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The Clean Water program is responsible for monitoring and protecting our precious water resources. We use science, policy and education to reduce pollution and toxics in the Salish Sea and its uplands and address water quality and quantity issues in rural Whatcom communities. Read more.

  • Water Rights 101: How do we allocate water in Washington? Nobody truly owns Washington’s water.Water – whether underground or in lakes, streams, or frozen in the mountains – is owned by the people of Washington state and managed by the ...
    Posted Sep 11, 2019, 2:07 PM by Simon Bakke
  • Send an email to Whatcom County Council: Ensure our shorelines are protected! The most effective public comments are specific and personal. You can copy and paste this sample text for your email, and add a personal comment about why you care about ...
    Posted Sep 6, 2019, 12:32 PM by Hannah Coughlin
  • A Tale of Two Scarcities: How droughts in Whatcom plays out for salmon January through June 2019 was the eighth driest on record for Washington since 1895, with nearly half the state in an official drought emergency following a hot, dry spring and ...
    Posted Aug 14, 2019, 1:27 PM by Simon Bakke
  • Tips for being a responsible beach visitor Have you ever gone to the beach and been appalled by what you saw? Maybe it’s someone mindlessly littering, or the careless way someone picks up a crab and ...
    Posted Aug 12, 2019, 5:45 PM by Simon Bakke
  • Lake Whatcom gets dedicated pollution-fighting funding The Whatcom County Council just made a crucial step to reducing pollution in Lake Whatcom, the drinking water source for the majority of people in Whatcom County.On July 23rd ...
    Posted Aug 19, 2019, 1:23 PM by Simon Bakke
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 74. View more »

Water Rights 101: How do we allocate water in Washington?

posted Sep 11, 2019, 12:30 PM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Sep 11, 2019, 2:07 PM ]

https://sites.google.com/a/re-sources.org/main-2/blog/cleanwater/_draft_post-2/BrettBaunton_NooksackRiver_BBP6549_NooksackGold_1920_Web.jpg

Nobody truly owns Washington’s water.

Water – whether underground or in lakes, streams, or frozen in the mountains – is owned by the people of Washington state and managed by the Department of Ecology (Ecology). It’s a public resource and can’t be owned by one individual or group. People or groups may be granted the right to use water for a defined purpose, in a specific place, a specific amount, and drawn from a specific location. The government doesn’t own water, and when they allow someone to use it, that user doesn’t suddenly “own” that water either.

The way Ecology issues the right to use water is based on the legal doctrine of Prior Appropriation (or “first in time, first in right”) which means people who started using water first are senior to those after them. During water shortages, more junior rights may be diminished to fulfill senior rights first.

Every time someone wants to start using water, their water right must all pass a four-part test:
  • Water must be physically AND legally available;
  • Water must be used beneficially — serving a productive purpose, like for drinking or watering crops, and cannot be wasted;
  • Water use must be in the best interest of the public;
  • Water use must not impair other existing water uses.

Tribes have the longest-standing water rights — which are at risk.

Treaty Tribes in Washington have the most senior water rights because they have been on these lands for much longer than settlers. Tribes have water rights both within and outside of their reservations. The off-reservation water rights are designated to leave enough water remaining in rivers and streams for healthy salmon populations. This water right is tied to their treaty-given right to fish, and is especially important when salmon return to spawn in the summer when water shortages are common.

However, most Tribes in Washington do not have their water rights quantified. Ecology doesn’t know exactly how much water each Tribe should legally have access to.

Lummi Nation and Nooksack Indian Tribe requested a federal adjudication — the legal process of determining what their water rights are — of their off-reservation water rights in 2011. No action has been taken on that request. Tribal water rights can also be determined at the state level by adjudicating a whole watershed (including all the streams and groundwater that flow into a major water body). To do this, though, Tribes must waive their sovereign immunity (their government's right to consent to being sued) and participate in the legal process at the Superior Court level. Without quantifying off-reservation water rights, there is no way to enforce or protect Tribal water rights.

Water bodies can have their own water rights.

Streams, lakes, and other surface waters can also have their own water rights. These are known as Instream Flows, which are “minimum water flows or levels for streams, lakes or other public waters for the purposes of protecting fish, game, birds or other wildlife resources, or recreational or aesthetic values of said public waters whenever it appears to be in the public interest to establish the same.” (RCW 90.22.010) Ecology sets instream flows through a scientific process for particular reaches of streams and rivers or lakes.

