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February 2003 Issue (vol 34, number 2) - (Next Issue April 2003)


Tuesday, February 25, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
Life and Half-life
The Challenge of Hanford’s Nuclear Waste

And a challenge it is.

Jeanie Sedgely, The Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR) Hanford Issues Coordinator will present a program on the challenge of Hanford.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington houses 60 percent of the nation’s nuclear waste and is the most contaminated site in the Western World. Although Hanford has no high-level treatment capability, The Department of Energy (DOE) is currently shipping more high-level nuclear waste to Hanford from other states. More than a third of Hanford’s 177 aging underground tanks have leaked more than one million gallons of radioactive waste, yet the DOE has no plans to assess this waste, contain it, or clean it up.

There’s a lot about Hanford’s deadly nuclear legacy that we don’t know. But we do know that contamination from Hanford has reached the groundwater and is migrating to the Columbia River.

At the same time, the same 560-square mile area includes the largest area of relatively-undisturbed shrub steppe in the Columbia Basin Ecoregion. Because it is undisturbed and has a high diversity of physical features, it harbors an impressive range of plant and animal communities. Hanford is home to a rich diversity of bird species _ 258 that we know of so far, including 38 that are Species of Conservation Concern. Thirteen reptile and amphibian species inhabit the site, as well as 42 species of insects.

WPSR, in concert with organizations such as Heart of America Northwest and the Hanford Roundtable, want Hanford cleaned up properly, in a manner that truly puts human health and the environment first.

Jeanie Sedgely’s background in environmental cleanup issues includes experience in both government and advocacy sectors, with a focus on public participation. She was the Public Affairs Representative, assigned to the Environmental Cleanup Division, for Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). From there, she went to Colorado and became the Public Involvement Coordinator for the Rocky Flats Local Impacts Initiative. She later returned to Oregon’s DEQ as Outreach Coordinator for the Land Quality Division. She joined the WPSR staff in December.

Join us for this important program and learn about Washington state’s legacy as a nuclear waste dump. As always, meetings of the North Cascades Audubon Society are FREE and open to the public.

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Growing Pains

By Joe Meche
Avalanche Editor

As I begin my seventh year as editor of this newsletter, I’ll be making a few noticeable changes in the layout, etc. I’m sure that everyone noticed the new nameplate on the January issue and, so far, there have been no complaints. Thanks.

The NCAS Board of Directors held its annual retreat on the first Sunday of the New Year and the primary topic on the agenda was, as it always is, the projected budget for the coming year. We agreed that we all needed to work harder than ever to tighten our belts and come up with ideas to keep our ship on a more even keel. Since the majority of our budget is dedicated to producing the newsletter and mailing it to our members, I have taken it upon myself to research and develop changes to the newsletter that would meet our budgetary constraints and not adversely affect the quality of the newsletter.

The changes will be subtle and the newsletter staff will continue to work hard to produce the quality that our readers expect and deserve. We will also begin using recycled paper; in a sense, to practice what we preach along the lines of conservation of our natural resources.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to call or e-mail me anytime. After all, this is YOUR newsletter.

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Volunteer News

by Dian McClurg
Volunteer Coordinator

Is NCAS doing all that you think it should be doing in our community? By joining any of our hard-working committees, you can add your voice, your skills, and your ideas to the work that we do. We currently have committees working on conservation issues such as wildlife, forestry, water, and Lake Whatcom. We also have committees for the new Brant Festival and the old, but beloved, NCAS Birdathon. These events are coming up soon in the spring.

In addition to committees, you could become a field trip leader _ you don’t have to be an expert _ or join the NCAS Board of Directors as the Publicity Chair. We could use your help directing fun field trips or broadcasting news of NCAS events.

It’s easy to become active in your community through NCAS and you don’t have to dedicate a lot of time. Just send me an e-mail at orangezine@hotmail.com or call me during the evening at 734-3857 to let me know what you’re interested in doing for NCAS.

