Author Archives: scottveirs

Confusion about Fraser sockeye demise

Jeff Grout (or the reporter) needs to clarify why they reject the suggestion that sea lice infestation are responsible for this summer’s poor returns!

UBC’s Scott Hinch has studied how ocean and river temperatures affect salmon. 

Hotter water linked to poor sockeye returns

A UBC fisheries expert’s warning from the 1990s now sounds prophetic with this summer’s poor returns of Fraser River sockeye. UBC professor Scott Hinch predicted 15 years ago that warming sea-surface temperatures due to climate change would result in smaller and less abundant sockeye.

Some 3.3 million Fraser sockeye reached their spawning grounds in 2005. According to the Pacific Salmon Commission, surveys in the Quesnel and Chilko tributaries indicated that about 130 million sockeye smolts moved out to the sea in 2007 for their two-year ocean migration.

What happened to these juveniles?

Jeff Grout, FOC’s salmon resource manager, said he suspects that the fish didn’t survive at expected rates. He rejected any suggestion that fish farms are responsible for poor returns.

$150k for transient orca skeleton education

This project could help raise awareness about the risk to SRKW recovery posed by persistent pollutants.  Congrats to Anne, Chrissy, and the rest of the PTMSC team!

PTMSC awarded $150,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for its Orca Project

Port Townsend, WA—Thanks to a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) has received $150,000 for its Orca Project. A new exhibit will be created to display the articulated skeleton of a stranded female orca discovered on Dungeness Spit in 2002. This transient orca had the highest concentration of PCBs ever found in a marine mammal.

“The story of this orca is the story of the health of our waters,” said Anne Murphy, executive director for the PTMSC. “It’s important to tell it and we’re honored to have the partnerships and support to move forward in the telling.”

Although preliminary work on the Orca Project has already begun with the creation of a bone atlas, the official start date for the grant is October 1st, 2009. PTMSC has 12 months to complete the project and fundraise at least a 1:1 match for the project. PTMSC will partner with several organizations including the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, the Burke Museum of Natural History in Seattle, the federal agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Orca Network based on Whidbey Island.

In 2009, IMLS received 433 applications requesting more than $48.4 million for their Museums for America grants. After field review, 167 projects received funding totaling $19,176,000. Other Washington state IMLS grant recipients include the Seattle Art Museum, Pacific Science Center. Burke Museum, Tacoma Art Museum and the Point Defiance Zoological Society.

“The projects selected represent a wide spectrum of activities that will help museums serve their communities better through increased education programs, community outreach programs, and behind-the-scenes projects,” said Anne-Imelda M. Radice, director for IMLS.

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is devoted to understanding, preserving and teaching about our marine and shoreline environment as guardians for a sustainable future. Located on the beach at Fort Worden State Park, the PTMSC offers two public exhibits: the Marine Exhibit (ME) features large touch pools and aquaria, and the Natural History Exhibit (NHE) highlights the rich zone where land meets sea. Both exhibits are open Wednesday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for youth and free to PTMSC members. For more information, go to or call 360.385.5582 or e-mail

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

Contact Christina Pivarnik, Marketing
Port Townsend Marine Science Center
360.531.0127 or

Time to review Navy’s NW neighborliness

NOAA recently released an incidental take authorization associated with the Navy’s proposed expansion of the Northwest Range Training Complex.  The authorization and associated Navy documents are Complex, indeed!  Unfortunately, NOAA has allocated too little time for public comment on the .

Below I’ve quoted an inspirational letter from Fred Felleman.  Please emulate him and join me this weekend in requesting more time to review and comment.  Also, here are links to a recent story and blog by Chris Dunagan about the situation which provide useful links and background information:

30 July 2009

By Electronic Mail

Michael Payne, Chief
Permits, Conservation and Education Division
Office of Protected Resources
National Marine Fisheries Service
1315 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225

Re: Request for Extension of Comment Deadline for Navy Marine Mammal Take Permits

Taking and Importing Marine Mammals;

U.S. Navy’s Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Activities Within the Naval Sea Systems Command Naval Undersea Warfare Center NW Training Range;

RIN: #” ##0648-AX88# (74 Fed. Reg.) & Keyport Range Complex; RIN:0648-AX11 (74 Fed. Reg. 32264 (July 7, 2009))

Dear Mr. Payne:

On behalf of Friends of the Earth and numerous other organizations and individuals who are deeply concerned about recovery of the endangered population of Southern Resident Killer Whales and the marine environment that supports them, we urgently request that you extend the public comment period and hold public hearings to solicit comments on the two take permits referenced above you are proposing to grant the U.S. Navy in the Northwest.  Friends of the Earth requests a minimum 30-day extension of time for the comment deadline for both proposals.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) should be well aware of the fact that most North American marine mammal biologists are in the field at this time and that the general public is engaged in recreational activities that make commenting on these voluminous documents difficult at best.

