Friends of the San Juans

Join us – 11/12 Scoping Meeting for Protective Regulations for Killer Whales

by Friends of the San Juans on November 7, 2019 No comments

Join us next week as we speak up for the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW). The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are holding a scoping meeting on Tuesday, November 12th from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Brickworks in Friday Harbor (150 Nichols St.). Click here to see the full pre-publication notice.

This scoping meeting is being held to solicit public comments on whether, based on best available information, existing regulations and other measures adequately protect SRKW from the impacts of vessels and noise in the inland waters of Washington State and, if not, what actions NMFS should take. Click here to see a press release about the process from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Click here to see the Friends of the San Juans comment letter.

You can provide oral and written comments at the scoping meeting, and can also submit comments via email to OrcaRecovery.WCR@noaa.gov using the subject line “Comments on Protective Regulations for Killer Whales Scoping.”

Thank you for speaking up for the protection of the Southern Resident Killer Whales!

Photo above by Mark Gardner.

read more
Friends of the San JuansJoin us – 11/12 Scoping Meeting for Protective Regulations for Killer Whales

Citizen Scientists Needed for Forage Fish Surveys in the San Juans!

by Friends of the San Juans on October 4, 2019 No comments

Friends of the San Juans is seeking citizen scientists to help conduct beach surveys for spawning forage fish over the next two years. There will be a survey training session on October 26 from 9 am – 1 pm with researchers from Friends and Salish Sea Biological at the Old Town of Friday Harbor Fire Station (260 West Street).

Forage fish play a key role in marine food webs, supporting salmon, seabirds and marine mammals. However, additional information is needed on spawning habitats to improve the success of local salmon recovery efforts. We look forward to working with community volunteers to conduct this important survey work.

The training will begin inside and move to Jackson Beach for the field portion of the training. Transportation will be provided to and from Friday Harbor. Pre-registration is required. Click here to register or contact Tina Whitman at tina@sanjuans.org or 360-378-2319.

This free training workshop is hosted by Friends of the San Juans and the San Juan County Marine Resources Committee. Funding is provided by the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

We hope to see you there!

read more
Friends of the San JuansCitizen Scientists Needed for Forage Fish Surveys in the San Juans!

Friends Participates in Second Vacation Rental Community Conversation on Orcas

by Friends of the San Juans on October 3, 2019 No comments

Approximately 150 people attended the second Community Conversation on Vacation Rentals, held at the Orcas High School Cafeteria on Wednesday evening September 25, 2019. Introductions and a review of the agenda and process were presented by Diane Berreth. Yonatan Aldort, the appointed leader of the Vacation Rentals Working Group, delivered an opening comment. Five presentations were offered, including one by our Staff Attorney, Jennifer Barcelos—followed by community conversations and “voting” on goals and future vacation rental regulations. Click here to learn more and access Jennifer’s presentation. 

read more
Friends of the San JuansFriends Participates in Second Vacation Rental Community Conversation on Orcas

Watch our marine plastics education program in action!

by Friends of the San Juans on October 2, 2019 No comments

We enjoyed working with San Juan County students last spring during our marine plastic education and reduction program featured in this video produced by Carl Davis and the San Juan County Marine Resources Committee. Thank you so much to our project funder Keta Legacy Foundation and local artist Brook Meinhardt for helping us bring this important information to young people in our community.

Watch the video here.

read more
Friends of the San JuansWatch our marine plastics education program in action!

Fall Great Islands Clean-up – 9/28!

by Friends of the San Juans on September 12, 2019 No comments

The 2019 Fall Great Island’s Clean-Up (GICU) is coming this Saturday, September 28. This twice a year county wide cleaning event is when residents and visitor’s, individuals, businesses, clubs, school groups, parks and land trusts come together to pick-up litter and marine debris.

Friends of the San Juans helps organize the beach clean-ups for San Juan Island. Please contact Katie katie@sanjuans.org or call 360-378-2319 if you want to be assigned a beach on San Juan Island for this year’s clean-up. 

Friends is also organizing a drop-in beach clean-up at South Beach via Pickett’s Lane from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. if you’d like to join in there.

Pick-up your trash collection equipment on San Juan Island at the central meet location next to Bonnie’s Creative Passions at 635 Spring Street in Friday Harbor from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the 28th. Bags, grabbers, safety vests and gloves will also be available at the San Juan County Public Works office at 915 Spring Street in Friday Harbor this week.

If you would like to be assigned to a road clean-up location on San Juan Island ahead of time, contact Aaron Rock at aaronrock87@gmail.com or 630-947-3194.

There will also be litter clean-ups happening on Orcas, Lopez and Shaw Islands. Visit www.plasticfreesalishsea.org/events for more information

read more
Friends of the San JuansFall Great Islands Clean-up – 9/28!

Action Alert: Comment to Protect Washington’s Waters and Communities from Oil Spills

by Friends of the San Juans on September 6, 2019 No comments

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) is updating WA State’s Oil Spill Contingency Plan (see also Chapter 173-182 WAC) that requires large commercial vessels, oil handling facilities, and pipelines to have detailed oil spill contingency plans for appropriate equipment and trained personnel to respond to spills that may occur. A draft of the updated rule is now available for public comment until October 6, 2019.

This update is required to:

  • Address response requirements for spills of nonfloating oils (oils that can submerge and sink) which include Canadian Tar Sands crude oils (also known as diluted bitumen or dilbit).
    • The Canadian government’s re-approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and its associated increase in tanker traffic through Georgia Strait, Boundary Pass, Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca underscores the urgency of being fully prepared for the increased risk of a spill of nonfloating Canadian Tar Sands crude oils.
  • Enhance planning standards for wildlife response in the event of a spill.
    • This includes requirements for monitoring and deterrence operations to keep whales, including Southern Resident Killer Whales, away from a spill. This is critical as the Southern Resident Killer Whales could become extinct if they suffer the consequences of an oil spill.

Your comments and testimony are needed to ensure that Ecology requires the strongest possible protections from oil spill impacts. 

Click here to see the Friends of the San Juans Comment Letter.

How to Comment:

Comments must be provided in writing or as testimony at the public hearings listed below. The deadline for submitting comments is October 6, 2019 at 11:59 PM.

Written Comments:

Click here to submit written comments by October 6, 2019 through Ecology’s online comment tool.

Public Hearings:

Ecology did not schedule hearings in the communities that are most impacted by the current and projected increased transport of non-floating oils. It would be great if islanders could attend the nearest hearing which is in Everett on Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Click here if you’re interested in carpooling to the Everett hearing.

There are also two hearings the public can attend via webinar: Tuesday, September 24 at 1:00 pm and Thursday September 26 at 6:00 pm. See below for more details.

Date Time Location
Tuesday, September 17 1:00 pm  

Courtyard Seattle-Everett Downtown, 3003 Colby Avenue, Everett

Thursday, September 19 1:00 pm  

Ramada by Wyndham Spokane Airport, 8909 West Airport Dr., Spokane

Tuesday, September 24 1:00 pm Webinar and in-person at:  Hilton Vancouver Washington, 301 W. 6th Street, Vancouver.

Webinar: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/424089589

For audio: 1-646-749-3122 / access code 424089589.

Thursday, September 26 6:00 pm Webinar Only. https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/696815493. For audio: 1-571-317-3122 / access code 696815493

 

More Information and Items to Comment On:

Improving oil spill response time is the most important tactic to limit the impacts of a nonfloating oil spill.

The 2018 Strengthen Oil Transportation Safety Act (E2SSB 6269) gave Ecology the authority and a clear directive to update oil spill contingency plans to specifically address the unique characteristics and risks of nonfloating oils. However, Washington’s oil spill response program has not kept up with the latest science associated with realistically calculating oil spill response effectiveness as well as the growing and changing risks nonfloating oils pose to our region.

