Monday, February 25, 2008

Clean Water and a Thriving Economy


By Diana Gale

Dozens of organizations and hundreds of volunteers are working to restore and protect the Snohomish River estuary and the Stillaguamish River Watershed. It's a race against the clock as Snohomish County's population is projected to grow by more than 50 percent during the next 20 years.

The Snohomish River basin is an abundant ecological system. More than 1,700 rivers and streams drain 2,000 square miles of terrain. The Stillaguamish River Basin is the fifth-largest tributary draining into Puget Sound. Both provide habitat for birds, fish and animals -- and jobs, natural resources and recreational opportunities for people.

But after a century of human intervention, these rivers are suffering. They pick up pollution -- chemicals and toxins -- from roads and roofs, and carry them to Puget Sound. Habitat has been lost to dikes, levees and canals that create farmland and protect homes.

What is ailing these river systems is what is ailing all of Puget Sound -- too much pollution over too much time by too many people.

That's why Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Legislature created the Puget Sound Partnership: to figure out what's wrong, and create an Action Agenda that leads to a clean and healthy Puget Sound.

Many initiatives have aimed at Puget Sound environmental issues, and progress has been made. But work has been uncoordinated and results uncertain. So we are doing something never before attempted: Our Action Agenda is a long-range, broad-based strategy for all of Puget Sound -- from the snow caps to the white caps.

Government cannot do this alone. Everyone must be part of the solution. The Snohomish Basin Salmon Recovery Forum, the Stillaguamish Implementation Review Committee and the Marine Resources Committee serve as examples of the cooperation we need to apply throughout Puget Sound.

The scale and complexity of Puget Sound demand that to be successful, our entire region must work together. There are 2,500 miles of shoreline. Fourteen major rivers, and thousands of streams, feed into its waters. It is home to literally thousands of species of wildlife and marine life.

Despite its size, this vast estuary is ecologically delicate; and hidden from our picture postcard views are signs of serious trouble.

Maybe you remember walking or boating around Whidbey and Camano islands when you were a child -- and seeing herons, sandpipers and other shorebirds. Today there are far fewer marine birds -- nearly a 50 percent decline in the past two decades.

Commercial shellfish beds are closed because the clams, mussels and oysters aren't safe to eat. Some beaches aren't safe for swimming. Our local icons -- salmon and orcas -- are barely surviving.

For more than 100 years we relied on streams, rivers and Puget Sound to dispose of our waste -- everything from industrial byproducts to raw sewage.

Nearly 4 million people live around the Sound now, and 1.5 million more are expected in the next 15 years. With all these people, our need for food, houses, roads and jobs is putting stress on Puget Sound.

But it is also we, the people who live here and care about Puget Sound, who can restore it. Our population is a resource -- full of smart, creative people who know a clean and healthy Puget Sound improves our quality of life and supports our economy.

The Puget Sound Partnership is a community effort of elected and public officials, tribal and business leaders, scientists, environmentalists, parents, friends and neighbors -- all of whom are committed to an effective Action Agenda for a cleaner Puget Sound.

The Partnership is a comprehensive effort that includes local input from every part of Puget Sound. It is a strategic effort that uses science to inform decisions and focus limited resources. And it is a responsible effort with built-in accountability to ensure our cleanup and restoration efforts achieve the intended results.

With a coordinated and strategic effort, we will define what is needed to make Puget Sound healthy again, and create a roadmap for how to get it done.

Your input is important. On Wednesday, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., we will hold a public meeting in Everett about the status of Puget Sound's health and the greatest threats to it. More information can be found online at

Everything around Puget Sound is connected: How we build our homes and businesses, protect our streams and forests, and react to climate change will affect how we leave Puget Sound for future generations.

Working together, we can have both a thriving economy and healthy Puget Sound waterways.

Diana Gale is a member of the Leadership Council, the Puget Sound Partnership's governing body.

We Can't Put the Fire Out with Gasoline

By Dave Somers and Valerie Steel

The choices made now in local land-use and zoning plans, about where our growing population will live and work and how we will get around, will lock us into development patterns that will determine our contribution to rapid, extreme climate change.

