Friday, September 30, 2005

State Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, Pushes For Completion of the Columbia Basin Project

The Seattle Times: Opinion

"The Columbia Basin's economy would be devastated without water. About 35,000 acres of potatoes are grown in the Odessa sub-area, and the crop's annual economic impact is nearly $630 million and about 3,600 jobs. Most of these jobs are found in rural towns like Moses Lake and Othello. Without irrigation, the potato industry there and its jobs would vanish. This water crisis also would hurt the state's tax revenue situation, since agriculture there is a major revenue producer. Furthermore, jobs will be lost in Western Washington, since millions of dollars in crops that are grown in the Odessa aquifer area are exported through the ports in Seattle and Tacoma to Southeast Asia and Latin America. Short-term solutions have emerged, but a long-term fix must be found and implemented before the aquifer is depleted. The logical solution to stop the aquifer's depletion is to begin completion of the Columbia Basin Project so surface water could be substituted for the groundwater on which many irrigators and communities above the Odessa aquifer now rely. A resource-exchange solution would reduce groundwater pumping dramatically and allow the aquifer to recharge over time, while also protecting the economy of Adams, Franklin, Grant and Lincoln counties. This is not about requesting new water rights. In fact, the Odessa aquifer's water users are part of the Columbia Basin Project's water right — one of the state's oldest water rights — and it's actually referred to in state statute."

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Lewis County GMA Case to be Heard by Washington Supreme Court

"The state Supreme Court will soon decide on an appeal by Lewis County whether the state Growth Management Act dictates how much land the county must zone for agriculture, or whether the county has leeway to decide that based on the reality of local agricultural trends and whether the land is profitable for farming. The appeal to the higher court by the county occurred after Lewis County Superior Court Judge H. John Hall sided with the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board in its ruling that the county in its comprehensive growth management plan hadn't designated nearly enough land with long-term commercial significance for agricultural use. The hearings board's ruling was in response to an appeal of the county's agricultural zoning by a small local group that wants to more than double the amount of land the county zoned. The group dismisses the fact that some of the land they want in the zone has not been commercially farmed for years because it is, at best, economically marginal for that purpose. In a brief filed with the Supreme Court, Chehalis attorney Lewis Zieske, representing the group, argued the county based its agricultural zoning on industry needs and not on suitable soils. In fact, the county based its zoning of about 43,000 acres (compared to the more than 100,000 acres the group wants) for agriculture based primarily on the recommendation of a technical advisory panel consisting of experts on the agricultural industry in the county. The recommendation was based on economic realities in the industry, including factors such as the availability of irrigation, apart from just what are designated as productive soils."

November 10, 2005, oral argument in Lewis County v. Western WA Growth Mgmt. Hearings Board, et al. available at

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Amazonian Ants Use Own Herbicide to Poison Unwanted Plants

Science & Technology at Scientific

"A species of ants in the Amazon rainforest controls its environment by selectively killing off plants it doesn't like, a new study reveals. Findings published ... in the journal Nature, indicate that a formic acid herbicide produced and used by ants is responsible for single-species swatches of trees."

Protein Construction May Be Governed by Simple Rules

HHMI News:

"'The studies indicate that the number of crucial interactions in a protein may be smaller than previously thought - a boon for those who want to design novel proteins from scratch to fulfill a specific function,' writes Jeffery Kelley of the Scripps Research Institute ... 'The design of artificial sequences having the capacity to fold into stable proteins with desired functions has been the holy grail of protein engineering for many years,' write Robert Smock and Lila Gierasch of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in a perspective in the September 23, 2005, issue of the journal Cell. 'From a protein engineering standpoint, the approach has great promise.' Ranganathan did not set out to build artificial proteins. He is interested in learning how nature designs proteins naturally through the evolutionary process of random variation and selection. But rebuilding a protein was the best way to assess a remarkably simple evolutionary hypothesis he discovered in genome databases. "

Monday, September 26, 2005

Voyager 1: Messages from the Edge

SpaceRef - Your Space Reference

"NASA's Voyager 1 has passed into the border region at the edge of the solar system and now is sending back information about this never-before-explored area, say scientists at the University of Maryland."

Washingtonians Claim Canadians Are Taking Too Many US-born Salmon

LES BLUMENTHAL; The News Tribune

"Even as the federal government spends more than a half-billion dollars a year to restore Pacific Northwest salmon runs, new DNA samples show nearly 90 percent of chinook caught by Canadian fishermen off the west coast of Vancouver Island come from the United States. And most of the fish caught by Canadian trollers are endangered salmon from Puget Sound and the Columbia River Basin, according to a coalition of utilities and sport-fishing groups threatening to sue unless the Pacific Salmon Treaty between Canada and the U.S. is renegotiated."

