

Guaranteeing Title

It is good business practice to have title guaranteed before entering into a lease of the magnitude being requested. My research on the matter has raised some questions.

Fifteen years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stated in writing, that the only way to resolve the tideland disputes was to get “title” addressed. Although the tribal attorney has stated “title” is not an open question, the Interior Department placed a disclaimer and would not guarantee title in the old 1960 Sandy Point tideland lease. The tribe did not involve the Department of Interior with the county’s lease at the ferry dock, which I believe could have resulted in a similar disclaimer.

According to CFR25 CFR162.5, contracts involving tribal trust land or services to such land must have Department of Interior approval or they are null and void. The information that contracts are null and void without Interior approval was previously not known by our city and county attorneys. If Department of Interior oversight had been provided on the City of Bellingham’s contract for delivery of water to the reservation, non-Indian residents could have recourse against Interior for not insuring the enforcement of non-discriminatory use of a municipal water supply.

Public Interest

Regarding the tideland issue, Ms. Hillaire wanted to know where the county interest was in this matter. The county interest relates to any future lease at the ferry location. County residents pay taxes on the portion of beaches that the tribe claims as their own.

There is a public interest in access to Portage Island. The tribe claims “ownership” of the tidelands and as such denies public access to Portage parklands. This island was contracted with the tribe to be a park for all people for all time. The Interagency for Outdoor Recreation, a state agency in charge of reviewing compliance, has stated that the tribe has continued to be out of compliance since they signed the contract, some twenty years now.

There is also a public interest served by permitting Clean Sound Vessels to moor at Sandy Point. Until the entrance can be dredged, to which the tribe is objecting, the refineries continue to be without “close” immediate 24-hour response.

Indian Reorganization Act

It is my understanding that case law can be modified by “higher” court rulings and Congressional acts. In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act was adopted. This act permitted tribes that organized under the terms of the act to vest “title” in surplus, unallotted lands.

Following this act, Interior was directed to place “title” on all the surplus lands remaining within the reservation boundary. On the Lummi reservation, the tidelands were the only surplus lands left. The Lummi people voted in 1935 not to organize under the Indian Reorganization Act.

Submerged Lands Act

In 1953, the Submerged Lands Act was adopted. This act was an affirmation of the Equal Footing Doctrine, a constitutional doctrine which hold that all states acquire submerged land upon statehood.

As it related to tribes, the act requires tribes to prove “congressional” intent for ownership of submerged lands. In 1954, the Department of Interior was again directed to place “title” on all lands that tribes had a “legal” claim. I believe the tribe has yet to prove congressional intent.

The Lummi Nation can provide no “titled” document from the Department of Interior that states the tidelands are in exclusive federal trust. In fact not only has Interior stated in writing that the tribe has no “titled” document but Interior’s land records for the Lummi reservation do not list tidelands for federal trust management.

All case law that I’ve reviewed, concerning the Lummi Nation, reports the acreage of the reservation under 12,440 acres. Yet, reports published by the Lummis say the reservation acreage is approximately 22,000 acres. The tribe reports the uplands at approximately 13,000 acres and their tidelands as being over 8,000 acres.

An interesting comment was made at the hearing of Bolt II of the shellfish case, by one of the three judges. The following was his statement as I remember it: “In common cannot have ‘multiple’ definitions. One cannot define in common as meaning 100 percent of the resource within the reservation boundary and at naval reserves and 50 percent of the resource elsewhere.”

Beach Rights

The Point Elliott treaty states we are to fish in common and shellfish are included in the definition of fisheries, as Ms. Hillaire appropriately pointed out. Consequently, it doesn’t appear appropriate, by any definition, to permit a tribe to require leases from residents or payment from the public to access the beaches for their in-common right to the resources. Tribes do not pay the owners to walk on private beaches to dig clams.

I have come to the conclusion that while it is appropriate to say the tidelands are located within the boundary of the reservation, that for jurisdiction and ownership purposes they are not part of the surveyed reservation. This concept can be compared to the county boundary that includes federal and state park lands, lands held in trust for all people, but over which the county has no jurisdiction.

Tribal Title to Tidelands

About a year ago, I called tribal attorney Skip Johnson. Based on a number of new federal actions, I suggested that title to the tidelands needed to be clarified and wondered if the tribe would be willing to do a quiet title. He said he would raise the question with the council but suggested that the Stotts case, a district level 70-year-old case, was sufficient to support tribal title. I believe, based on the information shared here, that most wouldn’t consider it wise or prudent to enter into a tideland lease with the tribe.

Ms. Hillaire refers to a parade of nightmares that have occurred in tribal history. While I certainly won’t dismiss the history, I believe that generally the citizens of the United States are evolving at a faster rate than much of the world when it comes to treating their fellow citizens with respect and dignity.