Furthermore, unlike the public notices you sent out touting your proposed rules for regulating whale-watching activities this week for hearings that will not be held until the fall, nothing more than a Federal Register notice was made for these far more impactful activities.  In addition you have afforded only one month on which to comment and no public hearings.  The comment deadlines for these proposals are also overlapping (August 6th and August 12th) adding to the unreasonable public burden.

While we are encouraged that the Navy has committed to no longer using the inshore waters of Puget Sound for sonar training activities, as part of the expansion of the NW Training Range Complex (Kitsap Sun July 30, 2009), the Navy intends to expand their operations off the coast significantly (i.e. Antisubmarine warfare 10%, Gunnery Exercises 100%, Bombing Exercises 25%, and Sinking Exercises 100%; 74 Fed. Reg. 33829).  It is also hard to understand why NMFS would not require the Navy to have a take permit for explosive ordinance testing in the inshore region?

In addition, the takings associated with the proposed expansion of the Keyport Range (link, 74 Fed. Reg.), which actually includes three sites both inshore and offshore, need to be reviewed by NMFS in context to those being proposed for the expansion of the NW Training Range Complex ( as well as the various other Navy Environmental Impact Statement’s (EIS) that are likely to impact marine mammals and their prey.  Those EISs include: Swimmer Interdiction Security System EIS (, Kinetic Hydropower Systems Puget Sound Demonstration (, Gulf of Alaska Training Range Activities EIS (, Multi-mission Aircraft Deployment out of Whidbey NAS (, and the proposed construction and operation of a second Trident Support Facilities explosives handling wharf at Naval Base Kitsap on Hood Canal (74 Fed. Reg. 22900 (May 15, 2009)). Furthermore the Navy’s other activities that can include the use sonar need to be considered in any environmental analysis.

The existence of so many concurrent projects is not only burdensome to the public to review and comment on, but also highlights the need for the production of a Programmatic EIS covering all of these projects by Navy Region NW, and for NMFS to review the proposed take permits to address the cumulative effects of these interlinked efforts.

Friends of the Earth requests this extension of time for these two comment periods not only to afford us the ability to thoroughly review the materials but to also use the time to meet with the Navy for an exchange of information and ideas regarding the scope of the proposed projects and the adequacy of the proposed mitigation.  We hope to construct a clear and constructive path to follow allowing the Navy to maintain our nation’s military readiness while minimizing its impact to the marine environment as well as to make contributions that will further our understanding and ability to protect it.

Thank you for considering our request for a minimum 30-day extension of the comment periods for the take permits at issue.


Fred Felleman, NW Consultant
Friends of the Earth
3004 NW 93rd St.
Seattle, Washington 98117

cc: Vice Admiral Richard Hunt, Commander U.S. Navy 3rd Fleet, Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, Congressman Norm Dicks, Congressman Jay Inslee

Proposed 200yd rule for orca watching boats

Received this from this morning.   Deadline for public comment is 5pm on Oct. 27, 2009.  It’s noteworthy that this announcement came the day after notice that Dawn Noren published a paper that suggests that most surface active behaviors occur when vessels are within ~150 meters.

As part of the recovery program for endangered Southern Resident killer whales, NOAA Fisheries Service is proposing new rules for vessel traffic aimed at further protecting the whales in navigable waters of Washington State. The proposed rules would prohibit vessels from approaching any killer whale closer than 200 yards and forbid vessels from intercepting or parking in the path of a whale. In addition, the proposed regulations would set up a half-mile-wide no-go zone along the west side of San Juan Island from May 1 through the end of September, where generally no vessels would be allowed.

There would be exemptions to the rules for some vessels, including those actively fishing commercially, cargo vessels traveling in established shipping lanes, and government and research vessels. The no-go zone would also have exemptions for treaty Indian fishing vessels, and limited exceptions for land owners accessing private property adjacent to it.

The news release, proposed rule, draft environmental assessment, and other supporting documents are available on our web site at, along with instructions for submitting comments. There is a 90 day public comment period and we will hold public hearings Sept. 30 in Seattle, and Oct. 5 in Friday Harbor to provide additional information on the proposed rule. Thank you for your interest.

Progress for Skagit salmon

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

July 10, 2009
Contact: Lora Leschner, (425) 775-1311 ext. 121

Portion of the Skagit Wildlife Area will close as work resumes on estuary restoration

OLYMPIA – Beginning July 15, the 175-acre Headquarters Unit of the Skagit Wildlife Area will be closed to public access as crews resume work on a major estuary-restoration project at the mouth of the Skagit River.

The closed area includes the public boat ramp and the dike-top trails along the Skagit River and Wiley Slough.