Friday, September 23, 2005

Makah whalers observe Russians on hunt :

"Makah whalers witnessed the killing of three gray whales during a hunt this month off the far eastern Russian region of Chukotka. Two tribal members and Nathan Pamplin, tribal marine mammal biologist, joined the expedition in the North Pacific Ocean as observers. ``We were observing their hunt,'' Ben Johnson Jr., Makah tribal chairman, said Thursday, ``seeing how they did their whaling.''"

Rewrite of Endangered Species Law Approved

By Juliet Eilperin Washington Post Staff Writer

Setting the stage for the most sweeping restructuring of endangered species protections in three decades, the House Resources Committee yesterday approved legislation that would strengthen the hand of private property owners and make it harder for federal officials to set aside large swaths of habitat for imperiled plants and animals. Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.), who has sought to revamp the Endangered Species Act for more than a decade, said the bill would make the landmark 32-year-old law more effective. Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) won a 26 to 12 vote for passage. "The whole underlying premise of what we're trying to do is recover species," Pombo said, adding that his measure would ensure "individual property owners are not forced to shoulder the financial burden of conserving endangered species for all Americans."
HT to Hugh Hewitt

Study points to molecular origin of neurodegenerative disorders, including Huntington's disease

UNC School of Medicine

New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine points to the possible molecular origin of at least nine human diseases of nervous system degeneration. The findings are currently in PLoS Computational Biology, an open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science (PloS) in partnership with the International Society for Computational Biology.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Contentious Meeting Concerning Water Resource Area 17 in E. Jefferson & Clallam Counties

The Port Townsend Leader OnLine

There was a lot of applause at the Sept. 20 presentation on proposed new water rules, but it wasn't for the Washington Department of Ecology. DOE staff members were continually peppered with questions and challenges during meeting at Fort Worden State Park attended by more than 100 people, most of who were visibly frustrated. Tuesday night's meeting was an informal presentation on Water Resource Area 17 (WRIA 17), which includes East Jefferson County and part of Clallam County. The rules don't affect existing water rights, but they do limit the availability of water for those seeking water rights in the future. Dave Nazy, a DOE hydrogeologist, tried to give an overview of how the agency has analyzed the amount of groundwater and surface water available. People were as upset with DOE's underlying data methodology as with its recommended policies.

Monday, September 19, 2005

"I stood by my oath"

James S. Robbins on Ted Rubin & Congressional Medal of Honor on National Review Online:

Ted found himself in the Pukchin POW camp, also known as 'Death Valley,' and later at Pyoktong, along with hundreds of Americans, Turks, and others. The camps were at first run by the North Koreans, then by the Chinese, whom Ted said treated them slightly better. Nevertheless, life was nightmarish for the prisoners. They were cold and hungry, and disease was rampant. 'Healthy men became like babies, helpless,' Ted said. 'Everything was stink, death, it was terrible, terrible.' Thirty to forty a day were dying. 'It was hardest on the Americans who were not used to this,' Ted said. 'But I had a heck of a basic training from the Germans.'"

Reportage on Makah Whaling

In Petition to Government, Tribe Hopes for Return to Whaling Past:
Arnie Hunter, vice president of the Makah Whaling Commission, who was on one of the motorboats during the 1999 hunt, was 59 when the tribe killed the whale. He tasted whale meat for the first time and said he liked the pungent flavor. "My mother said she never thought she'd see a whale hunt in her lifetime," he said outside the shed where the canoes are stored. "And I never thought I'd see a whale hunt in my lifetime. Everybody was joyously crying; we never thought it would happen."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Former Governors Comment on GMA Local
"The contentious Growth Management Act was adopted in 1990, while Gardner was governor. He defended it as a more effective method of determining land use than the act's predecessor, the Shoreline Management Act, but suggested that it be revisited and updated. The other men concurred. 'Like any important complex legislation, you always need to look back at it,' Lowry said. It does appear to be an ongoing process, Spellman said. 'Maybe the act isn't as bad as the application of the act,' he said. "

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Diane Tebelius Blogging the Afghan Elections

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Small Cities in Lewis County Approve Growth Mnagement Plans
"The cities of Winlock and Napavine have taken bold, visionary initiatives to expand growth to ensure their survival and at the same time provide jobs so young people aren’t compelled to move elsewhere or commute long distances to work. On Monday, the Winlock City Council officially approved a growth plan to more than double the city’s size and population during the next 20 years. The council voted unanimously to enlarge the city’s urban growth area (UGA) from the current 934 acres to 2,030 acres, which would accommodate up to about 4,500 people compared to the current population of 1,400. Meanwhile, the Napavine City Council on Aug. 23 approved expanding its UGA by 630 acres to accommodate up to about 3,060 people, also more than double the current population of that city."

