Whatcom Watch Online
July 2000
Volume 9, Issue 7

Cover Story

Washington Shorelines Have Significance

by Lisa McShane

Lisa McShane is the salmon campaign coordinator for the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance.

We are a state of shorelines: miles of beaches along misty coastlines, rocky outcrops of the San Juan Islands, bluffs of the Columbia River and shores of countless other rivers, creeks, and streams. Thirty years ago it was apparent that development too close to our beaches and shorelines was creating a number of problems: loss of human life, loss of marine life, loss of the beaches and shorelines we valued, and huge potential maintenance and infrastructure costs.

So in 1970, we began to set a policy direction for our shorelines. This began with a citizen initiative to the legislature sponsored by Washington Environmental Council. They gathered and submitted the necessary signatures, which prompted the legislature to write their own, weaker version. The two competing measures then went before the voters in 1972. In an interesting historical footnote, Slade Gorton was the state attorney general at the time and wrote the ballot descriptions. The voters chose the weaker legislative version, it became the Shorelines Management Act.

What is the Shoreline Management Act?

The Shoreline Management Act establishes broad policy for shorelines because, as it states, "the interests of all the people shall be paramount in the management of shorelines of statewide significance." These shorelines are specified as: "Pacific Coast, Hood Canal and certain Puget Sound Shorelines; all waters of Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca; lakes or reservoirs with more than 1,000 surface acres; larger rivers; and wetlands associated with all of the above."

Those interests are defined as including protection of water quality and the natural environment and the preservation and enhancement of public shoreline access and recreational opportunities.

The Shoreline Management Act calls for city and county governments to establish shoreline programs based on Washington State Department of Ecology guidelines. Each shoreline master program is a plan Ð a vision Ð for how our shorelines are to be developed or protected, and contains a means of carrying out that plan Ð regulations.

Local entities then write and enforce their own shoreline master programs. The Department of Ecology reviews each program and steps in to regulate when the cities or counties fail to follow their own local plan or to enforce their own local laws.

Since the Passage in 1972

A lot has changed since the Shoreline Management Act was passed in 1972: two million more people live in Washington, many of whom want a house with a view, and we have had precipitous declines in salmon and herring and the habitat and food sources they need. In 1972 people were concerned about the impacts of large industrial development along shores. But, over the years, it has been the cumulative impact of many, many small docks and bulkheads that have added up to fewer beaches for the public and less habitat for fish.

In 1995 the legislature directed the Washington State Department of Ecology to update the guidelines upon which the local shoreline programs are based. The Department of Ecology took four years to write the update, and when they released the Shorelines Guidelines in 1999, they were met with strong resistance from some members of the legislature.

As Representative Joyce Mullikan (R-Ephrata) wrote, "this is...an unprecedented assault on the rights of private property owners." For a law that few citizens have heard of, it has been a controversial process.

Shorelines and Property Rights

Like Representative Mullikan, I think about the Shoreline Management Act in terms of property rights. Unlike her, I support strong shorelines guidelines. The act seeks to preserve the property rights of neighbors and of the public. People who build houses on bluffs above the ocean want to build as close to the edge as possible to maximize the view. And who wouldn't want that view?

But bluffs erode and beaches change. Property owners then build a bulkhead -- a structure, usually of cement or rock designed to keep their bluff stable. Unfortunately, their bulkhead changes the shoreline, and their neighbors' beaches erode at a much more rapid rate. The actions of one property owner negatively impact their neighbors' property rights. People don't have a right to harm the property of other people.

For example, if homeowners along Semi-ah-moo bluff were allowed to build bulkheads at the base of their bluffs, it is likely that Semi-ah-moo spit would cease to exist for Semi-ah-moo spit is formed by the erosion of those bluffs.

Building bulkheads with no regard to shoreline processes is a direct violation of the property rights of the neighbors. Those neighbors may be homeowners who sensibly built back from the beach or they may be the public, with property such as the County Park at Semi-ah-moo or the City of Blaine's water treatment plant.

Shorelines and Money

I also think about the Shoreline Management Act in terms of money and common sense planning. It is through local Shoreline Master Programs that development in floodways or floodplains is managed. Recently, the City of Ferndale permitted Samuel's Furniture to build in the floodway of the Nooksack River.

The Department of Ecology stepped in and try to stop it, but many felt the heavy hand of government was being unreasonable and controlling. That would be true if Samuel's was self-insured against flood damage and if they refrained from pressuring the city or the county to spend our money to further control the river at that point.
The truth is, Ferndale has allowed buildings to be constructed in a spot designated for floodwaters. When it floods, we will all bear the costs, and those costs will be high.

One intent of the Shoreline Management Act is to discourage people from building in flood zones, an action that has far-reaching consequences. We always want to protect people from disasters, but protecting one property or area from flooding causes an increase of flooding at other locations.

Stopping floodwaters from inundating recent development in Ferndale creates higher water upstream and floods farmland. Areas not at risk in the past now face potential floods.

In Whatcom County, each property owner pays $25 a year to subsidize those who have chosen to live in an area that floods. Those of us who think it's foolhardy to live in a flood zone are required to pay the costs of those who ignore obvious risks. Allowing development in flood zones is unfair to other property owners and a bad deal for the county.

Shorelines and Armoring

Armoring is just as it sounds: putting a hard surface on a beach. These hard surfaces can be bulkheads, seawalls, revetments, or rip-rap. These are placed to stop or slow erosion and protect a beach. Ironically, they often damage that which they intend to protect.

The unfortunate side effect of armoring is the loss of habitat and subsequent loss of marine life. Many fish, such as salmon, spend time in vegetation near the shore. There they find protection from predators and food to eat.
Some species use the vegetation for spawning. Some, such as surf smelt, sand lance, and clams, use the sand or gravel to spawn or live. Armoring destroys the vegetation and eel grass beds, and the sand and gravel erode away leaving a rocky, more sterile shore behind.

The updated guidelines seek to discourage armoring and address the cumulative impacts of coastal development. They suggest that when a homeowner builds a house on the coast, it be set back far enough to be safe from erosion. The guidelines take into account the fact that the coast will erode -- that's what coastlines do. They also suggest, if a bulkhead is needed, a softer, more natural structure, such as vegetation, would work better.

Shorelines and Salmon Recovery

Healthy shorelines are essential to healthy salmon populations. Salmon are dependent on rivers and near-shore habitat and on eating the bugs and fish existing in those places. New shoreline rules have become somewhat urgent as Washington seeks to comply with the listing of salmon under the Endangered Species Act.
The guidelines lay out two paths that cities and counties can take when they update their guidelines Ð Path A and Path B.

Path A allows "flexibility and creativity" for local governments, which essentially means little change for shorelines or salmon. Path A may not cost any less for cities and counties, as it leaves them wide open to lawsuits for "taking" salmon under the Endangered Species Act.

Path B updates the guidelines to higher standards and makes salmon recovery much more likely. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency responsible for recovering salmon, has said local governments that follow Path B "would not be subject to Endangered Species Act liability."

"Without such an exception, new shoreline activities could be subject to federal enforcement or citizen lawsuits brought against landowners and developers." Deliberately choosing a path that leaves a city or county liable will not be in the best interest of salmon or citizens.

Agriculture and the Shoreline Management Act

Last year, at the shoreline hearing in Bellingham, we heard from farmers who were concerned the new guidelines would require 300' buffers. They clearly had not read the guidelines for themselves and were misinformed. The Shoreline Management Act guidelines do not cover agricultural practices, and "existing and ongoing" agricultural practices are exempt from this act.