The Nooksack River watershed (Water Resource Inventory Area 1) was the first Instream Flow set in the state. When the rule was finalized in 1986, most of the Nooksack watershed closed permanently or seasonally to new water rights. A common misconception is that the Nooksack Instream Flow Rule must be met, and we’re breaking the law if it’s not met. Instead, it is an aspirational goal of what flows should be during certain times of the year for certain stream reaches. Instream flow rules often draw a line in the sand to not allowing new water rights. Flow levels for the Nooksack and its stream reaches can be found here.

Do I need a water right for the water I currently use or want to start using?

The answer is typically no. You don’t need a water right...
  • If you receive your water from a utility, water district, shared water system (Group A or B water systems), or water association.
Or in these instances of groundwater withdrawals:
  • If your house is served by a single, private well (or is on a well serving up to 6 nearby homes) that was put to use before 2018, then you may use up to 5,000 gallons per day. If after 2018, then you may use up to 3,000 gallons per day over an annual average.
  • If you use a well for industrial or commercial purposes (like farming), you may use up to 5,000 gallons per day.
  • If you use a well for stock water, there is no limit.

You do need water rights if you use water directly from rivers, lakes, springs or from the ground (aside from the exceptions listed above). Ecology has a water right database where you can verify if your property has a water right.

Questions? Contact Karlee Deatherage, Clean Water Policy Analyst at KarleeD@re-sources.org.

(photos by Brett Baunton)

Send an email to Whatcom County Council: Ensure our shorelines are protected!

posted Sep 6, 2019, 9:23 AM by Hannah Coughlin   [ updated Sep 6, 2019, 12:32 PM ]


The most effective public comments are specific and personal. You can copy and paste this sample text for your email, and add a personal comment about why you care about this issue.


Send to: council@co.whatcom.wa.us

Send by: Thursday, September 10th



Dear Whatcom County Council,


I am writing to ask that you move forward with an evaluation of the health of our shorelines and whether rules that are intended to protect them are truly achieving no-net-loss of ecological functions. The County is required to monitor the effectiveness of the Shoreline Master Program (SMP), including the 2007 Restoration Plan, to assess whether net-loss of ecological functions and processes is occurring. 


With a changing climate and population growth Whatcom County must know whether our current rules, including restoration plans, are adequate in at least meeting no-net-loss. We can’t afford to wait until 2024 (or later) to assess these critical habitat functions when herring, salmon, orcas and other species are in decline. 


Thank you,

Your Name

City, zip code


--


Thank you for taking action in support of the habitat salmon and orcas depend on, and the shorelines our communities depend on! Read more about the Shoreline Management Program in Whatcom County.


A Tale of Two Scarcities: How droughts in Whatcom plays out for salmon

posted Aug 14, 2019, 12:28 PM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Aug 14, 2019, 1:27 PM ]

January through June 2019 was the eighth driest on record for Washington since 1895, with nearly half the state in an official drought emergency following a hot, dry spring and low snowpack in the mountains. Our region has gotten some rain in July and August, which has helped, but haven't made up for the extremely dry winter and spring — just like a cold snap doesn't reverse the trend of global heating, a few days of rain doesn't reverse a drought months in the making.

The term “drought” is thrown around a lot, but to the state of Washington, "drought" means when “the water supply for a geographical area or for a significant portion of a geographical area is below seventy-five percent of normal and the water shortage is likely to create undue hardships for various water uses and users.” (RCW 43.83B.400). The Nooksack River basin was part of the May 20, 2019 drought declaration from Governor Inslee — a stark reminder that the rainy Pacific Northwest is not immune from water worries.

Each year, regardless of official drought declarations, the Nooksack River tributaries become water-scarce in the summer and early fall when rain tapers off and when farms, fish, and people need it most. And this type of drought is likely to become more commonplace as the climate heats up and Whatcom County’s population rises. We need to prioritize solutions like efficient water use in the summer and fall, so a portion of the Nooksack’s water can stay in the streams to keep them cool and flowing for salmon.

