Whatcom Watch Online
May 1999
Volume 8, Issue 5

Cover Story

The Sumas Power Plant:
Tax Breaks In Return for Pollution

by Al Hanners
Al Hanners is a retired geologist who is interested in environmental issues.

A Washington State positive future depends on budgeting for quality education, not on two tons of toxic nitrogen compounds per day on our children´s heads. Neither do we need tax breaks to encourage industries to make Whatcom County the armpit of America.

Hence, I am opposed to bills in the state legislature that would defer sales taxes on construction of independent power plants, bills designed to encourage an applicant for a humongous power plant in Sumas to choose that site over Oregon or Idaho. The bills are House Bill 2255 sponsored by Kelli Linville and Doug Erickson, and companion Senate Bill 6062 sponsored by Georgia Gardner and Harriet Spanel.

There are three de facto stages in approval or denial of the Sumas power plant:

1. Approval or rejection in the state legislature of bills to grant tax breaks.

2. The applicant´s probable choice of the Sumas site if a tax break is granted, and rejection if it is not.

3. Rubber-stamp approval by the Washington State Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council of the application for the Sumas plant construction if the applicant chooses the Sumas site. The Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council is the state agency with the power to approve or reject.

We will examine support for and against both the bills and the power plant itself. We will examine the difficulties in making your views known and make suggestions on how to do just that.

The proposed Sumas plant would create electricity by burning Canadian natural gas as a source of energy. The applicant said that the electricity would be used locally, at least at first; however, there already is about 10 times the electricity needed for local consumption in Whatcom County so it is hard to understand that still more electrical generating capacity is needed locally. Realistically, the future of the plant is a means of transferring Canadian natural gas energy to California via electricity.

Favoring the plant are the 24 new jobs it would create. On the negative side, the plant would use up a lion´s share of the air pollution the Clean Air Act allows in a local community. Hence, the plant could limit new jobs in other industries. Of course, massive air pollution because of the huge size of the proposed plant is a strong objection. Air in northern Whatcom County is already strongly polluted from emissions in the Frasier Valley to the north, especially when there is a temperature inversion.

The overriding objection to bills HB2255 and SB6062, and hence to the construction of the Sumas plant, is loss of state tax revenue. The bills were submitted in March but languished in legislative committees where they expired at the end of the recent legislative session. However, they could be reintroduced in the special session that began on May 17. One committee chairman expressed concern over loss of revenue. Brian Thomas, co-chair of the House Finance Committee, sent this reply to an email objecting to HB 2255: “I will continue to hold the bill in the Finance Committee. There are many policy reasons this bill should not pass. You have just added one.”

Under the fast-track approval process, the Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), has the power to approve or deny the application for the Sumas power plant. Information coming out of EFSEC is tightly controlled and is limited to that favoring the plant. Moreover, you, as a member of the general public, are not allowed to directly contact EFSEC. You can contact EFSEC only through an “intervener,” Mary Barrett. She is not a member of EFSEC but an employee in the office of the State Attorney General. Here are a few things you might consider requesting when you contact her. Ask for an environmental impact statement before approval. Surely, two tons per day of toxic air pollution is reason enough for an environmental impact statement, but EFSEC is said to be trying to eliminate one. Ask for the relative toxicities of nitrogen dioxide and ammonia, and hence, information on the role of pollution in the choice of a GE or a Westinghouse system. (For a discussion of the two systems, see page 3 of the April issue.)

The applicant recently requested EFSEC for a two month extension of the application deadline to July 12 and it was granted. The applicant gave as excuses a request for clarification of the approval process, and questioned whether the proposed plant would be consistent with Sumas zoning laws. The real reason seems to be to delay the applicant´s decision of whether to go ahead until the legislature makes a decision on a tax break for the plant.

Here are ways to let your opinions be known to those who control the decision process:

1. Contact the heads of key committees in the state legislature.

House Finance Committee
Representative Brian Thomas
email: thomas_br@leg.wa.gov
phone: (360) 786-7826

Representative Hans Dunshee
email: dunshee_ha@leg.wa.gov
phone: (360) 786-7804

House Finance mail address:
Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504
Senate Ways and Means Committee

Senator Daloria Loveland
no email address
phone: (360) 786-7630

Senate Ways and Means mail address:
Box 40482
Olympia, WA 98504
2. Contact the official “intervener”
Ms. Mary Barrett
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 40100
Olympia, WA 98504-0100
Telephone: (360) 664-2475
email: maryb@atg.wa.gov
Internet Addresses:

Washington State Departments and other state organizations maintain websites on the internet. To reach one of them, put the acronym of the department (DOE, DNR, EFSEC, etc.) in the blank in this formula: www._____________.wa.gov

Side Story

Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council

The Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) provides a “one-stop” siting process for major energy facilities. The council coordinates all of the evaluation and licensing steps for siting major energy facilities in Washington. If a project is approved, EFSEC specifies the conditions of construction and operation; issues permits in lieu of any other individual state or local agency authority; and manages an environmental and safety oversight program of facility and site operations.

EFSEC is a Washington State agency comprised of a non-salaried, citizen-filled chair appointed by the Governor, and representatives from the following nine state agencies:

When an application to site a facility is submitted to the council, it is augmented by representatives from particular cities, counties, or port districts potentially affected by the project.

The council was created in 1970 to provide “one stop” licensing for large energy projects. By establishing the council, the State Legislature centralized the evaluation and oversight of large energy facilities in a single location within state government. The Legislature called for “balancing” demand for new energy facilities with the broad interests of the public. As part of the balancing process, protection of environmental quality, safety of energy facilities, and concern for energy availability are all to be taken into account by the council.

The council´s responsibilities derive from the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 80.50, and include siting large natural gas and oil pipelines, electric power plants above 250 megawatts and their dedicated transmission lines, new oil refineries or large expansions of existing facilities, and underground natural gas storage fields. EFSEC´s authority does not extend to non fuel-based power plants, such as geothermal, wind, solar, or hydro, to smaller electric plants, or to general transmission lines.

EFSEC has been delegated authority by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue permits under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the Federal Clean Air Act for facilities under its jurisdiction. EFSEC also ensures that effective and coordinated nuclear emergency response plans are in place and satisfactorily tested for the WNP-2 nuclear power plant located at Hanford. EFSEC staff are part of the Energy Division within the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.


Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council
925 Plum Street SE, Bldg. 4
PO Box 43172,
Olympia, WA 98504
Telephone: (360) 956-2121
email: efsec@ep.cted.wa.gov
FAX: (360) 956-2158

The above information was obtained from the EFSEC web site, www.efsec.wa.gov.

Cover Story

A Report about Bellingham Bay and Threats to Its Health: Part II

by Robyn du Pre
This report was originally published by RE Sources in February of this year. Whatcom Watch thanks them for allowing us to reprint it. This issue contains the second half of the report. The first half appeared in the April issue. For a copy of the 24 page report, contact RE Sources, 1155 N. State Street, Suite 623, Bellingham, WA 98225. Phone (360) 733-8307. www.re-sources.org.

The bay and surrounding environments have changed radically in the past 100 years. Some of these changes, such as filled-in shoreline areas, have altered the very shape of the bay. Others are less noticeable to the casual observer. Loss of habitats and species diversity, degradation of water quality, and contamination of the sediments of the bay´s floor are examples of changes that have taken place over a long period of time and that many people do not notice.

Habitat Alteration and Destruction

The most destructive habitat alteration has occurred along the bay´s shore and inland along the banks of the watershed´s rivers and streams. Extensive alteration and destruction of riparian (streamside) habitat has been caused by logging, farming and residential development. Alteration of riparian areas led to a decline in habitat suitable for salmon spawning and rearing, as well as increased erosion contributing to the sediment load of local rivers.

Destruction of shoreline and nearshore habitats around the bay has been caused by the filling of intertidal areas, industrial development, construction of piers and port facilities, the railroad line that circles the bay, and residential and commercial development.

Dredging and Armoring

Channel dredging and shoreline armoring through the use of rip-rap and bulkheads are also emerging problems in the bay. These activities lead to a change in the bathymetry (the topography or depth) of the bay´s floor, affecting the kinds of vegetation that can grow in nearshore marine environments.

For example, dredging and armoring can create deep water near the shore. This may allow for the growth of bull kelp, but perhaps at the exclusion of eelgrass, which requires shallow, sandy substrate. This kind of change will affect the kinds of organisms that can use the area for resting, feeding, hiding or breeding.

Clear-cutting Forests

The practice of forest clear-cutting is also harmful to ecosystem health. Many understory plants perish due to the extreme exposure of clear-cuts to sun and wind and the use of herbicides on logging sites. Without the tree litter that naturally falls into streams, the small invertebrates known as decomposers also perish, resulting in a reduction of the food base for larger vertebrates.

Without trees and smaller plants to hold the soil, rainwater washes sediment and herbicides into the stream. Excess sediment is very destructive to fish, as suspended sediment aggravates their gills and settled sediment smothers fish eggs and aquatic plants that provide shelter and food. The ramifications of forestry practices, particularly large-scale clear-cuts, can often be seen far downstream from the logging site. The brown color of the bay, caused by the sediment load carried by the Nooksack after a heavy rain, is a testament to poor land-clearing practices.


While Bellingham Bay looks sparkling and pristine, a review of toxic pollution in the bay paints a different story. The bay is listed on the Washington State Department of Ecology´s List of Impaired Waterways, submitted biannually to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The waters and sediments of the bay contain high levels of persistent heavy metals (mercury, copper, lead, zinc) as well as a variety of toxic chemical compounds, such as polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs), pentachlorophenol (PCP), dibenzofuran (dioxin), arsenic, and a host of other toxic chemicals. Bellingham Bay ranks 14th nationally of water bodies receiving the most carcinogens through direct discharges (178,403 pounds of carcinogenic chemicals annually).

Many of the bay´s problems start far inland. Thirty-five rivers, creeks, and lakes in the Nooksack River watershed do not meet federal and state clean water standards. A federal Superfund cleanup site is now located within Bellingham´s city limits very near Little Squalicum Creek. The pollutants in Bellingham Bay and surrounding waters come from a variety of sources: industry, urban run-off, agricultural operations, logging sites, residences and roadways.

When we speak of water pollution, two types of sources are generally referred to: point and non-point source pollution. The federal Clean Water Act requires both point source and non-point source pollution to be considered when determining whether or not businesses, industry and local citizens are satisfying water quality standards. This approach compels us to look not only at known industrial polluters, but also to weigh the effects of citizen and agricultural practices that can intensify environmental degradation.

Non-point Source Pollution is the leading cause of water quality problems nationwide. Non-point pollution is contained in run-off from residences, shopping centers, roadways, parking lots, logging sites, farms and failing septic systems — any activity that results in pollutants finding their way into waterways. As a result of our everyday activities, the water is subjected to a wide variety of pollutants including petroleum-based chemicals, pesticides, toxic chemical compounds, heavy metals, excessive nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous, fine sediments and fecal bacteria.

Because of its diffuse nature, non-point pollution is extremely difficult to regulate and control. While municipalities are implementing better storm water management, many non-point pollution control programs rely on voluntary action by citizens. The principle of these programs is that we each contribute to non-point pollution and we should each take responsibility for reducing our contributions to the problem.

Polluting the Nooksack River

The Nooksack River watershed illustrates how inland activities can affect marine water quality. The Nooksack River has been the recipient of run-off from urban development, dairy operations, agriculture and logging sites for much of the past five decades. Upper reaches of the river are negatively affected by heavy siltation and depleted oxygen levels due to erosion caused by logging and road building. Downstream, the flow has been diverted and reduced to support agriculture and dairy enterprises.

The Nooksack also supplies municipal water to the city of Ferndale. As pollutants associated with these practices combine with urban runoff and point source discharges, the waters of the Nooksack become increasingly polluted as they drain toward Bellingham Bay.

The Washington State Department of Ecology has labeled the Nooksack river an “impaired waterway” listing chromium, mercury, fecal coliform, fine sediment, decreased in-stream flow and increased temperature as leading causes for its failing health. These pollutants are carried to Bellingham Bay where they add to the bay´s pollution load.

Dairy Contributions to Contaminated Water

While not as strong as it once was, the dairy industry still plays an important role in Whatcom County´s agricultural economy. Improper manure management on some area farms has resulted in fecal coliform contamination of the Nooksack and many of its tributaries. This contamination is eventually carried to the bay.

High fecal coliform counts have resulted in the closure of shellfish beds in Portage Bay, located on the southwest edge of Bellingham Bay. This closure has had economic implications for members the Lummi Nation, who have traditionally harvested shellfish in this area. This is but one example of how human activities, even those occurring far inland, can have lasting impacts on the health of marine waters.

Point Source Pollution is directly linked to an identifiable source or facility. Point source dischargers are regulated under the National Pollution Elimination Discharge System. Any facility discharging waste water must obtain an National Pollution Elimination Discharge System permit from the Washington State Department of Ecology. Currently, 15 permits are issued for discharges directly into Bellingham Bay and over 50 permits for discharges into waterways in and around Bellingham.

The discharges directly to the bay include the Georgia Pacific West, Inc. pulp and paper mill and chlorine plant, as well as several boatyards and fish processors and the City of Bellingham´s sewage treatment facility, all of which release metals and toxic compounds into the bay. Several wood treatment facilities also release toxic organic chemicals into the bay and streams that drain to the bay.

Sediment Contamination in Bellingham Bay

The sediments beneath the bay are contaminated with a variety of heavy metals and chemical compounds. In addition to a load of over 27,000 pounds of mercury, Bellingham Bay is also contaminated with many other heavy metals and toxic compounds generated from a variety of historical and current practices.

Some of the organic and inorganic contaminants in the bay are a result of the eroding Cornwall Avenue landfill, an old landfill located on the bay´s shore. Other contaminants are the result of both historical and current industrial practices, including wood treatment, pulp and paper processing, and the construction and repair of marine vessels. In addition to contaminants from the above listed uses, pollutants also enter the bay via run-off from streets and parking lots.

Sources of Mercury

Most of the mercury in the bay was discharged by the local Georgia Pacific West, Inc. chlorine production plant, which dumped mercury directly into the water at a rate of 15 to 20 pounds per day from 1965 - 1972. Those discharges were drastically cut in the early 1970s, but because mercury does not degrade, it is still in the sediments, constituting a threat to fish, shellfish, birds and humans. Added to this historical mercury loading are on-going discharges of mercury from the Georgia Pacific facility at a current rate of up to .5 pounds per day.

Biological Uptake of Contaminants

To understand how these contaminants affect the ecosystem of Bellingham Bay, and ultimately human health, a review of the path they take through the environment is helpful. Mercury, for example, is heavier than water, so it sinks. It is also positively charged, so it tends to bind to small negatively charged sediment particles. Once mercury settles, it may be taken up by plants growing in the sediment. When animals graze on these contaminated plants, the toxins are transferred to their bodies.

Filter feeders, including oysters, clams, and mussels, consume toxins that are bound to the fine particles that make up their diet. When predators eat these animals, any toxins in the prey are concentrated in the flesh of the predator. This is called bioaccumulation. The animals on the top of the food chain (including eagles, marine mammals and humans) receive the highest doses of toxins when they eat contaminated seafood. The best way to prevent this chain of poisoning is to keep contaminants out of the water.