In conclusion, I would like to say that Ms. Hillaire and I appear to have a lot of similar interests. We both have bachelor degrees in education and enjoy doing research. I am sorry if in some way I have personally offended Ms. Hillaire. I understand her deep desire to protect the culture and integrity of her tribal government. At the same time, I can only hope that someday she will understand my position for fairness and accountability.

Folk and New World Music Carry the Message for Local Band

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 April I sat down with Burke Mulvany from the local group Akaraka. I recently had the opportunity to see them perform at Allied Arts, which spurred my interest in an interview. Akaraka is an extremely congenial band with a wide variety of talent at their disposal. All of the members are residents of Whatcom County and have participated in numerous local events over the past few years.

Russ Hugo: Starting off, a brief introduction of who you are and what instrument(s) you primarily play. Also who are the other members of Akaraka and what their preferred instruments are.

Akaraka: My name’s Burke Mulvany and I play native flutes, guitar, percussion and lead vocals. On keyboards we have Bob Paltrow, on viola Phil Heaven, on harmonica, percussion, and vocals is Jason Darling, on d’jembe drum and shakers is Melissa McConnell. And using Udu, percussion and vocals is Jamesa Noel.

Q: How would you describe your music as a style or art form?
Akaraka: Our original tag line was, “Akaraka the fresh acoustical fusion.” Recently we have been experimenting with various styles including incorporating some electric energy into our performances. Overall, we are a spontaneous blend of folk and new world music with a splash of improv.

Q: How long have you as a group been writing together?
Akaraka: We came together in the fall of 1996, when we put together a performance to open up for Trillian Green in the Fairhaven Auditorium. Since then, Akaraka has become a musical community in all aspects of the word. Not only do we all work together in some association for the local label, Soundings of the Planet, but most of us also all live near each other in Fairhaven.

We really like to incorporate musical interaction with the audience when we perform, especially with the kids — which can be witnessed weekly at the farmers’ market in summer where Melissa, I, and other members of the group can be found.

Q: Do you have any memories of your last Earth Day performance you would like to share?
Akaraka: The last memory of an Akaraka Earth Day performance was back in 1997 when Earth Day was rained out and we had to move it indoors. At that time, Akaraka was booked to play on the outback stage, which due to the circumstances had to be moved into the Viking Union coffee shop. The great part about the show was we opened again for Trillien Green, and that show drew a crowd of over 300 people. Members of Akaraka have played at every Earth Day for the past seven years. It is always a great honor to share our music at the Earth Day celebrations.

Q: What local ecological issues does the band focus on, or care about the most?
Akaraka: We are such an eclectic group working in numerous areas and with other artists that if it affects the community, it ultimately affects us as a band. Therefore, we strive to stay in tune with local causes and issues — especially ones as pressing as the SE2 plant, the pipeline, and the area’s drinking water. I was recently invited to do a flute solo at the SE2 rally on the courthouse steps. Melissa and I also played with Dana Lyons, Tim McHugh, Swil Kanim, and others at a pipeline rally last summer. My belief is that music is a spectacular vessel to inspire social change.

Q: Georgia-Pacific has been a strong presence in the area now in many ways of concerned ecological and health-related activism. Do you have any personal thoughts, fears, or encouragement on how things are being handled or negotiated?
Akaraka: Yes, I want to put out a special thanks to Friends of Whatcom for their massive community outreach program to help educate our community on all sides of the issue surrounding Georgia Pacific. This recent battle over whether or not our community wants to allow 40 diesel generators in our downtown to power the plant is definitely a cause for caution and alarm.

Q: Speaking earlier of Earth Day, you have always had a major hand in the event; what are your thoughts and plans for this year’s celebration?
Akaraka: Over the past seven years I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be a leading facilitator and director of the Earth Day gatherings at Western Washington University. This year our event [opening the Earth Day Festival, Sunday, April 22, at 10:30 a.m.] will encompass a diverse array of music, art, speakers, educational outreach, organic foods, and more. Some of the features to this year’s festival will be a community dinner, Earth Day family photo, children’s parade, and an evening musical extravaganza with the Land of Mu.

Q: What are your thoughts on the decision about the SE2 plant?
Akaraka: I am very excited that through the power of solidarity as a community we were able to stand up, say no, and let that voice be heard. We can, and we are, making huge positive changes in our community.

Q: What do you see your focus in the future being as a band? Any plans to record an album?
Akaraka: We currently finished up a four-song festival demo, and we also have plans for a full-length release we hope to have out by fall. Our plans as a band musically are to continue to expand as well as “tighten” our live performances. We are very excited about the depth and quality of music we have been fortunate enough to share with our audiences and each other.

