Whatcom Watch Online
March 2000
Volume 9, Issue 3

Cover Story

A Roller Coaster Ride: The Proposed Second Sudden Valley Sewer Line

by S. A. Hewitt

S.A. Hewitt was born in Seattle and has lived in Bellingham since 1984. She has a B.A. in English literature from the University of Washington and a B.A. in art from WWU.

Last month's Part One, began with the construction of the trunk sewer line along Lake Whatcom Boulevard and Sudden Valley collector sewer system which were completed by 1974. In those early sewer construction days, no inspections were done, infiltration and inflow from stormwater were not considered, and sewage spills were reported as early as 1975 which led to a moratorium on new sewer hookups in Sudden Valley and Geneva in 1976. Water District #10 purchased the Sudden Valley sewer system in 1977 and lifted the moratorium on new hookups.

During the 1990-92 real estate boom in Sudden Valley, Water District #10 requested an increase in the contracted sewerage capacity from 3,200 to 4,334 gallons per minute, which was denied by the City of Bellingham in 1991. Not about to miss out on the real estate frenzy, the district applied for a permit to construct a second sewer line, or interceptor, from Sudden Valley to Bellingham in 1992 and the application was denied by Whatcom County Hearing Examiner Ed Good. The uncertainty over the outcome of the sewer dispute fueled a run on the 84 remaining sewer line hookup permits (allocated to the existing line's carrying capacity), and a second moratorium on new sewer hookups was announced in September, 1992.

Four to five sewage spills per year had occurred regularly since 1975 causing the State of Washington Department of Health to declare in 1992 that the "ongoing and periodic discharge of untreated sewage from Water District #10's sewer system manholes" created a severe health hazard. Nonetheless, Water District #10 appealed the 1992 Hearing Examiner decision to Whatcom County Council, which upheld Ed Good's decision. Like a raging bull, not to be stopped by mere mortals, the district appealed the "no second sewer line" decision to the Washington State Shoreline Hearings Board. Part One ended with the October 28, 1993 Washington State Shoreline Hearings Board decision which upheld the original Hearing Examiner Decision of May, 1992. No new sewer line.

Part Two

The wild and bumpy roller coster ride continues. Not content to become a sinking ship or backsliding roller coaster, in December 1993 Water District #10 fought back once again by appealing the affirmed denial of the Shorelines Substantial Development Permit by the Shorelines Hearings Board to the Whatcom County Superior Court. At that time a district Memo was sent to the Water District #10 mailing list entitled Frequently asked questions regarding Sewer Capacity Limitations. The memo included a clearer look at the direction of Water District #10 and the second sewer line (interceptor):

• Will the rehabilitation of the Sudden Valley sanitary sewer system create additional capacity for new hookups? No. The district's engineers determined that the theoretical capacity under maximum flow demands has been reached without taking into consideration the excessive infiltration and inflow (from stormwater) that exists in the system.

• Will construction of a new interceptor relieve the infiltration and inflow problem? No. The interceptor is required to transport sewage flows resulting from future service connections to be made to the sanitary sewer collection system within the Geneva and Sudden Valley service areas of the district's boundary.

• What negotiations have taken place with the City of Bellingham for increasing the 3200 gpm limitation contained in the sewage treatment contract? In 1990, the district requested the city to increase the capacity for sewage treatment to 4,334 gpm under the January 1, 1974 contract. This request was denied.

In a letter from then council president, Don Gischer, the city formalized their position by stating: "The Council as well as the community at large is very concerned about the effects of continual growth in the Lake Whatcom Watershed. Additional growth, beyond the substantial amount already provided for in the existing contract, would have adverse impacts on water quality, traffic congestion, and other quality of life issues. While we recognize that future difficulties may arise in the development of land and the provision on utility service, we are not willing to go beyond our existing contract obligations."

The district will make requests to the city for reconsideration of this position at appropriate times and when new Council members take office.22

Sewer Line Permit Issued

In the new political climate on September 15, 1994, Whatcom County Superior Court Judge David Nichols overturned the 1992 Hearing Examiner decision and issued a permit for a second Sudden Valley sewer line.

Persistent and not easily defeated, the same dedicated group of concerned citizens who were the intervenor-respondents in the Shoreline Hearings Board case--Jay Taber, the Whatcom Falls Neighborhood Association, and Sherilyn Wells--appealed the 1994 hearing examiner decision to the Washington State Court of Appeals in 1995. The Court of Appeals overturned Judge Nichols' decision on January 4, 1996.

In the meantime, it appeared that the 1990-1991 and 1991-1993 Water District #10 contracts to survey and repair 1,100 manholes covers23 did not work, as two sewer spills of approximately a quarter million gallons each took place on November 30th and December 27, 1994. A 1996 Water District #10 draft environmental impact statement, edited by Robert Petersen, the district general manager, stated that "sewage overflows usually occur at pump stations, although small overflows may occur from manhole covers. Pump station overflows can also occur during power outages or debris blockage of outgoing pipes of force mains.

Repeated Sewage Overflows

In November 1995 a large storm event resulted in an overflow at the Sudden Valley sewage lift station (near Austin Creek). During this event, sewage overflowed from the pump station wetwell, eventually flowing into Austin Creek. During a later storm in November 1995 sewage overflows occurred at the Sudden Valley lift station, airport lift station, and a manhole along Lake Whatcom Boulevard near Strawberry Point.

Overflows again flowed into Austin Creek. A total of about 741,000 gallons overflowed over two days during this storm event. A manhole in Lake Whatcom Boulevard near Strawberry Point (the same one?) overflowed into a ditch and then into Lake Whatcom. The district's sewer system is typical of many systems in that infiltration and inflow can occur to such a degree as to produce overflows. What is distinct about the district's system is that these overflows occur in the watershed of a drinking water source."24

Sewage Detention Tank Proposed

Back on the battlefield, Water District #10 appealed the January 4, 1996 Washington State Court of Appeals decision to the Washington State Supreme Court. Another bumpy part of the ride came on June 8, 1996--the Supreme Court refused to hear the matter and the 1992 Whatcom County Hearing Examiner decision disallowing the construction of the second sewer line was upheld.

Their final appeal rejected, Water District #10 found another path through the maze and pursued a plan to build a 700,000-gallon sewage detention tank. In May of 1998, Whatcom County Hearing Examiner Michael Bobbink issued a conditional-use permit to the district for the 700,000-gallon tank. The purpose of the tank was to eliminate raw sewage overflow into Lake Whatcom and allow 600 new sewer hookups at a rate of 150 per year over a four year period.25

A December 10, 1998 Bellingham Herald editorial opinion called the detention tank "a double-edged sword in the fight to protect the lake from mounting pollution. On the one hand, it largely resolves the disgusting, embarrassing, and unhealthy problem of sewage overflows into Lake Whatcom...The tank has the capacity to hold the excess (storm) water and sewage until it can be released back into the sewer system at off-peak hours."

The editorial continued by stating that "the environmental downside, however, is that the tank will permit construction of 600 new homes over the next four years if ongoing legal challenges filed by local environmental activists ultimately fail...As we've said before, the County Council should place a moratorium on new subdivisions in the watershed and commission a definitive study of the cumulative, long-term impacts of new housing on water quality...."26

Defense Fund Files Lawsuit

In March of 1998, the Watershed Defense Fund et al filed suit in U.S. District Court in Seattle alleging that sewage overflow into Lake Whatcom was a violation of the Clean Water Act. The plaintiffs in the case were Bill and Rose Black, Susan and John Kane-Ronning, Sherilyn Wells, and the Watershed Defense Fund of Bellingham. They cited numerous incidents of raw sewage spilling into Lake Whatcom, often through manhole covers.