And let’s hear a big round of applause . .for the following individuals for their work on recent NCAS volunteer efforts:

Scudder Pond.

Barry Ulman, Anne Kauffman, Jim Lyons, Jan Moore, Paul DeLiban, Paul Woodcock, Earl Ingmanson, Bart Bodtke, Jerry Walsh, Brian and Charlene Caven, Erica Jet, Kylan Karp, Katie Kauffman, Joan O’Neil, Andre Warner, Sally Manifold and crew, and Hana Medden.

Swan Survey.

Barry Ulman, Paul Woodcock, Connie Farence, Jim Duemmel, Anna Marie Bangs, Scott Pratchner, Carl Decker, and Jeanette Opiela.

Field Trips.

Andrew Craig and Victor Burgett.


Alan and Susan Rhodes, Heidi Ramos, Christie Raschke, Bonnie and Dawn Gauthier, and Jodi Peterson.

And to the NCAS Board of Directors for all their hard work!
Debbie Craig, Dave Schmalz, Jodi Broughton, Michele Bodtke, Jeanie Johnson, Steve Irving, Sally Hewitt, Tom Pratum, Dian McClurg, and Joe Meche.

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Field trip(s) reports *(excerpts)

By Victor Burgett
November 4, 2002. Skagit Flats for raptors.

Seven species of raptors were seen by the entire group, making this a most successful trip. Our second stop yielded a Peregrine Falcon and a Bald Eagle. Northern Harriers were numerous and were seen throughout the morning. A Merlin was perched atop a tall conifer, close enough to a Peregrine to allow an opportunity for size comparison. Another Peregrine and an adult Bald Eagle were in the same stand of trees and two more Peregrines made for a five-peregrine morning!

At least a dozen Red-tailed Hawks were seen on the flats, along with a Rough-legged Hawk. Our seventh raptor species was a Cooper’s Hawk spotted by the store in Bow. An unusual highlight came when we spotted a bird and decided after some discussion that it was a Brant. Its unusual behavior led us to believe that the bird was sick or injured. A better view revealed that we had spent 10 minutes identifying a lost decoy; albeit a very convincing decoy!

November 17, 2002. Boundary Bay, B.C.

We arrived at Crescent Beach to begin the tour of the Boundary Bay waterfowl spectacle. Northern Pintail, Mallard, Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon were present along with Greater Yellowlegs, Dunlin, and Great Blue Herons. A few Buffleheads and Surf Scoters were farther out on the bay while a Red-tailed Hawk circled overhead.

At Blackie’s Spit we began finding Common Loons and Horned Grebes, along with Greater Scaups and Red-breasted Mergansers. The first Peregrine of the day sent hundreds of Dunlin into the air, but came up empty taloned. Just as we were leaving the spit, we discovered three Eurasian Wigeons among the many American Wigeons.

Along the Boundary Bay dyke, we spotted two Bald Eagles, several Northern Harriers and a Peregrine Falcon. The weather improved at Centennial Beach where we spotted 30 Greater Yellowlegs, a single Lesser Yellowlegs, and about 60 Brant. Farther along the dyke, we observed Gadwall, Black Turnstone, Mew and Bonaparte’s Gull, and a single Northern Shoveler. At every stop on Boundary Bay we witnessed the spectacle of tens of thousands of wintering waterfowl, mostly Northern Pintail and American Wigeon, but with significant numbers of Green-winged Teal, Mallard, and Canada Goose. Active flocks of Dunlin numbered in the thousands.

We certainly came to realize the importance of Boundary Bay as wintering habitat for all these species.

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By Dave Schmalz

Conservation Committee Chair Your help is needed to protect our state’s environment. The 2003 session of the Washington State Legislature is underway in Olympia. Because of the severity of this year’s state budget shortfall, we face an enormous challenge just to retain the levels of environmental protection that we have worked so hard for in the past. Following is a brief guide to important environmental issues this session. Please consider contacting our local representatives early and often. Many of the issues at stake are fundamental, and general statements of values, as opposed to technical comments, will carry tremendous weight this session.