Money and the Legislature

Updating the guidelines will cost money. Local cities and counties following Path B will need to take inventory or all their shorelines and come up with a plan to maintain, and even restore, the ecological functions of streams and shorelines. This will require that the legislature commit to giving money to cities and counties to perform these necessary tasks.

A question worth asking your legislators during this election season is: "will you appropriate the necessary money for cities and counties to update their shoreline master programs?" Because without this money, there will be no salmon recovery.

Speak Up for Your Shorelines

During the summer months my thoughts turn toward the water. I like to walk on the tidal flats at Birch Bay, swim at Lake Samish and from Chuckanut Drive watch the sun set. This summer, it's important that all of us who like to do those things speak up for our beaches.

Last year, during the Department of Ecology hearings on the new shorelines guidelines, misinformation flowed like floodwaters and the hearings were packed with people believing their property rights were being taken away. If you care about your beaches, lakes and rivers, July is the time to write a letter and let the Department of Ecology know that.

Cover Story

Turning the Ship Around: The Improving Water Quality in Drayton Harbor

Geoff Menzies

Geoff Menzies is chairperson of the Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection District Advisory Committee

Drayton Harbor has been a ship headed for the rocks for too many years. Some would say it's run aground, and though the trend in water quality does not look so good, I think we're turning this ship around. My last entry in Whatcom Watch was the article "Pollution Is Destroying Oyster Farming in Drayton Harbor," (March 1995, page 6). That was shortly after the Washington State Department of Health had prohibited shellfish growing in most of Drayton Harbor.

Naturally, this prohibition made it pretty difficult for us to nurse a young oyster farming business along. If you can't harvest and sell your product, there's not much use in growing it. At that time, I didn't sense much resolve in the community to make the commitment needed to understand the problems and really try to fix them.

The Tides Are A-Changing

I think that has now changed. There are a few of us who have, in our spare time, been leading the charge to clean up Drayton Harbor for the last decade. It is a labor of love, lonely at times, and it is a burden in many ways. These types of burdens should be shared by many, not carried by a few. The expression is "many hands make light work." I feel a great weight being lifted from my shoulders as I see new players entering the scene and older players taking on a bigger role.

A couple of years after our oyster beds were closed down, the Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection District Advisory Committee teamed up with the Whatcom County Health and Human Services Department and received a special shellfish on-site grant. This grant provided the funds necessary to survey over 250 on-site septic systems in proximity to the harbor and to assist homeowners with the expense of repair. This effort identified a 21 percent failure rate and funded much of the repair or replacement costs that were needed.

The Health and Human Services Department also teamed up with the conservation district and received a grant to support a shellfish coordinator and water quality data manager. The shellfish coordinator and water manager have been working for the last year or so with citizen committees and agency groups in both the Drayton Harbor and Portage Bay Shellfish Protection Districts. Their efforts focus on implementation of recommendations that were made in community-based plans as many as five years ago. It takes a lot of time and effort to convert recommendations into actions on the ground.

It also takes time and expertise to coordinate data collected by different agencies and piece it all together into a format that is understandable and, most importantly, sheds some light on pollution sources and possible fixes. The consultants hired under this grant have done a good job, but unfortunately, their funding expires this coming fall.

Identifying Nonpoint Source Pollution Problems

Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection District Advisory Committee has recently completed an updated plan which identifies recent accomplishments and key actions recommended to help clean up Drayton Harbor. One of the most important needs is funding. Allocated funds would be used to support a shellfish coordinator and high priority community-based projects that involve landowners in identifying and controlling nonpoint pollution problems in the watershed.

The committee has identified flood district funds as the source of funding for this proposed initial two-year shellfish coordinator position. The Whatcom County Council's Natural Resources Committee has amended the existing Drayton shellfish ordinance to adopt this most recent plan for shellfish restoration in Drayton Harbor. We are hopeful that Whatcom County Council will be as supportive as the natural resources committee has been by approving this ordinance and helping us turn the ship around.

Puget Sound Restoration Fund Acts as Beacon in the Mist

Another bright light on the scene has been the Puget Sound Restoration Fund. This nonprofit group, which is very project-oriented, approached the shellfish committee about a year ago. They wanted to know how they could help us with any specific projects that would restore water quality. They have been instrumental in raising funds from various local parties, which are being used in a phased project to check the integrity of a portion of Blaine's sanitary sewer collection system.

A video inspection of an older sewer main (phase 1) has just been completed and many of us had the grand opportunity in June 2000 to look at the findings as a group. There was no obvious smoking gun, but there are some problems that need to be addressed. The Puget Sound Restoration Fund will continue to support the hard work ahead, which now includes assisting the City of Blaine in determining the most cost-effective sewer repair strategy and proceeding to the next phase of investigation.

Chronic Fecal Bacteria Pollution Problem in Blaine Harbor

The Port of Bellingham has made a considerable effort over the past few years. They have been monitoring water quality in the Blaine harbor on a routine basis. This monitoring component of their marina expansion project, which is nearing completion, has been very useful and has documented a chronic fecal bacteria pollution problem in this marina. However, it has been difficult to identify the source of this pollution.

But the port continues to do its part to get to the bottom of it by conducting dye testing studies. These studies unfortunately have failed to identify any cross connections between sanitary sewer and storm water drains or direct discharges from sewer facilities into marine waters.

Finally, most of us are aware that Blaine has been forced to halt expansion of their sewer treatment plant because their site at Semi-ah-moo contains significant archaeological resources, including human remains. In light of this, the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District hired a consultant to determine the potential costs of projects that might be required to provide wastewater treatment for Blaine.

Can Birch Bay's Treatment Plant Handle Blaine's Wastewater?

This information, which has been shared with Blaine, indicated that the initial work to transmit wastewater from Blaine and expand Birch Bay Water and Sewer District's treatment works to serve Blaine would cost about $22 million. The district has also encouraged Blaine to look at a range of options, including a determination if treatment in the Greater Vancouver area might be advantageous. We welcome the leadership that is being shown by the commissioners of the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District through these recent actions.

There is a saying in water pollution circles which is: "the solution to pollution is dilution." In some cases that may very well be. In the case of fecal bacterial pollution in Drayton Harbor, I think "the solution to pollution is contribution." It will be the contribution of many different individuals and organizations in their time, their ideas, and their dollars which will eventually turn this ship around and keep it off the rocks.

Neighborhood: Birch Street Subdivision

Good News for Birds, Bees, Streams, Trees

by Michael Frome

Michael Frome, Ph.D., is a retired Western Washington University professor and author. His latest book is "Green Ink: An Introduction to Environmental Journalism"

There is good news for the birds and trees and streams in their shrinking, endangered, increasingly polluted and overdeveloped space called Bellingham. Not good enough to shout about, but at least cause for hope.

By that I mean the bulldozers are still at bay and nowhere in sight in the lovely 79-acre natural area that neighbors call Park Ridge and developers envision as the 172-unit Birch Street Subdivision. Readers may recall my report in Whatcom Watch (June 2000, page 1) on this last heavily forested area in the Hannah Creek watershed off Lakeway Drive.

Two Positive Developments

Now I can report further on two important positive developments:

1. On June 14, Mayor Mark Asmundson met with a delegation of the Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge, led by Dr. Larry Moss. The mayor said he regards the disputed area as choice green space and a prime community asset. He urged the Concerned Citizens to appeal the decision against them handed down May 9 by Superior Court Judge Steven Mura and to campaign for acquisition of the property by the city for use as a public park.

2. The attorney for the Concerned Citizens, Roger Ellingson, indeed has now petitioned the state court of appeals to review the case.

Judge Mura himself, even while holding that the city had adequately addressed determination of environmental impacts of the proposed development, recommended further judicial consideration. He declared: "It needs review by an appeals court," and, "I encourage an appeal."

