Monday, January 22, 2007

Small Lots Platted Long Ago Pose Big Problem to Growth Management Act: Updated

As reported by Christopher Dunagan of the, "State agencies will not adopt health regulations to artificially control growth in rural areas, according to Jim Bolger of the Kitsap County Department of Community Development."

The problem arose when a developer cobbled together many small lots, platted before the Growth Management Act, and, proposing to use new, high-tech septic systems that do away with leach fields, found a way to put 78 homes on 12 acres in an area now zoned for one house per five acres. But since the small lots were platted before the zoning, they are presumably grandfathered in. Big problem for low-growth supporters, neighbors, and traffic. There are many such small lots in Kitsap County (on the west side of Puget Sound), but previously the need for leach fields and traditional septic systems made them unbuildable. The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners has slapped on a moratorium, and scheduled a public hearing on the matter for February 12th in Port Orchard.

Opponents of these type of developments had hoped the state agencies would forbid the use of such systems in rural areas. Apparently not. Will the legislature act? If so, will its action survive a regulatory-takings challenge?

But is the right to develop these lots really vested? Not so clear, not so clear.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Updated: TransAlta Abandons Plans for Centralia Coal Mine

A correction is in order. The Pit 7 Project that is being scaled back is a distinct project from the West Field project referred to in the SeattlePI article. Jonathan Smith of the ACE clarified the issue for me. The West Field is a separate project proposal that TransAlta is still considering. According to Mr. Smith: "The former Pit 7 project permit application has been revised, and now entails adding two railroad sidings along side the existing rail spur by which the Powder River Basin coal is and will continue to be delivered to the Centralia powerplant."

Original, uncorrected post: In an apparent reversal of its previously announced plans to open a new pit at its Centralia mine, TransAlta has significantly scaled back its operations, according to an announcement in the 1/18/07 Federal Register

"SUMMARY: The permit applicant, TransAlta Centralia Mining LLC (TCM) has greatly reduced the scope of its proposed coal mining project at Centralia, Washington. Therefore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is withdrawing its Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Jonathan Smith at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle Regulatory Branch, 4735 E. Marginal Way South, Seattle, Washington 98134, (206) 764-6910, or e-mail Mr. Mark Cline, at the Washington Department of Ecology, 300 Desmond Drive, SE., Lacey, Washington 98503, or e-mail

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Corps and Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) published a notice of intent in the April 7, 2006, issue of the Federal Register (71 FR 17840) to prepare an EIS on TCM's proposed Pit 7 Mining Project. Since that time, TCM's proposed project has evolved from a coal mining project, affecting over 100 acres of wetlands and streams, to a railroad upgrade project for importing coal from existing, already permitted mines in Montana and Wyoming. This modified proposal appears likely to affect less than three acres of wetlands. Therefore, the Corps and Ecology plan to conduct an environmental assessment of the proposed rail upgrade project during the first half of year 2007. An EIS would be prepared only if results of the environmental assessment indicate potentially significant, adverse environmental impacts."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dead Animals and Other Doings at Hanford

Under an AP byline, the Tri-City Herald reports that
"Some compaction records for the low-level radioactive waste dump at the Hanford nuclear reservation have been found to be bogus, officials said, raising questions about the risk of future pollution. Patrick L. Pettiette, president of the Washington Closure Hanford LLC, said the contractor was told that falsified records were found Friday in a routine audit by S.M. Stoller Corp. of Broomfield, Colo., the subcontractor for operation of the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility. "This has everyone's attention," Pettiette told the Tri-City Herald. "All the focus is on getting to the bottom of it."
Who is Washington Closure Hanford? Quoting its website:
"The U.S. Department of Energy selected Washington Closure Hanford (WCH) on March 23, 2005, to manage the River Corridor Closure Project at the 586-square-mile Hanford Site in southeastern Washington state. Washington Closure Hanford is a limited liability company owned by Washington Group International, Bechtel National and CH2M HILL. WCH has the single purpose of safely cleaning up and closing the Hanford river corridor."
Oh, the dead animals? In an article by the indefatigable Annette Cary of the Tri-City Herald, and published in the SeattlePI, we find out that
Hanford workers have removed 40,000 tons of carcasses, manure and other waste from burial trenches at the former experimental animal farms at Hanford. That included a railroad tanker car packed with animal carcasses, then buried, said Mark Buckmaster, Washington Closure Hanford remediation manager, during a presentation to a Hanford Advisory Board committee last week.
Read the whole article to find out about the alligators.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Ecology Director Hints at Change in Washington's Prior Appropriation Doctrine