In response to the suit, Water District #10 said that it was taking steps to improve its sewer system. The improvements would enable it to prevent overflows and lift the five-year moratorium on sewer hookups in Sudden Valley and part of Geneva. The district said it was retrofitting manholes and replacing and repairing problem lines where possible. It also proposed improving a sewage pump station at Euclid Street. According to Water District #10, building the detention basin in Sudden Valley and a sewage transmission line from Sudden Valley to Bellingham would serve dual purposes: containment of sewage overflows and allowing additional homes to connect to the system.27

The plaintiffs opposed more connections to the district's system. It was their opinion that by lifting the moratorium on hookups, Water District #10 would allow for more development on a sewage system that was already ineffective and inadequate.

Settlement Reached

On November 23, 1999, Water District #10 and the Watershed Defense Fund et al. Reached a settlement in the Clean Water Act federal lawsuit filed in March of 1998. The settlement called for Water District #10 to give $220,000 to Whatcom Land Trust for the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands around the lake, reduce the number of new hookups allowed for the Sudden Valley Sewage Detention Basin from 600 to 310, and to pay penalties to the land trust whenever sewage spills from district facilities into the lake. In just four years, the penalties for overflows will terminate.28

There has been one sewage spill since November 23--it occurred on December 10, 1999 from a manhole near Strawberry Point and will cost the district $5,000. Water District #10 has begun to use a trucking system to transport sewage when the stormwater inundates the sewer system, so perhaps there will be fewer spills in the future.29 (The number of sewer overflows does, in fact, seem to be decreasing--there were four to five sewer spills per year from 1975 to 1992 but since 1992 there have been two to three reported spills per year. Is decreasing good enough, however, in terms of human health issues?)

Second Sewer Line

A year prior to the aforementioned settlement, on November 25, 1998, Whatcom Hearing Examiner Michael Bobbink granted Water District #10 their Golden Fleece--a permit to build a second sewer line along Lake Louise Road instead of along Lake Whatcom Boulevard. Bobbink said Water District #10 and Whatcom County were obligated to provide services for the platted lots. He wrote: "Denial of utility services to existing property owners without compensation is not the appropriate way to protect Lake Whatcom."

And shortly afterwards, on December 3, 1998, Sherilyn Wells and the Clean Water Alliance (formerly the Watershed Defense Fund) filed an appeal of Bobbink's decision with the Whatcom County Council.30 This time, in a different political climate than 1992, the County Council upheld the hearing examiner's decision. Yes to the second sewer line.

Standing firm in their effort to protect Lake Whatcom, Ms. Wells and the Clean Water Alliance made an appeal to Skagit County Superior Court and the decision was handed down on December 7, 1999. Judge Susan Cook ruled that a plan to build a new sewer line to Sudden Valley should not have received a permit from the Whatcom County hearing examiner. She said that hearing examiner Michael Bobbink should not have considered property rights when considering environmental impacts of the proposed sewer line. In addition, the judge said that Water District #10 must do a supplemental environmental impact statement on the project in light of the changes at the city of Bellingham's water diversion dam on the middle fork of the Nooksack River.31

Middle Fork Diversion of Nooksack River

The environmental impact statement prepared by the district had not considered how the lake would react to pollution if the Middle Fork diversion, used to flush and supplement the reservoir, were reduced or eliminated. Endangered Species Act (fisheries) issues in the Nooksack River have already resulted in an agreement changing the way Bellingham has historically used the diversion. The agreement made in August 1998 is subject to further modification if the catastrophic fisheries decline in the Nooksack requires further concessions. Also, there are unresolved tribal water rights issues which could affect use of the diversion.32

Two days after the Skagit County Superior Court ruling, on December 9, 1999, lawyers for Water District #10 asked Judge Susan Cook to reconsider her decision that an supplemental environmental impact statement be done before a new sewer line can be built along Lake Louise Road. Water District #10 attorney Brian Hansen thought the judge made a mistake in demanding the supplemental environmental impact statement because the permit for the second sewer line was awarded before the city started discussing changes to the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam.33

In January 2000, Judge Cook denied the Water District #10 motion to reconsider her decision. As this article heads for publication, Water District #10 must either prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement, appeal the motion denial to the Court of Appeals,34 or give up on the second sewer line. Time will tell if this means another battle, and then another, and...

Accommodating Growth

To read the 1996 Water District #10 draft environmental impact statement is to understand the district's first priority, which is not necessarily healthy drinking water: "The purpose of this environmental evaluation is not to resolve or re-analyze regional land use planning which has already occurred. Rather the purpose of wastewater facilities planning is to accommodate growth as already approved through the planning process in the most environmentally and economically sound manner...Construction of the interceptor would allow for full buildout of Sudden Valley and Geneva."35

Naked Core of the Matter

Impatience reigns on all sides. Property owners have waited for nearly a decade to build their dream homes. Developers loom nervously over the valley lots like vultures, ready to pick and pluck their prey. Environmentalists perceive the degradation of their drinking water the same way they perceive a ragged nightmare and read reports about caffeine levels in Lake Whatcom (what dogs and geese drink coffee?). They wonder: will estrogen and antibiotic levels be reported next? Tribal leaders and members feel the decline of the salmon in their own heartbeats, in the flow of their blood which is one with the flow of water in the Nooksack River.

Towards the end, as we impatiently destroy ourselves with these brutal bruising battles, as we stream over the years in the same old rusted roller coaster, as we become pared down to the naked core of the matter, there seems to be but one nagging and eminently clear question. The question stands out like a festering maroon scar. It is blaringly loud--how could anyone miss it? It reads, Can Living Forms Survive Without Clean Water?

22 Water District No. 10 Memo: Frequently asked questions regarding Sewer Capacity Limitations, 1993.
23 Water District No. 10, Sewer Inflow/Infiltration (I/I) and Overflow Mitigation Efforts, February 19, 1998.
24 Whatcom County Water District No. 10, draft environmental impact statement, December 13, 1996.
25 Aubrey Cohen, "Sewage tank will clear way for 600 new homes," The Bellingham Herald, 18 November 1998.
26 Editorial, "Sudden Valley detention tank was necessary," The Bellingham Herald, 10 December 1998.
27 John Harris, "Group: Water district fouls Lake Whatcom," The Bellingham Herald, 19 March 1998.
28 Watershed Defense Fund et al v. Whatcom County Water District No. 10, No. C98-1631R (1999).
29 Personal communication from Paul States, plaintiff's designee, January 10, 2000.
30 Aubrey Cohen, "Sudden Valley ready to move forward with sewer," The Bellingham Herald, 9 December 1998.
31 Scott Ayers, "Ruling postpones Lake Louise sewer line," The Bellingham Herald, 7 December 1999.
32 Sherilyn Wells, "Skagit Court Denies Permit for Sudden Valley Sewer Line, Whatcom Watch, January 2000.
33 "Water district renews sewer effort," The Bellingham Herald, 9 December 1999.
34 Personal communication with Sherilyn Wells, February 8, 2000.
35 Whatcom County Water District No. 10, draft environmental impact statement, December 13, 1996.