The mayor at his meeting with the citizen delegation was knowledgeable and upbeat. He showed that he knows the area and appreciates its recreational values to mountain bikers, hikers, birdwatchers and the entire community, and its ecological values in embracing six wetlands and two creeks. He recommended that citizens lose no time even while the appeal is pending. With good campaigning, he said, a bond issue could be on the ballot in the fall.

Concerned Citizens Didn't Give Up Hope

No easy task, but it's been uphill all the way. Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge was organized early in January with its stated goals: "To preserve the quality of life in the Whatcom Falls residential area; to protect our neighborhood forests and streams, and to promote sensible and safe development."

Neighbors and supporters in the city have chipped in to underwrite legal and other expenses. A fundraising public auction on June 3 not only raised several thousand dollars, but also brought neighbors together in common cause. I know from experience that at times it seems hopeless to resist when projects are planned by powerful forces and their completion seems inevitable.

But I've learned also that when there is something worth saving one must never give up, certainly never give up hope. There is always hope as long as there is a cadre of people with willingness to stand and be heard. Hopefully Park Ridge will become more than a neighborhood issue, but an opportunity and challenge for the entire community.

Developer is Oregon Corporation

The developer of the proposed subdivision, an Oregon corporation named Pennbrook, has promoted the project as "environmentally sensitive, economically productive, and supportive of the quality of life for the people of the city."

But Pennbrook has scorned community concerns over traffic, density and other aspects of public health, safety and general welfare. The Pennbrook proposal, with 172 housing units, maximizes development and intrusion into the natural setting. It is meant to benefit the developer and not the community.

The burden in financial cost and environmental degradation will be borne by the community and the city. In the final analysis, a public park could very well cost less and prove a better investment. "Pave Paradise, Put up a Parking Lot." So goes the hit song by Joni Mitchell. But, hopefully, not in Bellingham.

For More Information: MFrome@AOL.ocm


Canadian Resentment Towards Sumas Power Plant Escalating

by Marlene Noteboom

Marlene Noteboom and her husband became active in the opposition to Sumas 2 after meeting with neighbors in Lynden.

Information in this article courtesy of the of The Abbotsford News, June 3, 2000.

Canadian resentment continues to escalate as Sumas Energy 2 pursues their power plant goals. According a National Energy Board spokesperson, more than 750 letters and petitions with 1,600 names have been received opposing Sumas Energy 2's request to build a power line in Abbotsford. This response has been one of the largest displays of opposition this spokesperson has seen in ten years.

Cozy Relationship Between Abbotsford Officials and Sumas Energy

Recent news coverage by The Abbotsford News reveals a previously "cozy relationship" between two City of Abbotsford officials and Sumas Energy vice-president Bruce Thompson. In mid-1998, Abbotsford favored exporting 4 million gallons of non-potable water to Sumas daily, which would have brought the City of Abbotsford in excess of $1 million annually. Sumas Energy 2 was also prepared to spend $4.5 million for the city's sewer lines to Huntingdon.

Early in 1999, Sumas Energy 2's Bruce Thompson outlined the "selling points" for Abbotsford's mayor and director of engineering to use in asking the British Columbia legislature to amend the Water Protection Act which would have allowed the export of water to Sumas.

Shortly after this, Sumas Energy 2's Thompson also requested the assistance of Abbotsford's director of engineering, who, after signing and putting on city letterhead, sent Thompson's letter to Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council as a sign of Abbotsford's support. Thompson's memo states, "Such a letter is extremely important to Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to give our project a favorable expedited approval on 3/15/99."

A thank you to the Abbotsford's director of engineering followed and in closing stated, "I owe you some favors in the future. When this project gets done, you will get your $4.5 million."

Abbotsford council members at all three levels of Canadian government are now opposed to the power plant. Many councilors were unaware of the impacts or the size of this project until early this spring when the public became aware of the potential impacts.

Sumas Energy Says Plant's Wastewater Would Be Benign

Citizen awareness and protests brought the City of Abbotsford and the Fraser Valley Regional District together to vote against accepting any additional sewage from Sumas. Sumas Energy 2's vice-president Chuck Martin and Abbotsford's director of engineering say the plant's wastewater would be "basically benign."

According to the draft environmental impact statement, the effluent would contain cooling tower blowdown, chemical neutralization products, and domestic sewage.

A Ministry of Environment (Canada) official has shown concern over the possibility of heavy metals and the fact that the James treatment plant isn't in compliance with its current permit. The city of Sumas currently has an agreement to discharge 290,000 gallons per day with up to 400,000 gallons per day until the year 2019.

A request by Sumas to increase the flow to 550,000 gallons per day with a peak of 950,000 would have accommodated the proposed plant. Interestingly enough, this plan is very similar to a previously fallen agreement with Boundary Paper Recycling (also owned by NESCO).

Hearings To Be Held In Whatcom County July 24-27

The City of Abbotsford along with the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce will be appearing as official intervenors at the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council hearings to be held in Whatcom County July 24-27. These dates differ from the original June hearings partially in response to a lack of information about the adequacy of the north-south grid to actually handle the electrical load generated by Sumas Energy 2.

A Bonneville Power Administration draft report is expected to shed some light on this potential problem.
The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council has issued a series of pre-hearing orders, which have narrowed the issues, defined who can actively participate in these issues, and set the schedule. If necessary, the hearings will continue in Thurston County on July 31-August 3.

The hearings are open to the public, but only intervenors have the right to speak.

The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council has also scheduled a public testimony hearing for July 24 and 27. If you are not an intervenor or are an intervenor whose issues have been limited, this is the opportunity for addressing those concerns that are not excluded by the council. Information can be presented but cross-examination will not be allowed.

Local Land Use and Zoning Concerns

The original land use hearing and the Prevention of Significant Deterioration Permit will also reconvene during this time in July. Local land use and zoning concerns can be addressed at this time. Previously Sumas Energy 2 had entertained the notion of building their own wastewater treatment plant in response to the Canadian objections. A treatment plant in this area may raise a variety of land use issues not originally explored.

Issues that have been excluded by Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council at these hearings include: 1) alternative transmission routes, and 2) environmental impacts of a Canadian decision to accept wastewater or allow the construction and operation of power transmission lines within its own borders. Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council will exclude any testimony on alternative transmission routes and impacts because the council has no jurisdiction over them.

Sumas Energy 2's proposed power plant continues to move forward through the bureaucratic process claiming their "interconnection will add voltage stability to the lower mainland providing power for local use."

British Columbia Hydro Not Facing Energy Crisis

To the contrary, British Columbia Hydro says they are not facing an energy crisis and there is no commitment to Sumas Energy 2. British Columbia Hydro has made a commitment to cleaner forms of energy and has expressed concerns over the air quality issues much the same as the concerned citizens in the U.S.

The process continues this coming month in Whatcom County, and we need to continue transmitting information to the public as efficiently as the megawatts that are transmitted throughout our neighborhoods..

Local History

A Brief History of Bellingham's Parks

by Aaron Joy

Aaron Joy is finishing his sociology degree at WWU; is the Bellingham Herald's librarian and author of the Herald's "Millennium Milestones" series; author of "A History of Bellingham's Parks" and a participant with many local history projects.

The first parks in the United States were part of William Penn's 1682 blueprints for Philadelphia, which called for the semi-scattered placement of square ornamental plots throughout the city for public enjoyment. Since that time, parks have gone through a number of design trends. Their focus has moved from ornamental, to preservation, to recreation, to private spots for relief from "long hours in buildings with poor lighting and ventilation."

