Monthly Archives: September 2008

Live blog: Duwamish talk by Maclure at UW

Here’s my first attempt at live-blogging… 8:40-9:20 a.m. from the University of Washington’s Water Seminar.

8:40 Key findings of his and Lisa Stiffler’s investigation of the Duwamish estuary:

  1. Pollution is historic an ongoing; diversity is down; everyone is contributing to the problem (e.g. run-off)
  2. Some chemicals lethal; some not (Cu not good for young salmon; first run-off flush in fall was toxic enough to kill spawning adults)
  3. Super-fund sites are not all cleaned up!  There are 900 pollution permits in the Sound; many permits are expired; PCBs are still released (e.g. by Naval Shipyard in Bremerton); State Parks and small towns are worst violators (e.g. Blake Island was dumping raw sewage — now fixed)
  4. PCB contamination: Chinook with most PCBs were found in Duwamish, Nisqually, and Sinclair inlet.

8:50 aside: Storm water can be controlled.  There was a nice retrofit of a residential street in N Seattle with “rain gardens.”  Vulcan development near Seattle REI will soon demonstrate swales as a way to filter run-off before it reaches Lake Union.

8:53 Duwamish

  1. Used to be agricultural area supplying Pike Place market with vegetables, etc.
  2. Industrialization led to multiple super-fund sites being defined in the lower Duwamish.
  3. With Colin McDonald, Robert did a series on Duwamish in preparation for the remedial study (Nov 29, 2007).  This was last opportunity for public comment on polluters’ perception of the problems — King County, City of Seattle, Boeing, etc.  Concluded they were probably underestimating impacts on some of the animals and tried to articulate it in common language — “concepts were complicated, but otter penises are easy to understand.”

9:00 Robert’s main information sources

  1. Governmental reports (NOAA/NMFS, EPA)
  2. Responses to his requests for information releases
  3. Talking to people (Government doesn’t always listen): example of Port of Seattle and moon suit examination of a site that was subsequently taken off the market

9:03 Overall message from polluters: It’s going to be too expensive!

  1. Some cleanup will happen
  2. But getting clean enough for people to eat fish may not be palatable to public (extra $400 million to get further than the plateau of the curve — cost vs cleanliness.

9:05 Takes questions:

  1. Is State providing non-English speaker reasonable access to the process?  Not really, though the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition (DRCC) is a possible mechanism.
  2. What are cleanup methods and how will recovery be established?  Many pollutants are in sediments that need to be dug up and treated/sequestered.  Hot spots like the Duwamish Diagonal were dredged (too fast, too sloppily), but pollution was spread around…
  3. Are your articles edited/censored?  Not censorship; big stories can get a lot of feedback/iterations, but editing can be very light if there is a quick deadline.  One concern is losing advertisers to stories that impact key businesses.
  4. How long does it take to write these articles: hours for quick ones (e.g. today’s article on NMFS moratorium on building in flood plains), many days for big projects.
  5. How did you get into journalism?  In 8th grade journalism class, Robert argued for a smoking area across from School and was encouraged by his teacher who was vehemently anti-smoking.
  6. How do you settle on a subject when there are so many issues?  The blog helps us comment quickly on minor news (e.g. press releases).  We interview and investigate for stories in the paper.
  7. Do you have formal environmental training?  Fellowship at U Michigan.  Before that it was highschool chemistry.  Society of Environmental Journalists is a very helpful resource; they have a great listserve that can be a very responsive source of expertise.
  8. Have you felt like you had a powerful influence on public awareness or an issue?  I wrote early and often about Everglades restoration and it’s now one of the biggest efforts in the world.  I think I’ve helped catalyze local cleanup, like the creation of the Puget Sound Partnership.
  9. Are scientists hard to work with?  Yeah, many journalists weren’t interested in math/science in school., but I really like hanging out with scientists.

When will we free the Elwha River?

It’s said that the Elwha River once sustained impressive runs of Spring Chinook salmon:

“Elwha chinook are one of the Puget Sound chinook stocks listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act and are also legendary in that they typically reached over 100 pounds at maturity…. Prior to the dams, the Elwha River was famous for producing healthy runs of all five salmon species…” (Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Fights for Existence of Sol Duc Hatchery)

Chinook appear to be the favorite food of our endangered southern residents. So, why aren’t we moving faster to remove the two dams on the lower Elwha and free up ~200 square kilometers of pristine habitat within Olympic National Park?

Check out my post on the Beam Reach blog about an Oregon dam removal video that should inspire us all to accelerate the Elwha dam removal process.