Natural Recovery Versus Dredging

It is too late to take that approach in Bellingham Bay. The sediments are now contaminated, and we must choose how to deal with them. There are two approaches that can be taken to the sediment contamination issue: natural recovery or dredging. Proponents of natural recovery maintain that the contaminated sediments should be left in place. The heavy sediment load entering the bay from the Nooksack River would eventually bury these contaminants below the biologically active zone (the top 3-8 inches of sediment).

Natural recovery would naturally cap the contaminants in place and avoid the problems associated with resuspension of contaminants in the water column during dredging. When contaminants are resuspended, shell fish and other sea life can then ingest the contaminants, resulting in a pulse of toxins through the whole food chain.

In Bellingham Bay, however, there are commercial navigation channels that must be maintained if we are to continue shipping goods out of the port. Because of the heavy sediment load carried into the bay from the Nooksack River, federally designated navigational channels are becoming unusable. They must be dredged to maintain shipping.

The Bellingham Bay Pilot Project

To deal with this need for dredging and the necessity of environmental cleanup, an inter-agency work group has been formed. Federal, state, local and tribal governments have formed a cooperative partnership called The Bellingham Bay Pilot Project. This project is intended to provide a well-integrated guide for decisions on control of pollution sources, cleanup and disposal of polluted sediments, restoration of habitat and in-water and shoreline land uses. The work group is considering a variety of clean-up alternatives featuring various combinations of dredging and capping of contaminated sediments as well as disposal options and the creation of intertidal habitat.

The pilot project will produce a draft environmental impact statement addressing clean up options in the Spring of 1999. The draft environmental impact statement will contain a thorough description of the problems and several “alternatives” for action. The environmental and economic impacts of each alternative will be examined in the draft environmental impact statement . One “preferred alternative” will be selected. The draft environmental impact statement is then submitted to the public for comment.

The production of this Environmental Impact Statement is governed by the State Environmental Policy Act. The Washington State Department of Ecology is the lead agency that will oversee the production of the environmental impact statement. As part of the State Environmental Policy Act process, public comments must be solicited and given consideration.

The lead agency is required to respond to all comments received during the comment period. Often, comments that are received will prompt revisions in the final environmental impact statement. Once the final environmental impact statement is issued, there will be a seven-day waiting period before an agency decision is made on which alternative for action will be selected. If no serious objections are made to the final environmental impact statement during this period, then it is accepted. If objections were made, but were not considered sufficient to warrant changing the final environmental impact statement, then the objecting party can appeal the final environmental impact statement.

Public involvement in planning for the cleanup is encouraged. For more information about the Pilot Project, contact the Washington State Department of Ecology.


In the past 30 years, we have become enlightened about many of our previous practices. We no longer dump our raw sewage or garbage into Bellingham Bay. We have required our industries to greatly reduce the levels of chemicals they discharge into the bay. Local dairies are now working to control their impacts on shellfish beds, and the wheels are in motion to clean the sediments beneath the bay from the effects of our previous practices. While these efforts will each contribute to enhanced water quality, there is still more that must be done.

In the next 30 years, the population throughout the Pacific Northwest will grow tremendously. Whatcom County will be no exception to this trend. Population growth and associated development now represent a threat to the bay perhaps as serious as all our previous actions. Each new person represents more development, more cars with dripping oil pans and radiators, more lawn chemicals, and more uncontrolled run-off from parking lots, driveways, roofs and sidewalks. Can we learn to change the way we live around the bay to lessen these impacts? Will new technologies bail us out? Perhaps.

But perhaps the answer lies in treating the bay like a friend. Next time you wash your car by the curb, consider where all those suds and grime go (into the bay!) Perhaps a dirty car is more beautiful than a clean one? Perhaps a bus is more beautiful than a dirty car? Perhaps a bike or walking are the most beautiful forms of transportation? Next thing you know you will start thinking that dandelions and moss scattered in a yard are beautiful. Perhaps you´ll choose a gravel driveway instead of asphalt, or perhaps you´ll even remember to take a plastic bag for cleaning up after your dog. Perhaps you might be willing to spend a few pennies extra to ensure your paper products are free of harmful chlorinated chemicals.

The answer no longer lies entirely with government or industry, although they still play a part, and we must continue to be vigilant and active citizens to ensure adequate enforcement of our environmental laws. But we must begin to go beyond simply making sure that other people are doing their part. We must each begin to take personal responsibility for our contributions to environmental degradation. The answer lies with you and me, and how much we will be willing to go out of our way on behalf of clean water, salmon, wildlife, and our kids´ future. Can we return Bellingham Bay to the marine treasure it once was, instead of the beautiful but empty reflection it now is? Perhaps.

Other Efforts to Protect the Bay:

Storm Drain Stenciling Program

“Dump No Waste, Drains to Stream.” Storm drain stenciling is a great way to remind your neighbors where the water flows! Stenciling kits are available for check-out from the City of Bellingham. Contact Joy Monjure at 676-6850.

Disposal of Toxics Facility

Providing local residents with a convenient place to properly dispose of hazardous chemicals, the D.O.T. accepts oil-based paint, pesticides, antifreeze, cleaning products, fluorescent light tubes and other hazardous chemicals. For information call 380-4640.

Habitat Enhancement

Habitat enhancement and restoration are essential to salmon restoration efforts. Volunteer restoration efforts include planting and maintaining trees and shrubs and removing invasive species. The Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association conducts stream habitat restoration activities throughout Whatcom County. To volunteer, contact them at 715-0283.

Kayak Patrol

RE Sources trains local kayakers to monitor shorelines and keep an eye out for various forms of pollution while out kayaking. There are several patrol routes that individual kayakers can adopt and monthly group patrol paddles during the summer months. To get involved, call 733-8307.

Neighborhood Stewards

Neighborhood Stewards are volunteers working for water quality in their own neighborhoods. They receive training on water quality issues and plan neighborhood-based educational activities focusing on local creeks. Activities have ranged from community newsletters, to storm-drain stenciling, auto maintenance workshops, and stream clean-ups. To get involved, contact RE Sources at 733-8307.

Portage Bay Shellfish Protection

Including most of the Nooksack River watershed, the Shellfish Protection District was created by Whatcom County in response to closure of shellfish beds in Portage Bay. The district will put increased emphasis on controlling pollution from dairies, sewage treatment plants along the Nooksack, and failing septic systems. For information, contact the Whatcom Conservation District at 354-2035.

Public Participation Panel

Under the Clean Water Act, any business that discharges to the water is required to get a discharge permit from the Department of Ecology. RE Sources´ volunteer Public Participation Panel reviews and comments upon permits in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. For more information, contact RE Sources at 733-8307.

Whatcom Watersheds Pledge

The Watersheds Pledge book offers suggestions about how each of us, by making simple lifestyle changes, can make a difference for water quality. Households that take the Pledge receive a ceramic and copper plaque to post in their home or garden. Sponsored by the City of Bellingham, Washington Department of Ecology, and RE Sources. For a Pledge Book, contact RE Sources at 733-8307.


Ayers, Scott. 6/25/98. “GP´s Mercury Cleanup Drives Bay Project,” The Bellingham Herald, p. A1.

Clark, William. 1986. Standardization of Washington´s Historical Trawl Logbook Data. Washington State Department of Fisheries, Marine Fish Program, Olympia, WA.

Environmental Protection Agency. 1995. “National Sediment Contamination Point Source Inventory: Analysis of Release Data for 1992.” Final Draft, March 22, 1995, Washington, D.C.

Environmental Working Group and Washington State Public Interest Research Group, 1996. “Dishonorable Discharge: Toxic Pollution in Washington Waters.” Washington D.C.: The Tides Center.

Eubanks, Grace T., ed. 1990. “The Resource: Protecting it for All.” Washington State Department of Fisheries Annual Report. Olympia, WA.

Friedman, Mitch and Paul Lindholt, eds., 1993. “Cascadia Wild: Protecting an International Ecosystem.” Seaside Oregon: Frontier Publishing.