In 1857, Frederick Law Olmsted co-designed New York's Central Park, the first of many parks in a landmark career that would be continued today by his two sons and a landscape design business. Olmsted was the world's first "landscape architect," turning landscaping into a legitimate field of study and work.

His son, John Charles Olmsted, would design many of Seattle's now-famous parks, along with Bellingham's Fairhaven Park and the grounds of the Sedro-Woolley Insane Institution and Sedro-Woolley Park. In 1916, the National Park Service was created to care for the many parks that had sprung up around the country, many of them created by the Olmsted firm.

The early history of Bellingham's parks is far from being documented as well as Olmsted's early pursuits. The first recorded public mention of a park on Bellingham Bay is by civil engineer Alonzo M. Poe in 1858, who felt a park would be greatly beneficial to the Bay's residents and the many gold miners that were passing through destined for the Canadian gold fields.

County's First Official Park

The first official park was created later in 1884 on land donated by Captain Henry Roeder, was one of Bellingham Bay's first white settlers. That park would be named in the next century, Elizabeth Park, in honor of Roeder's wife Mary Elizabeth and the fourth white woman on the bay.

In 1888, King Street Park was be created when land being unable to be used for house construction was donated to the city by the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company, . This would later be developed into Sunnyland Memorial Park. This would be followed by the creation of the following parks: Sehome Hill Park (1893); Whatcom Creek Park (today part of the Maritime Heritage Center) (1902); Carl Lobe Park (1905); Fairhaven, Broadway and Broadway Fountain Parks (1906); Sycamore and South Elk Park and Garden Street Park (both vanished) (1907); Whatcom Falls Park (1908); and Cornwall Park (1909).

New Deal Programs Assist Park Development

The early decades of Bellingham's park development was plagued by a lack of sufficient funding. This was temporarily changed by the New Deal programs of the Great Depression, which made the development of parks a way of productively employing large amounts of residents. Bellingham wouldn't see such a burst of energy and funding until a million dollar bond was passed in 1968. This fund created the Lake Padden Park and golf course, along with the development and upkeep of other parks around town.

In the early 1990s the Greenways and Beyond Greenways programs were started, spurring unprecedented growth that continues today. All are volunteer based programs supported by community resident's and they follow a line of thinking brought up by E.O. Schwagerel.

In 1908, in a presentation to the Bellingham Civic League (and reported by The Bellingham Herald) Schwagerel said: "Every good citizen's duty is to take up the responsibility of establishing a park system, which leads to beautifying influences throughout every town. From the commercial standpoint, fine parks increase land values; also cab hire, automobile hire, stocks of equipages, better train and boat services into the city where the people can pour out their money for the sake of comfort and pleasure, and in hundreds of ways money is placed at the disposal of the city working for entertainment of its people at home as well as regular visitors."

In June 1946, The Bellingham Herald unabashedly proclaimed that "Bellingham has more park areas and more acres of improved parks than any city of its size in the United States." With the creation of the Greenways and Beyond Greenways programs, and the contributions of philanthropically-minded organizations and individuals, the proclamation is even more true today.

A July 1912 issue of the South Bellingham Sentinel wrote the following: "As time rolls by and the City grows, as it is destined, the wisdom and forethought of its foundation builders will stand out in bold relief, as the latter generations reap the pleasures of the parkland left to them as a legacy."

The focus of park places has moved from ornamental, to preservation, to recreation, to private spots for relief from "long hours in buildings with poor lighting and ventilation."

Local History

Elizabeth Park: Whatcom County's First Official Park

by Aaron Joy

Editor's Note: The following is the first in a series of articles recounting the history of Bellingham's parks. The series has been adapted from "A History of Bellingham's Parks" by Aaron Joy. The book can be purchased at the Whatcom Museum store and Henderson's Books.

A Bellingham Herald headline from July 14, 1909 read: "Parks are as valuable as streets." This was followed by an endorsement for the creation of more parks, by civic leader J.J. Donovan of the Bloedel Donovan Lumber Mills. Years earlier resident Adam Chapman had said something similar when he was quoted in The Bellingham Herald of August 19, 1904: "The question of parks is an important subject that confronts the people of the city of Bellingham. Health and recreation are of more importance than anything else to any citizen."

These aren't just similar sentiments by two individuals but examples of a pro-park attitude Bellingham has had since its earliest days. In 1888, Alonzo M. POE was recorded as being the first to publicly recognize the value of a park on Bellingham Bay, an added comfort to residents and to passing gold miners headed for Canada. POE even suggested a lot on Broadway Avenue near Dupont Street, which he nicknamed "The Park."

Poe's "Park" was never actually developed into a park though it did gain some status as a favored place for public gatherings. Due to the re-platting of Whatcom in 1883, the lot vanished due to the high commercial value of the land. This was not the death of Poe's park idea; it was actually just the beginning.

Captain Henry Roeder Donates Land for Walnut Street Park

Seeing that land could be valuable as a place for gathering and recreation, as opposed to a site for a business, Captain Henry Roeder (1824-1902), made sure a public gathering place continued to exist after Whatcom was re-platted. Located on a part of his claim, "between Washington and Madison" Streets, Walnut Street Park (as it informally known until it was officially named Elizabeth Park in 1912) was donated to the town in 1884 becoming the first official park in Whatcom County, or as the South Bellingham Sentinel of 1912 called it —the "pioneer pleasure resort of Bellingham," which is "a bower of beauty, as pretty as the parterre of the far-famed gardens of celestial climes."

The earliest recorded development to the property was in 1897 when the New Whatcom City Council made an appropriation for planting to be done by an out of town nursery. The trees, planted in holes made by dynamite, didn't thrive. At this point in time the park was no more than an open playfield for neighborhood baseball games.

Controversy Erupts Over Future Uses of Park

In 1901, the Ladies Cooperative Society, "one of the least pretentious but most aggressive and constructive organizations" in the county, began assembling funds to landscape the park and erect a bandstand. This was not a plan well-received by the neighborhood boys, who asked the City Council to keep the park as a baseball field.

In a showdown at City Hall between the Society and a crowd of "hissing" schoolboys, in the presence of the mayor and the City Council, the society easily claimed victory when they produced records stating "that if the tract were converted to any other than city park purposes the title would automatically revert to the original owners or his heirs."

On September 11, 1901 in Walnut Street Park, the Adams Military Band had the pleasure of presenting the first band concert held to raise money for the painting of the newly completed bandstand. At the concert Mayor Bacon remarked "this was a unique occasion in the history of the town, as it was the first actual donation to the city, and upon ground donated to the city."

In 1903, the Fort Bellingham flagpole, having stood at the fort since 1856, was donated to the society and raised was in the park. Before it was raised in the park, gavels were cut and given to Mayor Black and his predecessor Mayor Bennett, in honor of the vote that year to consolidate Fairhaven and Whatcom to form the City of Bellingham.

Some years later, due to a lack of protection from the weather, the flagpole was removed. Today, the base is permanently displayed at Pickett's Bellingham home on Bancroft Street.

Park Development Completed

The development of Walnut Street Park was finally completed in 1905 under the guidance of Park Commissioner Roland G. Gamwell. (Gamwell and his wife, Helen, have the distinction of being the first couple to reserve a suite in the then two-year old Fairhaven Hotel, which was done while their 16th Street home was being completed. It was in their new home that they would privately entertain Mark Twain and US President William Howard Taft.)

Corresponding "with park commissioners in the large cities of the east," and combining their suggestions "with his own knowledge of plant life, landscape effects and related subjects," Gamwell gave the park a complete facelift. He transformed it from a flat playfield to a radically landscaped park that included a bandstand, a 250-foot long winding lake lined with trees and shrubs, and winding paths through the park for automobiles (which were prohibited in 1916).