Dive into two recent droughts

How is 2019 shaping up compared to the drought declared in 2015, when Washington had another historic drought emergency declaration? Long story short, low streamflows and high water temperatures in our rivers and creeks are not quite as bad as 2015. The Nooksack River and its creeks hit lows in early March of this year, similar to 2015 (see the discharge (flow) graphs below). In 2019, we had a few bouts of rain during the summer, keeping streamflows and water temperatures from being as dangerous.

It’s important to look at several key spots along the Nooksack River to get an overall snapshot of its health. This piece takes a location-by-location look at several years’ worth of streamflow data at five key spots along the river, which are good indicators of how well this year's flows measure up to the water rights reserved for the river itself (the “instream flow rule” set by the Department of Ecology). That means these spots are also good indicators of how favorable that piece of the river is for spawning salmon. One intriguing finding is that low flows in the Nooksack River at two of these spots, Ferndale and Cedarville, had below-average flows even during the rainy season in 2017 and 2018 for reasons unknown — yet several of its tributaries were normal. Data like this tells us we need to keep an eye on why this is happening and whether it is causing an impact to salmon migrating upstream to spawn.

Read on for a location-by-location look at several years of stream flow at five key spots along the Nooksack River, which give us a snapshot of the health of Whatcom’s most important waterway for salmon, agriculture, and some people’s drinking water.

Want to help balance our water supply in the face of increasing water uncertainty? Email Policy Analyst Karlee Deatherage, karleed@re-sources.org, and see what you can do.



South Fork Nooksack River at Saxon Bridge

The South Fork of the Nooksack River originates west of the Twin Sisters mountain range and flows through the communities of Acme and Van Zandt to meet with the Middle and North Forks in Deming. Unlike the North and Middle Forks, the South Fork fed by snowmelt, natural springs, and groundwater rather than glaciers. It has significant low streamflow and water temperature issues which pose great risk to the many salmon that call the South Fork home.

The South Fork is home to several vital salmon populations: Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed Spring Chinook, Pink, Coho and Chum salmon and Summer Steelhead.  Salmon at this spot:
  • Spring chinook (“Threatened” under the ESA) - enters the river beginning in February up until August; spawning in tributaries to the South Fork can begin in July through October
  • Pink - enters the river beginning in June or July through September; spawning in tributaries to the South Fork can begin in October through February. 
  • Coho - enters the river beginning in July up until January; spawning in tributaries to the South Fork can begin in October through February.
  • Chum - enters the river beginning in August through January; spawning in tributaries to the South Fork can begin in October and continues through February.
  • Summer steelhead - enters the river beginning in April up until October; spawning in tributaries to the South Fork can begin in February through April.
What the flow graphs tell us: Flows are slightly above 2015 low flows, but below normal years. So far, one day has exceeded 70 degrees fahrenheit for water temperature unlike multiple spikes in 2015. Gage height appears to be average.





Nooksack River at Cedarville

The Nooksack River at Cedarville is just downstream of where the three forks (North, Middle, and South) converge just outside of Nugent’s Corner. Flows and depth are pretty significant. Most salmon and steelhead don’t spawn here as they’re making their way to certain tributaries of the three forks; however, Chum salmon occasionally spawn in the mainstem Nooksack. Salmon at this spot:
  • Chum - enters the river beginning in August through January; spawning in the mainstem can begin in October and continue through February.

What the flow graphs tell us: Flows, temperature, and gage height are fairly average for this time of year.







Fish Trap Creek at Front Street, Lynden

Fish Trap Creek originates in lowland British Columbia, south of the Fraser River and makes it way through farmland and the City of Lynden and enters the Nooksack just southwest of town, just upstream of Bertrand Creek. Fishtrap Creek often faces challenges with high water temperatures and low streamflows. Salmon at this spot:
  • Chum - enters the river beginning in August through January; spawning in Fishtrap can begin in October and continues through February.
What the flow graphs tell us: Flows, temperature, and gage height are fairly average for this time of year. Flows and gage height in late July and early August 2015 were slightly better than 2019.