Additional equipment and personnel must be prepared to be deployed more quickly to contain and collect the spill of nonfloating oil — before it begins to submerge and sink. Ecology must act now to establish the strongest possible protection from spills of nonfloating oils. This can only occur if Ecology uses a more robust, quantitative and realistic methodology to evaluate oil spill response capabilities.

Ecology’s own Preliminary Regulatory Analyses for this update states (on page 40):

Non-floating oil impacts

Additional coordination and preparedness for dealing with spills of potentially non-floating oils reduce the likelihood that oils will weather and sink before they are addressed. Improved preparedness for potentially sinking oils could have helped reduce damages and ultimate cleanup costs from the Enbridge Kalamazoo spill that cost $1.2 billion to clean up.

Update the table in WAC 173-182-324 (2) to include accelerated timeframes and details on the amounts and types of resources and equipment needed to respond to a worst-case spill of nonfloating oil. The nonfloating Canadian Tar Sands crude oils should be regulated commensurate with their unique risks and spill response challenges. The draft update requires additional but unquantified resources and equipment to detect, contain and collect nonfloating oils to arrive within 6-12 and 12-24 hours. These timeframes are not soon enough and the draft update provides no assurance that the amount and type of resources and equipment will be sufficient to respond to a worst-case spill (as is required by WAC 173-182-030 (48) and see also WAC 173-182-030 (70)(c)).

Current draft update of table in WAC 173-182-324 (2):

Time (hours) Capability
1 Initiate an assessment and consultation regarding the potential for the spilled oil to submerge or sink.
6-12 Resources to detect and delineate the spilled oil such as side scan or multibeam sonar, divers, remotely operated vehicles, or other methods to locate the oil on the bottom or suspended in the water column could have arrived.
Additionally, containment boom, sorbent boom, silt curtains, or other methods for containing the oil that may remain floating on the surface or to reduce spreading on the bottom could have arrived.
12-24 Resources and equipment, such as sampling equipment, necessary to assess the impact of the spilled oil on the environment oil could have arrived.

Dredges, submersible pumps, or other equipment necessary to recover oil from the bottom and shoreline could have arrived.

Additional requirements for respiratory protection as well as air quality monitoring need to be established to protect oil spill responders. There should also be requirements for notifying shoreline residents and businesses and providing public health and safety in the early hours of an oil spill.

Wildlife response operations require additional detail and capacity.

WAC 173-182-540 Planning standards for wildlife response

The draft update only requires two wildlife response personnel to arrive within 12 hours of a spill to conduct wildlife response operations, with an additional 7 personnel to arrive within 48 hours. An unspecified amount and type of deterrent equipment is also required to arrive on scene within 12 hours. It is essential that wildlife response actions are initiated as soon as possible. In particular, deterrence actions that keep wildlife from entering a spill are critical to have underway immediately following a spill.

WAC 173-182-540 (2)(c)(ii)

Southern Resident Killer Whales were listed as Endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, in part, because of concerns about potential oil spill impacts.[1] A report from the National Marine Fisheries Service states, “Their small population size and social structure also puts them at risk for a catastrophic event, such as an oil spill, that could impact the entire population.”[2] Southern Resident Killer Whales are the only killer whales listed as Washington State Endangered Species.

The monitoring and deterrence operations to prevent Southern Resident Killer Whales from encountering spilled oil should be required for all killer whales in order to provide certainty that Southern Resident Killer Whales are deterred from entering an oil spill. Whale scientists that specialize in Southern Resident Killer Whales and trained naturalists can identify individual whales and differentiate between the different killer whale species. However, unless the oil spill contingency plan is updated to require experts who can identify Southern Resident Killer Whales as an integral part of all whale monitoring and deterrence operations, there would be no assurance that if only some killer whales were deterred from encountering a spill, that those whales would be the Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Other whales listed as Washington State Endangered Species are Fin Whales, Sei Whales, Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, North Pacific Right Whales, and Sperm Whales. The oil spill contingency plan should also require that these whales be monitored and deterred from encountering and being impacted by oil spills.