Hoines, Lee. 1994. “1994 Fisheries Statistical Report.” State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, WA.

Jacobsen, M.A., and P.A. Cantebury. 1991. Bellingham Bay Action Program: 1991 Action Plan. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.

Koert, Dorothy. 1980. “Looking Back.” Lynden, WA: Lynden Tribune.

Kruckeberg, Arthur R. 1991. “The Natural History of Puget Sound Country.” Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Palm, Sandra. 1995. “An Assessment of Marine Habitats Located within Urbanized Areas of Bellingham Bay, Washington.” Prepared for the Toxics Cleanup Program, Washington State Department of Ecology, Northwest Regional Office, Bellevue, WA.

People for Puget Sound, 1996. “Toxic Soup: A Report on Industrial Pollution in Puget Sound.” Seattle.

Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team, 1998. “Puget Sound Update: Sixth Report of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program.” Olympia, WA.

Roth, Lottie Roeder. 1926. “History of Whatcom County, Volumes I & II.” Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company.

U.S. PIRG. 1998. “Troubled Waters: A Report on Toxic Releases into America´s Waterways.” Washington, D.C.

Wahl, Terence R. 1995. “Birds of Whatcom County: Status and Distribution.” Bellingham, WA: self-published.

Washington State Department of Ecology, 1996. “Section 303(d) of the Washington State Water Quality Assesment Report: List of Impaired Waterways.” Olympia, WA.

Washington State Department of Ecology, 1998. “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit List for Bellingham Sources.” Olympia, WA.

Washington State Department of Ecology Nooksack Watershed Task Force. 1996. “Safeguarding our Liquid Assets.” Bellingham, WA.

Webber, H.H. 1978. “Studies on Intertidal and Subtidal Benthos, Fish and Water Quality in Bellingham Bay.” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Ibid. 1975. “The Bellingham Bay Estuary: A Natural History Study.” Bellingham, WA: Huxley College of Environmental Studies.


Hartney Creek: An Essay About Nature

by Buck Meloy

The stench of death reaches us way up here even though we cannot see Hartney Creek down below, through the thick rain forest, perhaps a mile away. It is revolting, nagging at the nose and threatening to send the stomach into spasms. Yet even as my body urges me away from the source of this terrible reek, it draws the bears and birds and other critters whose very lives depend on it, are nourished by it, thrive on it.

Fleeing higher and further from this putrid decay, through the ancient forest, I know that I, too, am as much a part of this cycle of life and death as are those who are drawn to it. The bears gorging themselves on rotting, spawned-out salmon carcasses at this very moment are me, in another time and place. Last night I dined on salmon myself, and tonight will see me slicing venison for sustenance. The Eskimo relishes muktuk, the Norwegian lutefisk, the Swede gravlox.

Further up the crude trail, finally away from the fetid air of the corpse-littered creek banks, the rich and varied odors of the forest flush my head clear of the convoluted thoughts that the stench had wrought. No longer repulsed, my soul plunges forward with my feet across the thick carpet of moss that blankets everything here, over the fallen, rotting timber, through the clumps of brush and devil´s club, around rocks and stumps and crevasses, past the autumn fungi that dine and thrive on the fallen matter of the forest floor.

This hike was Danny´s idea, our objective being the high and treeless ridge on the Heney Range that would give us a grand view: the woods through which we had come; Orca Inlet and many of the islands and fiords of eastern Prince William Sound; and, in the opposite direction, the wondrous and spectacular 55-mile wide delta of the Copper River, with its bars, islands, grass banks, coastal surf — its uncountable snaking channels, many glaciers, and backdrop of raw and wild ice-capped mountains that are among the largest and most inaccessible in the world.

“Look at this!” I shouted to Danny, who was nearly out of sight ahead of me. He trotted quickly back to view my discovery.

“Angel wing mushrooms. See, they are all white, gills leading to where a stem would be if they had one, but the cap is attached directly to rotting wood instead. Their flavor is mild, but good, and the only fungus you could possibly confuse them with is the oyster mushroom, which tastes even better!”

His keen interest in the natural world notwithstanding, Danny had never taken an interest in fungi. “Uh huh,” he said. “You eat some and let me know when your lips start tingling.”

There had been logging here once, perhaps a hundred years ago. Little evidence of it remained apart from the occasional stump with a springboard notch still visible in it. Large Sitka spruce again dominated the terrain, providing the shade that kept smaller plants from taking over on the forest floor, and providing the moist coolness that nurtured the thick, mossy greenness and the fungi and other small plants that thrived in it.

Further along, the trees were even bigger, dying only of old age as they had since the beginning. We came to a creek, its clear water flowing rapidly over its shallow and rocky bottom. Danny produced two garbage bags, with which he covered his boots and lower legs. I took off my shoes and rolled up my jeans, and we waded across through the shallow and chilly water. The trail became little more than a faint worn line snaking through the mossy woods. Occasional mounds of shit gave awesome testament to the varied diets of the brown and black bears who made greater use of this trail than did humans.

“You can tell which is predator and which is predated by its turds,” said Danny, as we stared at an impressive mound of berry-stained and seed-filled excrement, mixed with a little hair. “The predator´s turd is tapered, a result of a mostly protein diet. A rounded turd suggests life lower down on the food chain.”

“I thought turds were tapered so their assholes wouldn´t slam shut,” I quipped, thinking of the thunderous slam that could happen to a big brownie.

We came to the first of a series of clearings, each one further up the steady grade we were climbing. “How in the hell can a slope be so wet?” I enquired as I sank into mushy bog plants practically to my ankle. “It´s been sunny and dry for ages. This is a high spot with no rim or other dam around it to keep water from running off, yet it´s so soggy I can hardly walk on it. And do the trees and bushes not grow on it because its so wet, or what?”

Danny had learned that one can tell how the water moves near the surface in such places by the patterns of the larger vegetation around it. “If the water doesn´t move, the trees can´t take hold. These plants keep it too alkaline, or something.”

Despite the lateness of the season, there were still acres of blueberries and low-growing bunchberries that hadn´t been raked clean by the bears. I enjoyed their tart-sweet goodness almost non-stop as we continued to work our way up. The bear turds up here were mostly the purple color of the blueberries interspersed with gelatinous heaps that indicated heavy ingestion of pink salmon carcasses down below. These bears apparently enjoyed a balanced diet virtually every day. And a good hike.

The terrain steepened sharply, and the vegetation thickened. Now there was no visible trail at all — only occasional hacked blazes on trees and some pieces of bright orange surveyor´s tape tied to branches, left there by whoever had decided where the future trail would go. At this greater altitude, we were in a different microclimate. Devil´s club and salmonberry bushes had taken over in the crevasses, clefts, and clearings that now abounded on the steep slopes, between mostly large spruce trees. Avoiding their spiny trunks, we pushed through the devil´s club bowers as we came to them, straining to gain adequate footholds. I didn´t want to go sliding here.

Bulling out of the brush, we found ourselves at the base of an enormous spruce, the largest I had ever seen in Southcentral Alaska. “Wow! Good genetics,” was the first thing Danny managed to say. Growing from the edge of a crevasse near the base of a tall cliff, it was obviously favored by the water, light, and nutrients that are conducive to spruceness as well. Danny spread his arms out against its trunk; it would have taken half a dozen Dannys to completely ring it.

“That thing is over 30 feet around,” I blurted. Danny was way ahead of me: “Then it´s at least 10 feet in diameter, right? And that´s a radius of 5 feet. If there are ten annual rings to the inch, it´s at least 6 centuries old!”

“And if there are 20 rings to the inch, which seems more likely, it´s a lot older than that.”

Danny then recounted reading about some early loggers in Washington who had encountered a tree whose age they wondered about, so they cut it down so they could count the rings. Then he asked me if I had seen the Farside cartoon of the two loggers having lunch on a stump, surrounded by other stumps. One said to the other, “I just love working in the woods!”