According to an article by Andy Porter of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, a change in Washington's prior appropriation doctrine concerning relinquishment may be in the offing.
Manning said if local efforts continue to work, it could lead to a relaxation of the rules that say a water right holder may be forced to relinquish a right if the water isn't fully used. But, Manning warned, ``if we're going to solve the relinquishment issue, we've got to solve the in-stream flow issues.'' The problem is also not something Manning himself can change, Ecology spokeswoman Joye Redfield said today. ``The relinquishment law is a law and it has to be changed through the Legislature,'' she said.
However, given the proven ability of Gov. Gregoire and Director Manning to work with the legislature, this is a matter that bears watching. The issue came up last session during the negotiations that led to the Columbia River Water Management Act, but was sidestepped as a probably deal killer.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ecology to Post Water Right Decisions Online

Almost missed this one, announced January 2d --
"Beginning January 01, 2007, Ecology's Water Resources Program will begin posting its draft and final water right decisions. Ecology will be providing the public with an opportunity to view and comment on draft Water Right and Water Right Change Reports of Examination, and to view the final Water Right and Water Right Change Reports of Examination.

Draft reports of examination relating to applications for permits to appropriate surface water or ground water, for reservoir permits, or for changes of surface water or ground water rights will be posted to Ecology's internet site. Applications for seasonal changes to water rights and temporary and preliminary permits will generally not be posted for comment prior to a final decision.

Final reports of examination will be normally posted within 10 working days of signature by the section manager.

Water Right and Water Right Change Reports of Examination - View Draft and Final Reports of Examination as they are made available

Water Right Administration Policy POL-1005 Internet Posting of Reports of Examination - View the Policy

For future reference there are links to the ROE page on the:

Water Resources homepage - and on the Water Rights homepage -"

Notice of Meeting of Hanford Advisory Board

FR Doc E7-87: "[Federal Register: January 9, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 5)] [Notices] [Page 964] From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [] [DOCID:fr09ja07-42]

----------------------------------------------------------------------- DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Hanford

AGENCY: Department of Energy.

ACTION: Notice of open meeting.


SUMMARY: This notice announces a meeting of the Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board (EM SSAB), Hanford. The Federal Advisory Committee Act (Pub. L. 92-463, 86 Stat. 770) requires that public notice of this meeting be announced in the Federal Register.

DATES: Thursday, February 1, 2007, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday, February 2, 2007, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

ADDRESSES: Red Lion Hanford House, 802 George Washington Way,Richland, Washington.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Erik Olds, Federal Coordinator, Department of Energy Richland Operations Office, 2440 Stevens Drive, P.O. Box 450, H6-60, Richland, WA 99352; Phone: (509) 376-8656; Fax: (509) 376-1214.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Purpose of the Board: The purpose of the Board is to make recommendations to DOE in the areas of environmental restoration, waste management, and related activities.

Tentative Agenda

Columbia River Toxic Program

Budgets and Contracts Committee advice on Hanford's Request for Proposals

Public Involvement and Tank Waste Committees update from the workgroup covering the Tank Closure and Waste Management

Hanford Advisory Board Charter Changes

Change of Advisory Board Chair

Advice from the Health, Safety and Environmental Protection Committee on worker compensation

Advice from the Public Involvement Committee on the 2009 budget involvement process

Agency Updates

Committee Updates

Public Participation: The meeting is open to the public. Written statements may be filed with the Board either before or after the meeting. Individuals who wish to make oral statements pertaining to agenda items should contact Erik Olds' office at the address or telephone number listed above. Requests must be received five days prior to the meeting and reasonable provision will be made to include the presentation in the agenda. The Deputy Designated Federal Officer is empowered to conduct the meeting in a fashion that will facilitate the orderly conduct of business. Individuals wishing to make public comment will be provided a maximum of five minutes to present their comments.

Minutes: The minutes of this meeting will be available for public review and copying at the U.S. Department of Energy's Freedom of Information Public Reading Room, 1E-190, Forrestal Building, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20585 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday-Friday, except Federal holidays. Minutes will also be available by writing to Erik Olds' office at the address or telephone number listed above.