Cover Story

Threat to Freedom of the Press Embroils Sudden Valley

by Robert Schultz

Robert Schultz, a Sudden Valley sesident, has his own marketing research firm and has a long history in broadcasting as a writer and researcher. He is also a published short story author.

There's a water/sewer battle brewing in Sudden Valley that does not involve Sherilyn Wells. It does involve freedom of the press and charges of conflict of interest on the part of a Water District #10 employee. This time the controversy rages about the way the community newspaper, Sudden Valley Views, reported a statement made at the Sudden Valley Community Association November, 1999, board of directors meeting.

November Board Meeting

According to Tom Theirbah, former Sudden Valley Community Association President, in order to qualify for federal and/or state funding for a federal court mandated upgrading of the Post Point treatment plant, the City of Bellingham projected unincorporated Whatcom County population numbers 25 years ahead.

The figures used for Sudden Valley were based on a total build-out on 4,000 lots and a projected population of over 10,000. Theirbah said that the current figures for Sudden Valley are approximately 1,700 developed lots and an estimated population of about 5,000.

Part One: Surcharge on Non-city Users

Tom Theirbah, asked the Board to investigate what he claimed to be a questionable surcharge levied against Water District #10 customers by the City of Bellingham.

As a result of the (projected) figures, said Theirbah, the city's remodel of Post Point was fully funded by "free money." In spite of that, the Bellingham City Council imposed a 50 percent surcharge on non-city residents who use the facility for sewage treatment.

Theirbah calculated the extra cost to Sudden Valley residents to be over $200 per year to fund a construction project which was paid for by grant money. Vince D'Onofrio, a Water District #10 Commissioner, confirmed the surcharge and agreed Sudden Valley "ought to challenge this."

Water District #10 Responds

The first response came at the following meeting in December. The Association Chair instructed the Association Secretary to read a letter from Blair Ford, President of Water District 10's Board of Commissioners. In addition, a representative of Water District 10 requested that the Sudden Valley Community Association Board publish the letter in the January issue of Sudden Valley Views. The Assocation Chair then ordered the editor of the newspaper to do what the water district wanted. (The editor told me she would have printed it without being commanded to do so.)

By its action the water district asserted itself as a primary player in what Theirbah later said at the January meeting: "...was not a Water District #10 issue...it's an issue with the City of Bellingham." At no time did I hear him accuse the water district of any wrongdoing since Water District #10 serves only as a collection agent for the surcharge. The district is not the creator of the surcharge.

Letter From Water District 10

The subject of the Ford letter was: "Alleged City of Bellingham Surcharges to District Customer's Water and Sewer Service Bills." In the letter he attacked Theirbah's basic assertions and called most of the assertions in the Sudden Valley Views article "patently inaccurate."

Then, in a seeming contradiction, in the letter he stated: "The City does, however, apply a 50 percent surcharge for water it supplies to all its customers outside the city limits .... " This seems to agree with Theirbah's assertion that there is a surcharge. No further explanation of the surcharge was offered. The letter did not address the issue of questioning the surcharge.

The letter concludes with the following: "Please arrange the dissemination of this correct information to all Sudden Valley residents as soon as possible. We also encourage a more balanced journalistic approach to reporting the news by the Sudden Valley Views staff." (Emphasis added.)

The reader can draw his or her own conclusion as to whether this sounds like an ultimatum and an attempt to intimidate the editor to conform to the water district's view.

Apology Demanded

After the reading of Blair Ford's letter, Sudden Valley Community Association Board Director and Water District 10 employee, Chip Anderson, shocked the audience by demanding an apology from the Sudden Valley Views editor for "misleading the membership" and for her "great lack of journalistic integrity" in her reporting of the matter of the alleged surcharge applied by the City of Bellingham.

Mr. Anderson was absent from the November meeting where Mr. Theirbah had made the statement. The editor was there and reported what she had heard. Since I was at that meeting I can attest to the accuracy of the reporting in the Sudden Valley Views. Two audience members rose to call Mr. Anderson's remarks slanderous. Mr. Anderson was not yet finished with the editor.

Anderson Demands Retraction

On December 6 at 1:17 p.m. Mr. Anderson called the editor to say: "I am, greatly displeased at the lack of journalistic integrity that you used in this matter. I checked with Water District [10] staff this morning and to their knowledge you made no attempt to verify any of this information, this completely misleading information from Tom Theirbah who has been known for this in the past. At this point, all I can say as a Board member, unless I see a complete retraction and an apology to the Water District, I am going to fight vigorously for your removal. I just can't explain about how upset I am at this point about what I see here and I think it would be a good idea if you appeared at the work session tomorrow afternoon...."

January Meeting Supports Editor

In the meantime there was mounting public outrage at a threat to freedom of the press. Thus, there was much anticipation as the Board of Directors January meeting began with the Board Secretary reading the following statement, which the Board passed as a resolution:

"The Sudden Valley Community Association's Board of Directors fully understands and supports the fact that the editor of the Sudden Valley Views is completely independent from Board influence pertaining to the paper's content and is allowed to present membership opinions which may differ from the Board's. This Board serves as the publisher and will not censor or edit any articles written by or submitted to the Views staff."

Following this, Mr. Anderson apologized to the membership, but not to the editor, for the tenor of his remarks at the previous board meeting. He emphasized his respect for the concepts of freedom of the press, but noted that there was "was a profound responsibility for accuracy." Apology notwithstanding, Mr. Anderson, to date, has not backed off from his views on the editor of the Sudden Valley Views. The Board's policy statement and Anderson's apology did not end the press freedom or conflict of interest matter.

Freedom of the Press Petition Drive

Former Board member Don Messecar expressed his pleasure at the Board's action regarding its position as publisher, but noted it did not fix the problem for good. For example, he stated, the Board could let the editor's contract expire and let an employee put the paper together, which would "make the Views as unbiased as a TV commercial." He informed the Board that he had drafted a bylaw amendment and had collected signatures on a petition to "maintain freedom of the press for Sudden Valley." The petition drive, calling for a special membership meeting to act on the bylaw change, is already underway. (Note: The editor's contract will soon come up for renewal.) That's where the matter lies for now.

Part Two: Conflict of Interest

Community activist Katherine Yurica pursued Anderson's perceived conflict of interest status in a January 26 letter to the Board members. She stated that Anderson continues to make disparaging remarks about the original Sudden Valley Views article and the editor's professional standards. She quoted a bylaw section that states: "The Board may contract or otherwise deal with any company of which a Board Member is...an employee, provided such Board Member does not vote on any motion respecting the contract or participate in any discussion thereof." (Emphasis added.)

Yurica concluded that if Anderson's conduct results in bending the reporting in the Sudden Valley Views to suit the needs of Water District 10, then his position will be enhanced in the eyes of his employer, thus resulting in personal benefit. The issue, according to Yurica, is whether Director Chip Anderson placed his Water District 10's interest above that of the Sudden Valley Community Association for personal gain. Did he violate his signed disclosure of interest statement and the bylaws? If so, he may be removed from the Board by majority vote. Anderson would also be obliged to refrain from voting on the editor's contract.

