Bellingham Citizens Propose Lake Whatcom Watershed Protection Ordinance
by Tim Paxton
Tim Paxton has lived in Bellingham for 20 years. He is a former president of the North Cascades Audubon Society.
An ordinance created by input from a large group of Bellingham citizens is making its way towards potential action by the Bellingham City Council.
The proposal would place before the voters of Bellingham this November a simple plan to begin long-term funding to acquire land within the Lake Whatcom Reservoir Watershed boundary. A proposed $10 per month per household fee on the water bill would raise over $2,500,000 per year to finance land acquisition. An initial bond issue of $40 million dollars would accelerate the purchase of land over the first five years of the program.
The money would set up a willing buyer/willing seller arrangement whereby the City of Bellingham would buy watershed land and hold it in perpetuity as forested watershed. Other provisions in the Lake Whatcom Protection Ordinance wording include: prioritization of land purchases to achieve the most watershed protection; new, hold harmless bonding required of developers within watershed; eliminating clear cut logging but allowing for the possibility of individual tree harvest to provide income to acquire more watershed land; a goal of acquiring $40 million worth of watershed land in first 5 years.
Bellingham residents' concerns about the Lake Whatcom situation peaked during the early part of 1998 with the release of Dr. Robin Matthews' report on Lake Whatcom and Dr. Frank James' departure as chief Health Officer for Whatcom County. The result of these two events and subsequent under-response by elected officials at the County level prompted some discussion as to how to best protect our drinking water supply. A group of five individuals met for months, looked at every imaginable option, and concluded that users of drinking water are the logical ones to pay for protection of their water supply.
Proven Method for Watershed Protection
Land acquisition is a proven method of reducing and preventing pollution in watersheds around the world. It is cheaper to prevent pollution than to pay for cleanup and restoration.
For a local example, the City of Seattle announced recently that after approximately 100 years of effort, they had finally acquired 100 percent control of their watershed.
Over 100 years ago in Seattle, a citizens' led effort began the process of buying watershed land which makes up the Cedar River and Green River watersheds. Currently the land is strictly controlled for access with gates on roads, fences and security guards. The City of Seattle has done such a good job protecting their water supply that they recently announced plans to study marketing of their water as bottled water.
Many other cities in Washington State and around the U.S. have come to the same conclusion that is far less expensive to prevent pollution than it is to clean it up.
Cities ranging from Laguna Beach California to New York City all have in place plans to acquire land within their watershed simply to protect valuable water supplies. Many cities do not have the luxury of still being able to even consider buying land within their watershed. New York City has budgeted over a billion dollars to buy land in upstate New York for its watershed protection purposes.
Economics of Land Acquisition
Bellingham needs clean water to continue to grow and prosper. The many problems with Whatcom County supplies of water have many cities looking towards Lake Whatcom as the last clean water source in Whatcom County. Unfortunately, the City of Bellingham may not have enough for its own growth.
The proposed ordinance creates long-term funding for watershed protection via land acquisition. Bellingham water users will have $10 per month added to their water bill. Commercial and industrial users will have a watershed surcharge added to their water bills based on quantity used. This money will all go toward buying land within the Lake Whatcom Reservoir Watershed.
Since land prices in the Watershed are rising quickly, it makes sense to purchase as much undeveloped land as possible now. An initial bond issue of $40 million dollars will be used to target land readily available and where maintenance of natural conditions will be most effective, such as along streams and creeks. Next in priority would be land in the north end of the lake, around Basins two and one. The goal is to get the best environmental return on money invested in our watershed.
Trends in Lake Whatcom
Dr. Robin Matthews' research on the condition of Lake Whatcom showed some alarming trends in the Lake Whatcom water quality. The presence of two parasites, cryptosporidium and giardia, in Lake Whatcom lead the list. Both are resistant to treatment via chlorination and filtration, the processes used at Bellingham's treatment plant.
A cryptosporidium outbreak happened in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1993; over 400,000 contracted a gastrointestinal illness associated with the cryptosporidium parasite. Over 100 people died as a result of this outbreak.
This is a serious situation for anyone with a compromised immune system. Potential victims included transplant patients, chemotherapy patients, AIDS patients, the very young and the very old. Most people served by Bellingham water are not at risk. No cryptosporidium has yet been found in the treated water supply of Bellingham.
However, the situation was serious enough to warrant the City of Bellingham to take the positive action to provide treated bottled water to people who request it. The bottled water is treated via reverse osmosis to filter out cryptosporidium cysts.
Also found in recent Lake Whatcom research were concentrations of e-coli, a bacteria found in human and animal feces.
The presence of a now-closed garbage dump site on the Y Road is a worrisome situation. Many fish kills have been reported in Lake Whatcom near streams which drain near the Y Road dump.
City of Bellingham Action
Recently, the Bellingham City Council members took the forward thinking stand of declining to provide Bellingham City water to the proposed Winchester Estate development, within the watershed.
Plans are under way by the city to begin storm water management improvements some time in the future. The proposed ordinance of buying land is complementary to this proposed action by the City of Bellingham, we believe.
City and County Council members, County Executive Pete Kremen and Mayor Mark Asmundson and various key city and county staff members have had a chance to preview the proposed ordinance and provide valuable feed back. Many of their comments and suggestions were addressed in a revised draft of the ordinance. A current copy of the revised ordinance wording is available at: www.nas.com/tig/.
This proposal is a new concept only by the fact that it establishes a new long-term plan with long-term funding. The City of Bellingham already owns and manages land within the watershed: along the diversion from the Middle Fork, Bloedel Donovan Park, roads, forested land, etc.
Many other actions are needed to ensure the future and safety of our water supply. Land acquisition as approved by the voters of the City of Bellingham is fortunately complementary to all of them. This proposed effort has wide precedent and does not simply depend on new regulations and enforcement to attempt to protect or clean up Lake Whatcom.