According to numerous studies, vehicle emissions comprise half of the state's greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. As Washington continues to grow, it is essential that we devise ways that allow us to live prosperously while driving less. Car-dependent sprawl is the leading cause of decreased farm and forest land, and depletion of carbon-cleaning, oxygen-producing vegetation is another factor in global warming. In the U.S., residential and commercial buildings account for approximately 65 percent of electricity consumption, 36 percent of energy use and 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Integrating sustainable building design along with smart land use planning can reduce this consumption by up to 50 percent.

Transportation, farm and forest conversion, car-dependent land use planning and outdated construction techniques are serious issues in Snohomish County. Last year in Snohomish County, 18 percent of all new homes were built out in our rural areas, eating up valuable rural lands, creating conflicts with working forests and farms, and creating longer commutes and clogged roads. Unfortunately, the trend in rural development is increasing, not decreasing.

In order to achieve the state's goal to significantly reduce global warming pollution, fact-based, responsible decisions need to be made now so we may thrive in a way that reduces driving and meets the increasing demand for sustainable neighborhoods that are walkable and bikeable, well served by mass transit, employ low-impact development techniques and are a joy to be in.

Land use is at heart a local issue and local leadership is essential if we are going to reduce greenhouse gas emission related to how we live on the land. There will be no national solution to this part of the problem. We must come up with solutions here in Washington -- in our own communities, cities and counties.

Fortunately, local jurisdictions representing nearly 70 percent of the state's population have committed to major reductions in their carbon footprints, including Everett and Edmonds. Additionally, Snohomish and six other counties have joined ICLEI -- Local Governments for Sustainability -- which seek to implement local solutions to global problems like unnatural climate change.

Because Washington has already adopted smart growth strategies through the adoption and implementation of the Growth Management Act, we are poised to be national leaders in figuring out sustainable land-use policies that will help reduce global warming emissions. The GMA recognizes the state's diversity from urban to rural and east to west and puts forward statewide goals that require cities in more populated areas to plan for future population growth, establish urban growth areas, ensure adequate infrastructure, protect environmentally critical areas and preserve agricultural and forest lands for local renewable resource production. The GMA is an excellent framework for tackling atmospheric calamity at both the state and local levels.

The challenge of successfully confronting global warming -- reducing our future emissions, adapting to anticipated impacts and possibly reversing damage -- will require coordinated effort and support statewide. That is why we are working to pass a bill during this year's legislative session, Local Solutions to Global Warming (SHB 2797 and SSB 6580), which will provide local governments with the tools and support needed to address and reduce land-use contributions to global warming pollution.

Specifically, the bill adds a goal to the GMA of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to expected impacts of global warming. It directs the state to provide cities and counties with a tool to inventory, measure and estimate land-use-related greenhouse gas emissions. Through a competitive grants program, funds will be available for municipalities that are already taking action or are interested in beginning to address climate change through land use and planning.

To learn more about Local Solutions to Global Warming and to read the bill in its entirety, please visit:

We urge the Legislature to pass this bill and support local governments so we can stop adding fuel to the fire and before we all get burned.

Dave Somers is a Snohomish County Council member, representing District 5. Valerie Steel owns Greening Properties, a real estate firm in Everett.

Native Plant Society Course 2008

WA Native Plant Society stewardship course this Spring in Everett. I wanted to let
you know about it in case you or a co-worker, friend or neighbor might be interested in learning about native plants, local westside ecosystems and restoring them. I've enclosed the news release and a flyer.

The course runs Fridays, April 4 - June 6 from 8:30am-4:30pm.
Applications are due by March 12 at 5pm, It's 100 hours of free, expert
training in exchange for 100 hours of volunteer service restoring or
monitoring urban forests, wetlands, or streamsides plus participating in
some community educational events.

Please feel free to pass on the information. Thanks for helping spread
the word!