A cloistered hollow between its roots at the base of the tree provided fine shelter for some mammal. Its accumulated turds carpeted the space. “Probably marten,” said Danny already launching himself further into the undergrowth.

I attempted to follow him, but found the going quite difficult. Since I already knew that I would not be scaling the switchbacking route above the treeline to the ridge, I decided to go no further. “I´ll meet you back at the last meadow when you get down. I´ll be sleeping in the sun,” I shouted to him.

“Okay. I won´t be long,” came his muffled reply.

Making my way slowly down, it occurred to me that now even Danny´s pepperspray was not available as defense against any bear that I might encounter. On the other hand, I felt comfortable with the knowledge that most bears would rather avoid me more than I wished to avoid them. And I was now retracing a route that we had thoroughly stunk up with our nasty human scent when we came up. As Danny later put it, “Bears are noted for their exceptionally keen noses, deer for their ears, eagles for their sharp eyes, and we humans for our mouths.”

After Danny had rejoined me and we were nearing Hartney Creek once again, I was forced to wonder how it is that our smell is such a turn-off for bears, but that rotting salmon turns them on. The sharp-eyed eagles and squalling gulls likewise do not question its bouquet.

At a point where a fallen tree provided a window on the gravel bars and meandering course of the creek below, I spotted four coyotes, one working on a fish that was still flopping. Even though they must have been nearly a mile away, they spotted me also. Only the one who didn´t want to leave his fresh meal didn´t start edging off into the cover of brush, though he eyed me nervously the whole time I stood there.

As we once again neared the dirt road and its bridge over the creek, we heard yet another animal sound, this one distinctly of children playing. Unaware how little actually stood between them and their becoming part of the food chain, they played and shouted contentedly. In truth, the bears would avoid this area, with its human presence, preferring to forage in the more peaceful and better smelling upper reaches of the spawning grounds.

On the road, we found a group of Filipino cannery workers who had parked at the bridge and were picnicking. We walked over to see if any late-returning coho salmon had yet arrived to spawn here. The lady staring down from the bridge next to me remarked on the many pink salmon carcasses littering the shallow edges of the creek, “Not good. Too many fish dead.”

I don´t know whether she understood my explanation of the life cycle of the salmon. If so, she was probably as surprised by it as I was by the fact that she earned her living dismembering salmon, yet knew so little about them.

Below the bridge, where the salt water of Orca Inlet rose up and mingled with the fresh of the creek, her husband rinsed the clams he had just dug from the muddy estuary that drew its nourishment from the salmon as well.


Bicycling and Wellness

by Donna Merlina
Donna Merlina, an educator, and her husband Ron enjoy the myriad benefits of bicycle commuting in Bellingham and have achieved car-free living for the past three years.

In 1996, the Surgeon General announced that inactivity is a primary risk factor for heart disease as well as many cancers and diabetes. Childhood and adolescent obesity is a growing concern for many health-care providers.

National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys between 1981 and 1991 revealed that adolescent obesity increased from 15-22 percent! This has been accompanied by an increasing incidence of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus among adolescents. Ileana Vargas, M.D. of Columbia University of New York, said that intervention should focus on a healthy diet, increased exercise and a decrease in sedentary activities.

Why am I telling you all this? Because May is National Bike Month and May 21st is Bike to Work Day. This is an excellent opportunity for us to proactively promote bicycling for individual, community and environmental health! So, let´s get Whatcom County to “Move It!”

Commercializing Exercise

There is a disturbing trend towards packaging exercise as a commodity for sale separate from daily life. Now, health professionals world-wide are recognizing the importance of becoming more physically active in our daily lives and that the best kind of exercise is regular, moderate and an integral, functional part of our lifestyle.

Health Benefits of Cycling

Health agencies world-wide are calling for increased cycling, from the British Medical Association´s challenge to doctors to set an example as in anti-smoking campaigns and get on their bikes, to the Commonwealth Department of Health which recommended strategies be developed to encourage cycling and walking over car use for individual as well as community health. We all know that cars and driving are not healthy, so let´s start promoting Healthy Transportation!

Mark your calendar for May as Bike Month and May 21st as Bike To Work Day. Think about ways we can promote bicycle commuting and encourage people to incorporate bicycling (functional physical activity) into our daily lives. Example: bike to work (even once a week); go on a bicycling date; bicycle to the store and to visit friends; bicycle with your child to school, or errands and fun. Bicycle to the library or religious services and you´ll have no trouble finding a free parking space every time.

Bicycle to work on Friday, May 21st and stop by one of our support stations during your morning commute: downtown, SW corner of Holly and Railroad; Haggens on Woburn; or S. State in Fairhaven. Have fun while promoting personal, community and environmental health!

For more information please feel free to contact Donna at 650-0515 or merlind@cc.wwu.edu

Side Story

Roads Create Traffic

In a recent article by Neal R. Peirce of the Washington Post Writers Group, “induced traffic” was described. It is the growth of traffic after new roads are built. University of California researchers checked 30 urban counties from 1973 to 1990 and found that every 10 percent increase in new lane-miles generates a 9 percent increase in traffic.

As David Walters, a transportation expert at the University of North Caroline-Charlotte, says, “The availability of the transportation acts as a catalyst for more movement, so that the more roads we build, the more places we can drive, the more we drive.”

A British team found that, based on an analysis of 60 cases worldwide in which roads have been closed or their capacity seriously reduced, on average 20 to 60 percent of the former traffic disappeared entirely. It did not siphon off onto other roads. In New York, after a portion of the West Side Highway collapsed and most of the route was closed, 53 percent of the prior trips simply disappeared.

Do we need to consider whether we really want the San Juan connector between Yew and Samish? Should the county even be considering the feasibility of a new road between Lake Louise Road and Yew?

Side Story

Friday May 21st is National Bicycle to Work Day!

by Donna Merlina

Why Bicycle for Transportation?

For ideas on promoting Bike to Work Day, contact Donna (650-0515) of the Bicycle to Work Day planning committee for flyers to post at your workplace, church, or school.

Make a wheel difference!


ReStore Works With Construction Company to Recycle Seattle´s Cast-offs

by Rob Smith
Rob Smith is special reports editor for the Puget Sound Business Journal. This article was reprinted with permission from the March 29, 1999 issue of the Puget Sound Business Journal.

As Sellen Construction Co.´s sustainable construction manager, Lynne Barker´s job is to push the firm toward sustainable building. Her colleagues push back.

“We butt heads sometimes,” says Scott Redman, Sellen´s director of marketing and new business development. “Somewhere, we´re creating a real value for our clients, a fresh look, rather than a staid, traditional approach. I think it´s healthy.”

Sustainable building covers all aspects of building, from land preparation to materials selection, including energy-efficient strategies and the use of recycled-content material.

Barker, the only full-time sustainable construction manager in the Puget Sound region, was hired three years ago. She initially held the title of project engineer, though she has a degree in psychology, not engineering.

Unlike sustainable construction experts at other firms, who more often than not are field superintendents or project managers with other responsibilities, Barker spends a good deal of her time internally, promoting sound environmental practices.

She admits she more or less created her present position. “I had fairly clear ideas what I wanted to do,” she recalls. What she´s done has been nothing short of innovative.

Renovation Project Promotes Recycling

While setting up a job-site recycling program during Sellen´s renovation of a building on the Microsoft campus, she noticed there was no market for a significant volume of waste material, including acoustical ceiling tiles. Some quick research proved to her they were easily recyclable, so she began contacting national ceiling tile manufacturers in an attempt to convince them to recycle the product as post-consumer waste.

Eventually, Armstrong Ceiling Tile Co. agreed to take back the tiles at its regional manufacturing plant in St. Helens, Ore., if Sellen paid transportation costs. Despite shipping the tile 150 miles away, it was still more cost-effective to recycle the product than to dump it.