Q: Do you have any upcoming gigs, besides Earth Day, that you would like to share with our readers?
Akaraka: You bet! We will be performing at the Farmers’ Market every Saturday in April and May, and at Stuart’s on Thursday, May 31st at 7:30 p.m.

Q: Well, thanks for taking the time for the interview; how about a movie recommendation to wrap it up?
Akaraka: I highly recommend putting a smile on someone’s face by going to see “Chocolat.”

For More Information For booking information or if you have any questions concerning Earth Day please contact: earthwishing@hotmail.com

Port Comment Periods Draw a Variety of Citizen Complaints

by Daniel M. Warner

Accountability, Carpenter Wages

At the February 20 comment period two people spoke.

John Servais asked, regarding the port:

1. Is there local accountability? He said the port competes with local business and deals too much with non-local firms promoting the welfare of large corporations, and the port does not deal enough with local business.

2. Is there environmental responsibility? He said the port is not environmentally sensitive, witness such projects as the toxic dump in the bay and selling real estate to the SE2 owners.

3. Is there fiscal prudence? He said there are “buckets-full of waste” and that the port sells land at fire sale prices instead of market value.

Mr. Servais gave the commissioners a letter detailing his concerns, and the commission asked that the staff examine his letter and be prepared to specifically address his complaints.

A second person spoke. Eric Franklin is the director of organizing for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, representing union carpenters. He complained that while the port pays the “prevailing wage” for carpenters on its own projects ($30-32 an hour including benefits), it allows its tenants to hire carpenter services at $10-12 an hour with no benefits. This is not, Mr. Franklin said, a living wage.

And to the assertion that effectively requiring the port to pay a prevailing wage on all its properties would cost the taxpayers more, Mr. Franklin said that the taxpayer eventually picks up the tab for those without income security in such forms as welfare, uninsured hospitalizations, public funding of pensions, and so on. The commission directed staff to check into these complaints.

Trash, Security and Lighting

At the March 6 comment period three people spoke.

Warren Hansen is a live-aboard. (He lives on his boat at the Marina — lots of folks do!) He had concerns about trash removal and security, and said he wishes the port would hire a harbormaster who knows about harbors.

John Servais reminded the commissioners of what he presented last time (See Feb. 20 comment period), and distributed several pages—a questionnaire for contractors—that might partially address the issue of tenants on port-owned property paying their skilled tradespeople less than a living wage.

Jan Willing grilled the commissioners again (see Whatcom Watch, March 2001, page 15) on issues of trespass light. What has the port done to insure that tenants comply? Will the hotel and the Paulson Bldg. come into the compliance study promised? Are new lights to be fully shielded?

At first the commissioners bristled; Commissioner Ginny Benton asked Ms. Willing if she (Jan) knew the difference between “comment period” and “interrogation,” and informed Ms. Willing that the commissioners were not seated to be interrogated. However, the tone soon became more friendly. Commissioner Douglas Smith avuncu-larly observed that “progress” has degraded the quality of life where he lives, so it is not surprising that others, like the Willings, should experience the same.

Director Jim Darling updated everyone on the lighting status. The port advertised for a lighting-review consultant to review the harbor light system, to develop standards for appropriate lighting, and to retrofit lights as feasible. Commissioner Scott Walker said that no matter what exactly came of the port’s efforts on lighting, there had been “a sea-change on how the port thinks about light” as a result of the Willings’ (and others’) comments over the years, “a significant new sensitivity.”

Harbor Lighting

At the March 20 meeting outdoor lighting was again discussed.

In response to complaints by neighbors, the port has engaged the services of a Seattle consulting firm, Candela. The firm will conduct a thorough inventory of the port’s present lighting, make recommendations for retrofitting where feasible, suggest standards for future lighting, and work with the port to adjust present lights so as to minimize “light trespass.” The price of the contract was not discussed at the short work-session devoted to it.

The commissioners again thanked Peter and Jan Willing (Jan was present) and others for having been persistent in their concern and for having “sensitized the commissioners to the lighting issue at the port and in general.” Commissioners Douglas Smith and Scott Walker promised that they would continue to pay attention to this matter.

Industrialist’s Gift Transforms Lumber Mill into Bloedel Donovan Park

by Aaron Joy

Aaron M. Joy recently graduated from Western Washington University with a sociology degree and is employed part time as the librarian for The Bellingham Herald.

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a series examining Bellingham’s parks. It is based on the book “A History of Bellingham’s Park,” available at the Whatcom Museum store and Henderson’s Books.

Created: 1946
Location: 2214 Electric Avenue
Electric Avenue at Whatcom Creek
Area: 12 acres

“Rough or Dressed Fir and Cedar Lumber, Shingles, Sash and Doors, Box Shooks and Lath.” This phrase highlighted an ad in the “lumber department” of the Bellingham City Directory of 1920 for Bloedel Donovan Lumber Mills, one of the largest shippers of lumber in the Pacific Northwest. The prosperous Bloedel Donovan Lumber Mills had its roots in three early industrialists and a modest lumber and logging camp.