Attorney Phil Sharpe Comments

This chapter of the saga ended at the February 15 Board work session where the Sudden Valley Community Association President read a letter from Attorney Phil Sharpe concerning Yurica's letter. Phil Sharpe is the attorney for the Sudden Valley Community Assocation. He wrote the letter at the behest of the Chair of the Sudden Valley Community Association. This is the essence of his thoughts:

"In this particular instance, I have not conducted an independent evaluation of the facts. However, even assuming that the facts recited by Ms. Yurica...are true, I do not believe that they, in and of themselves, warrant the conclusion that director Chip Anderson stands to benefit in a direct and substantial way from the renewal or non-renewal of the contract between Sudden Valley Community Association and the editor of the Sudden Valley Views. Indeed, Ms. Yurica's hypothesis requires one to assume that Mr. Anderson is able to convince the Board of Directors as to the correctness of Water District 10's view of the news article, and further that he is able to convince the Board of Directors to change the (editor's) contract in a way that imposes journalistic standards on the editor which are suitable to Water District #10...."

Mr.Sharpe then says that "any benefit which Mr. Anderson may derive (from his enhanced position in the eyes of his employer) is both remote and contingent." He does admit, for example, that if Anderson were under pressure from his employer to insure the non-renewal of the editor's contract, or if his job or employment benefits are dependent on his non-renewal vote, he would have to recuse himself. "Such facts," Sharpe says, "are not present in this instance."

The audience agreed with a member's comment that perception of conflict can be detrimental.

Board to Vote on Editor's Contract

We will see what happens when the association board votes on a new contract for the editor. Will Sudden Valley become "Sullen Valley?" The Freedom of the Press Petition drive continues. I'll keep you posted.


The Great "Environment Versus Economy" Myth

by John R. E. Bliese, Ph.D.

John R. E. Bliese, Ph.D., teaches communications at Texas Tech University. He is the author of a 52-page monograph, "Conservative Principles and Environmental Policies," in the Spring 1998 issue of The Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Summer, 1999, issue of The Green Elephant, the REP America newsletter. REP America is the national grassroots organization of Republicans for Environmental Protection. They may be reached at: PO Box 7073, Deerfield, IL 60015; phone (847-940-0320); or www.repamerica.org.

"We can't afford any more environmental protection, because it will hurt the economy." How many times have you heard that line? Probably every time any new standards were proposed to clean up our air or water and protect our health. And every time we try to preserve some rare plant or animal we have pushed to the brink of extinction, it's "owls (or whatever) versus jobs."

These arguments are the most common ones we face in trying to protect the earth. Politicians spout them freely, and so do business groups and radio talk show entertainers. There is only one problem with these assertions: They are simply not true!

There have been dozens of well-designed studies by economists who have tested these claims, and the results are clear: environmental protection normally has no negative impact on the economy overall, and sometimes it has a positive effect.

What I want to do here is summarize a few of the more notable studies, to show that there is good quality ammunition for us to use when anti-environmentalists trot out those tired old claims.

Look at the States

First, let's look at the different states within the U.S. Some states have much stricter environmental standards than others. The common belief is that this would hurt the strict states and help the lax ones. But the truth is exactly the opposite, as two comprehensive studies show.

Professor Stephen Meyer of MIT rated all fifty states according to the strictness of their environmental protection policies. He then compared those ratings with indicators of economic health, such as overall growth, employment growth and construction growth, over a period of nearly twenty years. He found exactly the opposite of what the anti-environmentalists claimed: "States with stronger environmental policies consistently out-performed the weaker environmental states on all the economic measures."

Shortly after Meyer's work appeared, a similar study was done by the Institute for Southern Studies in North Carolina. The Institute for Southern Studies ranked all fifty states on the strength of their environmental standards, and then ranked them separately on economic indicators. They compared the two rankings and found that "states with the best environmental records also offer the best job opportunities and climate for long-term economic development. The best stewards of the environment also offer workaday citizens the best opportunity for prosperity."

Look at the National Economy

Next, let's look at the overall national economy. Some important work has been done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a research organization in Paris established by the governments of the industrial democracies, including the United States. It has done several studies recently on the effect of environmental programs on the economies of member countries, and it concludes that there is no evidence of serious economic problems from them. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is doing individual environmental performance reviews of member countries; the one for the United States was published in 1996. It finds that our total spending on environmental protection is over two percent of gross domestic product. While this is relatively high, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concludes that "there is no evidence that the economy has been adversely affected as a whole by strong environmental protection policies."

Robert Repetto, an economist with the World Resources Institute, did a comprehensive industry-by-industry analysis of an enormous amount of data to answer the question: "Jobs, competitiveness, and environmental regulation: What are the real issues?" Within industries, he found that high polluters are no more profitable than low polluters. "There is simply no evidence that superior environmental performance puts firms at a market disadvantage or adversely affects market performance."

As for jobs, Repetto found virtually no effect. Money spent on environmental protection creates as many jobs as it would if invested elsewhere. Repetto also found that higher environmental standards in developed countries have not lowered their international competitiveness. There is no evidence of "industrial flight" to third-world countries with few environmental regulations. (In fact, international investment in heavily-regulated industries goes mostly to other advanced countries, which all have strict standards!) Likewise with international trade patterns: there is "no indication that countries with more stringent standards have suffered a loss of international competitiveness."

Roger Bezdek, an economic consultant, reviewed a number of studies and found that "recent major empirical studies unanimously reject the hypothesis that there is a negative relationship between environmental protection and economic growth. In fact, when statistically significant relationships are found, they are invariably positive. In other words, the U.S. states and nations of the world with more stringent environmental regulations show the best economic performance."

Jobs Versus Environment

In a study for the Economic Policy Institute, E. B. Goodstein reviewed twenty years of research on jobs and the environment and found that most economy-wide studies show environmental regulations have resulted in a small increase in total employment. But since a third of all American workers seem to fear for their jobs, he wanted to know how many workers really were laid off because of environmental regulations. He reports on a Department of Labor study, which found a total of four plants per year closed for environmental reasons, a grand total of 1,300 jobs lost per year in the entire country! Seven times that many people will be laid off just from the merger of Exxon and Mobil. Goodstein concludes: "Any claim of a trade-off between jobs and the environment is completely without substance. Widespread fears of job loss from environmental protection are simply unfounded."

Four prominent economists, Adam Jaffe, Steven Peterson, Paul Portney and Robert Stavins, reviewed some 100 different studies of environmental regulation and competitiveness of United States manufacturers. They found that, overall, the studies support the conclusions drawn by Repetto and Bezdek: they simply do not show any significant harmful effect on our economy.

On the positive side, Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School has compiled an impressive number of case studies in which new environmental regulations caused companies to redesign products or production processes, in ways that cut pollution and saved the companies lots of money.

Look at the Endangered Species Act

The one environmental law that generates the most hatred is the Endangered Species Act. Surely, with all the heated controversy it creates, and the resources it supposedly "locks up," this law has had some serious effects on our economy. Again, the answer is No.

First, those horror stories that some of our Republican politicians were telling a few years ago were so obviously exaggerated that any third-rate high school debater could have shown they were bogus and had no value whatsoever as evidence. Some of them were, in fact, pure fabrications.

In the real world, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service informally reviews thousands of projects that might harm an endangered species. Almost all of them are quickly approved. Only a few turn out to have enough potential for harm to require a formal review, and almost all of those are eventually approved, perhaps with some modifications to protect habitat.

In 1990, for example, the Fish and Wildlife Service examined 28,000 proposed projects. Fewer than 700 of them required a formal review, and less than one percent were found to have a significant impact on an endangered plant or animal. Only two were stopped.

From 1987 through 1991, the Fish and Wildlife Service consulted with other federal agencies on some 96,800 projects. Only 54 were ultimately vetoed. That's .05 percent: just one twentieth of one percent!