Issued at Washington, DC, on January 4, 2007. Rachel M. Samuel, Deputy Advisory Committee Management Officer. [FR Doc. E7-87 Filed 1-8-07; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450-01-P

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Scoping the Yakima Project for New Storage Opportunities

"The Bureau of Reclamation and the Washington Department of Ecology will host two open houses and public scoping meetings in Yakima, Washington on the Yakima River Basin Water Storage Feasibility Study. The two scoping meetings will be preceded by informal open houses and will be held at the Yakima Convention Center, 10 North 8th Street, on January 23, 2007. Open Houses: 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.; and 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Scoping Meetings: 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.; and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. In addition to comments received at the scoping meeting, written comments will be accepted through January 31, 2007, and may be sent to: Bureau of Reclamation, attn: David Kaumheimer, 1917 Marsh Road, Yakima WA 98901-2058, or fax: (509) 454-5650. The meeting facilities are physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation for the hearing impaired should be submitted to David Kaumheimer at (509) 575-5848, extension 232, by January 8, 2007."

More information is available at the Bureau's website. The Yakima Project, begun in earnest in the first decade of the last century, supplies irrigation water to 464,000 acres in south central Washington. This latest proposal for development is controversial due to the congressionally-mandated emphasis on the Black Rock dam.

The Storage Study was authorized by Congress in 2003. In accordance with the authorization, the initial emphasis of the study is to accumulate data and information on the Black Rock option. Concentrating initial efforts on this option will provide data and information comparable to the level of data of the other options. Two considerations will be studied and evaluated in the Storage Study:

1. diversion of Columbia River water to the proposed Black Rock project to be used as an "exchange supply" for irrigation entities in the lower Yakima basin, and

2. creation of additional storage within the Yakima River basin.

The study area is in south-central Washington. The Yakima basin covers about 6,100 square miles, including Kittitas County and portions of Yakima, Benton, and Klickitat Counties. When the feasibility investigation of importing Columbia River water to the Yakima Project users is considered, the Columbia River will be included in the location.

The Yakima basin is a major agricultural area of national significance. Quoting from the Bureau's Project webpage:

The record of crop production on the Yakima Project is outstanding. Nearly one-half million acres of sage-covered lands have been transformed into one of the richest agricultural areas in the Nation. Yakima County ranks first among all counties of the United States in the production of apples, mint, and hops. Principal crops are fruit, vegetables, forage, hops, and mint.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The (Big) Business of Wind Farms

Don Jenkins of the Longview Daily News reports on the development of a 204 megawatt wind farm in Klickitat County. Planned by local PUDs and power cooperatives, the farm will be owned by an investment group formed by Prudential Insurance and Lehman Brothers. Quoting Mr. Jenkins:
"The investors aren't interested in wind turbines, but they are interested in federal tax deductions available to private investors in environmentally friendly wind farms, said Alan Dashen, a financial consultant hired by the PUD to arrange the deal.[snip]

In a deal expected to close this week, investors will pay $173.5 million for the wind farm. The utilities will advance $187.7 million for 10 years' worth of power."

The deal also allows the utilities to meet the demands of the recently passed Initiative 937, which requires larger utilities in the state to meet certain targets for use of renewable energy resources.

Will "transfer of development rights" be the vehicle of compromise for foes and friends of Washington's land-use regulations?

In an interesting article by Eric Pryne in the Seattle Times, one possible avenue of compromise between the friends and foes of recently defeated land-rights initiative I-933 is discussed -- TDRs, that is transferable development rights. Quoting the article:
Here's how TDR programs work: Governments establish "sending sites" — lands they want to protect — and "receiving sites" — lands where development is encouraged. If they choose, owners of sending sites can then sell some or all of their legal right to develop their property to owners of receiving sites, who in turn can use that acquired right to develop their property more densely than zoning otherwise allows. Everything is voluntary.

The article quotes rural property interests as thinking this sort of approach doesn't go far enough to lessen the regulatory burden. But the effort to find some sort of compromise is afoot. Gov. Gregoire has tasked the William D. Ruckelshaus Center to convene the various interest groups to explore possible avenues of compromise. And Mr. Ruckelshaus can be a very persuasive gentleman. The Center is to report back to the governor by October.