Donna Gleisner, coordinator
Native Plant Stewardship Program
Snohomish County

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Step to Make State Greener

Bill orders firm steps to make state 'greener'
It targets miles driven, gases emitted, boosts earth-friendly jobs

After last-minute, closed-door deal-making that included arm-twisting by Gov. Chris Gregoire, the state House took a step Tuesday toward ushering in what some are calling the "sustainable revolution."

Brushing up against a deadline for bill passage, lawmakers approved legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions and provide more "green economy" jobs. It would prepare the state for a regional climate initiative in which pollution rights potentially worth billions of dollars could be traded.

The legislation would provide a framework and goals, including one to cut the number of miles driven by state residents. Details would be worked out later.

Drawing parallels to the Industrial Revolution at the turn of the 19th century, those for and against the legislation predicted big changes in the economy as cities, states and nations try to slash their greenhouse gas emissions. The pollutants are blamed for warming the planet, resulting in higher sea levels, shrinking glaciers and more wildfires.

"We are moving into a sustainable age, and all those industrial folks are worried, but at this point, they're basically just worried about the unknown," said Rep. Hans Dunshee, a Snohomish Democrat and prime sponsor of the legislation.

"There is tremendous opportunity for Washington businesses and Washington workers," said Becky Kelley of the nonprofit Washington Environmental Council. "There are good jobs to be had. There's economic development to be accomplished. That's a very hopeful message."

Others saw the situation differently.

"I'm a little bit more cynical than that," said House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis. He pointed to unfilled promises of a booming biodiesel industry fueled with Washington-grown canola.

"The sound bite is great," DeBolt said. "The implementation is different."

"We've got big changes coming our way, and they're going to be really, really expensive," warned Grant Nelson of the Association of Washington Business. "Consumers should be ready for the prices of their goods and services and electricity -- which has been historically lower than most any other state in the nation -- brace yourself for some significant cost increases."

The legislation, which Gregoire supports, now goes to the Senate, where approval is expected.

Gregoire got involved at the last minute when it appeared that the legislation was bogged down over how much power was to be granted to the state Ecology Department to take action to meet climate-change goals. The final version would reduce the department's authority.

A prime goal of the bill is to prepare the state for working with the Western Climate Initiative, a coalition of seven states and two Canadian provinces trying to cut greenhouse gas emissions regionally.

This summer, initiative members will negotiate a regional, market-based approach for cutting carbon dioxide. It likely will be a cap-and-trade system that sets emissions limits and allows polluters to barter for the right to pollute above those limits. State lawmakers must approve the system before Washington participates.

With Tuesday's legislation, "we are giving the negotiators the strongest hand possible so they can design a cap and trade that works for the Washington economy while reducing the negative impacts of global warming," said Cliff Traisman, lobbyist for Washington Conservation Voters and the Washington Environmental Council.

House Bill 2815 would give the Ecology Department the authority to require the state's largest polluters to report their emissions beginning in 2010, a key component of cap and trade.

The reporting rules would apply to at least 80 businesses and utilities, including refineries, pulp and paper mills, cement kilns, lumber mills, large manufacturers and food processors.

The reporting rules also apply to motor vehicle fleets producing at least 2,500 tons of carbon dioxide, which equals about 250,000 gallons of fuel burned annually. That includes truck and delivery fleets, rental car companies, phone and cable companies and government-agency fleets.

How much these different entities would be allowed to pollute will be hammered out by the Western Climate Initiative.

One of the biggest battles over the legislation was waged by the timber and agriculture industries. Because plants and trees capture carbon dioxide, lobbyist for those industries asked for their sectors to be given credit explicitly for those benefits.

"We are not emitters. We are net positive for carbon. We help make up for others." John Stuhlmiller, director of state affairs for the Washington Farm Bureau.

But Rep. Dunshee said he didn't want to establish specific rules before the whole thing is worked on by the Western Climate Initiative.

Another controversial matter was a set of goals for reducing the number of vehicle miles driven by state residents, which could take some of the pressure off industry for reducing emissions. Critics questioned the logic of a total-miles-traveled approach for cutting carbon dioxide.

"Vehicle miles traveled does not distinguish between a hybrid and a Hummer," said Todd Myers, environmental director for the Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank.

The legislation also sets a goal of increasing the number of "green economy" jobs to 25,000 by 2020 by investing in worker training. There are currently as many as 6,000 workers in that sector in the Puget Sound region, said Steve Gerritson, a green technology expert with Enterprise Seattle, a nonprofit promoting job growth.

"This is just exploding, this particular sector," Gerritson said.

He gave much of the credit to sustained high oil prices. Environmentalists say the creation of a cap-and-trade market will spur it on further.

"The whole idea here is getting the market to work and to create incentives" by limiting emissions, said Kelley of the Washington Environmental Council. "We're talking about remaking the economy of the nation, the whole globe."


House Bill 2815 lays an important foundation for addressing climate change statewide. The House approved it 64-31 Tuesday and moved it to the Senate. Gov. Chris Gregoire supports the legislation. Here's what it would do:

Require the state to meet greenhouse-gas reduction goals set last year.

Give the state Ecology Department the authority to require the largest producers of greenhouse gases to report their emissions beginning in 2010.

Instruct Ecology to come back to lawmakers later this year with the state's part of the Western Climate Initiative's plan for reducing carbon dioxide release (likely some form of "cap and trade").

Create an initiative for increasing the number of clean-energy jobs through job training.

Set statewide goals for cutting the amount of miles driven per person.

P-I reporter Lisa Stiffler can be reached at 206-448-8042 or Read her blog on the environment at

Monday, February 18, 2008

Storm Water Poisoning Puget Sound?

Storm water poisoning Puget Sound

Associated Press

OLYMPIA -- Pollution pours into Puget Sound every time it rains.

There's oil and grease from parking lots, driveways and roads, fertilizers and pesticides from lawns, heavy metals from the wear and tear on brakes and tires, and animal waste.

Storm water runoff is considered the No. 1 pollution problem for the urban Puget Sound region.

"In the face of population growth and development, storm water may be the biggest challenge we face in the effort to clean up and protect Puget Sound," state Department of Ecology director Jay Manning told The Olympian newspaper.

The state Department of Ecology has estimated that storm water runoff sends more contamination into Puget Sound than any other pollution pathway. It delivers 22,580 metric tons of oil and petroleum each year, more than 20 times the volume of direct oil spills entering the sound.

Toxic storm water is a problem for about one-third of the state's water bodies that don't meet federal Clean Water Act standards. Marine sediments near storm water discharge pipes in urban bays are among the most polluted in Puget Sound.

Severe storms, like the one that walloped Western Washington in early December, create storm water runoff that overwhelms regional sewage treatment plants, sending untreated human waste into Puget Sound.

Storm water erodes stream banks, especially after heavy rains. It dumps sediment in the water and scours gravel from streams, hampering efforts to recover salmon and the 40 other imperiled species in Puget Sound.

As heavy metals and other pollutants build up in salmon, they have trouble reproducing or fending off predators. The accumulating toxins place humans at risk when they eat contaminated fish and shellfish.

"We need to address storm water pollution, if we are to have any hope of restoring the Puget Sound ecosystem," said Bruce Wishart, policy director for the conservation group People for Puget Sound.

Forested property and other undeveloped land soaks up most rainfall. Cut down trees, scrape away and pave over the vegetation, add rooftops, parking lots and driveways, and the storm water problems mount.

"Once you've cleared the site, you've lost the battle," said Tom Holz, an Olympia-area storm water engineer. "It's very unlikely we will meet Gov. Chris Gregoire's goal of a clean, healthy Puget Sound without some radical changes in land use."

Most new development in the region must capture storm water, then either treat and infiltrate it back into the ground, or release it slowly. That practice has been in vogue only since the mid-1980s.

While new storm water management techniques are debated and litigated, older developments send the storm water they generate to the nearest ditch or stream. "Older developments and neighborhoods are sitting out there like a bleeding sore," Holz said.

There's no official estimate of what it would cost to retrofit older developments to control storm water.

Simply replacing a storm water pipe serving one development, Tanglewilde near Lacey, with grass-lined ditches to soak up the water would cost an estimated $750,000.

The storm water from Tanglewilde contributes bacteria and nitrogen to lower Henderson Inlet, a public and environmental health problem that makes shellfish unfit to eat. It also contributes to oxygen-robbing algal blooms in the marine waters of South Sound.

There are hundreds of developments with similar storm water problems stretching from Olympia to Bellingham. The state highway system is another major source of storm water runoff.

The damage and economic costs of storm water runoff in the Puget Sound region will total at least $1 billion in the next decade, according to a 2006 study by the University of Washington's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Those costs include degraded water quality, landslides, flooding, shellfish harvest closures and habitat losses and repairs.

"We can't keep stripping land bare and then paving it over," Wishart said. "We need to do land-use planning in a different way that takes into account water quality."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

LID Storm Management Workshop

Greetings! We would like to invite you to our first LID stormwater management workshop. Please forward this email to your colleagues or associates who would be interested in attending.

City of Puyallup and Washington State University-Puyallup

Low Impact Development

Stormwater Research and Demonstration Workshop

March 6, 2008

WSU Puyallup Allmendinger Center 8 AM – 1PM

Join us to determine research needs and help develop research plans to assess the performance of low impact development stormwater management practices at WSU Puyallup. ATTENDANCE IS LIMITED and pre-registration is required. So please register for “Puyallup Event” at

8:00-8:25: Registration

8:25- 8:30: Welcome, Jon Newkirk, Director, WSU - Puyallup Research

and Extension Center

8:30-8:45: Overview of WSU Puyallup Storm Water retrofit project,

Curtis Hinman, WSU Extension Faculty

8:45-9:30: Overview of Low Impact Development Research in the

Puget Sound, Curtis Hinman, WSU Extension Faculty

9:30-10:30: Overview of Rain Garden Research in Wisconsin, Nick Balster,

Assistant Professor, Department of Soil Science, University of


10:30-10:45: Break and site walk around

11:00-Noon: Small group research brain-storming

Noon-12:45: Lunch provided

12:45-1:00: Wrap-up

1pm: Departure

City of Puyallup/WSU Stormwater Management Implementation Grant Project Summary:

The City of Puyallup, in partnership with the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center has received a Department of Ecology grant to significantly reduce stormwater volumes and improve water quality treatment at the Center using low impact development (LID) management practices.

The retrofit project includes a significant research / monitoring component to measure the impacts of various LID practices. We are inviting interested parties to take place in a collaborative planning process to gather input and outline specific areas where research is needed.

The Center has been in operation for over 100 years. No stormwater flow control or treatment exists on the site and stormwater is discharged directly from these surfaces to Woodland Creek which confluences with Clark’s Creek and eventually the Puyallup River. Clark’s Creek is a salmon bearing stream and is a 303(d) water body. LID integrated management practices including bioretention and permeable paving will be installed to reduce impacts to receiving waters, as well as provide performance monitoring and public education for the Puget Sound region. The location of the WSU Puyallup Center affords the Puget Sound region with a sustainable opportunity to continually research and demonstrate LID stormwater management methods by viewing a system at work.

Tanyalee Erwin

Project Manager

Washington State University Puyallup Research and Extension Center

Solutions for the region; programs for its people

7612 Pioneer Way E.

Puyallup, WA 98371-4998


253.445.4571 fax

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Advanced Buildings Core Performance

February 28, 8:00AM - 12:30PM
Snohomish PUD

Everett, Washington

Participants in this half-day workshop will learn how to use Advanced Buildings Core Performance. Core Performance is the enhanced prescriptive path for commercial buildings that results better energy performance without the time and expense of modeling.

The Core Performance Guide includes a set of strategies, related to building envelope, lighting, HVAC, power systems and controls, that when taken together provide a prescriptive path for design teams to create buildings up to 30% more energy efficient than ASHRAE 90.1 2004.

Core Performance has also been adopted by USGBC as a prescriptive option for up to five LEED points. Presented will be the energy-saving benefits of using Core Performance as well as non-energy benefits such as corporate productivity, occupant satisfaction, risk management and environmental stewardship.