Walnut Street Park Renamed in Honor of Captain Roeder's Wife

During the renovation of the park, which was for a while more gravel and unkempt land than anything recognizable, it was nicknamed "Gamwell's Botch." With the renovations complete, the park was renamed Elizabeth Park, in honor of Captain Roeder's wife Mary Elizabeth (1826-1897), the fourth white woman on Bellingham Bay.

In 1910, the Haller Fountain, donated by the G. Morris Estate of Seattle, was placed in the center of the lake. It was ornamented by a trio of small girls lining its bowl and five larger female statues (one at the base and one in the bowl), all designed by local Swedish sculptor Knute Evertz. The feet of the girls were made from casts from Evertz's 9-month old granddaughter's feet. His granddaughter, Beverly Kuljis is the mother of 42nd District Representative Kelli Linville.

In 1956, the former residence of Henry Roeder on Elm Street, "Elmheim," was purchased with plans to raze the mansion to make way for an apartment building. The 60-year old home was one of Bellingham's quintessential historic homes. It was offered cheaply by the new owners to a local historical society on the condition that it be moved to a different location.

Elizabeth Park became the choice destination, but residents in the area felt their property would be devalued by having the house located in the park and submitted a petition supporting their stance.

But the old clause that said the property was for park purposes only, that had once helped the Ladies Cooperative Society, was also the roadblock to moving the house to the park. Demolition of the home proceeded, but due to a lack of money the apartment complex wasn't built. The lot remained empty for more than 20 years until the Elm Crest Apartments were built.

Park Received Facelift in 80s and 90s

During the 1980s, the park received yet another facelift after many years of neglect. The lake and water-channels were filled in and the park was re-landscaped.

A new bandstand was built, which was torn down decades earlier, based on photographs of the original. The Haller Fountain, which had earlier been put in storage, was returned to its home in the park in 1989, now surrounded by a cement sitting area and restored through funds from the Eldridge District Historical Society. It still had the three girls lining its bowl, but the five larger statues had been lost.

A new playground was constructed in the park in the late 1990's. With renovations complete, until some time in the future when a another facelift will again be needed, Elizabeth Park had become what local historian Daniel E. Turbeville III called, "one of the finest small urban parks in the Northwest."

Today, Elizabeth Park has come a long way from its modest roots as a baseball field and an out-of- the way public gathering place. But, throughout its many changes it has retained its asset as a piece of property that is not valued by its commercial worth or how close it is to a business district. Its value lies in the fact that it contributes to the outlying neighborhood, more distant community, its residents and their activities in a way that is immeasurable.


Monarch Butterflies: Glass Cages and Biotech Corn

by Al Hanners

Monarchs, America's beautiful, magnificent migratory butterflies, are in trouble. Their winter habitat in northern Mexico is disappearing as the result of logging, and in California because of urban sprawl. Now some leading scientists contend that monarchs' very important breeding ground in America's heartland corn belt may be threatened by the introduction of biotech corn grown because it is resistant to the corn borer pest.

There is no monarch butterfly population here in Whatcom County because there are no milkweeds that monarch caterpillars need to feed on to survive and mature. Milkweeds grow naturally only in drier climates east of the Cascades and farther south. Migratory monarchs do not pass through here because there are no milkweeds to the north. So, you may wonder, how could Whatcom County threaten monarchs? Because while there are no indigenous monarchs here, some monarchs are released here.

Contrasting Motives and Expertise

On one side is Whatcom County's butterfly woman. She buys monarch pupae in the chrysalis stage that are collected in California. Then she sells them together with glass cages for people to keep them in until adults emerge. She encourages releasing them where there is no indigenous monarch population and little or no chance for an adult to find a mate. Should, by chance, a fertile egg be laid and hatch, there would be no milkweeds for monarch caterpillars to feed on and live. The net result is a direct total loss to monarchs: subtraction from a threatened but still viable California population but no additions.

On the other side is Dr. Robert Michael Pyle, the author of some 12 books including "North American Butterflies," (National Audubon Society), Dr. Pyle, like all other butterfly experts I contacted, opposes any release of artificially raised butterflies because it interferes with their studies of survival or diminution and demise of butterfly species, studies that might help the butterflies survive.

Dr. Pyle believes we need to clearly understand the migratory paths of monarch butterflies. They winter mostly in northern Mexico, but also in California. In the spring, wintering adults fly north, mate, reproduce and die. The new brood does the same thing and there may be up to three or four reproductive cycles on their northern journey. In late summer and fall, only the last brood migrates south, making a single trip up to 2000 miles long.

Pyle's Outburst at Village Books

Dr. Pyle made a 9500-mile journey following migrating monarch butterflies through mountains and along rivers from British Columbia to Mexico. He charmed and entertained his audience while reviewing his new book, "Chasing Monarchs, Migrating with Butterflies of Passage," at Village Books in the fall of 1999.

The man before us was completely composed and cut a dapper but ample figure. His flowing white hair and beard looked for all the world as if he had just stepped out of a beauty shop. The flowing sleeves of his rose colored shirt and his stylish, sporty vest completed the image of a lovable elder scientist. However his flawless, wrinkleless skin betrayed his baby boomer age. Only when the lecture was over and we were in the question period did he lose composure.

"You sure do know how to make my blood boil," he exploded. And then to the audience, he added, "I didn't plant this man here." Dr. Pyle had just been asked what he thought of maturing monarchs in glass cages and then releasing them where there are no milkweeds and no indigenous monarch butterflies. He went on to substantiate his case, but we already had his dramatic answer. It is bad for monarchs.

The Biotech Corn Threat

Some scientists believe that biotech corn may threaten monarch butterflies. Who in Whatcom County not only admires monarchs, but who also has not heard that biotech possibly could threaten them? Who in Whatcom County considers them a common butterfly in the United States?

But who in Whatcom County has ever heard of black swallowtail butterflies? That is the reason that this headline in the June 6, 2000 Bellingham Herald is misleading: " Study: Biotech Corn Safe for Common Butterfly." The devil is in the details. Biotech corn contains a gene from the bacteria species that is widely sold commercially as BT to kill caterpillars. Butterfly larvae are caterpillars. The research was on black swallowtails, not monarchs. The gene inserted into biotech corn is intended to kill caterpillars, not adult butterflies. Monarch caterpillars must eat milkweeds. Black swallowtail caterpillars do not eat milkweeds.

Hence, the study reported in The Bellingham Herald is not sound science. I wonder who paid for the research. Glass cages or biotech corn, the price of understanding is an eternal effort to acquire knowledge and vigilance.

State Legislative Session

Washington State Legislature Goes Into Extra Innings

by Bruce Wishart

Bruce Wishart is the south sound director of People for Puget Sound.

Reprinted by permission from the May 2000 issues of SOUND & STRAITS, the quarterly newsletter of People for Puget Sound. For further information: www.pugetsound.org

Few in the environmental community held high hopes for making much progress on our agenda of issues in the short 2000 legislative session. It seemed our success would be measured primarily by our ability to block anti-environmental bills.

As we foresaw, debate on natural resources issues was vigorous, but progress was made on a number of fronts.

Neah Bay Rescue Tug

People for Puget Sound is making strides on the issue of placing a permanent oil spill prevention tug at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and in keeping interim tug protection in place in the meantime.

The tug bill proposed by Senator Karen Fraser (D-Olympia) and Representative Lynn Kessler (D-Port Angeles) — SB 6430 and HR 3017 — moved further this session than ever. Though it did not pass, the growing support for the bill helped build momentum for addressing the tug issue in the end-of-session budget wrangles.