“The issue always comes down to economics,” Barker says. The 150,000 square feet of tile weighed 86 tons and cost about $3,900 to recycle; it would have cost $8,200 to dispose of in a landfill, a savings of 52 percent. The plan was so successful that Sellen and Armstrong initiated a national pilot project for reclaiming acoustical ceiling tile.

“We heard about that and went, `God, why didn´t we think of that? Hats off to our competition,´” says Craig Vierling, a project superintendent at Turner Construction Co. “It was a perfect, close-the-loop move. I think Lynn´s doing a great job, doing some great stuff.”

Bellingham´s ReStore

David Bennink, field manager at Re Store, an educational, nonprofit salvage building materials warehouse in Bellingham, says Barker and Sellen “are leaders in the field of recycling. It´s very impressive.”

In six years of business, Re Store´s warehouse has increased in space from 5,000 to 28,000 square feet, an indication of the growing popularity of sustainable building.

During a project at the Northern Life Insurance building in downtown Seattle — the future home of the FBI — Sellen worked with Re Store to save more than 100 doors, 200 cabinets, plumbing fixtures, lighting and more than 100 work surfaces.

Though Re Store works with about 20 Puget Sound-area construction firms, Bennink says no other company investigates as many angles for recycling as does Sellen.

“In my experience, it´s just unprecedented. They´re more aware of their options and possibilities,” Bennink says. Barker is “the only person I´ve ever met who´s full-time at this. She makes it happen.”

Sellen itself is building a new office next door to its current digs near Westlake Avenue. Among other things, it will beat local energy codes by 13 percent, and will contain water-efficient fixtures and some recycled-content building material.

Barker stays abreast of current developments by serving on several regional bodies, including:

“There´s a perception that sustainable building costs more, but if you integrate design, there are trade-off costs. You might spend more on the building envelope, but save on mechanical systems,” Barker says. “You want things to change a little more quickly sometimes. I get a little revved up.”


Learning About Native Plant Gardening

by Nancy May
Nancy May is a local native plant gardener and owner of Natural By Design.

So you have a vision: turning your lawn patch and laurel hedge into a healthy, pesticide-free, low-maintenance, bird and butterfly-attractive natural, drought-resistant landscape sanctuary? And a wonderful vision it is!

More and more people are discovering the opportunity (and responsibility) for protecting and enhancing natural habitats by tending their own landscapes and gardens. But successful gardening with natives requires a good knowledge of plants and their communities. Like many things it all starts with gathering information and learning with small projects. The nice thing about native plant gardening is that the learning process is almost as much fun and rewarding as your successes in the yard!

Whether you are starting with more enthusiasm and interest than practical knowledge or extensive botanical expertise, there are many resources and opportunities for expanding your knowledge. Here are some ideas for learning more and enjoying the discovery.

Reading About Natives

Books! Though nothing compares with real experience, armchair gardening is great for inspiration or practical study. “Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest” by Arthur Kruckeberg (University of Washington Press, 1997) and “Native Plants in the Coastal Garden: A Guide for Gardeners in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest” by April Pettinger (Whitecap Books, 1996) are two personal favorites, but many more good resources abound.

If you are starting without a solid background in basic gardening and botany, you´ll definitely want to build that first. Three of many valuable field guides to use are:

“Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Alaska” by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon (Lone Pine Publishing, 1994), an easy-to-use field guide that includes keys for families, nonvascular plants, information about habitats, and ethnobotany of most species.

“Mountain Plants of the Pacific Northwest: A Field Guide to Washington, Western British Columbia, and Southeastern Alaska” by Ronald J.Taylor and George W.Douglas (Mountain Press, 1995) addresses many of the alpine species.

“Trees and Shrubs For Pacific Northwest Gardens” by John A. Grant and Carol L. Grant (Timber Press, 1994) also has useful information.

Get to be on a first name basis with native plants! Learning identification and habitat requirements of plants is a very gradual process, but important to your success in the garden and it can be fun! The more intimately you know the plants and site conditions, the more those plants will thrive and the more you´ll appreciate them! The names come with repeated exposure, but you may have fun setting goals to learn two or three plants every week or taking a field guide to the native plant section of a nursery, (take a friend too!) to “meet” the plants in person.

Visiting Native Plant Communities

Tune in to the native plant communities that surround you. Greenbelts and roadsides as well as local parks and trails are good learning sites. Notice the species that grow together, what their growth forms are, what kind of light and soil conditions they are in and any features that draw your attention. You´ll gain clues to the plants´ place in a landscape, and also sharpen your powers of observation and get lots of practice with your ID skills. (You may keep a field guide in your car.)

Sehome Arboretum or Padden Lagoon or Fragrance Lake offer an array of natives. When you have a little more time, Sauk Mountain (North Cascades Highway) or Mt. Erie and Washington Park near Anacortes are other destinations to visit for blooming communities.

Participate in restoration projects. It is a great way to gain hands on experience, glean information from folks who know more, and contribute to larger scale projects than you can impact with your own yard. The Greenways volunteer program (Bellingham Parks & Recreation. 676-6801) and Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (715-0283) have regular ongoing volunteer planting and maintenance events with knowledgeable resource people.

Sign up for natural history classes and botanical field trips. Learning from the experts and in the field can´t be beat! North Cascades Institute (360-856-5700) offers botany and natural history outings.

The Koma Kulshan Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society has monthly programs and regular field trips (call Nancy May for program or membership information 734-8323). You might also consider a botany, horticulture or gardening course through Whatcom Community College, Western or Washington State University Cooperative Extension. Understanding the ecology of native plants is particularly important.

If you are like most native plant enthusiasts, your learning will be as constant as tending your garden, and most likely as enriching. Enjoy!


Group Wants to Jump Start Wild Fish Recovery With Egg Planting

by Cookson Beecher
This article appeared in the April 9, 1999, edition of Capital Press, an agriculture weekly serving farms in the Northwest.

Problems pit people against people. Solutions can bring them together.

That´s the case in Whatcom County, where a group of unlikely partners is working together on a grass-roots project to increase salmon runs in the Nooksack River.

“Salmon recovery can be and needs to be done at a local level,” said Herman Almojera,vice chairman of the Nooksack Tribal Council and a berry farmer. “It starts with the people. It´s not something that can be done from a distance.”

“This is the leading edge; this is where it´s at,” said Skip Richards, a Bellingham business owner, as he sat with Nooksack tribal leaders and fisheries biologists around a meeting table at the tribal center.

Almojera and Richards admit they started out on opposite sides of the table.

“We were against each other,” Almojera said. “I was speaking as an Indian and as one of the oldest landowners in the county.”

Richard, meanwhile, was a property rights advocate, representing a group of county landowners. A short-time fling as an investor-developer had given him the all-too-keen realization of how financially vulnerable farmers, developers, business owners and even homeowners can be when unreasonable regulations are unexpectedly imposed on them.

The two got together after Richards learned that Almojera had a novel approach to salmon recovery.

Almojera, it turns out, doesn´t just plant crops. He also plants salmon eggs — a process that is key to this innovative salmon recovery proposal, which veers 180 degrees in the opposite direction from typical salmon recovery plans.

That change in direction can best be described as “downstream instead of upstream.”

Monitoring how many young fish are going downstream toward the ocean instead of how many spawning fish are returning upstream from the ocean is at the heart of the proposed project.

“Whatcom County citizens have no control over what happens out in the ocean or how many fish are harvested there,” said Richards. “But we can measure the health of inland habitat by the levels of salmon migrating out from their spawning areas to the sea.”

The proposed project, W.A.T.E.R.S. for Salmon People, is a community-based project proposal joining together Whatcom County residents and the Nooksack Indian Tribe.