Crews will be removing approximately 6,500 feet of dikes and levees, allowing tides and the river to reclaim the area south of a newly constructed setback dike that was completed earlier this year. The restoration project began in 2008, when crews installed a new, larger tidegate farther upstream on Wiley Slough.

Lora Leschner, regional wildlife program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the work is scheduled to be completed in early September, when the Headquarters Unit will re-open to the public.

“Once we remove the old dikes and levees, the major work on this restoration project will be completed,” Leschner said.

WDFW owns and manages the entire 16,708-acre Skagit Wildlife Area to preserve habitat for fish and wildlife, while also providing a site for outdoor recreation. Leschner suggests that boaters use the ramp in Conway off Fir Island Road as an alternative while work is under way on the restoration project.

First proposed in 2002 by the Skagit Watershed Council, the Wiley Slough project is designed to restore 160 acres of estuarine salmon habitat that was diked and drained to create farmland in 1962. The federal salmon recovery plan for Puget Sound identifies the project as an important step toward restoring chinook stocks in the Skagit River.

Partners in the project include WDFW, the Skagit River System Cooperative, Seattle City Light and the Skagit Watershed Council, with funding from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

State and federal agencies are providing $3.8 million for the restoration work and Seattle City Light contributed another $150,000 to the project.

“After work is completed in September, the Headquarters Unit will no longer be suitable for pheasant releases,” said Leschner. “But we are looking at several alternative sites where we might be able to relocate our pheasant release operations.”

Leschner said potential pheasant release sites were discussed at a public meeting earlier this year and that the department plans to schedule another public meeting later this summer.

To address concerns about lands lost to hunting, WDFW is working with a coalition of hunters, recreationists, farmers and other landowners to secure hunter access to private lands in the area.

In addition, the department agreed to improve the boat launch, maintain the nearby “island segment” for hunting and improve hiking trails in the Headquarters Unit of the wildlife area. Riparian vegetation will be planted to replace songbird habitat.

WDFW has already purchased 250 acres near Bayview on Padilla Bay that will eventually provide additional wildlife habitat and wildlife-viewing opportunities.

For more information on the Wiley Slough restoration project, see WDFW’s report to the 2008 Legislature at . Questions can also be directed to the WDFW Region 4 Office at (425) 775-1311.

Information on the Skagit Wildlife Area is available on WDFW’s website at .

This message has been sent to the WDFW News Releases & Weekender mailing list.
Visit the WDFW News Release Archive at:

Political snapshot ’09Q2: lower Snake dam removal

Weeding through the records emerging from Judge Redden’s courtroom and the Obama administration’s latest meeting (distilled best by EarthJustice), it seems that Redden will not finalize a plan for Northwest Salmon until early August, 2009.  We in the orca and salmon conservation communities would do well by the endangered animals to use these next 6 weeks to organize ourselves and brainstorm creative ways to influence the political/economic/legal processes so that we re-balance the priorities of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and the BPA.

How can we in western Washington influence the BPA economically?  Through petitioning our local electricity utilities to pay more overall in return for increasing summer flows (and passing on revenue from selling to CA during air-conditioning season) — investing in the preservation of our regional icons?

Can we convince Lubchencko to hear all of our voices on her next regional visit?

Below are some of my notes on what has been happening recently.  Does anyone have a synopsis of which regional leaders are on the orcas/salmon side?  How can we educate or influence Gov. Gregoire, Senator Murray, Rep. McMorris Rodgers, and their like?

Legal interpretation from Keith Rizzardi:

The opinion represents a setback for federal biologists, but solutions will never be easy to come in this struggle between carbon-friendly hydroelectric power and threatened and endangered salmonid species.  The letter also represents an unusual acknowledgement of politics, and the realities of a change in presidential administrations.  In a letter last week to Judge Redden, the Justice Department said top officials in the Obama administration want a delay of up to two months to “more fully understand all aspects” of the plan. See Capital Press.  Judge Redden’s letter represents a prodding response.  “I applaud the new administration’s efforts to understand, and become more fully engaged in the complex issues presented by this case.”  In other words, rather than issuing an opinion, Judge Redden gave the Obama Administration an opportunity to take another look at the circumstances, and to reconsider the current course.

May 18 report about Judge Redden’s preliminary conclusions about the 2008 BiOp, or plan for operating the dams, from EarthJustice includes a scan of a letter from Redden to stakeholders.

Guest editorial by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers:

Despite this success, there are still some that continue to wage war on our dams, namely the removal of the four lower Snake River dams.  What is missing from this debate is the fact that removal of the Snake River dams would add 5.4 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year and it would take three nuclear, six coal-fired, or 14 gas fired power plants to replace their electricity generation.  The dams also serve as the base resource for integrating wind energy into the Northwest grid.