Thanks to the tireless leadership of House co-speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle), the Supplemental Budget adopted in late April includes $1,650,000 to help fund interim tug protection.

With mostly federal funding, an interim tug, the Barbara Foss, has been on oil spill prevention duty at Neah Bay since December 15th. With leadership of the Makah Tribe, an additional $400,000 became available to extend that tug into June. The new $1,650,000 in state funding makes it possible to keep continuous tug protection through the rest of this year (important because oil spill risk is not limited to the winter months).

Meanwhile, some arrangement for a permanent oil spill prevention tug could emerge from the work of the North Sound Oil Spill Risk Management Panel. This multi-stakeholder effort, in which People for Puget Sound is playing a leading role, will issue its report in June.

Ballast Water and Invasive Species

In an important victory for the sound, the Legislature established a new state regulatory program to help control the spread of non-native invasive species. All manner of sea life, including microscopic forms, are traveling the globe in the ballast water tanks of commercial vessels. When dumped out into our waters, species new to our region can easily multiply, compete with, and crowd out native flora and fauna.

The bill, HB 2466, introduced by Representative Debbie Regala (D-Tacoma) and promoted by Senator Ken Jacobsen (D-Seattle), requires that all commercial vessels discharge ballast water 50 miles out to sea unless weather conditions make that impossible. Within two years, any ballast water not discharged in the open ocean must be treated to eliminate the threat before being discharged in port. Gov. Locke signed this bill on March 24.


As expected, the debate over strengthening shorelines protection—to actually get tougher, salmon-friendly regulations implemented around the state —was very contentious. People for Puget Sound played a leading role in shaping this important debate.

The good news is that legislation aimed at undermining the Shorelines Management Act or the new state rules (referred to as the "Shoreline Guidelines") was prevented from reaching a vote. A dozen House and Senate bills were introduced on this topic and the issue was the subject of numerous hearings. Despite intense lobbying from business groups, developers, and agricultural interests, the large turnout at hearings by environmentally-minded citizens from across the state, as well as grassroots letters, phone calls and email messages, helped turn the tide.

As your full-time lobbyist on the scene, my thanks to all who called or wrote your legislators on this subject.
The Department of Ecology is now moving to promulgate final Shoreline Guidelines this summer. While it is too early to tell, the Dept. of Ecology is expected to issue a rule more consistent with the goals of the Endangered Species Act and salmon protection than earlier drafts. If this proves correct, it will be a major step forward to protect salmon habitat, including critical marine and estuarine areas.

The bad news is, efforts to secure funding for local governments to meet their new shoreline planning commitments and for the state to review those local plans, were less successful this session. We will return next year to advocate for these funds.

Pollution Issues

Ill-advised bills addressing contaminated sediment problems and water body cleanups were defeated after lengthy debate.

On contaminated sediment cleanup, HB 3041, offered by Representative Kelli Linville (D- Bellingham) and supported by the Washington Ports Association, placed heavy emphasis on disposal of contaminated sediments in marine waters (as opposed to more environment-friendly approaches such as treatment and removal). Due to the opposition of environmental groups, led by People for Puget Sound, the bill died without being voted out of the House.

On the issue of cleaning up water bodies so polluted that they do not meet federal water quality standards, the debate focused on setting mandatory cleanup levels (referred to as TMDLs, "Total Maximum Daily Loads"). HB 3056, also authored by Representative Linville, offered strategies to set Total Maximum Daily Loads that would be inconsistent with new federal rules that the Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of adopting. Particularly due to our opposition, this bill also failed to come to a vote.

Special Legislativae Session Sputters to a Close

Compiled by Washington Environmental Council staff

It took 93 days, including two special sessions, to bring closure to the scheduled 60-day 2000 Legislative Session. The end for Washington's 56th Legislature finally came on April 27 following Governor Locke's unveiling of his second budget, which successfully broke a House and Senate deadlock over how to back fill the $750 million hole left by Initiative 695 (the 1999 License Tab initiative).

When all was said and done there were a handful of policy gains tempered by some erosion of funding for environmental programs.

"Despite some missed opportunities and how much effort it took to beat back some bad bills, on balance we did okay," notes Joan Crooks, Washington Environmental Council's Executive Director. "There were some anticipated gains, such as pipeline safety reform, but we were also pleasantly surprised by actions to protect marine waters including better management of ballast water from ships and some funding for a rescue tug to help prevent oil spills."

House Democrats Deserve Credit For Rescue Tug Funding

All told many budgets were written over the course of the session (three from each legislative chamber and two by the governor). When the budget deal was done, there were few surprises beyond the $1.2 million for an emergency tug stationed at Neah Bay (for seven months of the year).

"The House Democrats led by Co-Speaker Frank Chopp deserve the credit for the rescue tug funding," notes Josh Baldi, Washington Environmental Council's State Policy Representative. He explained that tug and transit money, in particular, were key issues pushed by House Democrats during the special sessions.

Another noteworthy budget item was the salvaging of the state's clean air program, 45% of which had been eliminated by passage of Initiative 695 (i.e., a surcharge on the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax was a principle source of revenue for the program). While the legislature failed to come up with Governor Locke's request of $12.3 million to make the program whole, the final number of $9.8 million ensures that the many of the state's air quality efforts will continue.

Erosion of Salmon Recovery Funding

Overlooked in the budget debate, Congress' failure to fund salmon recovery at the level budgeted by the state which has resulted in significant shortfalls. The state was expecting roughly $50 million a year to flow from the federal government but will actually receive less than half that amount.

This leaves several key salmon recovery programs at less than desirable levels, such as water conservation and reuse, and monitoring and enforcement of habitat protection programs. In the wake of Initiative 695, there was little discussion about backfilling these needs.

What was consciously not funded in the supplemental budget was improving shoreline management. "There was a major policy debate around the Department of Ecology's attempts to update and improve the Shoreline Guidelines rule," explains Josh. "Unfortunately, key lawmakers from both parties felt if they couldn't revisit the Shoreline Management Act then there would be no funding."

Such positioning appears shortsighted given the state's need to comply with the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act. The lack of funding in this supplemental budget will add pressure on the 2001 Legislature to fully fund the program estimated at roughly $18 million.

Environmental Policy Debates: SSB 6062 and SSB 6525

While it was anticipated the shoreline debate might carry over into the special sessions, the environmental policy debates mainly focused on two issues: SSB 6062, which would have provided a tax deferral for large natural gas-fired electrical plants, and SSB 6525, the so-called "two-line" bill, which would have established a second line for water transfers, separate from new water right applications. Neither bill became law though there were intense dynamics behind each bill.

Washington Environmental Council's Policy Analyst, Judy Turpin, worked hard on SSB 6525 negotiations. While Washington Environmental Council remained neutral on the final version of the bill, considerable effort had been spent opposing earlier versions that would have constrained The Department of Ecology's authority to condition water rights and delegated additional authority to the county-controlled water conservancy boards.

Fortunately, the Governor's office became more engaged during the special sessions and worked in collaboration with Senator Karen Fraser to develop a tight bill that would have given the Department of Ecology greater latitude to facilitate water transfers.

As the session came to a close, the agricultural community hammered the bill, raising concerns about Department of Ecology discretion and claiming that key issues were not addressed in the bill. Ultimately, the bill died along with a $1.1 million budget proviso tied to it. Ironically, the bill could have helped to ease some of the water pressures faced by farmers in places such as the Methow Valley.