Can this erosion control method work?

The Telegraph - Calcutta : Northeast: "Borthakur's technique involves building ridges at 30 degree angles on the riverbed, using sandbags and bamboo, in erosion-prone areas. The dyke thus created regulates the flow of the underwater current and checks erosion. It also helps the river erode its bed rather than the banks and thus makes the river deeper."

The Engineering of Biology

Refactoring bacteriophage T7 : Molecular Systems Biology "Our work with T7 suggests that the genomes encoding other natural, evolved biological systems could be redesigned and built anew in support of scientific discovery or human intention. For systems beyond model laboratory organisms, pursuing such work will require the widespread societal acceptance of responsibility for the direct manipulation of genetic information."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Growth Management Act Coming to Seattle "Building, expanding or replacing a house along Seattle's waterfront is about to get more expensive -- but the extra work will help struggling salmon runs, say city officials advocating the changes."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

SpaceX Announces the Falcon 9 Fully Reusable Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle

SpaceRef - Your Space Reference "El Segundo, CA ・September 8, 2005 ・SpaceX today announced its new launch vehicle, the Falcon 9, an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) class vehicle. With up to a 17 ft (5.2 m) diameter fairing, Falcon 9 is capable of launching approximately 21,000 lbs (9,500 kg) to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in its medium configuration and 55,000 lbs (25,000 kg) to LEO in its heavy configuration, a lift capacity greater than any other launch vehicle. In the medium configuration, Falcon 9 is priced at $27 million per flight with a 12 ft (3.6 m) fairing and $35 million with a 17 ft fairing. Prices include all launch range and third party insurance costs, making Falcon 9 the most cost efficient vehicle in its class worldwide." The vehicle can also be used to launch paylods into higher orbits.

Log Barge Caught "A tugboat Friday attached a line to a log barge that had been drifting off Cape Flattery, the U.S. Coast Guard said. Lt. Christine Fern in Seattle said the tug and barge were headed to Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island. There was no fuel leak or damage. The barge drifted to within five miles of land after it separated from a tug early Friday in high winds and heavy seas. "

Friday, September 09, 2005

Log barge adrift off Cape Flattery

Seattle Post-Intelligencer "An oil spill adviser for the Makah Tribe, Chad Bowechop, said he was notified by the Coast Guard about 1 a.m. that the barge had separated from its tug. The barge carried no logs but has a crane on board with as much as 3,000 gallons of fuel and hydraulic fluid."

Tri-City Herald's Opinion of the Columbia River Task Force

Tri-City Herald: Opinions: "Incoming Ecology Director Jay Manning and Gov. Christine Gregoire have been clear about their reluctance to adopt Locke's baby in its entirety. It's hard to blame them, since support was fragile and the opposition heated. Besides, neither had invested any political or psychic capital into the Columbia River Initiative. Gregoire's formation of the Columbia River Task Force, which is working to reach a consensus that's broad enough to survive the political vagaries in Olympia, isn't necessarily a bad move. It was especially encouraging earlier this year to hear the new administration expressing interest in retaining some of the most promising pieces of Locke's plan. The initiative's aim -- to leave enough water in the Columbia River system to help federally protected fish and meet the needs of farmers and communities -- will have to be the foundation of any future compromise. Even then, Gregoire and Manning are guaranteed to take some flack. They might as well get used to it. "

Saturn's Moon Enceladus a Highlight of Cassini Mission

Tiny Enceladus May Hold Ingredients of Life | SpaceRef - Your Space Reference: "'So you've got subsurface liquid water, simple organics and water vapor welling up from below. Over time -- and Enceladus has been around 4.5 billion years, just like Earth and the rest of the solar system -- heating a cocktail of simple organics, water and nitrogen could form some of the most basic building blocks of life,' Brown said. 'Whether that's happened at Enceladus is not clear, but Enceladus, much like Jupiter's moon Europa and the planet Mars, now has to be a place where we eventually search for life.' "