Storm water treatment and possible diversion, transfer of density rights, sewage infrastructure repair in Sudden Valley, toxic chemical use regulations, impact fees and many other water quality related activities will occur. Since many of these actions require both city and county coordination, it is simpler to have land acquisition move ahead with the City of Bellingham providing the vision and funding to begin this long term watershed protection plan.
Request for Your Help
Our goal is to put the proposal before the voters of Bellingham this November. Voters should decide if they wish to protect their drinking water supply through a long term plan of direct land acquisition. The program will last for up to 100 years, but needs to begin now.
Urgent action is needed from Bellingham voters to request that their City Council member agree to place this proposal before voters in the November 1998 election.
Please assist by calling or writing your Bellingham City Council today and express your support for placing this proposal before the voters of Bellingham.
A web site containing background material and the exact wording of the proposed Lake Whatcom Protection ordinance can be found at: www.nas.com/tig.
We are looking for volunteers to gather signatures for a petition drive. Please deliver signatures before September 20th to 2200 Cornwall Avenue. The City Council needs to vote to put this ordinance, including the bond issue, before the voters by Sept 21st. The exact wording would go to the voter guides and ballots within a few days. Any number of signatures is appreciated.
We acknowledge that this is short notice but it is still worth doing! Bellingham voters will have all of October to consider the pros or cons of this Lake Whatcom watershed protection proposal before they vote.
Interested volunteers can contact these members of The Initiative Group: Marian Beddill 738-3151 - 24hrs, Tim Paxton 671-5179 or Larry Williams 647-8866.
We look forward to hearing from you. Today would be a good day to call! Call us and call or write to your City Council member.
State Senators in Dark About Burning of Medical Wastes
by Barbara Brenner
Barbara Brenner has representated the third district on the Whatcom County Council since 1992.
Editor's Note: The following was originally written as a letter to the Washington State Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee. It expresses the concern that the senators have not been fully apprised of the facts regarding medical waste incineration in general and of the potential risks of incineration to Whatcom County residents in particular. Minor changes have been made in the letter.
This is a follow-up to my comments at the public hearing held on August 10, 1998 in Ferndale, Washington, regarding infectious waste handling and disposal.
I am aware that you held the hearing in Ferndale because our local solid waste incinerator has quietly become a huge international infectious waste incinerator, having taken waste from as far away as Canada, California and possibly beyond.
What you may not be aware of is the background of the international infectious waste giant, Browning Ferris Industries, which began by bringing tons of infectious waste into Whatcom County monthly and has now graduated into bringing hundreds of tons of infectious waste monthly and apparently controlling the enormous infectious waste operation at Recomp Incinerator which was built to burn local solid waste.
In 1986, the New York State Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee prepared a report entitled Organized Crime's Involvement in the Waste Hauling Industry."
The report describes a history of federal and state charges against Browning Ferris for conspiracy in unreasonable restraint of interstate trade and commerce, price fixing, bid rigging, political payoffs, and strong arm tactics. Browning Ferris has paid huge fines sometimes pleading no contest. According to a Wall Street Journal article this pattern and others that are similar are repeated ad nauseam."
The report concludes that, BFI [Browning Ferris Industries] has not had a good record, having used many of the same tactics associated with the organized crime cartels discussed in this report."
As recently as June 1998, Browning Ferris pleaded guilty to massive federal violations of infectious waste handling in Washington, D.C. and faces $1.5 million in penalties.
Who Runs Recomp
It is important for your senate committee and our community to know who is really running the operation of Recomp since your own legislative assistant, Joy Adams, gave me a Browning Ferris personnel phone number to call to be included on your tour of the Recomp facility.
As I stated in my presentation, Browning Ferris refused my request for inclusion on your tour claiming that it was only for senate staffers. Browning Ferris sat in on the hearing on June 29 when Senator Swecker invited elected officials," of which I am one, to participate on the tour. Furthermore, Browning Ferris allowed other participants who were not senate staffers.
It defies logic that a slick, well prepared tour of a facility is an example of the operation on a daily basis and as long as that's all you require, that's all you will get. But, it was important that at least one suspicious person (i.e., me) was there to point out problems and unfortunately Browning Ferris was allowed to control even that, and our community will be the worse for it.
In the July 6, 1998 issue of The Bellingham Herald, Recomp's president stated that Recomp is importing 5 percent infectious waste per month. Recomp/Browning Ferris made the same claim to your committee. However, according to the last Whatcom County Health Department report done in 1996, Recomp/Browning Ferris is importing 11.6 percent infectious waste per month. This agrees with the Herald article reporting of 250-300 tons of infectious waste imported to Recomp per month.
Poor Precautions and Poor Burn-Out
Further, Recomp/BFI also states that workers are required to wear overalls, gloves, hard hats and special safety masks for an added precaution" even though they have no direct contact with the waste." However, a large photo [which appeared in the July 6 Herald] shows a Recomp/Browning Ferris worker sanitizing Browning Ferris infectious waste tubs with no mask, no hard hat and coveralls open to mid chest.
I sat on the Washington State Infectious Waste Technical Advisory Committee ten years ago. Data was produced that showed improperly conducted incineration can release infectious agents to the environment through stack emissions, quench water and ash residues. Potential interferences included temperature gradients and moisture content of refuse. Recomp has had a history of poor burn-out as is evidenced in past identifiable material in the ash including paper and plastic.
In the limited data available, it was emphasized that minimal operating temperatures must be firmly established to insure that a specific incinerator is achieving sterilization and not releasing bacterial emissions to the atmosphere." None of the (municipal waste) incinerators were observed to produce a sterile residue." The survival of large numbers of sporeformers and non-sporeformer cells and the presence of unburned material in the ash indicate that recorded temperatures give no assurance of satisfactory incinerator operation." Recovery of viable microbial cells from incinerator residues containing unburned waste from municipal incinerators with recorded operating temperatures of 1200-2000½F indicates the inadequacy of judging successful combustion based on recording temperatures alone."