"It's fair to say that many interest groups have concerns about granting additional discretion to Department of Ecology, and certainly there was much left undone with this bill," explains Judy Turpin of Washington Environmental Council. "However, the point was to create a tool to respond to changing water needs that could potentially benefit many public interests, whether they be for new municipal use or to respond to fish concerns."

WEC Opposed Tax Break For Sumas Power Plant

The Washington Environmental Council also spent considerable time opposing SSB 6062. This bill sought to provide a $24 million tax break for a proposed gas-fired energy plant in Sumas. Concerns about the bill ranged from the amount of carbon dioxide produced (2.4 million tons annually) to the number of long-term jobs created (24), to the local siting issues (e.g., water quality and transmission issues), as well as inconsistency with state and regional energy policy (i.e., gas-fired generation is not a priority).

Citing concerns over the number of jobs created in relation to the size of tax cut, Governor Locke vetoed SSB 6062. What was clearly a sound public policy decision was very difficult politically. Locke faced intense political opposition, primarily from big business and labor, which became quickly apparent when the Senate overrode his veto with merely five no votes.

While the vote in the House was less certain, the decision not to override the Governor came merely a day before the end of the second special session. "Even if the bill had been brought to a vote, we felt fairly confident that we could have sustained the Governor's veto," notes Josh Baldi of the Washington Environmental Council. "But the debate shows how out of touch the legislature is with sound energy policy."

"All in all, we did fairly well given the split leadership of the House and given the focus on fixing the hole left by Initiative 695," notes Joan Crooks, Washington Environmental Council Executive Director. "However, this session again underscores the need to more publicly elevate environmental programs in the budget debate. Recognizing that there are growing fiscal constraints (i.e., notably Initiative 601 and Initiative 695), environmental challenges are simply getting to the point that we can no longer afford to have these programs at the bottom of the food chain.

2000 Session at a Glance


The Rusted Shield: The Failure to Enforce or Obey Environmental Laws Threatens the Recovery of Wild Salmon

by Daniel Jack Chasan

Daniel Jack Chasan is a Vashon Island writer and attorney.

Part Two: How We Got Here

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

Denial, Faith, and Hatcheries

"The hardest thing to convey in writing history or teaching history," the historian David McCullough recently observed, "is that nothing ever had to happen the way it happened."1 Euro-American society did not have to destroy the great wild salmon runs of the Pacific Northwest.

People made choices. But they preserved an illusion that they were not choosing—that, in fact, they did not have to choose. They continue to make choices, and continue to preserve the illusion.

The illusion has been sustained by denial and hatcheries. The two have been intimately related. University of Washington environmental law scholar, William Rodgers, has written that on California's Trinity River; before European civilization arrived, local tribes harvested salmon for ten days each year at the Kepil Weir, then dismantled the weir so that upstream tribes could get their share.

If there were not enough salmon, they dismantled it earlier. "No fish meant no fishing," Rodgers has written. "This was cause for regret not denial as it tended to be in the fisheries that followed." 2

Denial Began Early—in the 1880s

The denial started early. In the 1880s, a regional magazine observed that on the Columbia River, "The large pack and the fact that the run of fish in July was very great are pointed to as evidences that the supply of salmon in the river is not becoming exhausted.

"To achieve this result a greater number of boats, larger nets and more assiduous fishing were necessary, and it is pretty certain the proportion of salmon running in April, May and June, the ones which go to the headwaters and become the chief propagators, that escaped the miles of meshes spread for them, was very smallÉ. [I]n spite of the increase in the size of nets, the number of boats and the skill of the fishermen, the average caught by each boat has largely decreased." 3

Amass Golden Eggs, Don't Save the Goose

A frontier society did not willingly forego opportunities for economic gain. 4 Psychologically, it rested on the premise that there was plenty of everything. The goal was amassing golden eggs, not preserving the goose that laid them.

Politicians shared this attitude, and seldom interfered with their constituents' exploitation of natural resources. "[I]n Western affairs, business and government were interdependent and symbiotic, and only a pathologically subtle mind could find a line dividing them," the Western historian Patricia Nelson Limerick has written. "It does not take much exposure to Western political history to lead one to a basic fact: Ôconflict of interest' has not always been an issue of political sensitivity." 5

In the case of salmon, hatcheries let generations of Northwesterners believe no conflict existed. "[I]n a system where people make gains through trade-offs and accommodation, there need be no agreement on goals for mutually beneficial decisions," political scientist Robert Bish wrote in "Governing Puget Sound," well before the survival of wild fish became an issue.

"Each party needs only to be satisfied that its goals are fostered. For example, there is no reason to expect agreement on goals by power companies and the Department of Fisheries, but they were still able to come to a mutually beneficial accommodation with the power company financing fish hatcheries to replace natural runs lost from the construction of power-producing dams." 6

Technological Optimism

Today, true believers in hatcheries must ignore both experience and evidence. Three generations ago they needed only the technological optimism of their time. Americans of the late 19th and early 20th centuries believed in scientific and technological progress—without needing to know a lot about science, and without any ambivalence about technology's darker side. 7 Many presumed human beings could produce salmon much more efficiently than nature could.

Their faith in human ingenuity was characteristic of their time—and very convenient. The 19th-century magazine writer who cast a skeptical eye on claims that over-fishing had not diminished the Columbia River's salmon runs concluded, "All these things point to the necessity of a propagating establishment." 8 In other words, people had to do something, but they did not have to stop fishing.

Laws to Protect Salmon

Nineteenth-century Northwesterners may have nurtured illusions about fishing, but they knew from experience that if one blocked rivers and streams, salmon disappeared. The Oregon territorial constitution of 1848 stated explicitly that "rivers and streamsÉin which salmon are found or to which they resort shall not be obstructed by dams or otherwise, unless such dams or obstructions are so constructed as to allow salmon to pass freely up and down such rivers and streams." 9

The first Washington state legislature forbade anyone to block salmon passage up a river or stream. 10 However, Lichatowich writes, "these laws—like most laws intended to protect salmon habitat—were poorly enforced." 11
Before long, the state actually created a legal fiction in order to circumvent its laws to protect salmon streams. In 1912, a Canadian-born entrepreneur named Thomas Aldwell used money from a Chicago investment bank to build a dam across the Elwha River—which contained populations of virtually all salmon species, including 100-pound chinook and biennial runs of up to 275,000 pinks.

Elwha Dam Violation

Aldwell felt he could turn a profit by building a supply of electric power for local markets that did not yet exist. Built without fish passage of any kind, the dam blatantly violated state law. It also violated some principles of engineering, and it soon blew out. It was quickly rebuilt, again without the required fish passage. 12

Rather than enforce the law, state fish commissioner Leslie Darwin (who had been appointed by newly-elected Governor Ernest Lister) came up with a solution to Aldwell's potential legal problem: "[In an]August 1913 letter from Darwin to Olympic Power," Bruce Brown writes, "he proposed for the first time that the owners of the dam build a hatchery in lieu of a fishway. While acknowledging that Ôno officer of the state has any right to waive one of the state's statutory requirements,' Darwin went on to say that the law could be circumvented if the hatchery physically adjoined the dam, which could then be considered a state obstruction for the taking of eggs to supply the hatchery." (This was, at best, a leap of faith; the value of artificial propagation had not been proven.)

In any case, at Darwin's urging Aldwell agreed to donate land for a hatchery and to provide $2,500 for its construction. In 1915, well after the fact, Lister persuaded the state legislature to legalize building hatcheries in lieu of fishways. The Elwha hatchery started up in 1915; not surprisingly, it was an utter failure.

Elwha Hatchery Abandoned

Seven years later, in 1922, "the Department of fisheries abandoned the Elwha hatcheryÉ.A subsequent title search revealed that ownership of the hatchery site had never actually been transferred to the state." 13 The whole thing was a sham, from beginning to end.