A cooperative process, it seeks to enhance wild salmon stocks, to optimize spawning and rearing habitat and to monitor water quality parameters of the Nooksack River watershed.

The pilot project of four years, or one salmon life cycle, is expected to cost approximately $7 million. The entire 16-year project, which would cover four salmon life cycles would cost nearly $24 million.

The proposal was developed by Almojera, Richards and Claire Cabeza de Baca, an environmental scientist with experience in fisheries biology.

Funding for the project is still being sought.

The proposal starts out at the beginning of a fish´s life cycle. A hydraulic egg planter mimics the process salmon use to create their redds, or nests, by shooting a torrent of water down into the gravel and clearing it of sediment. Once the gravel is clean, the water is turned off, and salmon eggs are released from two hoppers on the egg planter so they can gravity flow down into the redd.

Under the project´s guidelines, some of these redds would be temporarily “capped” to determine how many of the eggs hatch successfully and how many fry survive. Once the fish are counted, the caps would be removed. The young fish would then be contained within a small stretch of the stream to measure growth and survival rates.

When the normal outmigration period begins, they would be released daily, after being counted, so they can travel downstream to the ocean.

At the same time, the water quallity of the specific segments of the streams where the fish are growing or traveling through will be monitored.

If survival rates are good, then the habitat would be deemed adequate. If an unacceptable number of young fish die along the way, then the water in the segments where mortality levels were occurring would be analyzed to determine possible problems — and solutions.

Based on actual results, the landowners along the problem stretches of stream or river can then change land-use practices to improve the water quality.

Almojera and Richards believe landowners will be willing to do this because they would know that they are being asked to do only what is necessary to get the job done and will see that their sacrifices are in fact getting the job done.

People are paying heed to this proposal. In 1997, the Whatcom County Council passed a resolution endorsing the project.

“The ultimate proof of water quality is how the fish are doing,” Richards said. “You can line up 5,000 scientists, and they´ll all come up with different standards for water quality. But with this project, we´ll let the fish tell us.”

“The timetable is now,” Almojera said. The Nooksack River has been described as the most degraded river in Western Washington.

“This is the perfect time for people to jump on board.”


River Farm and Crown Pacific Form Ecoforestry Partnership

by Casey Dehe
Casey Dehe is a student at Whatcom Community College.

River Farm, an 80 acre community land trust on the south fork of the Nooksack River, is embarking on an experimental ecoforestry project with Crown Pacific, a forest products company.

This exciting partnership allows Evergreen Ecoforestry LLC, River Farm´s internal operating entity, to manage and harvest a 160 acre tract of land on adjacent Stewart Mountain. In this mutually beneficial contract, River Farm will demonstrate that it is possible that forest products can be extracted while preserving and protecting natural diversity, wildlife habitat, and watersheds. Crown Pacific in return gets full access to this “eco-forestry laboratory” in which alternative forestry methods will be used and studied. The unique agreement between Crown Pacific and River Farm is an example of how together they can “take environmentalism to the next level of maturity” as Steve Martenson, Assistant Land and Timber Manager for Crown Pacific, put it.

The methods of timber harvesting are evolving in the wake of new regulations, growing public concern, and newly listed salmon under the Endangered Species Act, prompting Crown Pacific to develop innovative forestry practices. Crown Pacific has been a leader among forest products companies, in discounting and donating land for preservation.

The land will be managed as a commercial forest, with the timber harvested, manufactured and marketed by Evergreen. River Farm will explore new and innovative ideas for harvesting forest products. Harvesting methods will be in accordance with Smart Wood certification requirements. Certified wood must be harvested in a way that promotes sustainable ecosystems. The hope is that with the Smart Wood certification, ecologically-minded consumers can support alternative methods of forestry.

Certified Wood

What is certified wood? Certification of wood is a way for consumers to support logging and timber management activities that protect the integrity of the forest during and after logging. Certification stresses sustained ecosystems, rather than sustained yield that is applied to most commercial forests. Some of the basic principles are:

Certified wood relies on awareness and market pressure from ecologically-minded consumers for its success. This timber will then be marketed in a way much like organic produce is at the grocery store.

The contract between River Farm and Crown Pacific was signed on April 21, 1999, and is under a 15 year lease. Upon expiration of the lease, River Farm hopes to buy the land and put it into trust.

The major provisions of the agreement include the following:

The River Farm and Crown Pacific contract is bridging gap the between environmentalism and logging operations. Hopefully through this experiment, new logging practices will be adopted that can balance the needs of the forest ecosystem and the need for forest products.

Egg Planting “Jump Starts” Salmon Recovery

by Cookson Beecher
This article appeared in the April 9, 1999, edition of Capital Press, an agriculture weekly serving farms in the Northwest.

Planting salmon eggs can be an efficient, cost-effective way to “jump start” salmon recovery, say fisheries officials involved with a successful project to boost sockeye runs in Karluk Lake on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

At one time, Karluk Lake teemed with wild sockeye, so much so that in 1901, nearly 4 million were taken from the lake.

But over the years, runs began dwindling significantly. The dismal news in the late 1970s was that the largest amount of sockeye taken since statehood was only 362,949 fish.

While there are many conjectures as to why the runs declined so dramatically, most fisheries biologists believe that overexploitation by the fishing industry caused a disruption of the complex biological relationships and life cycle of the lake´s sockeye salmon.

The widespread feeling was that the situation needed to be rectified. In 1976, Alaskan voters approved a bond issue that funded a major project dedicated to restoring the Karluk sockeye salmon run.

The rehabilitation plan focused on the Upper Thumb River because historical records indicated that this tributary had formerly produced many more fish than it was producing when the project began.

Under the project, eggs were taken from sockeye salmon returning to the Upper and Lower Thumb rivers.

Hydraulic Planter Used

Once incubated, the eggs were planted with a hydraulic egg planter in areas of the stream where the highest survivals could be expected.

The egg planter was, at that time, a new invention, the product of Alaska Aquaculture Foundation, Inc., with Tod A. Jones, president of the company spearheading its development.

In the initial years of the project, from 1978 to 1981, only about 5.6 million eggs were taken annually from returning spawners, due to the weak natural runs to the Upper Thumb river. According to the plan, not more than 50 percent of the natural stock could be used for obtaining eggs.

But from 1982 to 1984,thanks to strong returns of fish to the river, about 14.8 million eggs were taken annually. These strong returns coincided with the first returning fish from the initial rehabilitation efforts in 1978 and 1979.

In 1983 and 1984, 12.3 million and 13.2 million eggs were planted respectively — so many that new planting areas had to be found.

The survival rate of the planted eggs through the fry state was estimated by a method based on hand counts of fry caught in a trap.

The average estimated survival rate from eyed egg to emerging fry during the six-year period was 33.7 percent.

And though young hatchery fry were also planted, the major production over a six-year period was from egg planting.

The number of smolts, fish in the final freshwater state, were also tracked, using a sonar counter. This stage of a fish´s life is important because it yields information about the productivity of the waters it is living in.

Egg-planting Shown to Be Effective

When looking at the number of spawners returning to the Upper Thumb River, it appeared that the egg-planting had helped boost the run. The return of 20,000 and 22,000 sockeye in 1983 and 1984 respectively was the largest recorded since 1926. And the 1984 return was the best return recorded in that system since 1926.

In a summary of a 1986 report done by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the project´s scope was noted.

“The Karluk project has become the largest single rehabilitation effort in the state and the largest egg-planting effort in any Pacific Rim country.”

Jeff Koenings, the new director of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, was one of those who reviewed the report. One of the sources of the report was a report he wrote on the importance of escapement size of sockeye salmon on the fertility of Karluk Lake.

When analyzing the egg planter, an Alaskan fishery technician pointed out that egg planting can have definite advantages over natural spawning, primarily because the eggs were buried 16 inches in the gravel, where they are protected from freezing and predation.