Recomp is a municipal incinerator with a history of poor burnout. Now we are increasing the risks to the community by massively increasing the amount of imported infectious waste burned. I remind you that your expert panel could not answer my question pertaining to exotic strains of virulent infectious agents to which we have no community built-up resistance. If people tend to get sick when they go to new places because they have no built-up resistance, wouldn't the same hold true if massive amounts of exotic strains of very infectious disease are brought into our community and mishandled as Browning Ferris recently did in another community?
Regarding worker exposure, Labor and Industries is the only state agency which oversees workers' exposure, but they are restricted as to how much oversight they can provide. Their investigations generally must be initiated by worker complaints. If workers don't have proper training about what they handle, they are not able to determine their degree of exposure. Recomp has been cited and fined for poor training procedures [August 1993]. Also, at the June 29 hearing in Olympia, the wife of a deceased worker from Stercycle extolled the virtues of the plant and submitted a letter containing glowing accolades about Stercycle.
In Morton as in Whatcom County, good paying jobs are hard to find. I seriously doubt that too many employees will complain who are in obvious fear of being unemployed. Our state and county governments should be ashamed for putting that burden on working-class people who need the jobs. Even so, there have been complaints about Recomp's handling of infectious waste by workers, and although Recomp has been cited and fined, the only follow-up was a form filled out by the employer that the problem had been fixed. The fox in the hen house approach to correcting problems is not adequate or reliable. The bottom line is that Recomp has violated the very same type of infectious waste handling procedures that caused tuberculosis exposure to the workers at Stercycle. It would be criminal for you to pit the Morton community against the Whatcom County community.
Although you have chosen to compartmentalize infectious waste disposal into neat categories which never comprehensively critique the overall problem, it is important for affected communities that you consider all problems relating to infectious waste disposal, not only worker exposure, which is important but totally ignores community exposure. Even if the only exposure is through workers, and it isn't, workers expose families, and families expose entire communities. We all end up being one big family host to virulent strains of exotic dangerous superbugs when we are bombarded daily by tons of imported and virtually unregulated infectious waste.
The Environmental Protection Agency considers facilities that handle less than 200 lbs./hour to be small; 200-500 lbs./hour is considered medium; over 500 lbs./hour is considered large. Recomp/Browning Ferris burns 750-1000 lbs./hour and would be considered a mega-large infectious incinerator if it didn't fall through the loophole exemption because it also burns solid waste.
Besides the infectious agents which are likely being released into the atmosphere from Recomp, there are other extremely toxic and carcinogenic materials, such as heavy metals, especially mercury, and dioxin which is actually created in the incineration process. Dioxin tends to collect in beef, fish, milk, and feed crops where it is bio-accumulated up the food chain into humans. Whatcom County is one of the biggest dairy producers in the country. Recomp sits 1/4 mile from the Nooksack River, our major source of salmon. Whatcom county is heavily dependent on the fishing and dairy industries.
According to a widely quoted report, Dioxin Fallout in the Great Lakes" by Barry Commoner and Mark Cohen of the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, Queens College, infectious waste incineration is the greatest identified contributor to dioxin in the Great Lakes, followed by solid waste incineration.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency's September 1994 dioxin reassessment, our daily intake of dioxin and dioxin-like chemicals creates a lifetime cancer risk in the general U.S. population that is 500-1000 times greater than the acceptable' one in a million risk. In pregnant women, long-term damage to the fetus may occur close to this level of exposure, leading to birth defects, disrupted sexual development and damage to the nervous and immune systems." Imagine the risks to those counties like ours which are directly downwind depending on which way the wind blows. Dioxin, unlike heavier substances, is carried for hundreds of miles. Milk cows absorb dioxin by eating dioxin-contaminated food crops. Large feed corn fields lay in the shadow of the Recomp incinerator. Farming is a major industry in Whatcom County. In fact, if the Senate committee members read the Commoner report and didn't let political and personal prejudices get in the way of good science, they might have trouble ingesting the products that Whatcom County depends on.
The better the job an incinerator does with pollution control to collect heavy metal and dioxin, the more toxic is the ash which still must be disposed of. Dioxin and heavy metals do not break down. Rather, they remain persistent in the environment and in human bodies. Recomp is creating poison as well as bombarding our community with toxic and potentially infectious air emissions which are more lethal as they increase the burning of infectious waste, which creates more mercury and dioxin emissions than solid waste burning as well as more quantities of infectious agents.
Charting a New Course
We have been told for years, Don't worry; be happy." There is no epidemiological evidence that workers get sick from handling infectious waste. Unfortunately, thanks to Stercycle, we now know better even if the health officials we entrust to protect us keep looking the other way.
We have been told for years if there is ever a problem, the generators of the waste will be liable. Your expert panel members at the August 10th hearing all said it would be impossible to identify the generator after waste is shredded or burned. It is shredded or burned at most commercial facilities such as Recomp, and it is definitely still toxic in the ash and may be toxic in shredded material, air emissions, and quench water.
In closing, I can give you clear, simple recommendations concerning infectious waste disposal:
- All high risk infectious material such as lab cultures, contaminated blood and blood products, anatomical/pathological material, used sharps, and other highly infectious items, and visually-offensive infectious waste must be treated on site at all labs, clinics, hospitals, and other producers. After treatment, liquids may be put down sanitary sewers. All other material must be segregated and disposed of at a monofill landfill cell, cremated or incinerated.
- Other infectious waste, which poses measurable health risks must be treated on site. Once treated, it can be disposed of with regular waste.
- All low risk medical waste may be disposed of with regular trash.
Further, any facility willing and able to accept more than .3 percent infectious waste (.3 percent is the average amount of infectious waste in the general stream) will be considered an infectious waste facility and will be required to adhere to the strictest emission levels which are currently being met by the top 1 percent of facilities in the nation.
All infectious waste incinerators will do frequent stack and internal air monitoring for infectious pathogens, dioxin, and heavy metals through local air quality authorities and local health departments.
All infectious waste handling facilities will retain one full time Labor and Industries person on site to oversee continuous indoor air quality monitoring and other worker protection.
No untreated infectious waste will be allowed on any roads, highways, waterways, rails, or other transportation routes within Washington State.