I feel this hearing was the first step toward a better understanding in Congress about the value of hydropower and I look forward to forming a bi-partisan Congressional Caucus to protect and promote hydropower.

The river systems throughout the Pacific Northwest are a critical part of our region’s economy and should be used for transportation, irrigation and recreation. These dams built our economy and continue to contribute to our way of life.

Responses to her opinion:

Not only have these four dams destroyed our salmon, they have cost the American taxpayer far more than they have given us. These bloated federal projects have cost $11 billion since 1987 and will cost the public another $15 billion to $18 billion in the next 20 years. This cost for 1,000 megawatts (4 percent of the Northwest grid) of power per year. The BPA says that 4,600 megawatts of wind power are in the pipeline and could be contributing in five years.

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers would do well to take a lesson from Sen. Crapo and look to the interests of the wider region rather than her own narrower agenda when she purports to suggest solutions to the Snake River salmon crisis.

U.S. climate change looks bad for salmon

Yesterday the U.S. Global Research Program announced the publication of a report that summarizes the science and the impacts of climate change on the United States. The chapter on the Pacific Northwest is ominous reading for salmon and orcas. Two disconcerting predictions are: because precipitation is shifting from snow to rain, peak river flow is shifting away from the late spring flood towards higher winter flows that may scour eggs and carries smolts too soon to the sea; removing the Snake River dams may eventually become an ineffective salmon conservation measure because air temperatures are rising in the up-river Columbia tributaries to levels that could heat waters above what salmon can tolerate in ~1/3 of their existing habitat.
clipped from
Global Change

Download the Report
Regional Climate Change Impacts
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Progress on Victoria sewage

Despite the outstanding questions about measurable impacts and cost/benefit ratios, this constitutes progress for the marine environment of the SRKWs. Does anyone have pointers to the independent reports mentioned in this article?
clipped from
The Seattle Times
Victoria to stop sending untreated sewage to sea

Regional politicians last week approved a $1.2 billion plan to build four treatment plants to handle about 34 million gallons of raw sewage that Victoria and six suburbs pump into the Strait of Juan de Fuca each day. The cities are home to about 300,000 people.

Environmentalists say untreated sewage contains toxic chemicals, heavy metals and other contaminants that pollute waters and harm aquatic life. It’s also one of many sources contaminating the region’s killer whales, they say.

In 2006, the British Columbia government ordered the Victoria area to develop a sewage treatment plan.

four plants in Esquimalt, Saanich East, the West Shore and Clover Point, Victoria. The plants could be online by 2016.
The province also released a report that found contamination of the seabed around sewer outfalls.
The wastewater is pumped out of two outfalls that run about 213 feet deep and about a mile into the strait.
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Who will be the NW Regional Admin at NOAA?

Interesting that only the NW region has a politically-appointed administrator; the other 5 regions have career admins…

It took 9 months for Bush Administration to post Lohn to the job. Will Obama/Lubchenko act faster for the sake of our salmon and killer whales?

clipped from

Lohn Out As NOAA Fisheries Regional Director, Deputy Now Acting Administrator
Posted on
Friday, February 13, 2009 (PST)
With the dawning of a new administration, NOAA Fisheries Service’s only politically appointed regional administrator — the Northwest’s Bob Lohn – was ushered out.
“He was a political appointee and they all went out at noon on the 20th,” NOAA Fisheries spokesman Brian Gorman said. Jan. 20 was inauguration day for President Barack Obama. Lohn led the region’s salmon recovery effort, along with other duties, for more than seven years.
Filling in as acting administrator for the Northwest Region is Barry Thom, who had been serving as deputy regional administrator.
Brian Hooker said Wednesday said he did not know how soon a permanent replacement for Lohn would be selected, or whether that replacement would be a “career” civil servant or a political appointee.
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Near-record low chinook quota

There are hints here that the chinook runs in 2009 are expected to be mediocre…
clipped from

April 08, 2009
Contact: Pat Pattillo, (360) 902-2705

2009 salmon fisheries approved

Washington’s 2009 salmon fishing seasons, developed by WDFW and treaty Indian tribal co-managers, were approved today during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) meeting in California. The fishing package defines regulations for salmon fisheries in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s ocean and coastal areas.

The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean water three to 200 miles off the Pacific Coast, also set a recreational chinook harvest quota of 20,500 fish. Although similar to last year, the chinook quota is at a near-record low level, said Anderson.

Recreational ocean salmon fisheries will begin June 27 off LaPush and Neah Bay and June 28 off Ilwaco and Westport.

In Puget Sound, where summer/fall chinook salmon returns are expected to total about 222,000 fish – a slight decrease from last year’s forecast – several new mark-selective fisheries for chinook salmon were added
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