The Department of Fisheries not only found a way to keep from enforcing the law, it did not even enforce the terms of its own contractual agreement. ("In 1971 the Department of Fisheries calculated that the loss of the Elwha salmon runs had cost the people of Washington $500,000 annually," with nothing of value in return. In today's dollars the figure would be roughly $2 million per year, for 87 years. If compounded at a modest rate of annual interest, it would make quite a prodigious sum.) 14

Money in Lieu of Habitat

This sham set a precedent. "When the fish agencies started accepting money in lieu of habitat," they developed a vested interest in business as usual, Lichatowich says. "As long as water flowed downhill and turned turbines, the agencies got their checks. It didn't matter whether they produced any salmon or not." 15

Accordingly, in spite of the dismal history, until very recently the Department of Fisheries' reliance on hatcheries was waxing, rather than waning. Washington has thrown a great deal of good money after bad in an attempt to avoid dealing with habitat decline and over-fishing.
"The extreme example of a recently expanded stocking program may be Washington State," Ray White and colleagues have written. "In 1960, state and federal hatcheries in Washington stocked less than .5 million kg of salmon in addition to an unknown weight of steelhead and other troutÉ.In 1990, 121 state, federal and tribal fish hatcheries and over 140 smaller satellite and volunteer-operated facilities in Washington releasedÉ4.67 million kg. Despite, and perhaps partly because of, such substantial annual stocking in Washington, and other large programs in Oregon and Idaho, the salmon declines continued."16

Hatcheries Caused Biological and Social Problems

Hatcheries have helped cause the decline of wild salmon runs. "[I]t is clear," the authors of Upstream observe, "that hatcheries have caused biological and social problems." 17 If released into a stream with naturally spawning fish, hatchery fish compete with the wild fish for a limited food supply. They may compete for food in the ocean.

If significantly larger than wild salmon fry when they are released, the hatchery fish actually devour the wild fish. 18 They can spread disease to the wild population. 19 They can interbreed with wild fish and alter the natural gene pool. As the authors of Upstream write, "many local breeding populations have been swamped by introgression from hatchery salmon, the original local breeding population having been replaced by genetic material from straying hatchery fish." 20

Fishery Managers Let Fishers Deplete Wild Salmon Runs

Finally, they put pressure on fishery managers to let fishers deplete wild salmon runs. If a relatively large hatchery run mingles with a relatively small wild run, and people are allowed to catch a reasonable percentage of the hatchery fish, they likely will catch an unreasonable percentage of the wild ones.

"If fishing responds to apparent abundance without consideration of the stock composition (i.e., the mixture of portions of stock from source populations) or if fishing levels are based on hatchery production, the natural population will be overfished and its production will, on the average, decline." 21

The misplaced faith in fish hatcheries has not only helped justify the destruction of wild runs by dams built for other purposes, it also has justified blocking of fish passage by the hatcheries themselves. "[A] common practice at many fish hatcheries has been to block upstream migration at or near the hatchery to aid in collecting returning adults or to isolate adults, possibly carrying diseases, from the hatchery's water supply."22

Decision Makers Ignored Handwriting on Wall

The handwriting appeared on the wall fairly early, but most decision makers chose to ignore it. In 1917, John N. Cobb, who would soon become the first director of the University of Washington's college of fisheries, described "an almost idolatrous faith in the efficacy of artificial culture of fish for replenishing the ravages of man," and warned that "nothing has done more harm than the prevalence of such an idea." 23

But the faith has persisted. Seventy-seven years later, University of Washington fisheries and zoology professor James R. Karr wrote, "Worst of all, hatcheries lull people into thinking that the causes of fishery declines have been Ôfixed' when, in fact, they have not. Yet the public pressure to maintain hatcheries persists." 24

It has persisted for a reason. Fish culture was never simply a technology. In a society that has wanted to avoid making choices, hatcheries have been the key to avoidance. "Fish culture became the only way western fish and game commissions saw to override the onslaught of overharvest and habitat degradation," Lichatowich has written. "Hatcheries offered a ready alternative to strict regulations and an easy way to avoid confrontation with irrigators, timber companies and polluters." 25

Fish culture fit into a regional world view. "Hatcheries supported [the 19th-century] development ideology," Lichatowich says. He suggests that they still have an ideological basis—and he cites physicist Freeman Dyson's idea that if a technology is ideologically driven, it is not allowed to fail because "if the ideologically-driven technology fails, then it calls into question the ideology. That's sort of the root" of our ingrained faith in hatcheries. 26

Next Month: Part Three
Dams, Electric Power, and Political Power

1 quoted in, Mudd, Roger, "There Isn't Any Such Thing as the Past," American Heritage, February-March 1999.
2 Rodgers, William H. Jr., "Scales of Justice: Salmon, Indians, Property, Law and Evolutionary History on the Columbia River, "unpublished m.s. (1999).
3 West Shore Magazine in Gates, Charles Marvin, ed., "Readings in Pacific History," University Bookstore (1941).
4 And, in general, it saw no need to conserve. "For most of the nineteenth centurÉ[l]ooking upon our [natural] wealth, we found it obviously Ôinexhaustible'—the adjective appears ritually in public and private documents—and drew the conclusion that we should press our present ambitions by whatever seemed the quickest route." Hurst , James Willard, "Law and the Conditions of Freedom in the Nineteenth-Century United States," University of Wisconsin Press (1956).
5 Limerick, Patricia Nelson, "The Legacy of Conquest," Washington Sea Grant (1982).
6 Bish, Robert L., "Governing Puget Sound, "Washington Sea Grant (1982).
7 Technological optimism was part of a broader faith in human progress and a broader failure to recognize limits. "[T]he much too simple and absolute, over-optimistic, late-nineteenth-century liberal theory of progress greatly exaggerated the power or ability of the best intellectual and spiritual achievements to control the actual conduct and course of practical affairs." Taylor, Overton H.,"A History of Economic Thought," McGraw-Hill (1960).
8 Gates, op. cit.
9 cited in Lichatowich, op. cit.
10 bid.
11 bid.
12 Brown, Bruce, "Mountain in the Clouds," Collier Books, 1982
13 ibid.
14 ibid.
15 Lichatowich, personal communication.
16 White, Ray J., et. al., Better Rules for Fish Stocking in Aquatic Resource Management. American Fisheries Society Symposium 15:527-547 (1995).
17 Committee on Protection and Management of Pacific Northwest Anadromous Salmonids, op. cit.
18 "[H]atchery-reared salmon are often more aggressive (and larger) than their wild counterpartsÉ.Efforts to use hatchery-produced underyearling coho salmon to rebuild populations in Oregon had the worst possible resultÉ.The hatchery fish displaced the wild coho that were in the streams." ibid.
19 "Disease is thought to be directly or indirectly responsible for substantial post-release mortality of hatchery fishÉ.[T]here is little evidence of transmission of disease from infected hatchery fish to naturally reproduced fishÉ. However, there has not been much research on this question, and most disease-related losses in natural environments would probably go undetected." ibid.
20 ibid.
21 "The result of regulating fishing on a metapopulation basis and ignoring the reproductive units that make up a metapopulation is the disappearance or extirpation of some of the local breeding populations and the eventual collapse of the metapopulation's production." ibid.
22 Committee on Protection and Management of Pacific Northwest Anadromous Salmonids, op. cit.
23 quoted in White, Ray J., et. al., op. cit.
24 Karr, James R., "Restoring Wild Salmon: We Must Do Better," illahee 10:4 (winter, 1994).
25 Lichatowich, personal communication.
26 ibid.

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