County health departments will do unannounced spot lab analysis of infectious waste containers brought to local facilities at least once a month in cooperation with the State Health Department to insure no untreated waste comes to any commercial facility within the county.
All commercial facilities accepting more than .3 percent infectious waste will bear the cost of all monitoring, testing, and oversight required by the State and local governments.
The Washington State Senate will promote aggressive infectious waste reduction and recycling alternatives.
In this day and age when on-site treatment is not prohibitively expensive, and commercial infectious waste disposal facilities are getting rich at the expense of increased public health risks to local communities, it's the very least you folks can do.
I will be working to codify my concerns and recommendations into Whatcom County law.
Medical Waste Incineration in Seattle
by Laurie Valeriano
Laurie Valeriano is the industrial toxics coordinator for the Washington Toxics Coalition. Reprinted with permission from the Summer 1998 issue of Alternatives, the quarterly newsletter of the Washington Toxics Coalition.
The medical waste incineration issue is heating up in Seattle. The Washington Toxics Coalition is part of a new effort to shut down the two remaining hospital incinerators in Seattle: the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System (VA) in Beacon Hill and Northwest Hospital in North Seattle. The Seattle Health Care Without Harm Coalition is comprised of Community Coalition for Environmental Justice, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Seattle Citizens for Quality Living, Washington Toxics Coalition, and a number of other local groups. We are working to educate the Seattle community and hospitals about the dangers of incineration and the alternatives to incineration.
Hospital incinerators have been identified as a leading source of harmful air pollutants such as dioxin and mercury. Hospital waste contains higher than average amounts of chlorinated plastics or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which contribute to the creation of dioxin. Hospitals also use mercury-containing products, such as thermometers, that create mercury pollution when burned.
Medical waste incinerators are also a source of lead, cadmium, particulate matter, and other air pollutants. The VA and Northwest hospitals burn medical waste in Seattle's residential neighborhoods where children play. This is especially of concern because infants and children are especially vulnerable to these pollutants. They suffer higher exposures due to body size, behaviors, and greater absorption rates. These pollutants can cause or aggravate an array of health problems, including learning disorders, birth defects, immune system suppression, cancer, reproductive problems, and respiratory conditions.
The medical waste incinerator on Beacon Hill is also an issue of environmental justice. Beacon Hill is primarily an Asian community which is bombarded by pollution from many sources including airplanes, industrial facilities, toxic sites, and the medical waste incinerator. The incinerator adds an unnecessary burden to this community.
There are clear alternatives to incineration that are readily available to the VA and Northwest hospitals. First, they must re-think their approach to dealing with medical waste. Hospitals can drastically reduce the amount of medical waste they create by making changes in purchasing practices, reusing many items and recycling others. They can also have programs to ensure that only items that need to be dealt with as infectious waste" are collected and placed in special containers for disinfection or treatment. Although only a small percentage (less than 15 percent) of hospital waste is infectious and needs to be sterilized before landfilling, hospitals with incinerators often burn much more. Finally, hospitals should use other disinfection methods such as autoclaving instead of incineration.
Hospitals can make these changes and save money at the same time. For instance, the Naples Community Hospital in Florida shut down their incinerator and switched to autoclaving. As a result, disposal costs dropped from 24 cents to 4 cents per pound, an 80 percent savings.
Medical Waste and Dioxin
by Elise Miller
Elise Miller is the executive director of the Jenifer Altman Foundation, which has taken a leading role in urging the phase-out of mercury, dioxin and other endocrine disrupting chemicals. Reprinted from Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures. Subcriptions $24/yr. Subscription information: 1-800-937-4451. Yes! is published by Positive Futures Network, a non-profit corporation.
The Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors includes this as a starting point: “First, do no harm.” So it comes as a surprise to many in the health care professions—and those in surrounding communities—that medical waste incineration is among the nation’s largest source of dioxin and mercury emissions. Dioxin is released when PVC and other chlorinated plastics are incinerated, and mercury is emitted when medical equipment is burned. These substances disperse into the air, water, and soils of surrounding neighborhoods that house just the people the medical professionals are charged with healing.
Health Care Without was conceived in September, 1996 to address these concerns. Through Health Care Without, health-care professionals, labor union members, and others have succeeded in closing medical waste incinerators in communities nationwide. Browning Ferris Industries, one of the largest medical waste incinerator companies, now is proposing a switch to a more environmentally sound waste disposal technology. McGaw, Inc. has started making IV bags out of non-chlorinated plastics. More than 100 people, including nurses and doctors, have taken “adopt-a-hospital” trainings, which train people to be effective advocates of sustainable practices and procurement policies in hospitals.
At least in part as a result of the awareness raised by this campaign, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued stricter standards on medical waste incinerators and entered negotiations with the American Hospital Association aimed at eliminating mercury use in the health care industry and vastly reducing dioxin emissions in the medical waste stream.
Crown Pacific Roadbuilding May Be Damaging Todd Creek
by John DiGregoria
Recent forestry-related road-building activity, combined with summer thunderstorms, has caused hillslope failures to deliver sediment to the South Fork Nooksack River.
Three different stream crossings in the headwaters of Todd Creek have all failed during the same precipitation event. This is perhaps due to multiple culvert projects which, when conducted simultaneously in Todd Creek's highly unstable terrain, prove to have a severe environmental impact if heavy rains occur.
In Crown Pacific's haste to liquidate their newly acquired assets (65,000 acres purchased from Trillium in September '97), they are building miles of new and reconstructed roads. The Todd Creek failures are not the only damage to public resources from Crown's forest practices, but should stir county residents into action.
Crown Pacific's Road-building
Crown Pacific has slowly moved away (but not too far) from archaic forestry methods in an attempt to reduce their impact on the environment.
In the old days, they would cut the toe of the uphill slope and place the removed material on the down slope (fillslope) to create the roadbed. On steep downslopes the fill material has had a tendency to create landslides. To move away from fillslope failures, Crown now cuts farther into the up-slope (cutslope) and hauls away any extra material. This method reduces fillslope landslides and debris flows, but can destabilize the upper part of the hill. To resolve this problem, large boulders are placed at the toe of the cutslope, armoring the destabilized hillside.