In 1898 industrialist J. H. Bloedel of Wisconsin met up with J. J. Donovan of New Hampshire. Both of these men where occupied at the time with hauling logs for timber needs from Lake Whatcom.

Donovan (1858-1937) was formally employed as the chief engineer of the Fairhaven & Southern Railroad, when he met Bloedel (1864-1957), manager of the Samish Lake Lumber & Mill Company and developer of Lake Whatcom’s Blue Canyon Coal Mine.

Joined by Scandinavian railroad man Peter Larson (?-1907) the trio formed the Lake Whatcom Logging Company on August 11, 1898, after buying 160 acres of timber on land formerly occupied by the Blue Canyon Coal Mines. The new logging company had only 18 men and a horse.

Lake Whatcom Lumber Mill

Discovering that it was more profitable to sell timber in the form of lumber, the Larson Lumber Mill was established on Lake Whatcom in 1901. Though a silent partner, Larson was its president until his death, with Donovan as vice-president and Bloedel as manager and secretary. The company quickly became the largest all-rail shipper of lumber products in the Pacific Northwest.

In 1913, the Larson Lumber Mill, the original Lake Whatcom Logging Camp (now greatly expanded beyond its 18 men and a horse days) and a cargo mill on Dock Street (Cornwall Avenue) were merged together as the Bloedel Donovan Lumber Mills, with Bloedel and Donovan at its head.

One of the first cargoes of West Coast lumber shipped through the Panama Canal was by the Bloedel Donovan Lumber Mills. This company was much larger than its Bellingham site, owning and logging acreage across the state and into Oregon and Idaho.

The company always had a good reputation, priding itself on repaying all loans on time. But, this changed with the Great Depression. In 1932, for the first time, the company failed to repay a debit by the deadline, which marked the beginning of the end. The next year the company was given its first loan by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation under the National Recovery Act. In 1944 liquidation proceedings were started.

Bloedel Donates Mill Site

In September 1946, Bloedel and his wife Mina donated a 12-acre tract on Lake Whatcom, formerly the site of the Larson Lumber Mill, to the City of Bellingham for use as a park and bathing beach, with around $100,000 for its development. Original plans called for an ice area, but not enough funding was available for the addition.

On August 11, 1948, the anniversary of the forming of the Lake Whatcom Lumber Company, the new Bloedel Donovan Park was dedicated. More than 1000 spectators were present, including the 84-year old Bloedel, as guest of honor, who formally gave the park to the city’s residents.

In the 1960s the Bloedel Foundation gave numerous financial contributions to the park board for improvements to the park, including an improved swimming area, a new permanent float, a diving board and a public boat-launch ramp. The 1960s was also when the Permanente Cement Company donated “Old Number 7” as a monument in the park. This is a 1918 steam switching engine that would have been very familiar to Bloedel, Donovan and Larson.

In 1980, the community building was renovated and the former caretaker’s residence turned into a classroom. In 1983 there was significant interest in building a fire station on the southern corner of the park. After much “heated” controversy the proposed Silver Beach Fire Station was not constructed.


Whatcom Museum to Exhibit Presidential Cartoons by Pat Oliphant

A unique collection of presidential artworks by nationally syndicated political cartoonist Pat Oliphant will make its first appearance in Washington State as the Whatcom Museum of History and Art in Bellingham presents “Seven Presidents (Make That Eight): The Art of Oliphant,” April 22 through July 8, 2001.

The exhibition, originally titled “Seven Presidents: The Art of Oliphant,” has traveled nationally since its 1995 inception at the San Diego Museum of Art. The artworks span Oliphant’s career, depicting each American commander-in-chief since Lyndon B. Johnson. This exhibit at the Whatcom Museum will be the first to include portrayals of an eighth president, George W. Bush.

Highly respected and widely followed, Oliphant’s work often appears in The New Yorker magazine, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, as well as hundreds of newspapers and magazines worldwide. For the past 36 years, his satire has created visual impressions of our leaders as heroes, villains and all too human individuals.

A self-professed admirer of Honore Daumier, the French political cartoonist who was jailed in the 1830s for offending King Louis Philippe, Oliphant believes “caricature – and, by natural extension, political cartooning—is a language unto itself.”

He too is honored to offend political leaders. “I don’t think there’s too much of a good thing as far as freedom of thought is concerned. I think this country is marvelous in that you can indeed criticize, without fear of libel, public figures,” he told CNN in a 1998 interview.

Oliphant was born in Adelaide, Australia, where he first became an editorial cartoonist in 1955. His experience there with oppressive editors, led him to develop his trademark Punk, the penguin, a tiny figure who expresses the artist’s opinion in many of Oliphant’s images.