Bertrand Creek at International Boundary

Bertrand Creek originates in lowland British Columbia, south of the Fraser River and makes it way through farmland and enters the mainstem Nooksack River just west of the confluence of Fishtrap Creek. Like Fishtrap Creek, Bertrand Creek has serious problems with high water temperatures and low streamflows. Salmon at this spot:
  • Chum - enters the river beginning in August through January; spawning in Bertrand can begin in October and continues through February.
What the flow graphs tell us: Gage height and temperature are fairly average for this time of year. Flows are below average years, but above the 2015 low flows.








Mainstem Nooksack River at Ferndale

The mainstem Nooksack River at Ferndale is essentially the "salmon highway" (for spring and fall Chinook, pink, coho, and chum; plus winter and summer steelhead). Spawning does not typically take place here. Temperature and streamflows are typically not a concern; however, water temperatures were close to lethal (above the 20 degree celsius mark) for salmon a handful of days in 2015.

What the flow graphs tell us: Flows and gage height are slightly above average this time of year over the last 5 years; however, temperature appears to be creeping above the 5 year average yet below the 2015 water temperature highs.










Sources:

Tips for being a responsible beach visitor

posted Aug 9, 2019, 10:56 AM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Aug 12, 2019, 5:45 PM ]


Have you ever gone to the beach and been appalled by what you saw? Maybe it’s someone mindlessly littering, or the careless way someone picks up a crab and throws it back on the ground. It’s easy to forget that hundreds of species rely on beaches and intertidal zones, but we must remember that this is their home. Here are some tips to follow as you share in enjoying these incredible living systems. 

  1. Be mindful when you turn over rocks! Try not to turn over rocks larger than your head as they are specialized habitats for many marine organisms. If you do turn over small rocks to get a better look at what lives underneath, always make sure to put the rock back exactly where you found it! Organisms live under rocks for a reason: they provide shelter and shade from the sweltering sun that can quickly desiccate (dry out) marine organisms. 
  2. Take care when you walk on the beach! Many rocks are covered with ulva, a green seaweed that can be quite slippery when walking on. Make sure you have sure footing so you don’t slip and fall. You also want to make sure that you aren’t trampling any critters beneath your feet!
  3. Take photos and leave only footprints! This might seem obvious, but it’s not ok to take any marine critters or organisms out of their natural habitat.
  4. Pack it in and pack it out: Picnics on the beach are fun, but garbage isn’t! Make sure to pack everything out that you brought in. In doing so, you’ll be preventing more pollution in the aquatic environment. re-sources.org/events
  5. Carefully touch marine organisms! It is ok to carefully and gently touch marine organisms, although make sure you wet your hands before doing so. Make sure you don’t move the organism from its original spot!

Remember that when you visit the beach, you’re also visiting the home of thousands of marine organisms. Following these beach etiquette tips will make you great beach visitor; the critters will appreciate it too!

By Lilya Jaeren, Americorps Aquatic Reserves Monitoring and Stewardship Coordinator


Lake Whatcom gets dedicated pollution-fighting funding

posted Aug 9, 2019, 10:26 AM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Aug 19, 2019, 1:23 PM ]

The Whatcom County Council just made a crucial step to reducing pollution in Lake Whatcom, the drinking water source for the majority of people in Whatcom County.

On July 23rd, the Council finally approved a fair, equitable method for funding pollution prevention measures — like more stormwater filtration along roads and helping homeowners install pollution filtration. The method is based on someone’s level of contribution to pollution. Creating the Lake Whatcom stormwater utility rate structure took nearly two years of drafting and happened largely thanks to community feedback!


The City of Bellingham has had fees (Stormwater Utility Fee and Watershed Fee) to finance Lake Whatcom for years, paid for by people living in the Lake Whatcom watershed and throughout city limits. Now, everyone living in the lake’s watershed helps fund pollution prevention regardless of city limits. 

How the fee structure works

The more impervious surface (like pavement, which prevents water from filtering through) on your property, the more you pay. When water flows unfiltered, it takes any pollutants it has picked up from roads, grassy yards, driveways, and phosphorus-based fertilizers and carries them straight into 100,000 peoples’ drinking water source. Stormwater with excessive phosphorus allows large amounts of algae to grow,  making it difficult (and expensive) to treat the water so we can drink it. Too much algae is also harmful to aquatic life like trout and kokanee, because decomposing algae uses up the lake’s dissolved oxygen. 