Methods are changing as far as culverts are concerned as well. Where roads cross streams, old culverts are being replaced with larger culverts. For dealing with the upslope side the culvert project, one can create a catch basin, by cutting and armoring the upslope of the stream inner gorge. The idea is to allow water to pool behind and flow freely through the new culvert.
Todd Creek Blowouts
In the headwaters of Todd Creek, 7200 ft. of road reconstruction and 5400 ft of new road were built to allow access for the harvesting of 33 percent of a 26-acre unit. This seems like a lot of road for such a small harvest.
Could more harvest units along this road be on the horizon? This road-building project crossed hills with up to 80 percent slopes, and entailed culvert replacements for three sensitive type-four stream crossings. [Type-four streams are non-fish-bearing and wider than 2 feet.] It also called for numerous new and replacement culverts in hydrologically sensitive areas.
A major component of the culvert projects entailed cutting into, then armoring the upslope of the catch basins with boulders. The boulder armor is intended to stabilize the cutslope while reducing sediment delivery to the stream.
Al Zander's 1997 Assessment of Road Reconstruction and Slope Stability clearly shows that slope stability concerns at Todd Creek existed prior to implementation of road building in the Todd Creek watershed:
Review of the 1950 aerial photos indicates slope disturbance from both upslope highlead harvesting, and also due to road construction and possibly road maintenance, or lack thereof.
The watersheds of the larger drainages were extensively cut over. No or very minimal riparian area protection was provided along these streams. These channels and others upslope of the road appeared to have had active sediment and debris movement from failures at headwalls and or along the sloping sides of the channels.
Much additional movement of sediment into downslope channels occurred from road shoulder sidecast failures. Channel sediment movement and additional failures, particularly from road shoulders, continued after 1950. By 1987 new slide activity and sediment movement in the drainages appeared to be greatly reduced. This activity has continued to decline to date even though the potential for sediment yield still exists. This trend is consistent with other findings on similar terrain."
Knowing that the hillslopes associated with the approximate two and half miles of road construction are unstable and in an area with high potential to deliver sediment into the South Fork Nooksack River, Crown decided to simultaneously install all three type-four stream culverts. Perhaps they thought they were working in an area where precipitation events (intense rain, in other words) are rare. The fact that they are working in the South Fork Nooksack River means that rain is likely to occur at any time, with variable intensity.
If Crown Pacific were actually concerned about the safety and welfare of the communities in which they operate, they would slow down the liquidation. They would build roads in sections to minimize the impacts from destabilized hillslopes during heavy rains. They would listen to their downslope neighbors, eliminating the need for citizen groups to use litigation to force change. It is obvious that Crown Pacific decided to purchase vast tracts of land with money they did not have. Now we, the citizens, must bear the burden from Crown's accelerated cut. The bottom line is that corporate property owners have the right to negatively impact those living downslope. The property rights movement has effectively strengthened the rights of corporate landowners at the expense of the average gentry.
Can Science Alone Save Us?
by Hans Peterson
Hans Peterson graduated from Colfax High School last spring and will attend Oberlin College in the fall, where he plans to major in sarcasm.
Look at the world around you. It is full of overflowing landfills, near-extinct species of animals, crumbling ecosystems, polluted land, polluted air, and polluted water. The natural world is in bad shape. Here in our rural area we are slightly removed from some of the environment's woes, but they are close at hand in other areas of the country and the world. For example, we and our fellow Americans throw away enough glass bottles and jars every two weeks to fill the 1350-foot twin towers of the World Trade Center. Each year, we throw away enough office and writing paper to build a wall twelve feet high from New York City to Los Angeles. Not surpassingly, storing this trash is also a big endeavor. The Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island in New York is the world's largest human-made structure. Obviously we need a plan for how to take care of the world we live in, so I am writing to propose such a plan.
Save TimePave the Planet
I believe that the best way to handle the woes of our environment would be to simply burn and then pave everything. It is entirely too difficult to conserve natural resources, so instead we will fireproof our cities and villages and burn everything else. Then we will be free to pave the world and use it as needed. The human race will be immediately better off than before.
Just think of the myriad ways our lives will be improved! Unemployment will immediately shrink as people are hired for the tasks of burning and paving. Then people can be set to work building new cities to house our ever-increasing population. In the past this would have required the destruction of wildlife habitats, but now the whole world will be a habitat for humanity. To keep the earth safe for humanity, we can also hire special police forces to watch for subversives who try to undermine the whole solution by clandestinely growing a lawn. Landfills in these cities will be a thing of the past. Garbage can instead be stored anywhere, as long as it is out of our way. There are even emotional benefits to the plan. Creating all this trash will no longer cause feelings of guilt, and no-one will have to worry about doing their part to conserve natural resources.
Sadly, there are those who will try and fool people into thinking that we depend on the earth for our survival. They will claim that if the earth is paved, we will be without animals, plains, rivers, lakes, and sources of oxygen and that supplies of edible food, drinkable water and clean air will dwindle and disappear. They, of course, do not realize that modern science will easily find a way to provide these simple commodities. There are some people who would have us believe that the environment is worth preserving because of its supposed beauty and recreational value. Many religious types even say that we should be steward's of God's creation. Do they actually think that God cares about the things he allegedly put on earth?
Certain people have silly notions that, instead of paving the world, we can preserve natural resources with strategies that are already being used by small numbers of misguided souls. They say that humans can prevent damage to the environment by reducing the amount of natural resources we use or abuse. For example, some revolutionaries use electric cars and deal with industrial waste safely, in order to cut down on pollution. Others buy products without excessive packaging, and use less raw material in general. Then, this material is to be re-used to cut down on waste. Many things, they say, can even be recycled and come out like new, to be used or sold again. There is, of course, still damage that has already been done to the earth, but some people work to restore ecosystems to the way they are meant to work. They think that nature can somehow take care of itself without human intervention. Please be assured that all of these erroneous notions will be laid to rest once my feasible solution is implemented.
Amazingly, my motives for devising this impeccable plan of action are completely selfless. My proposal will benefit millions of people, but it will have no direct effect on me, because in a few months I will be living in inner-city Gary, Indiana, where the natural environment has already been practically eliminated. My consolation will be that I have saved so many other people from the burdens of nature.
Property Donated to Skagit Land Trust
Bellingham residents Bob Keller, a director of the Whatcom Land Trust, and Pat Karlberg have just permanently protected the twenty-five acre property they own in Skagit County by placing a perpetual conservation easement on it. The property is on the Cascade River near Marblemount. The easement was donated to the Skagit Land Trust.
Needless to say, the trust is overjoyed to accept this easement and is grateful to Bob and Pat for their concern with their beautiful property and their generosity in making this donation," according to trust president Jerry Haegele. The entire Skagit community will benefit forever by protecting this property."
Keller bought the property in 1974. He described the land, the river, the mountains and observations about them in a chapter of an anthology called "Impressions of the North Cascades," published by The Mountaineers in 1996.
In that chapter he describes the property as including "...three acres of meadow and about twenty-five acres of alder, fir, hemlock, maple, pine, cottonwood, and cedar. Total acreage in any given year depends on the mood of the river. A salmon stream threads through the meadow and a seasonal seepage channel in the woods provides more salmon lodging."
Deer, beaver, coyote, weasels, rabbits and bobcats as well as many bird speciesfrom humming birds to bald eagles also call the property home. The couple saw a black bear wander through last year.
The reason for the conservation easement? "We have watched over the years since we've been here the increasing pressures on the land," Keller explained. "There's increased logging, more homes being built on smaller and smaller parcels and, as a result, less room for wildlife. Every development displaces other creatures. We feel it's important that we protect whatever we can of this land so it can stay in its natural state and follow its natural cycles. We also wanted to nurse the land back to health, to leave it alone and watch it come back. It has been very satisfying letting this happen here and knowing this process will continue no matter who owns it in the future."
The Keller family built a one-room cabin ("took six weeks to raise, then a few years to finish") for the use of themselves and their friends. The cabin has two bunks, an icebox, table, stools and rocking chair. The only heat source is a Franklin fireplaceno electricity or propane. During the summer the cabin is abandoned in favor of a tent and fire pit by the river.
The family bought the property and built the cabin to "live here more simply and differently than in the city, to quietly observe the river and mountains, to own a private base camp for climbing, and to restore abused land back to health while coming to know it intimately ."
The cabin was originally set 300 feet away from the Cascade River. After years of flooding and erosion, however, it ended up within a few yards of the turbulent water. So it was moved another 400 feet to higher ground. However, that was still low enough so that the floods of 1990 and 1995 reached its steps.
Although both are now retired, Keller and Karlberg remain active outdoors people and travelers. Keller, a lifetime northwest resident, taught American History and Mountaineering at Olympic College in Bremerton and Western Washington University's Fairhaven College.
Karlberg, a native of Chicago, moved to the northwest with her family as a child. She retired in 1987 after 30 years at Western Washington University, her last 21 years there as administrative assistant to the dean of the University's Fairhaven College.
The Cascade River, along which the Keller-Karlburg property runs for about 1,300 feet, is a federal Wild and Scenic River and a major Skagit River tributary. The river and the permanent creek, as well as a seasonal creek running though the property, all provide important spawning and off-channel rearing habitat for salmon and other fish.
The easement protects all this. The trees can never be cut, although limited amounts of firewood can be harvested annually. The property can never be subdivided; the cabin can remain but only one additional house can ever be built there. These restrictions continue in perpetuity, regardless of what future zoning might permit.
Naturalist Mentoring at Western Outdoor Learning Foundation
by Chris Chisholm & Cody Beebe
Chris Chisholm is program coordinator and Cody Beebe is lead instructor with the Western Outdoor Learning Foundation.
Naturalist Mentoring with the W.O.L.F. reminds me of piano lessons - piano lessons in the 17th century when few people understood the concept of sitting with a teacher once every day or week for a short lesson, and then practicing alone in preparation for the next lesson. What a baffling concept it must have been centuries ago! Naturalist Mentoring is a similar form of teaching, only it takes place outdoors and with nature as the artistic subject rather than music. Though what we call "Naturalist Mentoring" is at a stage where piano lessons were 300 years ago, this new way of learning may spread rather quickly thanks to the tools of our information age.
Like music, the study of nature is an art form. Though we use the tools of science to quicken the pace of learning, it's the beauty of nature, the patterns of life, which we learn while studying. The subjects we teach in Naturalist Mentoring require keen observation and depend greatly on intuitive thought processes which lead students toward an interaction with nature that does not break its patterns, but flows with its beauty. These arts include tracking, bird language, wilderness crafts, herbalism, and other fine outdoor subjects.
W.O.L.F. is furthering the concept of Naturalist Mentoring from where we learned it - at the Wilderness Awareness School just south of us near Seattle. The school's founder, Jon Young, has been our mentor in this field, and he has been the national bellwether of learning through the art of mentoring. He promotes his concept of "mentoring" based on the way he learned about the outdoors from his own mentor, Tom Brown, Jr. Now W.O.L.F. is taking the concept further into our region by mentoring people of all ages in the Bellingham and Vancouver areas.
Friendship and Miracles
Mentoring is a form of role modeling that allows an accomplished person to guide an apprentice into a world where they share learning experiences which form a life-long bond between them. Mentoring creates a unique relationship of trust between teacher and student based on an understanding that the mentor is trying his or her best to be a good role model, by being available for the apprentice to learn skills, and by being available as a friend. The W.O.L.F. method of achieving this life-long bond is to listen with an open heart to the apprentice with the understanding that he or she is already a complete and knowing person. In fact, the mentor must embody the knowledge that there is no learning without teaching, and no teaching without learning. The bond that is created is based on mutual respect for each other's roles, both inside and outside the relationship.