Endangered Species and Economic Growth

So few projects run into any problems with the Endangered Species Act that it could not possibly have much overall impact on the economy. And that is precisely what Stephen Meyer of MIT found in another study. He compared the economic growth of states where there are many endangered species listings with the economic growth of states that have few listings. He found that states with the most endangered species listings had the highest economic growth. Even when differences among the states (such as area and economic size) were taken into account, the results were the same. Professor Meyer concludes: "Anecdotes notwithstanding, the data compel us to reject the argument that higher numbers of endangered species are associated with poor economic performance."

The explanation, of course, is that even where an endangered species listing blocks some development, it is so localized and so small a factor that it does not even show up on economic measures at the state level.

But what about the really big "train wrecks," as they are sometimes called? What of the cases where protecting some little creature supposedly had a huge effect on a whole region? There has been only one such case: the northern spotted owl, which stopped almost all logging in the national forests of the Pacific Northwest for several years. So, let's look at the case of the owl, because there is a lot that the popular media never told us.

"Jobs Versus Owls"

The real issue never was "jobs versus owls." The real issue was protecting the last of the magnificent old-growth forests, which are critical habitat for many species, not just owls. Less than 8 percent of the ancient forest is left. If the timber companies are so incompetent that they cannot survive on the huge forest land base they have already been given, it is ludicrous to believe that sacrificing the few remnants of old growth will save them.

Neverthess, the timber industry and the loggers got lots of publicity by warning that huge numbers of jobs would be lost, all neatly packaged in the slogan "jobs versus owls." But jobs in the wood products industry have been declining for decades. Even during the 1980s, when the amount of timber harvested increased dramatically, the companies laid off many thousands of workers. The main reason is automation, which requires fewer and fewer workers to cut the trees and saw the logs.

So what actually happened in the years since the spotted owl became protected? The total number of jobs lost in wood products was nowhere close to the industry predictions, but the number of jobs did go down. Blame environmentalists and the owl? No. Professor William Freudenburg and two of his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin recently published a detailed statistical analysis of employment trends in logging and milling in the Northwest. They found that "the 1989 listing of the spotted owl has no significant effect on employment not even in the two states where the debate has been the most intense [Oregon and Washington]."

Nor did protecting the owl harm the overall economy of the Northwest. It is the fastest-growing region in the nation, and even in the early 1990s, shortly after the owl became protected, it had some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

The Myth of Trade-offs

The "environment versus the economy trade-off" is a myth, even in narrowly economic terms. Note that the studies summarized here only looked for economic impacts of environmental policies and found none. They did not count any of the environmental benefits or public health benefits we now have from our efforts to protect the earth.

There are many ways in which our environmental policies can be improved. Let's not let the old myths stand in our way.


About environmental policies in general
•Bezdek, Roger H. "Environment and Economy: What's the Bottom Line?" Environment 35 (Sept. 1993): 6-11, 25-32.
•Goodstein, E.B. "Jobs and the Environment: The Myth of a National Trade-Off." Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 1994.
•Hall, Bob. "Gold & Green." Southern Exposure (Fall 1994): 48-52.
•Jaffe, Adam, Steven Peterson, Paul Portney, Robert Stavins. "Environmental Regulation and the Competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturing: What Does the Evidence Tell Us?" Journal of Economic Literature 33 (March 1995): 132-163.
•Meyer, Stephen M. "Environmentalism and Economic Prosperity: Testing the Environmental Impact Hypothesis." MIT Project on Environmental Politics and Policy, October 5, 1992.
•Meyer, Stephen M. "Environmentalism and Economic Prosperity: An Update." MIT, February 16, 1993.
•OECD (Org. for Economic Cooperation & Development). "Environmental Performance in OECD Countries." "Environmental Performance Reviews: United States." "Integrating Environment and Economy: Progress in the 1990s." All three publications -- Paris: 1996.
•Porter, Michael and Claas van der Linde. "Green and Competitive." Harvard BusinessReview (Sept./Oct. 1995): 120-134.
•Porter, Michael and Claas van der Linde. "Toward a New Conception of the Environment- Competitiveness Relationship." Journal of Economic Perspectives 9 (Fall 1995): 97-118.
•Repetto, Robert. "Jobs, Competitiveness and Environmental Regulation: What Are the Real Issues?" Washington, DC, World Resources Institute, March 1995.

About the Endangered Species Act
•Barker, Rocky. "Saving All the Parts: Reconciling Economics and the Endangered Species Act." Washington, DC: Island Press, 1993.
•Ehrlich, Paul and Anne. "Biodiversity and the Brownlash." Defenders (Fall, 1996): 6-17. •Freudenburg, William, Lisa Wilson & Daniel O'Leary. "Forty Years of Spotted Owls? A Longitudinal Analysis of Logging Industry Job Losses." Sociological Perspectives 41 (1998): 1-26.
•Meyer, Stephen. "Endangered Species Listings and State Economic Performance." Project on Environmental Politics & Policy, MIT (March 1995).
•Morrison, Peter, et al. "Ancient Forests in the Pacific Northwest." Washington, DC: The Wilderness Society, 1991. (This is the best, most comprehensive survey to determine how much old-growth forest is left. Unfortunately, there is even less today than when this study was done.)
•Seideman, David. "Out of the Woods." Audubon (July-Aug. '96): 66-75.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "Facts About the Endangered Species Act." Washington, DC: July 1995. (This is an unfortunately obscure publication in which FWS investigated 34 "horror stories" and gives its responses. They clearly show how grossly distorted the tales were, even when there was some real event behind a story.)


Canoeing The Upper Missouri: A Wild and Scenic River

by Al Hanners

Al Hanners lives in Bellingham. He is a retired geologist who likes to explore the out-of-doors.

We had not been out of Ft. Benton an hour when we began to see white pelicans, elegant birds idling along the shoreline. In the next two or three hours, we saw a beaver, six deer, both eastern and western kingbirds, and Franklin gulls, all species except deer we seldom or never saw near our homes west of the Cascades nor in Ohio. As for our only Montana resident, he planned the trip and was delighted to canoe the river again.

There was much more, the feeling of space and solitude. After weeks of anticipation, at last we were in Montana's "breaks," the region of sagebrush covered rounded hills and bluffs set back from the river. However, the riparian habitat, more often than not the lowest terraces bearing cottonwood trees, supported most of the animal life we would see and sustain our fascination.

We were six people in three 18-foot aluminum canoes starting down the Wild and Scenic Upper Missouri River, the only significant free-flowing stretch between dams and the slack water lakes they impound. We would pull out 85 miles later at Judith Landing on the fifth day. The glues that would hold us together were family ties, three siblings and their father, and two friends, all loving the out-of-doors and birding.

For five days we would escape pressures for instant gratification fostered by TV, radio, advertising, and consumerism. For five days we would reap the rewards of deferred gratification and a simpler life. For a few days we would readjust our sense of values, for example, to relish broken cookies we would not have bought a few days earlier.

We had left our wheels behind. For five days there would be no stop signs and at them booming base notes jolting our brains. Instead, we would be soothed by the soft, mournful cooing of omnipresent mourning doves and the friendly calls of geese. I would revel in a bit of nostalgia, the common musical notes of western meadowlarks I had learned to whistle as a kid in Wisconsin. Light sleepers would be reminded that they were in wilderness by the weird, whining chorus of coyotes toward early morning.