In 1964, Oliphant moved to the United States to work for The Denver Post. His cartoons became nationally syndicated the following year. In 1975, he was hired by the Washington Star, which folded in 1981. At that point, Oliphant decided to become an independent cartoonist without a home newspaper. He is the only artist who continues to do so successfully.

His award-winning work has been exhibited at the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution and numerous museums across the country. After its 1995 opening in California, “Seven Presidents: The Art of Oliphant” has traveled to Texas, Missouri, New Mexico, Georgia, Florida, Virginia and Mississippi.

The Whatcom Museum of History and Art hours are Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. For more information please call (360) 676-6981 or log on to www.whatcommuseum.org.

Oliphant Events

Oliphant On Stage, Sunday, April 22, 2:30 p.m., Mt. Baker Theatre. As “Seven Presidents (Make That Eight): The Art of Oliphant” opens from noon to 5 p.m. at the Whatcom Museum of History and Art, renowned political cartoonist and satirist Pat Oliphant will demonstrate his craft in a special 2:30 p.m. performance at the Mt. Baker Theatre. General admission tickets are available for $5. Students with I.D. may receive one free ticket each. To reserve tickets call the Mount Baker Theatre box office at (360) 734-6080.

Cartooning 101, May 12 and 13, 12:30–3:30 p.m., Whatcom Museum Syre Education Center Classroom. This workshop is for kids and adults who think they’re kids! Taught by Allen Peterson, newsroom graphic artist for The Bellingham Herald, the workshop is designed for those who are starting out in cartooning. It will cover the fundamentals of cartooning: physical proportions, creating funny and interesting characters, and using a pencil and pen. Peterson has been with The Bellingham Herald for 14 years, creating graphics, charts, maps, and political cartoons. He has taught black and white illustration at Western Washington University where he received a B.A. in Graphic Illustration. He also has been published nationally in a comic book. Recommended for ages 8 and older. $36.00 members/$48.00 general.

The Right and Left of Political Cartoons. Sunday, May 13, 2 p.m., Whatcom Museum, Free. History Professor Kurt Dunbar presents a political science perspective on the political cartoon. The art of lampooning our favorite targets – primarily politicians – is an old and honored tradition. Dunbar will look at the ebb and flow of political tides through the medium of cartoon illustrations that can often distill and reveal the events and passions of an era better than words. He says, “If you think Bill Clinton or George W. Bush are great grist for the cartoon mill then you will love what past illustrators did to the likes of Teddy Roosevelt or Richard Nixon!” Dunbar teaches history and political science at Skagit Valley and Whatcom Community Colleges as well as at Western Washington University. For more information call the Whatcom Museum at (360) 676-6981.

You Can Attract Hummingbirds to Your Yard

by Susan Taylor

Susan Taylor is co-owner of Wildside Growers & Landscaping. The nursery specializes in Pacific Northwest native wildflowers and shrubs.

My husband and I discovered a rufous hummingbird nest in a cedar tree in the back corner of our property last May. The tiny nest made of plant parts, mosses and lichens held together by spider webs blended in so well that we would have never noticed it had we not seen the mother flying to the nest.

The female hummingbird incubates one to two eggs for two to three weeks. The young hummingbirds leave the nest in about 25 days. Since the nest is placed on a low branch we were able to watch the young hummingbird grow. We even saw it strengthening its wings by perching on the side of the nest and flapping.

You can learn more about the two species of hummingbirds that regularly breed along the Pacific Northwest coast on the Web. The Cascadia Hummingbird Report, found on the Web, reported the first rufous hummingbird males arrived in the Seattle area February 27.

The rufous hummingbirds return to the Northwest lowlands from Mexico in early spring and migrate south in late summer. Anna’s hummingbirds are year-round residents in some areas west of the Cascades. They are more frequently sighted in urban areas in the winter months. Anna’s hummingbirds have in March already been reported to be engaging in courtship behavior from Vancouver in British Columbia to southern Oregon.

Hummingbirds expend a lot of energy. They have a fast heartbeat and high body temperature to maintain. They must feed every 10-15 minutes throughout the daylight hours. A hummingbird can consume two-thirds of its body weight each day. Their diet consists of nectar from flowers and tree sap as well as insects and pollen. The insects and pollen provide needed protein for muscles.

Drawing Hummingbirds to Your Backyard

Hummingbirds seem to have a memory for food sources. There are two ways you can add your backyard to their feeding territory. The first is to use a special feeder filled with a sugar solution.

The sugar solution should be one part white table sugar and four parts water. Boil the solution for about 30 seconds to retard mold growth and let it cool before using. Do not use honey, brown sugar or artificial sweeteners. The honey encourages molds that contain botulism toxins and will kill hummingbirds. Artificial sweeteners have no calories and the hummer may actually starve to death. Dye, food coloring, and flavorings are considered unsafe.