As adults in the lives of our students, we are role models, bringing to them a safe foundation of values and respect for each other and for nature. We bring this type of mentoring into natural settings and allow the animals to teach students how to walk quietly through their homelands. Spending time in nature fills a mentor with energy that naturally lends itself to sharing with someone who will listen. People of all ages, once they feel that there is safety, naturally have great interest in listening to these stories. When a mentor brings an inspired apprentice into nature, the story reveals itself, though the mentor allows the apprentice to draw his or her own conclusions.
These are magical experiences that take place during the process of Naturalist Mentoring. Listening to the Stellar jay franticly "shoosh" the location of a mountain lion hunting along a deer trail, or predicting to the exact second the appearance of a western rattlesnake slithering out of a rock pile, or knowing that there is a red fox living in your study site based on its scat droppings in the corner of a field, and tracks along the muddy river bank which finally lead to its den full of pups: these are the miracles that happen through Naturalist Mentoring.
As the mentor points out some of the patterns of nature, the apprentice has a place to start observations, and draw conclusions based on seeing the patterns repeat themselves. After a while, a keen mentor might point out a pattern in the inner life of the apprentice, and the apprentice decides whether it's a pattern he or she needs or would like to change. Nature teaches patterns, but most of us are blind to them now that pavement covers the ground, and screens cover our eyes. But we can penetrate these barriers, and Naturalist Mentoring is a means for it, leading apprentices to their true selves in relation to all of creation, and leading them to becoming mentors themselves.
Honoring Our Lineage
The W.O.L.F. Faculty was created from several lineages of mentorship which have brought us full circle to our own positions as mentors, teaching nature awareness through a harmonious blend of experience and knowledge. Though most of us are rather young, we each have answered a powerful call to place ourselves into positions as outdoor educators in our region.
All of us here at W.O.L.F. have been trained to some extent in the nascent lineage of Tom Brown, Jr. According to Tom, this knowledge comes from a Lippen Apache scout he names Stalking Wolf in his many books of outdoor training and adventure. Tom also describes Stalking Wolf's mentor whom he calls Coyote Thunder, and we come to understand that the knowledge we are struggling to relearn has been passed on for many generations and reinforced by daily experience from each subsequent mentor.
According to his story, this Lippen Apache band was a peaceful and honest people who always needed expert scouts amongst them to help avoid the raids of neighboring tribes, back when it was an accepted honor to relate as such between tribes. But when the Mexicans and the Americans squeezed the Apache and other southwest tribes into reservations, the Lippen Apache were the last to acquiesce, and they needed their expert scouts to be better than ever. Their remaining band of traditional people was pushed into a harsh, hot, dry environment along the borderlands of Mexico. Guns, alcohol and desperate neighboring tribes turned against them with violence, so the few remaining people specially called to be scouts for their people had to keep everyone invisible at all costs.
Stalking Wolf was one of these chosen scouts, and after his tribe disappeared into history and reservation life, he set out on a life-long quest throughout the Americas for naturalist and spiritual knowledge, ending up in New Jersey near his son who was stationed there in the military. Stalking Wolf's grandson Rick's best friend was Tom Brown, and the youngsters were taught to the greatest extent in the arts of natural living which their native scout mentor brought from his tribal life, his scout experience, and his knowledge of other great naturalists of contemporary times and history - even studies of Jesus and Siddhartha, two of the greatest naturalists ever known in the world.
The Lippen Apache are the primary people deserving our honor as mentors. The suffering which the last of these people endured on a physical level was probably less than the emotional trauma of genocide, and I won't even try to give justice to its description. It was best symbolized for me, however, when a friend told me about a time almost 20 years ago when he was an apprentice under Tom Brown.
Using a bow drill, my friend started the ceremonial fire which Sun Bear used at his first medicine wheel gathering. This was a process that Sun Bear marveled at, and Tom realized then that there were no native people left who could continue mentoring him where Stalking Wolf had left off. No scouts remained, so in classic Tom Brown style, he took a coal from the fire and tore it across his chest, symbolizing the pain suffered as a result of cultural genocide, and he realized that it was up to him to pass on the knowledge.
Teachers Learn Too
In an example of how apprentices in turn teach their mentors, we at W.O.L.F. imbue emotional healing into this lineage of mentorship where there had been so much pain, and the injuries that scarred some previous mentor relationships are being healed. You see, each subsequent apprentice adds to the knowledge which is passed on through the mentoring process, and the piece of emotional healing which those of us on the west coast added was our greatest gift, and our greatest means of honoring our mentors. Of course there were other mentors who taught us about emotional healing, and we'll talk about them soon.
Tom's Tracker School on the east coast now trains hundreds of students each week for much of the year, and in turn, his former students teach a huge number of others throughout the western world. For example, we are blessed to have the recent return of Karen and Frank Sherwood to the Seattle area where they grew up and met Tom when he was out here for a couple years around 1980. Karen and Frank went on to be lead instructors of edible and medicinal plant lore and primitive technologies at the Tracker School for 15 years. And our own friend Carol Goulette who has taught with us even had the fortune of studying directly under Tom Brown, though all of us have dirtied his books practicing our outdoor survival skills with dedication.
The largest influence upon our Naturalist Mentoring program has been from the work of Jon Young who founded the Wilderness Awareness School. We like to think of Jon as Tom Brown's western protegé . Jon is 10 years Tom's junior, and he grew up in Tom's neighborhood in New Jersey, being mentored for a decade until Tom's fame took him in other directions. Jon went on to earn a master's degree in nature awareness, and he moved to the Seattle area recently to expand his Wilderness Awareness School.
Jon has prolific teachings about mentorship drawn from his personal experiences with Tom Brown, Ingwe, and other contemporary naturalists in a variety of western, eastern and native traditions. Jon's anthropological studies reinforce his personal understanding of mentorship, and we highly recommend his writings and courses in mentoring to anyone helping to raise a child or teach in any capacity. An example of what Jon has brought forth into his apprentices' awareness is the idea of healing grief. Many of us on the west coast realized that there were great emotional losses in our naturalist lineage, and we pointed out the effects of it which permeated many critical mentoring relationships. Since that time, much healing has occurred, and the mentoring relationships in our naturalist lineage are clearer than ever.