There are excellent publications dealing with the Lewis and Clark expedition and subsequent history, the geology, a good bird list, and appropriate tips on how to enjoy canoe trips down the upper Missouri River; but we found little on the plants. This is an account of our personal observations, of what we saw and learned.


We rented three 18-foot aluminum canoes from an outfitter in Ft. Benton. The deciding factor was the need for shuttle transportation from Judith Landing back to Ft. Benton. Some of our party could not afford to lose precious vacation time, and the outfitter would not do the shuttle unless we rented the canoes. The cost for three canoes plus the shuttle for six people was just under $600.

We were glad we rented aluminum canoes. Plastic, fiberglass, or wooden canoes would not have fared well when beached on gravelly shores. The canoes were brought ashore every night, and sometimes had to be placed on a terrace 10 to 15 feet above the waterline.

For the rest and lunch stops during the day, beaching the bow usually was adequate, but sometimes an abrupt steep bank made that difficult. In those situations, our own light but strong bowlines about 30 feet long came in handy as there was nothing close to shore.

We chose to use our own life jackets and always wore them. Most were designed for freedom of movement while canoeing. One person wearing a life jacket designed for use in a kayak was chaffed, perhaps because the paddle strokes are different.

Weather and Clothing

Montana is Big Sky Country and the ominous dark clouds that appeared early the first afternoon were obvious. Two thunderstorms plus other rain storms repeated a pattern; dark clouds coming our way were followed by strong winds and then rain. That warning gave us time to put on our rain suits we had securely stowed for easy access at a moments notice, and we put them on without going ashore or upsetting the canoes.

Should we go ashore or stay afloat in a thunderstorm? We did both, but in an aluminum canoe, perhaps it is best to go ashore.

In between the showers we had bright sunshine. Our clothing was layered: rainsuits, sweaters, and jackets. There was repeated putting on and stripping down and throughout the trip as comfort level quickly changed. Throughout the second, third and fourth days it tended to be sunny with clouds and cold winds. One of our party wore shorts one day and was badly sunburned. Most of us wore long trousers to cover our legs, and hats with brims all around to protect our ear tips that are prone to sunburn.

The first three mornings our temperatures were 39, 41, and 42 degrees. "Longjohns" and warm sleeping bags made us comfortable.

Wet feet and mud were the order of the day, but the river was a consistent 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so cold water was not a problem. Shorelines were either mud or gravel; I don't recall seeing a sandy shore. One of us wore light rubber boots and changed into shoes in the canoe. Two of us wore "Teva" sandals and heavy wool socks. Three people wore sneakers. Everyone wore hiking boots around camp and on long hikes. One useful innovation new to me was a clothesline in a tent to dry wet clothing at night.

Drinking and Cooking Water

The Bureau of Land Management recommends taking one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and cooking, and washing dishes and bathing in river water. Our experience indicates that is a sound recommendation.

A backpack-type pump and filter would remove harmful bacteria but soon be clogged by silt and mud. Filtering the river water to remove the sediment before filtering out the bacteria would be successful, but we were told in Ft. Benton not to drink river water because of pesticides in it. Probably it also has a lot of commercial fertilizer from agricultural lands as well. Foam floats everywhere in the river. I hope I never become so thirsty that I would drink the water.

Discomforts and Hazards

Some publications recommend taking plenty of insect repellant and even a headnet. Perhaps insects are bad later in the year, but we saw few. I don't recall seeing a single mosquito and the only flying insects to annoy us were gnats. I used insect repellant only once and some of our party used none at all.

Three out of six persons in our party found ticks on their bodies, and how to remove them was controversial. Here is the technique I learned long ago in northern Wisconsin, and it has served me well. Remove ticks before they become deeply imbedded. Inspect your body at least once a day. Have a friend inspect places you cannot see, or run your fingers over such places in search of a small, hard object attached on one end, the head. Gently remove the tick to avoid having the head or part of it remain imbedded in your flesh and risking a nasty infection. Carefully flip the tick on its head and then grasp the entire tick between thumb and finger. Pull gently for perhaps up to a minute until the head comes loose from the flesh.

The only rattlesnake we saw was swimming in the river; a trip in August night might be different. Rattlesnakes tend to flee, not attack large animals, and the snake lifted its head and tail only when aroused. They can jump only half their length, so there is no danger if you see them; keep a safe distance and do not threaten or surprise them. In rocky, bushy terrain, carry a stick and do not reach into places you cannot see.

You may be a day from help if struck by a rattlesnake. The Bureau of Land Management says few people die from a rattlesnake bite, so stay calm. Do not cut or suck the wound. Excitement would only increase your pulse rate and pump the venom through your body. Seek help from the Bureau of Land Management that has power boats and would take you to a hospital.

Two members of our party were infected by poison ivy. Be sure to learn to recognize it and remember to look for it.

Planning for a Return Trip

Our early June trip was at a good time of the year. I'd like to return. We found the solitude we sought, for the only other people we saw on the river were one party of seven canoes. They were not traveling at the same rate and we seldom saw them. Resident birds were nesting. As for plants, some were in fruit, some flower, and some not yet in bud. We avoided the 100 degree heat, flies, and rattlesnakes of August.

The Missouri River is flowing about four miles per hour, and our average travel of about 20 miles per day was about right for a first trip. However, I'd love to spend more time hiking and exploring the marvelous side canyons, camping at the mouths for a day or two to make that possible. Next time I'd better be prepared to understand the plants, amphibians, bats and insects.

Highly Recommended References

•Maps of the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River issued by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

There are four maps on two sheets, $4.00 each and well worth the cost. One hundred fifty river miles are mapped on a scale of one inch equals one mile. Shown are the Wild and Scenic River boundary, bank to bank or much wider, shorelines, islands, public lands, navigational landmarks, some campgrounds including those used by Lewis and Clark, and much more.

The maps are a bit out of date. The Loma Ferry has been replaced by a bridge. The BLM office in Ft. Benton can furnish the locations of designated campgrounds not on the maps.

•"Montana's Wild and Scenic Upper Missouri River" by Glen Monahan. Published by Northern Rocky Mt. Books. ($13.95).

There are 231 pages. The first 198 pages are historic; the balance deals with geology, animals, and boating the upper Missouri. A list of over 200 birds including migrants is included. There is almost nothing on plants.

The recommendations and comments for a pleasant tour down the river are very sound, but our observations indicate one exception. Most campgrounds with vault toilets have no water and nobody in attendance. One must rely on one's own resources.

While not affecting a trip down the river, many Washington State residents will note that the map on page 208 showing ice age Lake Missoula ending to the west at the Idaho-Montana border is incorrect. Actually, Lake Missoula extended farther west well into eastern Washington State. The continental glacier caused an ice dam that blocked drainage and formed Lake Missoula. When it broke, and that happened more than once, catastrophic erosion created the eastern Washington scablands, including Grand Coulee at Coulee City, and the well-known Dry Falls.

In boating season these maps and book can be purchased from the BLM in Ft. Benton (P.O. Box 1389, Ft. Benton, MT 59442), and anytime from the BLM in Lewiston. (P.O. Box 1160, Lewiston, MT 59457)

•"Vascular Plants of Montana" by Robert D. Dorn. Published by Mountain West Publishing, Box 147, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82003. About $10 including postage. This paperback is considered the most authoritative book on wild, vascular Montana plants, but is not for everyone. It consists mostly of dichotomous keys, and even avid botanists on a one-time trip may be frustrated by finding that a key may not correspond to the stage of maturity of the plant found.