He also lauded the financial benefits of egg planting compared to planting hatchery fry, pointing out that “the phenomenal cost of construction and maintenance of a permanent facility (hatchery building) are eliminated.”

In an initial report about the testing of the salmon egg planter, prepared by Alaska Aquaculture, the authors noted that the egg planter, when linked with existing hatcheries in Washington, Oregon and Northern California, could produce considerable positive results in planting eyed eggs in streams previously depleted of wild runs.

“The efficacy of this device and method has been shown and needs to be utilized for the benefit of systems which would otherwise be left barren,” the report concluded.

Book Review

Reflections on ‘Give Me Liberty’

Reviewed by John Freeburg
John Freeburg is a resident of Bremerton.

Give Me Liberty!
Freeing Ourselves in the Twenty-first Century
By Gerry L. Spence
St. Martin´s Press, 1998
366pp., $24.95
ISBN 0-312-192673

Gerry Spence, a famous lawyer from Wyoming, has written a book entitled “Give Me Liberty: Feeling Ourselves in the Twenty-first Century,” which criticizes our society for allowing the poor to exist in such squalor while the rich are steadily increasing their massive amount of wealth.

He exaggerates, but he argues that we are slaves. Most people can be instantly fired; the middle class is getting smaller, real earnings are less. Only top executives earn more and then much too much.

He argues that an escaped slave is freer than a slave on the plantation. He points out that slaves could be whipped. We are not whipped but are forced to obey demands or commands upon the threat of being made homeless. We are robbed of our dignity to protect our families.

Number of Billionaires Growing

The contrast in wealth between the wealthiest and the poorest is troubling. Spence writes that “based on calculations made by the Washington Institute for Policy Studies, the 358 billionaires on this shuddering earth in 1995 possessed a collective wealth of $762 billion, which equaled the income of the poorest forty-five percent of all people on the planet. By 1996 that number blossomed to 447 billionaires who were worth $l.l trillion equal to the income of the earth´s poorest fifty-two percent.”

You know something is unfair when 447 people have as much wealth as fifty-two percent of the population. Why aren´t the super rich helping out? Why do corporate executives make so much money while those lower on the food chain must keep both the father and mother employed to make ends meet?

Spence insists that the top can engage in “grab-most-of-it” ethics while “the bottom is barely [able to] survive.” The problems are exacerbated in the auto industry

The problem even extends to places where we are entertained, such as Disneyland. The chairman of Disney, Michael D. Eisener made $203 million in 1994. Are you telling me that there are people in Disneyland making six to twelve dollars an hour while a chairman is making millions? How can such a profitable entertainment industry be so unsharing?

All of you know that a person making minimum wage to twelve dollars an hour can barely afford health insurance, let alone getting two or three dental caps in a single year. Bill Clinton has even publicly expressed some consternation that executives are making one hundred times more than subordinates.

The problems are extending to subordinates in the form of less pay and more work. I am not a socialist, yet I have the feeling that the working people of our country have been out-lawyered and out-organized. There are more jobs, yet people are not increasing their income.

New Jobs Bring Few Benefits

Spence comments,”Although far more jobs have been created in an expanding economy, often the new jobs demand longer hours, offer less pay, accumulate no vacation time, and have no retirement plan.... They are referred to as ‘McJobs,´.... The country´s largest employer is Manpower, Inc., the temporary-help agency that rents, like leased equipment, 767,000 substitute workers each year.”

How do we help people feel good when their pay is not good? Can you feel good about yourself when you show up for work where you are underpaid, and must be embarrassed at paycheck time? Can you feel that you are a protector when you are not paid enough to send your children to the best colleges or hospitals?

We have to pay caregivers high salaries, high amounts just for ten minutes of their time. How can we justify such measly circumstances for the average American in the midst of so much wealth. Even the minimum wage is opposed by some of the rich.

What we have here is a failure of companies to address the need of the average American.

Role of Religion

Spence also feels that modern Christianity is letting the average American down. Religion has ceased being an advocate for mankind. Some people, Spence allows, have made money and patriotism their religion. The problem Spence thinks is that “Religion, the product of man, is not responsible to man. ... It has no duty to free the soul of man. It has only the duty to capture his soul. It has no duty to elevate him. It has only the duty to frighten him, to cut off inquiry,....”

Whether your religion is to God, money, or patriotism, think about whether being religious helps you make more money, expand your mind, or gives you the pride necessary to advance yourself. Do you have to cower in front of the boss or can you be proud of your contributions?

“Get anything today, Freeburg?” That is what salesmen are asked before, if they are ever asked, “How are you?,” when returning to the sales office at the end of the day. It is good to concentrate on profit, but when real earnings are going down, the salesmen, including Christian salesmen and women, should be able to ask their employer, “Did you increase my income today — score a reversal?”

Without resorting to socialism, unions can expand and increase our wealth and diminish the holdings of 300 or 400 billionaires. Our country will be more stable and happy.

Tug Escorts

A Small, But Significant San Juan Island Oil Spill on Earth Day

by Kevin Ranker, Friends of the San Juans

On Earth Day we had a small, but significant oil spill reach the west side of the San Juan Islands. The source has yet to be identified. First thing Thursday morning, Earth day, I received a call from one of our members, Liz Keeshan. She and her husband walk South Beach in the National Park here on San Juan Island daily. She reported that there had been an oil spill.

Cicely Muldoon, Superintendent of San Juan National Historic Park, and I arrived at about 9 AM to find that indeed there had been a spill. The spill consisted of linear layer bunker fuel, the heavy tarry stuff, mixed into the driftwood and kelp and stretching over three miles on San Juan Island. It has now been confirmed that the spill came aground on the western side of Lopez Island as well and we have had at least one confirmed sea bird death do to oil coverage.

This spill is small and lasting impacts will probably be minimal. The response from Island Oil Spills Association, Department of Ecology and the US Coast Guard was good and the volunteer efforts of our community members again made me proud to live in these islands.

I feel very lucky for two reasons. The first is that this spill was small and it seems to be being handled in a decent manner. The second is that maybe this will serve as a warning that to us all that we are vulnerable to this type of disaster. Although the response was good, and everyone involved, particularly the Island Oil Spills Association, are to be proud of the initiatives taken to protect our coast, our efforts where spread thin and could not have handled a much larger spill.

This could just as well have been a much larger spill because every day we don´t have tugs escorting oil tankers and/or rescue tugs in the Strait of Juan de Fuca is one more day of unacceptable risk for these islands. The Coast Guard, the legislature and Vice President Al Gore have done nothing to get more tugs in these waters because the oil and shipping industry doesn´t want them to.

The San Juan Archipelago and the Northwest Straits are internationally recognized as an exceptional ecosystem. At the same time, we know that our marine fish and wildlife populations are already depleted, and our environment is in precarious health. How many “small” lessons do we have to face before we realize the importance of protecting this place? Tug escorts or a rescue tug in the outer straits may not have made a difference on this spill but this spill is just a tiny taste of what would happen if a tanker ran into trouble with no tug at hand.

That this happened on Earth Day and in a National Park is particularly upsetting. Vice President Al Gore spent Earth Day speechifying in Shenandoah National Park, as a media event touting his work to clean up the air pollution and visibility in the National Parks. Our legislature spent the day putting the nail in the coffin of this session´s tug legislation. The Coast Guard spent the day blissfully, because they´ve already announced that our waters are “safe.” I spent Earth day looking for oil-covered sea birds.

Preventing oil spills is so much cheaper and less heartbreaking than cleaning one up. Isn´t it about time the proper protection is put in place?

Please take the time and call your legislators and the governor and let them know that federal and state governments must require rescue tugs and/or tug escorts for all tankers in the Northwest Straits now. Not after it is too late.

For more information, contact Kevin at (360) 378-2319 or waterman@rockisland.com

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NorthWest Citizen