For more information, please consult the expanded version of this guide at the NCAS website - http://www.northcascadesaudubon.org or phone me at 671-1537.

Budget (Operating)

Washington state is currently facing a $2 billion dollar budget shortfall which will have serious implications for virtually every state environmental program and natural resource agency. Natural resource programs currently comprise only 1.5% of the General Fund or Operating Budget, down from 3% just 10 years ago. Likely impacts from this year’s proposed cuts are closure of state parks, reductions in dairy farm compliance inspections, decreases in fish and wildlife personnel and the ability of the state to enforce existing environmental laws. Messages: 1% of the state’s General Fund is too little to adequately protect our land, air and water. Cutting environmental programs is not ecologically or economically viable. It is far more cost effective to protect and prevent damage to the environment than for restoration and remediation actions once it has been damaged.

Budget (Capital)

Our state’s population is expected to double in the next 50 years. Even at our current population, native plant and animal habitats continue to disappear at an alarming rate, and many of our recreation areas and parks have become overcrowded and are not adequately maintained.

The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) was established by the legislature in 1990 in response to growing public demand for outdoor recreation and concern over loss of wildlife habitat. Since then, WWRP has conserved thousands of acres of exceptional natural areas and critical wildlife habitat. WWRP has been instrumental in several local actions including the Clayton Beach and other additions to Larabee State Park.

Messages: We need to invest in land protection around the state while opportunities are still available. Support the $55 million capital budget request for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. Governor Locke has proposed a $30 million appropriation. The $55 million request represents the average given over past sessions and the minimum level promised to the program when it was created 12 years go.

Mercury Pollution Reduction

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin which can damage the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. It is especially hazardous to pregnant women and children, causing problems such as birth defects and learning disabilities. Mercury does not break down in the environment and builds up in the food chain and in our bodies. It belongs to a dangerous class of chemicals which have left a toxic legacy across Washington and around the world known as persistent biochemical toxins (PBT’s). This class of chemicals also includes dioxin and PCB’s. Messages: Support HB 1002 in the House of Representatives and SB 5124 in the Senate titled the Mercury Reduction and Education Act. If passed, the bill will phase out the sale of products that contain mercury and that have readily available and cost effective alternatives. It will also require manufacturers of some mercury products to bear primary financial responsibility for the creation and maintenance of safe and effective collection, recycling and disposal systems. The bill will also establish state government as a leader by requiring that it purchase non-mercury products where feasible. This bill faces tough opposition from polluting industries and businesses.

Water Quality

A major factor in the decline of water quality in western Washington is the impact of stormwater. Carrying large quantities of pollutants from impervious surfaces, particularly roads, stormwater is transported into nearby bodies of water. As the volume of stormwater increases it can also cause structural and biological damage to habitat and severely alter natural characteristics of the stream.

Local government representatives have suggested that legislation is needed to restrict the ability of the Department of Ecology to regulate in this area. They argue that the state rules should not exceed federal “minimum standards,” which are so vague they do little to nothing to protect water quality.

Messages: Oppose legislation which would restrict the ability of the state to protect water quality. Urge the state Department of Ecology to move forward with a municipal stormwater permit and for the state to provide financial assistance to local governments in this area.

Water Resources

The debate over how to manage our water resources revolves around how much there is, who gets it, what is its most valued use and how much does that leave in the source ( i.e., lakes, rivers, streams, and in the ground). In recent years growing uncertainty for water users, court decisions that constrain water use, the impact of endangered species listings, a dramatic surge in demand from rapid growth, and outdated and inadequate water systems have prompted much needed legislative attention.