Hummingbirds are territorial and will fight to defend their food sources, so several smaller feeders is better than just one large one. You can put out your feeder in early March. Clean the feeder every three to five days by rinsing with hot water and, if necessary, a little vinegar (no soap). Use a bottlebrush to completely remove any mold or yeast. Refill the feeder with new solution. Feeders can help birds get through cold spells or periods when you have no nectar flowers blooming.

Plants for Hummingbirds

Another way to attract hummingbirds is to add known hummingbird plants to an existing garden. Hummingbirds prefer natural sources of nectar to solutions. Use native trees, shrubs and wildflowers. Our local wildlife has evolved in association with our local native plants. There is a mutual need or interdependence between plants and hummingbirds. As the hummer pushes its bill inside the flower to lick the nectar it needs, it rubs against stamens and pistils. This pollen is then deposited on the next flower. The flower requires a pollinator. The bird needs a source of high-energy nectar.

The perfect hummingbird flower has long, tube- shaped blooms. Single flowers usually have more nectar and the nectar is more accessible than in double flowers. There is usually no platform on which to land and feed as with flowers that attract butterflies. The flowers should be widely spaced along the stem to accommodate whirring wings since the hummingbird does not land to feed. Native wildflowers fit all of these requirements.

Your garden should feature plants that bloom from March to August to provide a consistent source of food throughout the time that hummingbirds visit our area. Provide some of these Pacific Northwest native plants and you will have happy hummers in your backyard. There are a number of trees that have spring flowers that hummingbirds utilize such as: madrona, Pacific dogwood, Pacific crabapple, bitter cherry, and cascara. It is difficult to draw an arbitrary line between spring and summer blooming plants. The bloom periods frequently overlap the division. The accompanying limited list (see sidebar: Plants to Attract Hummingbirds) is offered to help plan for successive flowering from March to August.

Plants to Attract Hummingbirds

Note: the ‘spp.’ after the genus name means that there are multiple species of that genus that are considered good hummingbird plants.

Spring-Blooming Native Shrubs and Vines Red-Flowering Currant Ribes sanguineum Indian Plum Oemleria cerasiformis Salmonberry Rubus spectabilis Trumpet Honeysuckle Lonicera ciliosa

Spring-Blooming Native Perennials Camas Camassia spp. Bleeding Heart Dicentra formosa Iris Iris spp. Cluster Lily Brodiaea congesta Trout Lily Erythronium oreganum Chocolate Lily Fritillaria lanceolata Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum Blue-Eyed Grass Sisyrinchium spp.

Summer-Blooming Native Shrubs and Vines Mock Orange Philadelphus lewisii Ocean Spray Holodiscus discolor Birchleaf Spiraea Spiraea betulifolia Hairy Honeysuckle Lonicera hispidula

Summer-Blooming Native Perennials Nodding Onion Allium cernuum Sea Thrift Armeria maritima Lupine Lupinus spp. Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa Sitka Columbine Aquilegia formosa Monkeyflower Mimulus spp. Penstemons Penstemon spp. Harsh Paintbrush Castilleja hispida

Looking at the Bigger Medical Waste Picture

by Noel Nobrega

Noel Nobrega is the plant manager at the Whatcom Medical Regional Waste Facility, located at Recomp’s waste management complex in Ferndale.

Editor’s Note: This article is a response to the Whatcom Watch article by Peter Tassoni, “Infectious Waste Issue Still Not Settled,” (February 2001, page 19)

Recent media coverage centering around the Whatcom Regional Medical Waste Facility has brought several critical issues to light, yet many are still unclear about our treatment of medical waste.

One thing is clear. Everyone involved in this discussion is seeking to do their job in the best possible manner—including council members, the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, the Whatcom Regional Medical Waste Facility, Recomp, attorneys, and health officials. Everyone also seems to share similar goals: community and environmental safety.

Let’s address several new developments and review why Initiative I-99 has not yet gone into effect.

Air Emissions

Many have discussed “air emissions.” In summary:

“There have been no air emissions violations in excess of permitted levels, no noxious odors, and no adverse air affects on air quality concerning the medical waste facility at Recomp, specifically regarding its steam processor or autoclave. As for the small-scale natural gas-fired boiler, which is scrutinized by the agency both in terms of original permitting and in routine inspections, it has never been out of compliance with the Northwest Air Pollution Authority air pollution regulations.”

In summary, there are no air emission problems from the Medical Waste Facility (or from Recomp’s solid waste facility, since there is no incinerator).

No Autoclave Violations

Several have mentioned observing violations and that the autoclave Recomp purchased had been “mothballed” in Canada because of violations there.

