Friday, July 28, 2006

Possible Settlement in Native Americans' BIG Lawsuit Against the Feds For A Trust Fund Accounting?

Yakima Herald Republic Online
"Finally, a breakthrough may be at hand in the one of the federal government's longest-running embarrassments -- a lawsuit filed in 1996 by the Native American Rights Fund, demanding an accounting for more than a century's worth of federal mismanagement of tribal trust funds. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that American Indians suing the government over billions of dollars in lost royalties say they are contemplating an offer by some members of Congress to resolve their lawsuit for $8 billion. That would be considerably lower than the $27.5 billion plaintiffs offered to settle for a year ago, and nowhere near the $100 billion they said they were owed in oil, gas, timber, grazing and other royalties from Indian lands dating back to 1887."

"Fish slides add new wrinkle to salmon debate"

"Federal officials changed the debate by creating the fish slides they hope will allow salmon to survive their downstream journey in the river and require less water to be 'spilled' over the dams and lost to power generation. These officials contend the fish slides give them enough improvement in migration that they don't have to breach dams. But state and tribal scientists and salmon advocates remain skeptical that the fish slides can improve river conditions enough to restore viable populations of salmon to Idaho's largely intact spawning habitat in the Salmon River and its tributaries. Even though 12 stocks of salmon are listed as endangered or threatened, Idaho's salmon are the stocks affected primarily by the Snake dams."

Biodiesel Production Facility in Ellensburg Receives Air Permit

"An Ellensburg startup company has received a state permit it needs to proceed with plans for a commercial biodiesel production. Now armed with an air quality permit, Central Washington Biodiesel has begun construction of a production facility at the Ellensburg Business Development Authority's business incubator. The permit, granted last week, is required because the facility would release emissions of methanol, an air pollutant deemed toxic by the state, said Lynnette Haller, an air quality engineer for the Department of Ecology. "

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Toxics in the Columbia? Craig Welch from the Seattle Times gathers some information.

KRT Wire By Craig Welch The Seattle Times
" VANCOUVER, Wash. - First were the crayfish near Bonneville Dam, so loaded with toxins that scientists wondered how they could still be alive. Then researchers learned Columbia River fish were contaminated enough that nearby tribes face dramatically higher risks of disease. Scientists since have found deformed sturgeon, uranium building up in clams near the Hanford, Wash., nuclear reservation, and water in parts of the last stretch of the river as contaminated as Seattle's Duwamish River, a federal Superfund site. Over the past five years, virtually unnoticed amid other issues, scientists have unearthed a wealth of new information detailing the extent of toxic contamination in the Columbia River, enough that the Environmental Protection Agency added the entire 1,200-mile river to a shortlist of major waterways demanding national attention."
More citations to original sources would be useful.

"First public comments on Columbia River plan reveal dissent"

"YAKIMA, Wash. -- When it was signed into law earlier this year, a new management plan for the Columbia River was hailed as a way to begin resolving the long-simmering dispute over water rights and threatened fish in Washington state's vital river system. If 120 pages of public comments are any indication, the sides still have much to settle. Irrigators and municipalities want new water rights by July 1, 2007. Conservation groups want a thorough environmental review of any project that could result in new water rights. And one tribe reserved the right to sue to remedy any disputes arising from the plan."
Read this excellent article for interesting quotes from various stakeholders.

Departments of Ecology and Health Working to Implement the 2003 Municipal Water Law

Water Resources Program - Municipal Water Law
"Implementing the 2003 Municipal Water Law is complex and requires coordination between many groups and agencies, primarily between the state Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water and the Department of Ecology, Water Resources Program. The two agencies are working together on developing implementation guidance. Two documents are currently being developed, Updating the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two Agencies and a 'Review Coordination Document'. (contact Doug Rushton for the current status of these and other documents under development). MOU - the MOU describes how the two agencies (Health and Ecology) will work together in implementing the 2003 Municipal Water Law. A primary reason for the updating of the existing, 2002 MOU is to include recent statutory changes for municipalities and watershed planning. The content of the MOU will be general, with appendices dealing with specific needs, such as the Review Coordination Document described below. Review Coordination Document - This document describes how the two agencies will coordinate review of Water System Plans/Small Water System Management Programs and related water rights administration. "

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Illahee Development Clears One Hurdle, Possibly Faces Another

By Andy Porter of the Union-Bulletin
"A citizens group that sued last year to derail a resort planned near Walla Walla says it intends to drop the action. Citizens for Good Governance also says it will not appeal a state board's ruling upholding changes to Walla Walla County's comprehensive plan. The changes helped pave the way for the project. . . . The project still faces an administrative appeal of Revell's decision not to require builders to prepare an environmental impact statement for the development. Citizens for Good Governance and Walla Walla 2020 have filed appeals of the decision to issue a mitigated determination of nonsignificance for the project. The determination will allow the project to proceed, provided developers take specific measures to address environmental impacts. The appeal will be heard by the Walla Walla County commissioners. A hearing date has not yet been set. If commissioners uphold Revell's decision, an appeal could then be filed in Superior Court. "