These strong mentoring relationships are the basis for Jon Young's consistent encouragement of the W.O.L.F. Naturalist Mentoring program. The Wilderness Awareness School's Kamana Naturalist Training and Shikari Tracking Programs are examples W.O.L.F. has used in the development of the Naturalist Mentoring curriculum. Cody has done detailed work with most of the Kamana and Mentoring programs with the Wilderness Awareness School, and he has taught summer camps and other programs for the school over the past couple years. From these experiences, we are eternally grateful to Jon, and we honor his dedication to passing on to us the knowledge he learned from his mentors and from his own experience.
Final Notes on Naturalist Mentoring
We at W.O.L.F. are so excited to be launching our Naturalist Mentoring program, and we are looking forward to working with the children and adults who sign on as students. Our Open House is planned for Saturday, September 26th, from 10 a.m. - Noon at 2104 McKenzie Ave. in Bellingham. That's just off 21st St. on the south side near Fairhaven. At the Open House there will be a wild edible "nature's buffet," camouflage and stalking games, a chance to learn primitive survival crafts, a possibility of hearing the language of the birds, and a bit of tracking. Sounds like a good time, and we hope to draw people to this free event and sign a few of you up for the Naturalist Mentoring program. The first of weekly class for mentoring students takes place on the following Thursday, October 1st.
We look forward to passing on the knowledge of our naturalist mentors, and we dream of our students growing to become great naturalists themselves, and passing on the knowledge to the future generations. Deep appreciation to all the great mentors who have led us to this moment. We give thanks to you. We look forward to growing with our students, and creating an ever-expanding lineage of naturalists who work to heal our earth and its peoples.
Lake Padden Reconnecting with Nature Group
Educating and Counseling With Nature Workshopby Lake Padden Reconnecting With Nature Group
Lake Padden Reconnecting With Nature Group is sponsoring a one-day workshop on Sunday, September 26, from 10:30 to 4:30, at Larabee State Park. It will be facilitated by Reconnecting With Nature author Michael J. Cohen, Ed.D. The workshop will serve as an indepth introduction to Cohen’s work which he has developed over a 35 year span of living, educating, and counseling with nature.
The hands-on psychologically based activities are used by teachers, parents, students, counselors and the business world to build responsible relationships with Earth, society and self. Activities are designed to promote personal and global wellness by creating tangible sensory contacts with nature in backyards, backcountry, and even potted plants or pets.
These activities have been shown to increase stress management, learning and community skills, as well assisting in the successful recovery from loss, addiction, and disorders.
Dr. Michael J. Cohen, the Director of Project NatureConnect and a veteran ecopsychologist, has extensively researched these activities.
The upcoming Bellingham workshop, based on his self-guiding book "Reconnecting With Nature" (Ecopress), engages people in a Natural Systems Thinking Process that feelingly restores our kinship with the land and each other. The activities and courses which will be featured at the Larabee Park workshop are excerpts from the book.
"We continue to trespass Earth and each other because we do not learn to think in global unity, like nature works," says Dr. Cohen. "We spend, on average, less than 12 hours of our 540,000 hour lifetime in tune with nature’s wisdom, balance and beauty. Our cloistered, indoor ways leave our inborn love for the land disconnected and wanting. As we satisfy this want with poor substitutes for Earth’s integrity, we suffer from the addictive greed, pollution and violence that the substitutes’ deficiencies induce."
Pulitzer Prize-winning sociobiologist Dr. Edward O. Wilson, of Harvard, affirms that people have an inherent biological need to be in contact with nature. He adds, "Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction."
The Lake Padden RWN group is sponsoring Cohen’s activities to help heal our rift with Earth and our neighbors. These activities are a social technology that enables all segments of the population to reconnect with Earth’s wisdom and benefit from intelligent sensory satisfaction.
Since 1985, Project NatureConnect has produced accredited nature connected courses and degree programs that reverse the effects of our society’s excessive separation from nature. Studies of people who use and teach the activities show that personal, social, and environmental relationships improve.
According to best-selling author Larry Dossey M.D., "The application of Cohen’s ecological psychology connects us with the often ignored source of spirit and wellness found in nature. Cohen’s deeply felt chapters catalyze conscious sensory contacts with the natural world and heal our deeper being."
A quote from a participant’s journal portrays how the activities work: "This activity helped me gain greater awareness of my attraction to the crescent moon as it hung over two hills near my home. Soon, its mellow glow, framed by peaks and trees, embraced me in a wordless, ancient primordial scene. Timeless power, peace and unity swept me into awe. I felt in balance with all of reality. I was simply ‘BEING.’ No tension, no pressing goal, just truly belonging to the global community. This natural energy captured my stress laden pulse and seduced it to the rhythms of Earth. The sleeping disorder I have battled all my adult life dissolved in it. For the first time in decades, I gently fell asleep after dark and arose shortly after dawn. I celebrated the breakthrough and I thanked Earth. I thanked the activity, too, for it enables me to reconnect whenever I choose."
A free package of interactive activities and courses is available from the Project NatureConnect home page at: http://www.ecopsych.com or by accessing http://www.pacificrim.net/~nature/
They also appear in Dr. Cohen’s book, "Reconnecting With Nature." The book (17.95 postage paid) and further information may be obtained by calling (360)378-6313, e-mail to email@example.com, or sending a stamped self-addressed envelope to: Project NatureConnect, P.O. Box 1605, Friday Harbor, WA 98250. Or pick up a copy of the book at Village Books in Old Fairhaven, Bellingham.
Workshop Time and Location: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday, September 26 at Larabee State Park, on Chuckanut Drive, five miles south of Old Fairhaven Parkway. Cost is $15.00 and bring your own lunch. Please pre-register by phoning (360)671-6494.