Global Warming

In Hot Water: A Snapshot of the Northwest's Changing Climate

by Patrick Mazza

Patrick Mazza is staff writer-researcher for Climate Solutions, a group working to make the Northwest a leader in global warming solutions. Mazza has written about Northwest ecological sustainability issues for 20 years, and has published numerous articles in regional and national periodicals. More of his work is available at www.climatesolutions.org.

The last three issues of Whatcom Watch contained a report on global warming published by Climate Solutions in collaboration with the Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, the Washington State University Energy Program, and the Northwest Council on Climate Change with support from the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation. 2

Part Four

Fish in Hot Water: Rivers and Streams

During the summer of 1998 the world's greatest salmon river offered a glimpse into the global warming future. Over the previous winter in British Columbia's Fraser River watershed, precipitation was in the normal range. Snowpack on which the river depends for year-round flow piled up in the mountains. But temperatures, warmer than usual, caused an early melt and runoff. On its heels came a very hot and dry summer.

The results were some of the lowest water flows ever recorded on the Fraser, as well as some of the highest water temperatures. The river became a hostile environment for salmon, which died by the tens of thousands. B.C. fisheries managers were forced to suspend the commercial season for hard-hit sockeye, a species that especially needs cool water.49

Some, but not necessarily all, of those salmon-killing conditions were an outcome of the 1997-98 El Nino. They were also the conditions a 1994 Environment Canada report predicted for the Fraser River under global warming. The devastating consequences salmon experienced in 1998 were resonant with those forecast by the report.50 Salmon love cool water. It's good for them. It keeps down diseases. It's rich in dissolved oxygen. It lets the cold-blooded salmon turn their metabolic rate down low so they can make the most efficient use of oxygen and stored fat on their perilous upriver journey. Warm water makes them work harder, carries more pathogens and parasites and supplies less oxygen. No wonder that salmon generally seek out the coolest spots in rivers, or that the 1998 Fraser was so deadly.

Many fish stand to be affected by warming waters, particularly other cold loving species such as trout. What happens to the salmon can be regarded as an indicator for what many other species will face. The next major regional river south of the Fraser, the Columbia, was once the greatest salmon stream on Earth. The radical drop in Columbia salmon runs is another global warming preview.

"On the Columbia we've done our own climate change experiment with the dams," says Nathan Mantua, who studies climate impacts on salmon.51 The dams both slowed flows and warmed up the river, two conditions likely to become more common in Northwest rivers and streams under global warming. Climate change is expected to amplify human impacts. Reduced summer flows would make salmon migration far more difficult. Slower moving rivers with less water would be inclined to heat up, multiplying the effect of a warming atmosphere.

In the Max Planck Institute scenario used by Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Oceans, streamflows at McNary Dam, now adequate for fish only 85 percent of the time under standards set by the National Marine Fisheries Service, reach those benchmarks only 76 percent of the time in 2020. Reliability for hitting streamflow targets at Lower Granite plummets from 81 percent now to 47 percent in 20 years.52

Higher winter runoff may help with some salmon migrations. But if it comes too fast as scouring floods it will tear up redds, the nests where female salmon plant their eggs.

Robert C. Francis of the University of Washington Fisheries Research Institute, writing with Mantua, notes that human-caused global warming is "expected to lead to rapid changes in the climate system over the next few decades and centuries. Can Pacific salmon adapt to new climatic regimes?....populations that are presently stressed by occupying unhealthy, marginal or fragmented habitat will likely face more acute threats of extinction..."53

"How fast can salmon adapt? Salmon have shown remarkable resilience, but they have been under attack by development," Mantua notes. "It seems unlikely they will respond well to a rapidly warming climate."54

Global warming raises the bar for habitat restoration efforts. It underscores the urgent necessity of bringing back a landscape friendly to salmon to as great a degree as possible, to mitigate stresses salmon are likely to experience from a warming climate.

Fish in Hot Water: The Pacific

Perhaps the most troubling portent for the salmon is the expected rise in temperatures where they spend most of their lives and do most of their growing, the surface layer of the North Pacific. David Welch, a biological oceanographer, heads Fisheries Canada's high seas salmon research program at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, B.C. Welch led a team which looked back at four decades of North Pacific salmon data. Correlating seasons and locations salmon were found with sea surface temperature records in a more precise fashion than had ever been done before, Welch's team made a fresh discovery. They found there are extremely sharp thermal barriers that limit salmon distribution.55

For the same reason salmon favor cool water in rivers, they like cold water at sea. Welch discovered that the oceanic range of the salmon stops roughly where sea surface temperature reaches 45 deg F in the winter and 59 deg F at the peak of summer.

"What we've shown that people previously had not realized is there was a really strong effect of temperature on where salmon will not go," Welch says. "We showed there was an extremely sharp effect on limiting distribution. There was always this thermal wall." He says this is true of all salmon species. "60,000 genetically different populations all responding the same way -- That says something. Not exceeding these temperatures must be very important for salmon."56

Welch notes salmon must maintain a balance between the amount of energy they burn and the amount they can gain from food. He theorizes that is why the thermal barrier varies by season. Summer, with greater food supplies, lets salmon swim into warmer water and keep up their fighting weight even though they expend more energy.

If Welch is correct, sea surface temperature increases well within global warming scenarios for the North Pacific will wall salmon out. "The really perturbing thing to us," Welch says, "is where these sharp limits would be in 60 years time under doubled CO2. They do not exist in the Pacific Ocean at all. They are up in the Bering Sea."57

The eastern Pacific may begin to lose its salmon range within 20-30 years, he says.58 Since salmon spend most of their time in surface layers, Welch does not expect them to move to cooler, deeper water.

Salmon are hard-wired to return where they spawned. They would still jump the thermal barrier to migrate back along the coast to Northwest rivers and streams. But metabolically drained by hotter water, they would return with less stored energy for their final upstream run. (Salmon do not feed once they return to rivers.) They would have less capacity to stand the increasingly harsh stream conditions. And they would lay fewer eggs, further diminishing odds for survival.

A new Northwest Power Planning Council scientific study says one possible reason Columbia-Snake salmon runs are failing is that salmon expend their energy jumping hurdles placed in their way by dams. By the time they reach spawning grounds, they may be too worn out to reproduce.59 If global warming further diminishes salmon energy reserves, it remains an open question whether runs can survive.

"We're seeing huge changes in the atmosphere and oceans in the 1990s," Welch notes. "We're seeing sharp declines in salmon survival, with fat reserves down by as much as 20 percent in the 1997 Fraser sockeye run. The climatic changes are consistent with the early stages of global warming. The response of our salmon populations is not at all encouraging."60

Welch's team believes that if data for other species is subjected to the same kind of finely-grained analysis they gave the salmon, similar thermal barriers might be discovered: "...other cold-blooded organisms may also express similar distributional responses to temperature that have so far gone unnoticed..."61

Of course, a warming ocean brings other species north. The warm seas of 1997 produced some unusual and bizarre fish catches off the coasts of Oregon and Washington -- mahi-mahi, marlin, barracuda, tropical lizard fish, species that usually stay far to the south. Commercial fishermen in Newport, Ore. were selling albacore tuna dockside, instead of the usual salmon.

Warm-water fish such as albacore, mackerel and sardines stand to become more common off the Northwest coast if global warming drives up ocean temperatures. But sharply diminished or perhaps gone would be the region's iconic salmon.