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

BLM's Final Rule Amending Grazing Regs in Lower 48

Federal Register July 12
"SUMMARY: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) amends its regulations concerning how BLM administers livestock grazing on public lands. The changes ensure that BLM documents its consideration of the social, cultural, environmental, and economic consequences of grazing changes; provide that changes in grazing use will be phased in under certain circumstances; allow permittees, lessees, and others to share title to range improvements with BLM in certain circumstances; make clear how BLM will authorize grazing if a BLM decision affecting a grazing permit is stayed pending administrative appeal; remove provisions in the present regulations concerning conservation use grazing permits; ensure adequate time for developing and successfully implementing an appropriate management action when BLM finds that rangelands do not meet standards and guidelines for rangeland health and that authorized grazing is a significant factor in not achieving one or more land health standards or not conforming with guidelines for grazing administration; and revise some administrative service charges. We intend these changes to contribute to improving working relationships with permittees and lessees, protecting the health of the rangelands and increasing administrative efficiency and effectiveness. EFFECTIVE DATE: August 11, 2006. ADDRESSES: You may send inquiries or suggestions to Director (220), Bureau of Land Management, Room 204 LS, Eastern States Office, 7450 Boston Boulevard, Springfield, Virginia 22153. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ken Visser, Rangeland Management Specialist, Rangeland, Soils, Water and Air Group, (775) 861–6492, or Ted Hudson (202) 452–5042 of the Regulatory Affairs Group."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Water Storage: 'In Yakima basin, Wymer and Black Rock warrant further study' AP Wire, By SHANNON DININNY
"In addition to the proposed Black Rock reservoir, the federal government plans to study the potential for storing water in another, alternative reservoir to aid both fish and irrigators in the drought-prone Yakima River basin, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says. The proposed Wymer dam would be located about 15 miles north of Yakima in the Lmuma Creek Canyon. The resulting reservoir would extend about 6 miles east on Lmuma Creek and about 2 miles north on Scorpion Coulee Creek. It would hold an estimated 175,000 acre-feet of water and cost about $380 million to build. An acre foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre to a depth of one foot. The federal government decided to study the proposal further after ruling out two other proposals for alleviating water needs in the Yakima Valley, said Jerry Kelso, manager of the Upper Columbia area for the Bureau of Reclamation. The two proposals that were ruled out: enlarging Bumping Lake on White Pass and connecting Keechelus and Kachess lakes on Snoqualmie Pass with a pipeline to expand storage."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fines on Evergreen International Shipping Line used as seed money for environmental projects

The Olympian, By John Dodge
"A total of $1.7 million in fines was awarded to 14 Puget Sound projects. 'These projects will help to reverse the loss of critical habitat on the shorelines and estuaries of Puget Sound,' state Department of Ecology Director Jay Manning said. Manning was joined at the wildlife refuge by John McKay, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, to announce the marine conservation grants, which were matched by another $1.3 million in funding from state and federal agencies, nonprofit groups and private donations. The grants grew out of a criminal case settlement with Evergreen International Shipping Line, which pleaded guilty in April 2005 to 24 felony counts, including concealing the deliberate, illegal discharge of waste oil from several of its ships in marine waters across the country, including Puget Sound and the Columbia River."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Dept of Ecology Revamps Its Hanford Webpages

The Washington Department of Ecology has published two new webpages with information about the Hanford Site cleanup:

The Nuclear Waste Program homepage; and the Hanford page.

From Dept of Ecology: Canadian Firm Answerable for Lake Roosevelt Pollution

"The state of Washington and the Colville Tribes received news of a significant victory today in federal court. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the United States'Superfund law, which governs cleanup of contaminated sites, applies to Teck Cominco, regardless of the fact that the pollution the company poured into Lake Roosevelt originated in Canada. Two members of the Colville Tribe filed the original lawsuit, which the state joined, to force Teck Cominco to investigate and characterize the extent of the contamination in Lake Roosevelt. Cominco argued that the Superfund law does not apply to a Canadian company that discharged hazardous wastes from a Canadian facility. Governor Gregoire said this decision is great news because Tech Cominco will pay for cleanup, rather than the state taxpayers."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Seismic Questions at Hanford Vitrification Plants

Tri-City Herald, By Annette Cary, Herald staff writer
"Drilling has begun on a new earthquake study at Hanford's vitrification plant. It's the third look at how much a severe quake would shake two massive buildings being constructed for separating and treating high-level radioactive waste. 'The Hanford site is one of the most geologically studied areas on the planet next to Yucca Mountain, (Nev.),' said John Eschenberg, project manager for the Department of Energy's Hanford Office of River Protection. The problem is knowing exactly what's under the vitrification plant. To answer that question, DOE is spending an estimated $18 million to $20 million to drill four holes on the 65-acre plant site and study the data collected. "

An End to Coal Mining in Lewis County?

Centralia Chronicle
"Regulatory burden puts firm's future in county in doubt

Concerns about the future of TransAlta (or any other company) to continue to operate the steam-electric plant and associated coal mine near Centralia are unsettling. The concern became reality for 52 miners the company had to let go in mid-June. The layoffs were due in part to delays in obtaining timely permits for mine operation, according to company spokesman Richard DeBolt of Chehalis."

Federal Money for Columbia Basin Storage

Yakima Herald Republic Online - By DAVID LESTER
"A U.S. Senate spending bill allocates $2 million that supporters hope will complete a study of new storage in the Yakima River Basin next year. The funding, included in a Senate appropriations bill, marks the first time money to help find a solution to the basin's water shortage problems has originated in the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill Thursday. The money will finance work during 2007 on a study that has been narrowed to the proposed Black Rock reservoir, 40 miles east of Yakima, and a pump storage reservoir in the Yakima River Canyon that is known as Wymer. "