What is likely to be missing from the 2003 legislative debate is the commitment to achieve adequate flows in streams. Two-thirds of the state’s watersheds do not have stream flows protected by law and only one instream flow has been set in 16 years. These bleak facts underscore the state’s failure to adequately protect rivers and streams. Changes also will be sought to weaken or eliminate “relinquishment” law.

Such changes would provide water users with nearly absolute private control over the public’s water and likely result in the hoarding and speculation of a precious public resource.

Messages: Support measures which would establish minimum instream flows necessary for fish and water quality before water users are allowed more authority to move water around or put it to a new use. Enforce water laws to ensure efficient and wise use of our limited public water resources. Maintain water permit safeguards to protect other water users and the environment. Require better integration and consistency between land use and water planning.

Shoreline Protection

Destruction of natural streamsides and shorelines is a significant factor in the decline of water quality, fish, wildlife, recreation, and our quality of life in Washington state. Under the state Shorelines Management Act, the Department of Ecology (DOE) administers the state Shoreline Guidelines (updated in 1999) which govern how development can be conducted in the 200-foot zone upland from larger rivers, streams and lakes in the state, as well as Puget Sound (including the northern inland waters) and the Pacific Ocean.

Governor Locke has proposed a $ 2 million down payment to begin the process of implementation of the new guidelines by local governments. As in past sessions there will continue to be bills introduced that would weaken shoreline protection. Most notably, local governments are expected to press for “unfunded mandate” language, which would negate their Shorelines Guidelines responsibilities if full funding from the state were not forthcoming.

Messages: Fund shoreline management to improve water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, and our quality of life. Support the Governor’s $ 2 million initial investment proposal. Oppose efforts to weaken shoreline protection. Maintain a strong state role in shorelines to protect statewide interests.

How to Comment Effectively

Contact you local representatives via mail, email or telephone. Present information in an organized fashion that demonstrates basic knowledge of the issue. Be personal, courteous and persistent. Avoid purely emotional comments, but do demonstrate the impact of your issue. State your views with conviction. Be positive wherever possible, focusing on solutions to the problem you care about. Avoid extreme rhetoric. Connect with legislators early and follow up during the session.

With toll-free numbers and electronic communication that allows for sending comments to all 6 local legislators at once, CONNECTING with your lawmakers is easier and more effective than you might think. Your involvement is essential in order to protect our land, air, water and wildlife. You can make a difference.

42nd District40thDistrict
Representative Kelli LinvilleRepresentative Dave Quall
(360) 786-7854(360) 786-7970
Senator Dale Brandland Representative Jeff Morris
(360) 786-7682(360) 786-7800
Representative Doug EricksenSenator Harriet Spanel
(360) 786-7854(360) 786-7678

Phone numbers above are direct lines to Olympia offices. Toll Free Legislative Hot Line: Provides access to all legislators 1 (800) 562-6000. Mailing addresses may be obtained by calling this toll free number.

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Watershed issues remain unresolved

By Tom Pratum
Conservation Committee

As of this writing, the county council has not taken final action regarding two issues we have been talking about for the past several months: changes to Whatcom County Code Title 20 Development Standards for the Lake Whatcom, Lake Samish, and Drayton Harbor watersheds, and the downzone of the Lake Whatcom watershed.

The first issue is likely to be decided in midFebruary, while the latter is temporarily hung up at the planning commission level. Your voice can still be heard regarding these issues. Contact your council members by phone, letter, or e-mail at council@co.whatcom.wa.us and tell them that:

•Allowing 50% impervious surface in watershed urban zones is not acceptable; this should be reduced to a 20% maximum.

•Maximum retention of trees and native vegetation should be required in our sensitive watersheds.

•Land clearing activity should not be allowed during the winter unless it can be proven that no harm will come to our sensitive water bodies from runoff leaving the site.

•They should hold firm on the downzone as it was originally proposed _ downzoning is the most effective means at our disposal to reduce impervious surface and other water quality-degrading effects, such as traffic.

As always, for more information, visit the NCAS website at http://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/lake_whatcom.

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