This level of protection is very affordable. Beginning in 2020, the average property will contribute about $5 per month to the utility. Revenue generated from the utility will be used for education and outreach, stormwater improvements along roadsides, and the Homeowner Incentive Program (HIP).

One of the key reasons the County needed to create the utility was to have a consistent, dedicated revenue source for reducing pollution in Lake Whatcom. Since 2014, the County has pulled funds from the County-wide Flood Fund for Lake Whatcom programs. The Flood Fund has traditionally funded programs with County-wide benefits, such as flood protection, water quality projects in the Nooksack River basin, and some water supply programs and projects to improve streamflows. It did not make a lot of sense for people in Ferndale pay for water quality improvements for a water source they don’t add pollutants to, or use to drink. Additionally, the Flood Fund reserve — the County’s flood response fund — has been shrinking since 2014 when the County dramatically increased its investment in reducing pollution to Lake Whatcom. Until now, the County had been depleting emergency money for flood response to deal with pollution — which was not a practical or long-term solution. 

Our work on Lake Whatcom doesn’t stop here. While there may be a plan to reduce phosphorus pollution, the plan needlessly sets the pollution reduction goals 50 years in the future, which is difficult to fathom! Logging and timber harvests continue to add huge amounts of phosphorus pollution despite the Lake Whatcom Reconveyance in 2013, which transferred some state logging lands to Whatcom County for the creation of a park. And most noticeable of all are motorized boats on our drinking water, adding fossil fuel-derived pollutants. 

Keep following us as we continue our efforts to protect and restore Lake Whatcom. Sign up for email alerts if you haven't already!

Contact: Karlee Deatherage, Clean Water Policy Analyst | karleed@re-sources.org 

You spoke up, Skagit County heard: Polluting North Cascades mining project halted!

posted Jul 10, 2019, 4:47 PM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Sep 11, 2019, 2:01 PM ]

 by Kirsten McDade, Pollution Prevention Specialist

UPDATE (9/9/2019):
Kiewit Corp has pulled out of the project once and for all — meaning this dangerous proposal is no longer on the table! Thank you for speaking up. It made all the difference.

When a massive rock mining project reared its head, hundreds of people like you responded to the call and pointed out the huge costs to water quality, wildlife habitat, and a community of hundreds living near the North Cascades. Skagit County heard you, and has paused the project and required the mining company to review its impacts. The company dropped the project altogether as a result.



Can you imagine 140 massive trucks transporting huge boulders down Highway 20 from the gateway of North Cascades National Park each and every day? That means noise and air pollution, more congestion on already-dangerous roads, and toxic materials from brake pads and tires that would easily make their way into the scenic Skagit River - our last stronghold for Chinook salmon recovery in Washington State. 

Can you imagine what the members of the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe felt when they heard that their traditional, treaty-guaranteed hunting and fishing grounds were in jeopardy?

Can you imagine the impacts that a large rock quarry would have on wildlife that call this area home? The ground vibrations, loud machinery, and large-scale earth removal would disturb the habitats of the wolverine, grizzly bear, marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl, peregrine falcon, bull trout, Oregon spotted frog, and many more. All this rock crushing and moving would happen 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, right within a rural community nestled in the serenity of the North Cascades. 

We couldn’t imagine this either when we first heard about an industrial-scale rock quarry mine near Marblemount proposed by Kiewit Corporation. So we joined forces with several other environmental organizations and hundreds of concerned citizens to urge Skagit County really look into the impacts of this ill-conceived project. We did our research and wrote letters to the Skagit County Planning & Development Services. And so did you - over a thousand pages of comments were sent in opposition to this mine, including many RE Sources supporters! Our voices were heard and the permit for the quarry has been denied… at least for now. 

If Kiewet wants to pursue their massive rock quarry in this sensitive area they will be required to complete a full scope Environmental Impact Statement, which is a lengthy and expensive endeavor for the corporation. In the meantime, we will continue to follow this project and keep fighting threats to clean air and water, peaceful homes, wildlife habit, and tribal treaty rights. 

Thank you for helping make this victory possible!

How a smartphone app can track and clean up pollution

posted Jun 12, 2019, 2:50 PM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Aug 15, 2019, 3:13 PM ]

 by Kirsten McDade, Pollution Prevention Specialist

August 2019 update: Kirsten is leading a training on using the Water Reporter app to monitor pollution on September 11th, 6:30 - 8:00 PM at Bellewood Acres, 6140 Guide Meridian. Come by!



