Thursday, January 28, 2010

Stormwater legislation seeks a new funding source

Working for Clean Water legislation will put people to work building stormwater infrastructure. This is a good bill. Stormwater is the number one threat to the health of Puget Sound. Every time it rains, stormwater carries the crud from the streets, construction projects, and farms straight into Puget Sound, where we like to paddle and where the fish, birds and marine mammals are struggling to survive.

Working for Clean Water raises the hazardous-substance tax on petroleum, pesticides and other chemicals that cause harm to Washington's waterways in order to fund projects that will capture and treat stormwater before it reaches the water.

In order for this bill to pass, your state legislators need to hear from you. Please call them right now and tell them to support Working for Clean Water legislation: 1-800-562-6000.

Initially, the bill proposed creating a new barrel fee on petroleum products. Now, the measure proposes to increase the hazardous-substance tax instead. This change is in response to concerns raised that a new barrel fee would be the same as a gas tax, which is restricted for supporting road-building projects.

To learn more, see today's Seattle Times:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Combined-sewage-overflow (CSO) in Port Angeles

Heavy rains have caused a combined-sewage-overflow (CSO) in Port Angeles, meaning that both raw sewage and stormwater are running untreated into the Harbor. And, because of the tidal conditions, the water is not flushing out into the Sound. As a result, the BEACH program has issued a warning advising against contact with waters in Port Angeles Harbor for at least 48 hours following rainfall. This includes Hollywood Beach, which is close to two of four overflowing CSO pipes. In addition to the health risks of raw sewage, stormwater has devastating effects on marine life and is the largest obstacle to recovering Puget Sound to health. Right now, the WA State Legislature is debating a bill (HB1614) that would raise $120 million to put people to work building stormwater infrastructure -- making improvements to systems like the one in Port Angeles. If you haven't already, please call your legislators and ask them to support HB1614 Working for Clean Water legislation: 1-800-562-6000.

To learn more about the bill, go to Washington Environmental Priorities website.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wear Blue for the Oceans -- Jan 13th

January 13th is Wear Blue for the Oceans Day. By wearing blue you will be part of movement to tell President Obama and his Administration that ocean and coastal health should be a national priority.

This Wednesday, in support of our oceans, public rallies are taking place across the country in Hawaii, Washington DC, New Orleans and more and in all states, oceans lovers will be wearing blue. Show your support and wear blue too. And ask your friends to do the same.

Tomorrow's activities are timed to encourage the Obama Administration to adopt a National Ocean Policy. To learn more about how a National Ocean Policy can help your beach and about the work of the Ocean Policy Task Force, established by Obama last June, visit and

"We have a stewardship responsibility to maintain healthy, resilient, and sustainable oceans, coasts and Great Lakes resources for the benefit of this and future generations."
President Barak Obama, June 12, 2009

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mass. Ocean-Management Plan

January 4, 2010
Mass. unveils landmark ocean-management plan
Associated Press Writer

Massachusetts has released the final version of a landmark ocean-management plan, creating a vast regulatory map for the state's coastal waters and setting new limits for offshore wind farms.

The plan allows up to 266 wind turbines in state waters — 166 in two designated commercial wind farm areas and 100 more turbines scattered up and down the coast in smaller "community" projects — as the state tries to ramp up its renewable energy output.

Authorized by the state's Oceans Act of 2008, the plan is designed to regulate development in state-controlled waters, which extend three miles offshore.

It creates protected areas and prohibits development in state waters near the Cape Cod National Seashore.

The protected habitats include eelgrass beds and submerged rocky areas that provide shelter to some of the greatest marine biodiversity in the coastal waters. The plan is also designed to shield whale migratory paths and the habitats of endangered roseate terns.

Before the map, development in state waters had been handled piecemeal, said state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles.

State officials say the map is the first in the country with such a comprehensive scope. Other states, including California and New York, have adopted measures designed to protect offshore ecosystems. Rhode Island is working on its own coastal management plan.

President Barack Obama last year started a similar effort to draft a regulatory framework for federal waters — beyond the three-mile band of state waters.

Although the plan allows up to 266 turbines, Bowles said he doesn't anticipate many of the community-based wind turbines being built — at least not soon — due to the high costs of siting and construction, although he acknowledged that technological improvements could bring those costs down.

The map parcels out the number of allowed community energy projects to each of the state's seven regional planning authorities based on the length of shoreline and area of coastal waters. The plan also requires any project be endorsed by its host community.

Bowles said the final version of the map improves on an earlier version released in July in part by creating tougher protections for ecologically sensitive areas, which constitute nearly two-thirds of the state's waters.

The final version sets a higher regulatory hurdle than the earlier version by requiring developers show that no environmental harm will come from proposed projects in those areas — or prove that the state's data is wrong.

"It's a much more difficult standard than was there before," Bowles said.

Environmental groups praised the plan, saying it balances protection of vulnerable marine wildlife and habitats with responsible ocean uses.

"It's a real victory for the ocean and everyone who depends on it," said Priscilla Brooks of the Conservation Law Foundation. "The bar has been set very high."

The map would do nothing to block the development of the 130-turbine Cape Wind project, the nation's first proposed offshore wind farm, to be located in federal waters off Nantucket Sound.

The plan establishes two new zones for commercial wind-energy projects south of Cuttyhunk Island near the southern end of the Elizabeth Islands and south of Nomans Land, off Martha's Vineyard.

The plan gives local communities some say over the "appropriate scale" of any commercial wind farm in state waters.

The state is also forming a task force with the U.S. Minerals Management Service to coordinate the planning and review of large-scale wind-energy projects in adjacent federal waters.

The plan also sets out priorities for ocean management-related research over the next five years, including better ways to identify sensitive habitats and monitoring the effects of climate change in Massachusetts waters.


On the Net:

Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs: