Environment 1219 results

VIDEO: Hanging out by the outfall with Diver Laura

Diver Laura‘s been out again testing apparel and equipment off our shore, and this video is of note not only as a reminder that the stormwater from our streets and roofs ends up in Puget Sound … but also for the fish that were hanging out with her by the outfall. “Hordes of shiner perch,” she explains. “They’ve been like that for a couple weeks, hanging out in droves.”

Milestone for Murray Combined Sewer Overflow Control Project across from Lowman Beach

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(The view through the fence from Beach Drive in front of the project site)

Completion is in sight for the project meant to reduce combined-sewer overflows into Puget Sound by Lowman Beach – the Murray Combined Sewer Overflow Control Project. We took the photo after getting this update late today:

King County’s million-gallon underground storage tank is now working after passing all system tests. As early as next week, County operators will work inside the facility to monitor flows at the Murray Pump Station and operate the underground storage tank as needed.

Roadway restoration is complete on Beach Dr. SW. The contractor is now restoring sidewalks near the site. Crews are also working in the access road south of Lowman Beach Park to upgrade a small sewer line. This work is expected to be complete by mid-December.

Schedule update
Landscaping and project art will finish up in early 2017, depending on weather (see schedule in attached update for additional information). A fence will remain around the site until all landscaping is complete. The public staircase on site will not be accessible until all project work is complete. Access to Lowman Beach Park will be maintained as it has been throughout construction.

King County and its contractor appreciate your patience as we work to complete the project as quickly as possible. We will provide another update in December with what to expect during activities that will continue in 2017.

No work at the site during the four-day Thanksgiving weekend.

BACKSTORY: It’s been seven years since first word of a possible storage tank to catch overflows. Six years ago, the storage-tank decision was announced. Major work at the site began in August 2013 with demolition of the residences that used to be on the site. Here’s our pic from two years ago when the tank was halfway done:

When done, the structure will include public-access areas for looking out toward Puget Sound.

WEST SEATTLE TREE-CUTTING LAWSUITS: Two defendants seek delay; two seek dismissal

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(WSB photo from last spring)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Almost two months after the city filed civil lawsuits over the illegal cutting of more than 100 trees on public land in East Admiral, we’re hearing from some of the defendants – via court documents.

Two defendants are asking that the suits be stayed because they expect criminal charges, saying that answering the lawsuits would violate their Fifth Amendment rights.

Two others are asking that the suits be dismissed.

First – a quick recap: Back in September, five months after the illegal tree-cutting came to light, on city-owned Duwamish Head Greenspace parcels, City Attorney Pete Holmes announced lawsuits seeking more than $1.6 million in damages. Those sued by the city included three couples who own nearby homes, two people alleged to have been involved in the cutting, and various unnamed “John/Jane Does.”

None commented after the lawsuits were announced, but some responses from defendants have been filed in recent weeks, we discovered during a routine check of the online Superior Court files. The responses vary and include motions to dismiss one suit and delay another – the latter, with a contention that criminal charges are expected (something the City Attorney said in September could be possible). Read More

ANOTHER ORCA DEATH: Southern Resident Killer Whales’ advocates say they are out of time, urge action

(Photo by Dave Ellifrit, from December 2015 birth announcement of J28’s calf J54)

2:10 PM: We have just left Bell Street Pier downtown, where advocates for the Southern Resident Killer Whales summoned media to hear sad news and a plea for action before time runs out.

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First, they announced the death of another local orca, a nursing mom whose calf is dead or dying too. This is the “obituary” read by whale researcher Ken Balcomb:

J28 was born in mid-winter 1992/93 in or near Puget Sound Washington, and was the first of four known calves born to J17 in the J9/J5 lineage of southern resident killer whales (SRKW – see family tree) inhabiting the inshore marine waters of the Pacific Northwest. The iconic and world-famous J1, first SRKW ever to be photo-identified, was her father.

Photographs of J28 that were taken in the summer of 1993 by Center for Whale Research staff and Earthwatch volunteers show that she was a healthy and vigorous ‘calf’’ among six new calves born that year into the SRKW population. In late autumn 2002, when J28 was nine years old she acquired a small nick in the trailing edge of her dorsal fin that made her easily identifiable to whale-watchers and the general public, and she became one of the darlings for a growing fan club of humans that were beginning to raise concerns that this iconic population was precipitously declining from around 100 in 1995 to around 80 in 2003. The SRKW population was declared Endangered under the US Endangered Species Act in 2005, and earlier this year it was listed as a “species in the spotlight” by NOAA for its lack of recovery since then.

Sexual maturity for these immensely popular neighbor animals is typically attained in the early to mid teens, and J28 had her first known calf, a daughter J46, in November 2009 when she was sixteen years old. Gestation is approximately 17 months, so we can estimate that J28 became pregnant at age fourteen and a half. In January 2013 (three years after the birth of J46), a freshly dead neonate calf was found on Dungeness Spit and identified from DNA as belonging to J28 with the father most likely to have been L41. The dead calf was not given an alpha-numeric designation because it had not been documented alive. She subsequently (23 months after the dead calf) had her second live-born calf, a son J54, in December 2015 at the tail end of a so-called “Baby Boom” of 2014/15. Regrettably now that mom has died, he will not survive and may already be dead, along with two other “boomers” (J55 and L120).

J28 was noted to be losing body condition in January 2016, presumably from birthing complications, and by July was clearly emaciated. If her carcass is ever found an examination of her ovaries may reveal how many ovulations/pregnancies she actually had, as well as her proximate cause of death (probably septicemia). We estimate that she died in the Strait of Juan de Fuca sometime between 16 and 18 October, prior to her first noted absence on 19 October.

J28 is survived by her Mother, (J17) two sisters (J35 and J53), a brother (J44), a daughter (J46), and a nephew (J47). Her daughter and her oldest sister (J35) are attempting to care for the orphaned calf, but at ten months of age he is too young to survive without mother’s milk supplement, and he has gone too long with inadequate nutrition. No other lactating females have adopted him and his grandmother is too occupied raising her own newest calf (J53, born in October last year) to care for him. His sister, J46, had been catching and offering salmon to her mother and little brother for several months while mom was ill, but that was simply not enough nutrition provided to three whales by one little female no matter how hard she tried. The family requests that in lieu of sending flowers and cake*, well-wishers please send more wild Chinook salmon to and from Pacific Northwest rivers.


The SRKWs population is now down to 80, Balcomb said (down from 85 early this year).

The advocates are urging support for one key action to make that happen: Removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River. They say that the dams are losing money anyway, and have been studied ad infinitum, with another study about to be launched – needlessly, they say – and that the dams could be breached/removed by order of the President. 202-456-1111 is the White House number they’re urging supporters to call. They also suggested pressure on Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell as well as Governor Jay Inslee.

SIGNUP TIME: ‘Plant for the Planet Academy’ in West Seattle

Think global, act local. That applies to the Plant for the Planet youth movement, which the video above is about, and which is having its next daylong Plant for the Planet Academy for interested kids this Saturday, 9 am-5:30 pm, at Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Gatewood.

Do you know a young person who is concerned about climate change? Please spread the word about the upcoming Plant for the Planet Academy on October 29th. At this free day-long workshop, 50 students (ages 9-14) will learn how they can take action to protect and heal our environment, as part of Plant For The Planet – an international group of 34,000+ young people worldwide who are planting trees and leading communities to solve the climate crisis now.

At the Academy, students will learn how to present information to others about the science of climate change and ways to take positive action – both as individuals and as communities. Students will use hands-on activities to teach one another about climate science, how to plant a tree, how to give a climate presentation, and they will make plans with other ambassadors to engage our community on climate solutions. The upcoming Plant for the Planet Academy will culminate in an educational and moving slideshow presentation for families and the public, as the world’s newest Ambassadors for Climate Justice share what they have learned from each other and make their commitments to plant and speak for the trees, and for our environment!

It’s free, with snacks, a T-shirt, and the book “Tree by Tree” provided to participants. Here’s how to register.

PHOTOS: See how hundreds of Duwamish Alive! volunteers gave TLC to our river & its watershed

October 23, 2016 11:45 pm
|    Comments Off on PHOTOS: See how hundreds of Duwamish Alive! volunteers gave TLC to our river & its watershed
 |   Environment | How to help | West Seattle news

Photos by Leda Costa for West Seattle Blog

Volunteers on kayaks work on water cleanup.

So much happened in West Seattle this weekend … but we would argue, this is the most important. On the Duwamish River and in its watershed, hundreds of volunteers gathered to offer some help via the twice-yearly Duwamish Alive! habitat restoration and cleanup gatherings. All sizes of volunteers, including Paislee Kelm and Nash Randow-Kelm:

Paislee Kelm volunteering by pulling weeds.

Nash Randow-Kelm filling a bucket with weeds.

They were working at Herring’s House Park on the river – explained on the Duwamish Alive! website as “a 15.5 acre location created in 1999 primarily as habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon as they journey to Puget Sound.” It’s across from the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse, one of nine areas where people gathered on Saturday, one of two visited by WSB photojournalist Leda Costa – more of her photos ahead: Read More

HAPPENING NOW: Duwamish Alive! Fall 2016 edition

October 22, 2016 10:41 am
|    Comments Off on HAPPENING NOW: Duwamish Alive! Fall 2016 edition
 |   Environment | How to help | West Seattle news

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It’s a perfect fall morning, which is great news for the hundreds of volunteers out helping with the fall edition of Duwamish Alive! at nine locations along the river and in its watershed, from West Seattle to Tukwila. Our first photo, above, is from WSB’s Leda Costa at Herring’s House Park. More later!

TERMINAL 5 MODERNIZATION: Port announces final environmental-impact statement, with ‘preferred alternative’

(UPDATED 11:35 AM with “what’s next” now that this is public)

(January 2015 photo of Terminal 5 by Long Bach Nguyen)

10:23 AM: Just announced by the port: It’s finished the final environmental-impact statement for the proposed $200+-million modernization of Terminal 5 in West Seattle. We haven’t read the fine print yet but the news release says some community requests are addressed – including shore power so ships aren’t running don’t have to run their engines while docked:

The Port of Seattle has completed the environmental analysis of Terminal 5 and has prepared the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the project to modernize the cargo-handling facility in order to serve larger cargo vessels. The proposed upgrades to Terminal 5 are wharf rehabilitation, berth deepening, electrical service and improvements to the upland portions of the property.

“Based on public comment we are including a number of improvements, such as shore power for vessels, installing gates for noise and safety mitigation for rail, and significant traffic improvement measures,” said John Creighton, Port of Seattle Commission president and co-chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance. “We want to thank the public for weighing in on this proposal during the comment period.”

“With this Final Environmental Impact Statement for Terminal 5, we are one step closer to making this prime maritime asset ‘Big Ship Ready’ and able to handle the largest container vessels working the market today,” said Connie Bacon, Port of Tacoma Commission president and co-chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance. “This region needs this terminal to remain competitive in today’s global economy.”

Mitigation measures for the project include construction of plug-in capability for shore power at two berths, tracking of air quality performance, establishment of a safety corridor between the Terminal 5 gate and the Duwamish river in order to minimize the need to use locomotive horns, required use of ambient-sensing broadband back up alarms, implementation of a Gate Queue Management plan, establishing a truck driver information system, comprehensive traffic signal improvements along SW Spokane Street and an operation noise management plan to ensure and monitor compliance with the Seattle noise code.

The FEIS evaluated potential impacts to earth, air, water, plants, animals, energy and natural resources, environmental health, noise, aesthetics (including light and glare), historic and cultural resources, transportation and public services. The Port of Seattle Commission must approve the recommended improvements in public session.

Copies of the FEIS are available for review at the Seattle Central Library, Delridge Library, Southwest Library, Highpoint Library, South Park Library, and West Seattle Library. Copies are also available at the Port of Seattle, Maritime Environment and Sustainability Department, Pier 69, 2711 Alaskan Way, Seattle, Washington, during business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

People interested in receiving a copy of the FEIS should contact Brenda Thomas at 206-787-3382 or email at: SEPA.p@portseattle.org. The FEIS can also be reviewed and downloaded at the Port of Seattle website and at the Terminal 5 Improvements Project Online Open House.

The entire environmental review followed community concerns, including a petition drive, that followed the port’s original announcement that it didn’t believe a full-scale environmental impact statement would be needed. The purpose of the EIS (direct link here – use dropdown under “Current Projects”) is for use by agencies making decisions about permits for the project, which the port says is expected to be complete by 2020.

11:35 AM: We talked with port spokesperson Peter McGraw regarding “what’s next” now that this is out. For one, there is an appeals process – deadline, November 1st. That’s explained here, on the “Next Steps” page of the “online open house.” And, McGraw points out, a big part of the final EIS is the announcement of the port’s “preferred alternative” – it’s the one that does NOT include “upland improvements” beyond T-5’s existing footprint.

Here’s where in West Seattle you can be part of Duwamish Alive!

October 17, 2016 11:34 am
|    Comments Off on Here’s where in West Seattle you can be part of Duwamish Alive!
 |   Environment | How to help | West Seattle news

(WSB file photo from a past Duwamish Alive! event)

If this isn’t already on your calendar – the Duwamish River will benefit from just a few hours of your time next Saturday (October 22nd). Five sites along the river and in its watershed are in need of volunteers for the fall edition of Duwamish Alive!, 9:30 am-2 pm on Saturday. It’s one of the two days each year when hundreds of people volunteer to help our area’s only river. Here’s how:

Join our community effort to restore native habitat within the Duwamish Watershed on Saturday, October 22nd, while celebrating the connection of our urban forests to our river and salmon. Starting at 10:00 am volunteers will gear up at multiple Duwamish sites including one of our largest urban forests – the West Duwamish Greenbelt – to participate in planting and removing invasive weeds in an effort to keep our river alive and healthy for our communities, salmon and the Puget Sound. Volunteers are still needed at:

Pigeon Point Park
Roxhill Bog, headwaters of Longfellow Creek
Delridge Wetlands, tributary of Longfellow Creek
Longfellow Creek at Greg Davis Park
Herring’s House Park, along the river

(outside West Seattle) Hamm Creek/Duwamish Substation, along the river

To volunteer, visit DuwamishAlive.org to see the different volunteer opportunities and RSVP to the contact for the site of your choice, or email info@duwamishalive.org

Other work sites include a river cleanup by kayak, shoreline salmon habitat restoration, and native forest revitalization while enjoying our autumn. Families, company groups, clubs, individuals, schools, community organizations, are encouraged to participate, and no experience is necessary.

The workday at all 15 sites begins at 9:30 with volunteer sign-in and concludes at 2 PM. Refreshments, tools, and instructions will be provided. All ages and abilities welcomed.

VIDEO: What happened when Diver Laura went live where the stormwater goes

One more video from our semi-stormy Saturday: If you missed “Diver Laura” James‘s live dive to the stormwater outfall in Cove 1 near Seacrest – here’s the video. She was streaming live via Periscope, hoping for a live look at the mesmerizing and sometimes horrifying sight of polluted stormwater runoff emerging into Puget Sound, but the rain chose that exact time for a break. There were still sights to see, and she’s added captioning for the narration recorded. You’ll also see good reasons not to ignore litter you might spot on the street – and some wildlife, too.

Ex-substation contaminated and due for demolition, to neighbors’ surprise

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(WSB photos)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Neighbors of the former Avalon substation building by the southwest end of the West Seattle Bridge say they were surprised to find out, after years of living nearby, that it is contaminated with mercury and set for demolition.

Wednesday afternoon, they gathered with Seattle City Light and Department of Construction and Inspections reps and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold to try to clarify what happened and what’s planned for the site after the building is torn down and the contamination cleanup. Read More

SAVED: Fauntleroy Creek Salmon in the Schools program will swim on

(WSB photo, May 2016: West Seattle Elementary group at Fauntleroy Creek with volunteer Dennis Hinton)

By Dennis Hinton, Fauntleroy Creek volunteer
Special to West Seattle Blog

After months of not knowing if the Fauntleroy Creek Salmon in the Schools program would continue uninterrupted as it has for more than 20 years, word came late last week that it will.

The program centers on coho fry released by schoolchildren. Ten elementary schools and three preschools in West Seattle receive coho eggs in January and students rear the fish while learning about biology, habitat, and the role of salmon in Pacific Northwest environment, commerce, and culture. Nearly 800 students came to the creek this past spring on release field trips, bringing 1,800 coho fry.

For the first time since 1991 when it started Salmon in the Schools, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife notified program coordinators six months ago that coho eggs might not be available for the 2016-17 term. Without them, participating West Seattle schools would have had to rear another salmon species for release elsewhere.

(WSB photo: Judy Pickens at Westside School on egg-delivery day last January)

“This news from the state was chilling to both teachers and creek volunteers,” said Judy Pickens. She and Phil Sweetland represent Fauntleroy Creek on the Salmon in the Schools – Seattle steering committee that coordinates the program for 71 schools in the city. “Without coho, the creek would have lost much of the life we’ve been working for 26 years to restore and the community would have lost a much-loved natural feature, a small taste of the wild in urban West Seattle.”

The state based its warning on last year’s meager return of coho spawners to Puget Sound and predictions of a low coho return this year. Warm water off the Oregon-Washington coast killed their prey and, without food, the fish that had survived predation and pollution to get that far died. No spawners came into Fauntleroy Creek last fall.

Based on early coho returns to area hatcheries, creek volunteers are cautiously optimistic about getting spawners this year. The annual drumming to call them in will be Sunday, October 30, at 5 pm at the fish-ladder viewpoint (SW Director and upper Fauntleroy Way SW).

Volunteers will start watching for spawners the following week when tides are high enough for the fish to have easy access to the mouth of the creek. Assuming veteran watchers spot fish, watch here for an invitation to join their ranks.

Why High Point Pond is more like a wetland right now

High Point Pond – the size of a small lake – is more like a wetland, temporarily, after its first draining in two years.

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A concerned reader tipped us via e-mail, worried about the fish in the pond, so we went over to check it out, and then sought out information via the High Point Open Spaces Association, which maintains the pond as part of an agreement with Seattle Public Utilities. Community Association Manager Janell Gonyea explained:

The OSA grounds crew drains the pond periodically to inspect all of the components in the pond to determine if any maintenance is necessary. We check the inlet and outlet lines to make sure they are clear and we check the pond liner to see if it is exposed or not. We also check to see if there are invasive plant species that could alter or damage the pond liner. We check the emergency risers to make sure they are operating correctly and we inspect for sediment build up in the pond. We also inspect the re-circulation pump and will conduct routine maintenance on that.

The last time we drained the pond was in 2014 and at that time, everything was in good condition. We do not anticipate any problems with the pond at this time because it has been performing normally, but we do want to be proactive about examining the pond and its components to make sure that there is no maintenance needed. The fish will not be affected because there will be enough water left in the pond for the fish. The pond will begin refilling naturally. The weather report is calling for rain later this week, so the pond will begin filling with that rainfall and storm water.

Thanks also to the OSA’s Deborah Vandermar for pointing us to this info. The pond is part of the Natural Drainage Systems built into the High Point redevelopment a decade ago.

P.S. For a wider look at the drained pond, here’s our Instagram clip from this morning:


P.S. If you’re not familiar with the pond’s location – here’s a map.

VIDEO: New 360-degree view of ‘Alki Junkyard’

New from “Diver Laura” James – a 360-degree view of what divers know as the “Alki Junkyard,” off the west end of public Alki shoreline (64th SW).

Laura says, “This was shot with ambient light in the 50’ range; the only lights were on my dive buddy Lamont’s camera. So you can see it’s really quite bright down there during the day (lots of ambient light unless a really heavy plankton bloom), and the diver lights primarily serve to restore the colors (red goes away first, due to the way water absorbs light).”

If you haven’t viewed this type of video before – provided it’s compatible with your browser, you should be able to click “play” and then click the video, using your cursor to “drag” it around, to see above, below, in front, behind … 360 degrees.

P.S. If you follow Diver Laura on Twitter/Periscope, you just might catch her “live” underwater – she’s done a few tests in the past few days.

Fauntleroy Church Recycle Roundup: Sunday’s results, and 2017 dates

September 27, 2016 12:31 pm
|    Comments Off on Fauntleroy Church Recycle Roundup: Sunday’s results, and 2017 dates
 |   Environment | Fauntleroy | West Seattle news

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(WSB photo from midway through last Sunday’s Recycle Roundup)

Another big harvest for the fall edition of the Recycle Roundup free-dropoff event in Fauntleroy this past Sunday. Judy Pickens has the numbers, and the dates for next year:

Sunday’s fall recycle roundup at Fauntleroy Church brought in 9.25 tons for responsible recycling. The crew from 1 Green Planet unloaded just over 400 vehicles. The church’s green committee will host the 2017 roundups on Sunday, April 23, and Sunday, September 24.

When April gets closer, we’ll remind you, of course, especially once the “what will and won’t be accepted” list comes in.

HAPPENING NOW: Fauntleroy ‘Recycle Roundup,’ until 3 pm

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Just stopped by Fauntleroy Church to see how the fall Recycle Roundup is going. You have until 3 pm to drop off recyclables for free – provided they’re on this (long) list of what 1 Green Planet is taking this time. Most memorable item we spotted during a quick look – a vintage copper “Combination” GE refrigerator/freezer.

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The church is at 9140 California SW (you can’t get there directly from the main stretch of California – if you head west on Barton from 35th, the road becomes California for a short stretch before the Endolyne business district). It’s busy right now (a few minutes past noon) but they have enough help to keep everyone moving through quickly.

YOU CAN HELP! Volunteer to survey Longfellow Creek salmon with Puget Soundkeeper Alliance

(WSB photo – Longfellow Creek during fall 2014 salmon survey)

Help survey coho salmon returning to Longfellow Creek in West Seattle! Puget Soundkeeper Alliance is looking again this fall for dedicated volunteers. Here’s their announcement:

During the salmon run each fall, a population of coho salmon enters the Duwamish River from Elliott Bay, and then swims up Longfellow Creek to spawn. As coho migrate through urbanized waterways like Longfellow, they encounter a chemical cocktail of toxic runoff from roadways and other paved surfaces. These chemicals severely disorient adult coho and result in “pre-spawn mortality” in many individuals, meaning the salmon die before reproducing.

Previous surveys conducted by the City of Seattle and NOAA on Longfellow Creek have found pre-spawn mortality rates of up to 90% amongst females, an alarmingly high statistic. Examining the number of salmon that return to Longfellow Creek every year and documenting the pre-spawn mortality rate are great indicators of the health of our local waterways. Data gathered from these surveys shared with NOAA, the City of Seattle, Department of Fish and Wildlife and King County.

Volunteers will attend an orientation meeting on Tuesday, October 4th from 6:30-8:30 pm at Chaco Canyon Organic Café in West Seattle.

Requirements/qualifications:

The nature of this work is geared toward adults only.

Surveying is a weekly commitment that takes approximately 1 hour to complete. The salmon run begins in mid-October and finishes mid-December, during which there will be a survey every day. Volunteers will be divided into teams of 2-3 people and assigned a weekday to conduct their survey.

We’re looking for adventurous volunteers! Surveying requires handling fish carcasses found in the creek (with gloves) and dissecting the female salmon to check for eggs.

Volunteers should be in good physical condition. Surveying in Longfellow Creek requires climbing up and down steep muddy embankments and wading through shallow water on uneven terrain.

Surveying is conducted in varying weather conditions. If conditions are dangerous (e.g. a downpour), we will cancel on that day. Otherwise, we survey rain or shine.

Volunteers will be provided with surveying kits and waders (unless you have your own pair). Data collected during the survey will be uploaded by the volunteers into Puget Soundkeeper’s database.

Salmon surveys are a great way to observe one of nature’s most amazing migrations and experience scientific field work. The data we collect from these surveys help us understand the effects of toxic runoff on one of the Pacific Northwest’s most iconic species and determine the best methods to protect them in the future!

Qustions? kerry@pugetsoundkeeper.org – and when you’re ready to register, go here.

FOLLOWUP: Revisiting East Admiral illegal-tree-cutting site

After Tuesday’s news of city lawsuits in the case of illegal tree-cutting on public land in East Admiral, some asked what the site looks like now. We don’t have September 2015 photos for a true comparison, so keep in mind that any area with deciduous trees will look dramatically different between the end of winter and the end of summer. But here are the closest “now and then” shots:

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Above is our Wednesday afternoon view looking west/upslope after walking into the city land north of CityView/34th SW. You can barely pick out the tops of a couple of the residences (note the chimney) clearly visible in our March photo taken from that same trail:

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(March WSB photo)

Looking the other way, this time, to the east:

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That was the Wednesday afternoon view from an angle similar to, but from a higher perspective than, this one photographed in March:

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(March 2016 WSB photo by Christopher Boffoli)

Note that our photos involve what the city calls “Area C,” which is the subject of the “southern site” lawsuit against Kostas and Linda Kyrimis and “John and Jane Does.” The “northern site” lawsuit involves “Area A,” which is much less accessible, aside from a view looking downslope from the 35th SW street end, which is where we took this photo Tuesday afternoon:

(We haven’t found a photo with a March view from that spot.) Here’s the graphic from the lawsuit documentation, showing where Areas A and C are:

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Meantime, we are watching court files to see what tentative scheduling will be set for these cases to proceed in court.

ADDED THURSDAY AFTERNOON: We did obtain the case numbers for the lawsuits today, and the online files verify that for starters, as with most if not all civil cases, these have tentative trial dates that are a year away. Along the way, however, motions and hearings pop up, and that’s what we’ll be watching for.

UPDATE: Lawsuits filed in illegal West Seattle tree-cutting; criminal prosecution still possible, City Attorney says

(UPDATED 4:45 PM with comment from lawyer for two of the people the city is suing)

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(April WSB photo – south end of area where trees were cut)

12:04 PM: Last week, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold told the 34th District Democrats that she’d learned the City Attorney’s Office would have something to say this week about last winter’s illegal tree-cutting in West Seattle’s Duwamish Head Greenbelt.

Here it is:

The Seattle Times just broke the news that the city has filed lawsuits “seeking more than $1.6 million in combined damages and fines.”

We’re following up with the City Attorney’s Office and checking court files.

12:15 PM: We’ve obtained City Attorney Pete Holmes‘s statement from his office:

City Attorney Pete Holmes: “Earlier this year, the City learned of unpermitted improper tree cutting on City property in West Seattle near the 3200 block of 35th Ave. SW. Today, the City filed two lawsuits, naming people the City believes were involved in the tree cutting. The property is in an environmentally critical area on a steep slope. Approximately 150 trees of varying sizes, including many big-leaf maples and Scouler’s willows, were felled.

“My office has been involved in the City’s response. We launched an investigation to assess the extent of damage and identify the responsible parties. To that end, we retained a consulting arborist to assess the damage and prepare a comprehensive restoration plan.

“No one has yet come forward to give the City the full story of what happened despite SPD’s best efforts and extensive investigation. However, we are satisfied that we now know enough to proceed with civil lawsuits. We expect to learn that additional people, beyond those named in the lawsuits, were involved with the cutting as the suits progress. Between the lawsuits, the City seeks over $1.6 million in damages and fines. The City seeks relief on several grounds, including timber trespass, damage to land, trespass, negligence, environmentally critical areas violations, violations of the parks code and violations of the city’s tree and vegetation management in public places code.

“On its damages theories, the City generally alleges that the defendants and/or their agents cut down trees on City property without permission when they should have known better. The extensive tree cutting damaged the trees and the underlying land. On its code violation theories, because the cutting took place on City property and some occurred in City right of way, the cutters or their employers were required to obtain a number of permits before they cut any trees. No permits were issued to authorize the cutting and penalties and fines are therefore appropriate.

“The SPD criminal investigation of this matter is ongoing, and it is possible that SPD will refer this matter to the King County Prosecutor or my office in the future for potential criminal prosecution.”

We also have the court documents and are going through them for additional details. More to come …

12:27 PM: Two suits are filed. The first one, involving “the northern site” (off 35th), names Stanley Harrelson and Mary Harrelson, who are residents next to one of the cut zones, and Martin Riemer and Karrie Riemer, who live across the street to the east from the Harrelsons. That suit also names Forrest Bishop and John Russo, who the city alleges “were hired by the Harrelsons and Riemers to cut trees on city property located adjacent and/or across from (theirs).” The same suit also names “Defendants John and Jane Does 1-10 (who) may have retained Bishop, Russo, or others to cut trees on (two city parcels) or may themselves have cut trees on those parcels.”

(added) This suit alleges that “55 trees 6 inches in caliper or greater were cut down on the Parcels in Exhibit 1 Area A (which) are located in an environmentally critical area that contains steep slopes and landslide-prone areas. None of Defendants sought permission from any City department to cut trees on the Parcels. The cutting of trees increased the likelihood of landslides on the Parcels, and thereby damaged the land itself.” It alleges six “causes of action”:

*Timber trespass
*Damage to land
*Trespass
*Negligence
*Violations of the Environmentally Critical Areas Code
*Unauthorized use of park property

The damages sought in this suit are listed as:

… a principal judgment against Defendants, jointly and severally, including treble damages of $678,180 on the City’s timber trespass claim or in such other amount as may be proven at trial; penalties in the amount of $275,000 for cutting down 55 trees of six inches or more in diameter and an additional $500 for each tree cut …

… as well as other costs including legal fees and “enforcement costs.”

The suit involving “the southern site” (off City View) names Kostas Kyrimis and Linda Kyrimis, as well as “defendants Jane and John Does 1-14 (who) resided at and owned property within a two-block radius of the intersection of 35th Ave SW and SW Hinds Street and had views that were previously impaired by trees … (and) Defendants Jane and John Does 15-20 (who) were hired by the Kyrimises and/or Jane and John Does 1-14 to cut trees on property owned by the City …”

(added) This suit alleges that “72 trees over 6 inches in caliper” were cut in the area involved and makes the same allegations as the other suit, that no permission was sought, and that damage included the increased likelihood of landslides on the steep slopes.

Along with the same six “causes” as the northern-area lawsuit (listed above), this one adds a seventh:

*Tree and vegetation management in public places

And the damages sought in this suit, along with various costs such as enforcement and attorneys’ fees:

… A principal judgment against Defendants, jointly and severally, including treble damages of $362,760 on the City’s timber trespass claim or in such other amount as may be proven at trial; penalties in the amount of $360,000 for cutting down 72 trees over six inches in caliper and an additional $500 for each tree cut pursuant to SMC 25.09.460.A; land restoration costs …

We’ll add any comment we get from those targeted in these two lawsuits.

1:32 PM: Councilmember Herbold’s statement:

“I thank the City Attorney’s Office for filing two civil lawsuits this morning to address the illegal cutting of 150 trees in West Seattle earlier this year. I appreciate the use of a full range of the legal remedies available for civil suits, including timber trespass, which allows for 3x damages.

“The $1.6 million total in damages and fines sought by the City speaks to the seriousness of the claims. The damages and penalties must be significant enough to deter this kind of activity in the future, so that those with financial means don’t see unauthorized tree cutting as a cost-effective way to increase their views and property values.