Quite often, you know water pollution when you see it — an oil sheen on the water, a plastic bottle bobbing on the surface, soap suds going down a storm drain. These are all clear examples.

What about some of the more unusual, but just as dangerous, forms of pollution? What can you and I do to prevent all kinds of pollution, common and uncommon alike?

I received an email the other day from a Bellingham resident out walking their dog when they came across a pile of suspicious red dirt - it caught my curiosity, too.  After some investigative work, I discovered that this mystery substance was garnet abrasive used to sandblast a boat by a nearby business.

Garnet is not particularly toxic to life in the water — but the contaminants that the abrasive picked up could be. If it was used to blast off paint, for example, it could contain copper, which is known to be toxic to aquatic organisms even in very small amounts. Luckily, after a quick email to the Port of Bellingham, the pile was cleaned up within hours.

waterreporter.org
A couple days later while biking along Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, I noticed a pier that’s starting to collapse onto the beach and water below. It made me wonder what contaminants could be leaching into the water from the wood in this dilapidated structure. I also noticed some folks sanding their boat in the harbor — could this also unintentionally be washing contaminants into the water?

For both these incidents, I posted an image and description of what I saw using my phone and the Water Reporter app. This allows other app users, some of whom are pollution specialists like myself, a chance to see and respond to possible pollution locally — in real time.

Potential sources of pollution aren’t always obvious. Is something on the ground near water that seems like it shouldn’t be? Is something other than water making its way down a storm drain? If you happen to find potential pollution while out and about, I would love to hear about it! To alert us to the pollution in question, you can…
  • Download the Water Reporter app to easily report pollution on the go (directions for your smartphone here). When in doubt, report it! We’ll get back to every report within 24 hours on weekdays. This helps us not only respond to pollution, but also track it in the app and look for any patterns.
  • Call, text, or email me, and hopefully we can find a solution to the pollution! Pollution Prevention Hotline: (360) 220-0556 or email: KirstenM@re-sources.org
If you live, work, or recreate in Whatcom or Skagit counties and are interested in becoming more involved with pollution reporting, we’re working on a guide for what to keep an eye out for.  Anyone concerned about water pollution can work to prevent it! Stay tuned for a full guide on how to spot pollution and quickly notify someone who can clean it up.

The #SalishSplash challenge: Jump in the sea, celebrate orca recovery

posted May 29, 2019, 2:36 PM by Simon Bakke



Take a jump into the Salish Sea with us to celebrate the progress made in Washington this year to protect endangered Southern Resident orcas! North Sound Baykeeper Eleanor Hines challenges some friends to jump in Bellingham Bay with her on Thursday, June 13th, 5:00 PM at Marine Park in Bellingham. More info here

We've got a ways to go before recovery efforts are complete, but this year was a milestone for tackling the issues putting pressure on orcas and the salmon they rely on. More at www.salishsplash.com, including how you can challenge others too!


What we won in 2019’s historic lawmaking session for clean water, climate, and communities

posted May 21, 2019, 11:33 AM by Simon Bakke   [ updated May 21, 2019, 11:36 AM ]

We might look back upon Washington’s 2019 Legislative Session as one of the most groundbreaking in decades for human health, clean water, and tackling the climate crisis right here at home. People like you met with lawmakers, commented on bills at pivotal moments, and all-around stood up for the future you want to see — and your elected officials heard you. By our count, 42 bills related to environmental and community wellbeing passed! Huge investments in state budgets were made on environmental programs that hadn’t seen this level of funding since the 2008 Great Recession. 

Our top legislative priorities focused on orca and salmon recovery, plastic pollution, oil spill prevention, going 100% clean electricity statewide, and addressing environmental justice. We actively championed 16 bills, of which 13 are now law! All of these successes happened because legislators received your calls and emails. Thank you.