Broken Links in the Food Chain

What is troubling Pacific salmon has implications for many ocean species. A oceanic shift that comes with El Nino is regarded as a foreshadowing of what might become normal conditions under global warming.

Winds normally mix surface layers with deeper, cooler, nutrient-rich waters. This upwelling feeds microscopic plankton, the base of the food chain. But when surface waters warm, they expand and effectively seal off the upwelling. Though sealing normally happens every spring and summer, global warming could perpetuate this condition for longer periods, as happens in an El Nino.

Deprived of the upwelling, the food chain would collapse from the bottom up, beginning with plankton. Sea birds, marine mammals and salmon would follow. And all have been troubled by extended ocean warming during recent El Ninos. "Seabirds are quite sensitive indicators of ocean conditions," Welch notes. "They have shown large-scale changes off the West Coast through the 1990s."62

On the coast from Oregon to Vancouver Island in recent years, dead shearwaters have been drifting onshore with flight muscles atrophied, no fat, and blood in the stomach, classic signs of starvation. At the north end of Vancouver Island, nesting grounds to some of the world's largest seabird populations, researchers have been finding 50 percent of nests abandoned.63

On the Oregon Coast, major diebacks of common murres have been observed by scientists at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. In 1993 they witnessed a coastwide abandonment of nests, "unprecedented from our experience," notes David Pitkin, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist based at the center. Scientists there have been monitoring Oregon Coast seabird numbers since the late 1980s. In summer 1996, a 4.5-mile beach survey turned up 122 dead murres. "That was quite striking. It represented a die-off of certainly thousands of birds." Similar reports up and down the Oregon coast revealed the die-off was widespread.

Reduced upwelling is "probably the broken link in this chain," Pitkin says. Common murres eat all kinds of small fish, can dive 600 feet, and range up to 40 miles from shore. They are a good indicator for the health of the food chain. "If it doesn't bode well for the common murre, it doesn't bode well for a lot of other species."64

Sea surface temperatures along the Northwest coast reached record levels in 1997. By late summer, they hit peaks with a chance of occurring due to purely natural causes once every 10,000 years.65 Those temperatures indicated trouble in the food chain.

Apparently connected to a sealing of the surface layers, phytoplankton blooms of a kind never before recorded in the Bering Sea spread in 1997 and 1998. The blooms of coccolithophore, a species of plankton associated with low nutrient conditions, painted huge whitish-blue patches visible from space. Meanwhile zooplankton growth vital to the food chain was off. That may have contributed to a high rate of shearwater deaths.

Alaska Bristol Bay salmon runs unexpectedly declined in 1997-98. Predicted to be average to high, they instead were the lowest since the 1970s, notes Vera Alexander of the University of Alaska School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. That is also thought tied to ocean food chain breakages.66 It is clear that a warming Pacific does not augur well for many marine species or people who depend on them.

Next Month -- Part Five
Forests: Outrun by Climate Change

49 Fraser River Environmental Watch Report, 1998, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, various editions, July-August 1998, cited in "Last Call: The Will to Save the Pacific Salmon," David Suzuki Foundation, Sept. 1998, p7
50 Levy, David, Potential Impacts of Global Warming on Salmon Production in the Fraser River Watershed, Environment Canada Climate Change Digest CCD 94-04, p1
51 personal communication
52 Miles and Hamlet, p26
53 Francis, R.C; N.J. Mantua; S.R. Hare, Climate and Extinction Risk for Salmon Populations of the Northeast Pacific, in conclusion, http://tao.atmos.washington.edu/PNWimpacts/REPORTS/extinctions.html
54 personal communication
55 Welch, D.W. et al, Thermal limits and ocean migrations of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka): long-term consequences of global warming, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, vol. 55, 1998, p937-48; Welch, D.W. et al, Upper thermal limits on the oceanic distribution of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) in the spring, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, vol. 52, 1995, p489-503; Welch, D.W. et al, Thermal limits on the ocean distribution of Steelhead Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), NPAFC Bulletin No. 1, 1998, p 396-404; Williams, Nigel, Temperature Rise Could Squeeze Salmon, Science, vol. 280, May 29, 1998, p1349
56 personal communication 57 ibid
58 ibid
59 Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Salmon may be too pooped to spawn, Feb. 5, 1999, pC10
60 personal communication
61 Welch, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 1998, p947
62 personal communication
63 ibid
64 personal communication
65 "Last Call: The Will to Save the Pacific Salmon," David Suzuki Foundation, Sept. 1998, p13; David Welch, personal communication
66 personal communication

Book Review

Totem Salmon

Reviewed by Alexei Locsin

Alexei Locsin is a concerned "Average Joe" with a weakness for smoke salmon.

Totem Salmon
Life Lessons from Another Species
by Freeman House
Beacon Press, 1999
228 pp., $25
ISBN 0-807085-48-0

In "Totem Salmon," Freeman House tells the story about a group of dedicated individuals' efforts to save one of the last native salmon species in California, the Mattole River King Salmon. Everything from explaining the mysterious life cycle of salmon to the long hours spent out in the field makes the story more believable without the use of sensationalized writing.

The Mattole River sits in the westernmost part of California, near Sacramento. Since 1991 the West Coast has seen 214 salmon populations extirpated. The decline of salmon species can be traced to the habitat degradation, poorly managed logging practices, and to the neglect of federal and state agencies, whose job it is to protect the salmon runs.

Logging within a watershed produces a rapid loading of silt into the residential rivers and streams. As any educated environmentalist knows, salmon rely on clean water and gravel beds in order to spawn.

Amateurs' Efforts Meet With Skepticism

To make matters worse, House explains in great detail the skepticism of the California State Fish and Game Department's refusal to believe that amateurs can succeed in such a project of great magnitude in which professionals have failed. This river at one point in history had enough salmon so that you could walk across their backs, but according to field biologists, now has no hope of producing a marketable salmon population.

What makes this story more convincing is that it hits too close to home. Many small communities, including Bellingham, that used to have active salmon runs are trying in one way or another to restore salmon habitat to achieve the goal of a viable, self-sustaining population.

Science is Not Enough

Many people fail to understand that in order to achieve this goal, science alone will not suffice. Other factors are just as important as the science, such as the natural history of the area, the gathering of caring volunteers, and the confusing world of politics.

Above all else, experience is rather crucial in dealing with salmon. House describes the tedious procedures of hand-spawning salmon. This is done by grabbing a female fish out of the fish trap box, clubbing it, cutting a ventral-side slit, allowing the eggs to drop into a bucket, then finally grabbing a male to release the milt which is needed to complete the spawning process.

Learning From Salmon

Experience gained from the long, hard hours spent out in the field gives House and his colleagues hope for future salmon populations. Ultimately, the message House is trying to convey is that, perhaps, we as human beings can learn a thing or two from salmon. Why should we care about salmon?

The life cycle of salmon allows humans to "focus (their) attention on some of the smaller increments of the natural world--the streams that run through our rural homes or beneath our urban structures--at the same time as they instruct us regarding the indivisible relationship of one locale to another."

Simply put, salmon are an indicator species. The presence of an abundance of salmon indicates that a healthy environment exists. Salmon are very sensitive to external changes and if salmon populations are declining, then that's an excellent wake-up call alerting us that their environment is also on a rapid decline.

Seattle Mayor Paul Schell says it best, "(i)ronically, as we work to save the salmon, it may turn out that the salmon save us." After all, without salmon, how the hell are people supposed to enjoy one of the finer delicacies in life, smoke salmon.

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