Case study examples will focus on the Core Performance path to high performance buildings. The Advance Building Core Performance Guide, a $95 value is included in the $99 workshop fee.

Register for this event!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Wastershed Steward Snohomish County

Craig Young, South County Watershed Steward,
Snohomish County Surface Water Management

Craig Young has been a watershed steward for Snohomish County for 17 years. He is a subcommittee member for the American Public Works Association working toward developing new standards and regulations, and propose projects and activities to achieve water quality and sustainable watershed health.

He co-founded, is on the executive board, and has been Project Technical Advisory Group leader on the Sustainable Development Task Force for 5 years, promoting Low Impact Development (LID).

Why Not plan Low Impact?

Scott Pesznecker, Herald Writer reports Builder has plans for Japanese Gulch and this alerts preservation advocates in Everett and Mukilteo.

EVERETT -- Runners, bicyclists and hikers who live in Mukilteo have spent years encouraging city leaders to preserve Japanese Gulch, a steep swath of woods and wetlands.A development company in California has other plans.

The company, Birtcher Development & Investments, wants to build a light industrial park by Japanese Gulch on the edge of Everett city limits, said Jim Edwards, senior vice president for the company's Northwest region.The proposed development would be built on roughly 55 acres of a 160-acre site on the west side of the gulch.

That's an area where nearby residents have trespassed for years to enjoy a network of trails on privately owned land.Birtcher Development already has an agreement in place to buy the land from four property owners, assuming the company likes what it sees from an ongoing feasibility study.

The study has been under way for six months, Edwards said."We're pursuing our original intent, which is to buy and develop the property," Edwards said.The company specializes in building state-of-the-art industrial and business parks to be sold or leased, and is responsible for developing thousands of acres of land on the West Coast, Edwards said.Mukilteo City Councilman Kevin Stoltz is among the avid runners who frequent the trails and slopes of Japanese Gulch. He jogs through the woods there about four times a week, and almost always encounters four or five people along the way.

Lately, Stoltz said, he's noticed survey flags and other indications that the gulch is under study."The whole area up there is full of trails," he said. "That would really impact people greatly who have been using it over the years."Birtcher Development representatives have been discussing their plans with Everett and Mukilteo officials for the past few months. Although the gulch property is in Everett, the land can only be accessed through Mukilteo.

A group of Mukilteo residents who are determined to try to prevent development in the gulch recently voiced their displeasure at an Everett City Council meeting.If the developer winds up dropping its plans to build an industrial park, the citizens group wants the city of Everett to have a plan in place for keeping the gulch green."We realize that other developers have looked at this property over the past 30 years, and they've all backed out, but it might turn out that some developer won't," said Mukilteo resident Richard Emery, the group's leader. "We realize that may be this developer, and we may have waited too long."Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and

Council President Drew Nielsen said they would prefer that the site be preserved as open space. However, they said they will not commit money for a park there because doing so would not fit into Everett's long-term parks plan. Everett's plan focuses on using land that already is public, such as utility rights-of-way and school sites.

The developer has offered to give the Japanese Gulch acreage that it can't build on to be used as parkland by the city of Everett."We understand the Mukilteo citizens' appreciation for the woods that they've enjoyed for a long time. We're not insensitive to their feelings about it," Edwards said.

Everett officials said they would be willing to clear the way for Mukilteo to annex Japanese Gulch land now in Everett, but only if Mukilteo officials pledge to preserve the land as a park.Mukilteo still would have to come up with the money to buy the land, and that is a problem, Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine said.Also, most of the land the developer has offered to provide the city of Everett is either wetlands or steep hillside, and could not be used as a park, Marine said."The area they can't develop is basically the gully part," he said. "It doesn't matter whether they gift it to Everett or keep it for themselves. It's trees. It's a slope."Preserving the interior of the gulch would be better than nothing, Stoltz said. He believes there is support on the Mukilteo City Council to find a way to obtain the land if plans for the industrial park fall through.

There is definitely support in the community to preserve the gulch, Emery said."There's nothing like it in south Snohomish County at this point," he said. "If it goes away, it's irreplaceable. It never comes back."