Together, we passed:
  • A 100% carbon-neutral electrical grid by 2030 and a carbon-free one by 2045, building investments for a clean energy economy that Washington is already well-positioned to lead (SB 5116)
  • Reduced vessel noise to protect endangered orcas, allowing them to better find food and communicate (SB 5577)
  • Improving habitat for Chinook salmon and orcas (HB 1579)
  • Reducing toxic pollution sources by addressing chemicals of particular concern to sensitive species — especially orcas — and vulnerable populations like kids (SB 5135)
  • Improving safety for vessels carrying crude oil through the North Sound and San Juans to prevent oil spills  (HB 1578)
  • Targets for reducing plastic packaging in products and the waste stream starting in 2022 Plastic Packaging Stewardship (SB 5397)
  • Improved protections, accountability, and oversight for migrant seasonal farmworkers using an H-2A Visa (SB 5438)
  • Water and energy efficiency standards that go above and beyond federal rules for all new appliances (SB 1444)
  • Banning fracking for oil and gas statewide  (SB 5145)
  • Better safety measures for trains carrying crude oil coming into our state and offloading at Washington refineries (SB 5579)
  • Clean buildings standards that will reduce emissions by 4.3 million metric tons by 2035, creating jobs in the process (HB 1257)
  • Funding to expedite toxic cleanups like the Bellingham Waterfront and Blaine Marina with Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) reforms (SB 5993)
  • Funding for a task force to address how to better protect vulnerable communities from pollution and climate change impacts. (related to the HEAL Act)

To get the recap of what the final changes were to our environmental priorities and all environmental bills, check out this list.

There are a few bills that did not make the cut, and we will look to next year to continue advocating for them. We look to next year to pass the Reusable Bag Bill (SB 5323), a bill to protect our rivers and salmon from motorized river mining (SB 5322), and the Plastic Utensils On-Demand bill (HB 1632) to further limit plastic pollution.

A big disappointment in the final budget passed was the lack of funding for removing fish passage barriers (also known as culverts) that prevent salmon and other important fish from migrating. The legislature only funded a third of what Governor Inslee proposed for culvert removal, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year mandating that Washington State removal all culverts on state highways before 2030.

The legislature is just getting started when it comes to prioritizing the health of people, salmon, and our land and water. Next year, we will take this momentum and build upon the victories of 2019 — with you at our side taking action like you did this year, we can build the future of clean water, clean air, and a livable climate for all. 

(photo by Rachel Lee, Washington Environmental Council)

Urge better review of massive quarry near North Cascades National Park!

posted May 7, 2019, 1:19 PM by Simon Bakke   [ updated May 8, 2019, 4:37 PM ]

Thank you for taking action and asking Skagit County to better review this risky mining project proposal! Comments must be
submitted online by 4:00 PM on Monday, May 13th. Read more here about the project and its potential impacts on salmon in the Skagit River, air and water quality, and nearby communities.

Please submit comments using the form on Skagit County Planning and Development Services website here (scroll to the bottom) 
  • Enter your information per the form instructions.
  •  For “Proposal Name or Permit Number”, enter: Kiewit Infrastructure Proposed Marblemount Quarry (PL19-0032, PL19-0033, PL19-0047, and BP19-0070)
  • For “Comments”, enter the below comment. If you are able, please also note how this project would impact you personally — if you fish, recreate, or live in the area.

Dear Skagit County Planning & Development Services,

Thank you for accepting public comments on the Kiewit Infrastructure Marblemount Quarry that is being proposed in the heart of critical areas, at the gateway to the North Cascades National Park, nearby wilderness lands, and on parcels that are not all fully zoned for mining. 

I am concerned that Kiewit’s application for permits is out of order and misleading. At this stage, Kiewit’s application for a Mining Special Use Permit (BP19-0070) includes areas that are not currently zoned for mining (MRO). The applicant must have all areas within their application be designated MRO through the Skagit County Comprehensive Plan including for forest conversion and road construction. It is out of order to approve these permits even if they may not be MRO at this time; however, the intent is to extract rock in these areas in the future.

Please do not approve permits for this project before moving forward with a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). What will the impacts of mining and rock blasting be to nearby property owners, wildlife, and cultural resources for the Upper Skagit Tribe? What will the impacts be from 260 vehicle trips six days per week up to 100 years be on carbon and air emissions, water quality in the Skagit River for salmon and the cities that depend on it as a drinking water source, and transportation from Marblemount to Bellingham? All of these questions and more must be studied and their impacts mitigated before this project moves forward.

Thank you for considering my comment.

Sincerely,
[First and last name]

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