About five years ago, while the autoclave was being operated by another company in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, there were minor infractions involving excess discharge water and odor complaints. Those were addressed and corrected, and the facility continued its operations.

Recomp purchased the autoclave and installed it at its facility in early 1999, adopting measures recommended by state and local authorities to avoid even the sorts of minor infractions that occurred in previous years before in British Columbia.

Throughout the period the autoclave has been used in Whatcom County, the county Health and Human Services Department has conducted numerous unannounced inspections (16 last year), lasting one to two hours. Inspections have accelerated this year to an average of one per week. The consistent finding: no violations.

Noxious Air Emissions

There have been concerns of “noxious air emissions” or “odors.”

In way of background, there are three different and physically-separate business operations on Recomp’s property:

Odors on the property are attributable not to the autoclave facility, but to other activities, principally the composting operation. Even those odors have been significantly reduced by measures that have been implemented by International Mushroom Sales.

After the composting operation began and there were odor complaints, the City of Ferndale hired an odor expert to undertake an inspection with which Recomp cooperated fully. He submitted a 16-page report concerning the three operations, dated October 17, 1999. In reporting on the medical waste operation, he never used the words “noxious air emissions” that have been attributed to him. (You may request the full report from the City of Ferndale.)

What is the present “odor” status?

  • The medical waste facility has since built permanent cover over the compactor at the side of the building.

  • During the recent series of tours of the facility, one woman stated on March 8, 2001, “the smell was like that of the steam smell at a laundry.”

    As per the experts and the tour attendees there are no “noxious air emissions.”

    How Effective is the Autoclave Treatment?

    Addressing this question, the Whatcom County Health and Human Services Department:

  • Requires the medical waste facility to test the autoclave at least once during each 40 hours of operation and does additional unannounced testing of its own.

  • Imposed rigorous spore testing that placed a mass of live spores difficult to destroy within every full load of waste subjected to steam treatment.

    Test Results

    Whatcom County Health and Human Services recently stated, “Since start-up began in May 1999, all of Recomp’s weekly tests and Health and Human Services unannounced spore strips samples have shown negative test growth.” In short, the autoclave has been completely effective.

    Review of the Initiative (I-99) Process

    I-99 was passed by a majority of Whatcom County voters as a county ordinance. After it passed, a member of the Whatcom County prosecuting attorney’s office concluded that I-99, as a county ordinance, did not apply in incorporated cities since the county generally has no legislative authority within city boundaries. The facility is located in Ferndale.

    The Whatcom County Health Board, with the same membership as the County Council, adopted an ordinance essentially identical to I-99 to apply to Ferndale. Concerned that the measure would be ruled unconstitutional and that the county could be held liable if the measure were immediately enforced, the council provided in the ordinance that it would not be enforced until a court determined it was constitutional. This is why it has not been enforced.

    The county brought a federal court action to determine the legitimacy of I-99 and the follow-on ordinance. The federal court ruled that I-99 was invalid and void on the basis that Washington law requires legislation on technical health and solid waste matters to be adopted by a careful process by local legislative bodies, not by the politicized initiative process.

    The court declared the follow-on ordinance to be invalid and void based upon the county’s acknowledged failure to comply with procedures imposed by the State Environmental Policy Act and Solid Waste Management Act prior to its adoption.

    The ordinance adoption process began all over again. No action has yet been taken. Some $80,000 of taxpayer money has been spent to date by the county government in legal fees.

    Broader Issue

    There has not been a single known case in which any of the hundreds of regional treatment facilities, anywhere, has ever infected any member of the public.

    There has been only one instance in which workers at a treatment facility appear to have become infected on the job (at the Stericycle facility in Morton), and that was attributed to the use of a pre-treatment grinding/shredding process that is banned in Whatcom County.

    Only a very small percentage of “infectious waste” is actually “infected” with anything with disease-producing potential. As a matter of prudence, hospitals, clinics and trauma centers treat all surgical waste as if the patient’s blood is infectious, even though most of it is not.

    According to the Medical Waste Institute, most infectious waste dies off within 72 hours.

    The four state agencies involved in the regulation of medical waste reported in 1998 that “[w]hen untreated biomedical waste is disposed of in a properly permitted and operated solid waste facility, it poses no greater risk to the environment than does the broader waste stream.”


    I am confident there is enough wisdom among council members to develop a set of regulations, if needed, that would provide the same measure of protection other communities have without placing a cap that would force the closure of a legitimate, law-abiding business providing a public service.

    The public is invited to call 671-9102 to schedule an individual or group tour of the facility—or register for a tour online at www.whatcommedwaste.com (click on “Inquiry” to express your interest).

    Editor’s Note: Stericycle, based in Lake Forest, Illinois acquired Med-Tech, a Canadian company in January 1999. In November 1999, Stericycle acquired the medical waste division of Browning-Ferris Industries. With those acquisitions Stericycle became the largest provider of regulated medical waste management services worldwide.

    According to the Whatcom Medical Waste website, Browning-Ferris has a contract with Recomp for the management and use of the medical waste treatment facility. In December 2000, a Browning-Ferris' subsidiary subcontracted to a Stericycle subsidiary for the day-to-day management of the Recomp medical waste treatment facility.

    Mr. Nobrega, on-site manager, is an employee of Stericycle/Med-Tech who previously served in the same role with Browning-Ferris Industries.

    New Shoreline Management Rules Under Assault

    by Robyn duPre
    Robyn duPre is the north sound baykeeper for the environmental organization RE Sources. As baykeeper, she is an advocate and educator for marine water quality.

    After a five-year effort, the state Department of Ecology adopted new shoreline master program guidelines last year. The guidelines provide details on how local governments can achieve the protections required by the Shoreline Management Act. Passed in 1971, the Shoreline Management Act places some restrictions on development and other activities in shoreline areas. These new rules are the first changes to the shoreline regulations in 27 years.

    In an apparent attempt to please everyone—something that, in my opinion, rarely works, especially in environmental policy making—the new guidelines have adopted a two-path approach.

    Local governments can chose Path A or Path B when revising local shoreline plans. Path A allows local governments flexibility in how they meet the standards of the Shoreline Management Act, while Path B contains specific measures for protecting shoreline functions.

    The National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have agreed that any local master program that complies with Path B will get an exception under the Endangered Species Act, meaning that Path B is protective of salmon and their habitats.


    While there are many aspects to the new rules, I would like to mention two of which I took special notice. Ecology gets a thumbs-up for making it much tougher for property owners to construct bulkheads. Applicants must now demonstrate a need for new bulkheads and other shoreline armoring. Many developers do not like this provision, but it must be pointed out that bulkheads do not generally keep water damage from occurring, and can exacerbate problems during extreme storm events (witness last winter’s storms at Sandy Point). Bulkheads do allow developers to build on marginal lots and can allow one to build too close to the water. Changes to the bulkhead rules are a great first step toward naturalizing the shoreline once again.

    And Thumbs-Down

    Ecology gets a thumbs-down for stepping away from changes that would have limited the development of piers and docks. The agency was trying to move homeowners into building community docks, a concept that apparently rocked many people’s views of God, country, and private property.

    The final rules merely limit the size of private docks (they were limited before) and “encourage” homeowners to build community docks. There are no incentives built into this encouragement, so I doubt that many prospective dock-builders will be community-minded.

    Lastly, the new rules do nothing to move away from the stance that residential uses are water-dependent. The act attempts to limit shoreline developments to those that are water dependent. A fish processor, for example, would be considered a water dependent use because the product is brought in on boats. The act states that residential uses are given priority for development along the shoreline. This was a concession given to the development community when the act was passed in 1971. It is residential development, however, that is turning into one of the greatest threats to the health of marine and freshwater shorelines.

    Impacts From Residential Development

    Houses, with the attendant clearing and over-watered lawns, tend to destabilize slopes, particularly on marine bluffs. Residential development can also lead to a proliferation of bulkheads, rip-rap, and docks—all things that detract from a healthy and dynamic shoreline.

    Private residences also tend to create lots of impervious surface. Rooftops, driveways and patios eliminate the land’s ability to absorb storm water, slow its flow and filter out impurities before that storm water finds its way into the nearest waterway. Lastly, residential landscapes tend to be virtually saturated with fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Most of these products are washed into storm water.

    It seems that the development community is far more disappointed in these new rules than I. A coalition of pro-business groups, including the Association of Washington Business, Building Industry Association, several chambers of commerce, the Contract Loggers Association, the Cattlemen’s Association and a host of others are appealing the new rules.

    They claim that these rules are an attempt to manage shorelines for Endangered Species Act concerns and not Shoreline Management Act concerns. It should be noted, however, that any new program that impacts an endangered species would have to undergo review by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Government Foresight

    Ecology simply folded salmon recovery planning into shoreline planning—this should be called foresight; instead it is being appealed. Business groups often criticize government for keeping them guessing and changing the rules mid-game, or worse yet, writing rules that are incompatible with one another. Ecology chose to ensure that the new shoreline rules will meet the requirements of the federal government—if they do not, then the state would have to rewrite them anyway.

    While I am not pleased with all of the new rules, I do believe that they are an improvement over the past rules that had remained unchanged for 27 years. It is time that we began to treat the shores of the state as the precious natural places that they are. We should all support the Department of Ecology as they fend off this appeal from short-sighted business interests who would develop, log, graze and mine right to the water’s edge if we let them.

    Whatcom Watch Online
    NorthWest Citizen