“These trees played an important role in maintaining soil stability in an environmentally critical area, and lessened the risk of landslides onto a major arterial, SW Admiral Way. They also helped maintain air quality by absorbing carbon—an important issue in West Seattle, which sits adjacent to SODO and the Duwamish industrial area.

“I understand the Seattle Police Department’s criminal investigation is ongoing. My hope is that the Department will eventually be able to establish probable cause for pursuing criminal charges. However, I appreciate the difficulty they face, given that persons believed to be involved are declining to cooperate with investigators, and the legal standard needed to establish probable cause for criminal charges and to prove those charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

ADDED 4:45 PM: Just received a statement from Clayton Graham, lawyer for two of the people the city is suing:

We are disappointed by the City Attorney’s decision to file the lawsuit today. Our clients, Stan and Mary Harrelson, deeply regret the tree cutting which happened next to their property. At no point did our clients request, or condone, the extent of the work that was done by the contractor.

The Harrelsons have acknowledged their role in this mistake but the City has been non-responsive to our attempts to reach a settlement in this matter. We believe the damages sought in the suit are excessive, given our clients’ limited role in the cutting that took place. While the lawsuit claims that none of the homeowners has come forward with the full story, our clients have fully cooperated with the City’s efforts since they, themselves, disclosed this work to the City early this year, and hired a former City of Seattle arborist to develop a restoration plan. The Harrelsons remain ready and willing to work with the City to remedy this matter.

We had published a statement from Graham in this March 28th story on behalf of his then-unidentified clients, saying they and also-then-unidentified neighbors had “hired a landscaping business to top and prune some trees to improve the view from their respective residences” and that his clients had come back from a trip to find out the landscapers had gone beyond their mandate.

COUNTDOWN: Recycle Roundup this Sunday @ Fauntleroy Church

Thanks to Judy Pickens for the file photo and reminder: You have five days to get your recyclables ready to drop off at Fauntleroy Church:

The fall Recycle Roundup at Fauntleroy Church is this coming Sunday, September 25, 9 am to 3 pm in the church parking lot (9140 California SW). The list of what you can bring for responsible recycling (and what not) is here. Plan to avoid coming at the last hour, else you may have to wait several minutes for the crew from 1 Green Planet to unload your recyclables. The twice-yearly event is free but the church’s Green Committee won’t turn down a donation.

Last spring’s RR brought in 11.5 tons of recyclables.

Not comfortable with composting? West Seattleite’s {POST}MODERN now available

postmodern
(Photo courtesy {POST}MODERN)

Still struggling to be successful at the messy business of food-waste composting? Lots of different ways to make it work – and now, West Seattleite Glenn Geisendorfer has something you might want to try. After a few years in development, he and collaborator Gabe Goldman are going wide with their compostable compost bin. {POST}MODERN is on the shelf at West Seattle Thriftway (WSB sponsor). Geisendorfer says it’s “molded out of pulp made from recycled cardboard boxes, and designed with a vacuum-like seal to be extremely moisture- and odor-resistant.” The starter kit ($9.99) is a three-pack with an under-sink hanger, and you can buy refills (5 for $11.99). Once it’s full, just put the entire bin into your yard-waste container, or your backyard compost pile if you are a DIY composter. Provided what you put in isn’t too wet, you should be able to use it 4 or 5 times before composting it. Here’s the {POST}MODERN backstory; Geisendorfer is also partner in the West Seattle-headquartered design agency Platform.

ALSO TONIGHT: Community meeting for proposed Seattle City Light facility along Duwamish River

hamm-creek-scl-parcel
(Planned site of Technical Training Center)

Along with what we’ve already previewed, here’s one more event for tonight. While it is happening in South Park, Duwamish River advocates tell us this event is potentially of interest to everyone concerned about the river and its watershed. It’s a Seattle City Light community meeting tonight to talk about its planned Technical Training Center. The center, with classrooms and an outdoor training yard, would be on Hamm Creek, on the north side of SCL’s Duwamish Substation. The plan would include “wetland mitigation … with approximately 4 acres of habitats similar to historic conditions on the Lower Duwamish River,” as well as a walking trail. Tonight’s meeting is scheduled for 6:15-7:45 pm at the South Park Community Center (8319 8th Avenue S.).

If you can’t get to the meeting but are interested in commenting on the plan, SCL is taking comments through next Tuesday (September 20th) as part of its State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)-related review. Those comments can be sent to Margaret Duncan, SEPA Coordinator, at margaret.duncan@seattle.gov or by postal mail at 700 5th Avenue, Suite 3200, Seattle 98104.

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