WAC 173-182-030 Definitions (70), WAC 173-182-540 Planning standards for wildlife response, and WAC 173-182-840 Content submittal and review of spill management team (SMT) and wildlife response service provider (WRSP) applications

The wildlife response operations included in the draft update are unclear as to what “capture” entails. Wildlife response operations need to include both the pre-emptive capture and release of wildlife at risk of being oiled and the capture of oiled wildlife for stabilization and rehabilitation. Also, wildlife operations need to include the immediate removal of oiled carcasses. In all applicable sections of the draft rule, replace “wildlife impact assessment, reconnaissance, deterrence, capture, stabilization, and rehabilitation operations” with “wildlife impact assessment, reconnaissance, deterrence, pre-emptive capture and relocation of wildlife at risk of being oiled, capture of oiled wildlife, stabilization, and rehabilitation operations, and the immediate removal of oiled carcasses

WAC 173-182-510 Requirements for response and protection strategies

It is not sufficient to merely require the identification of water column and benthic species at risk from sunken, submerged, or nonfloating oil spills. The Contingency Plan update should require the wildlife response operations needed to specifically address the water column and benthic species that could be impacted by a nonfloating oil spill.

[1] Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Endangered Status for Southern Resident Killer Whales, Federal Register Vol. 70, No. 222 (November 18, 2005) 69903 – 69912

[2] National Marine Fisheries Service. Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. (National Marine Fisheries Service West Coast Region, Seattle, 2016) http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/publications/status_reviews/marine_mammals/kw-review-2016.pdf.

The 2015 San Juan County Oil Spill Response Capacity Evaluation includes important findings and recommendations that address deficiencies on the current oil spill contingency plan. These recommendations should have been included in this update, or at the very least, thoroughly considered.

The San Juan Islands require heightened nonfloating oil spill response capacity.

The San Juan Islands provide critical habitat for forage fish, salmon, and Southern Resident Killer Whales and are surrounded by major shipping lanes that transit narrow channels and navigational challenges such as Turn Point, all of which are in close proximity to shoreline residences and businesses. The increase in tanker traffic transporting nonfloating oils increases the risk of nonfloating oil spills. Oil spill response operations would be especially challenging given the swift currents and depths of the waterways. The importance of early and aggressive containment and collection of nonfloating oil spills and effective wildlife deterrence operations are especially significant in this biologically rich oasis of the State.

read more
Friends of the San JuansAction Alert: Comment to Protect Washington’s Waters and Communities from Oil Spills

Action Alert: Require Whatcom County to Address Philips 66 Project’s Impacts to the Southern Resident Orcas

by Friends of the San Juans on July 26, 2019 No comments

On Friday July 19, 2019 Whatcom County issued a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance (MDNS) for the Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery’s proposal to construct a new 300,000 barrel crude oil storage tank and a new 80,000 barrel fuel oil storage tank. The new storage tanks would provide additional operating flexibility for manufacturing a new product, low sulfur marine fuels, in addition to the Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO – high viscosity, tar-like fuel) that will continue to be used by ships with sulfur scrubbers.

We support the refinery’s intent to manufacture the low sulfur marine fuels that meet the International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2020 fuel specifications. However, because the Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery (Phillips 66) did not provide direct answers regarding the additional vessel traffic associated with this project, Whatcom County did not address the additional vessel traffic’s impacts to Southern Resident Killer Whales and increased oil spill risk.

The critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales are not even identified in the SEPA checklist, in spite of the explicit requirement to “list any threatened and endangered species known to be on or near the site” (see WAC 197-11-960(5)(b)). Phillips 66, including its marine terminal, is located on the shores of the Area 1 – Summer Core Area of the Designated Critical Habitat for Southern Resident Killer Whales. Whatcom County’s MDNS does not address whether the project will adversely affect Southern Resident Killer Whales or their habitat (see WAC 197-11-330 (3)(e)(ii)).

Large commercial ships impact the Southern Residents’ ability to communicate and successfully hunt (using echolocation) for scarce prey.[i] Other impacts include direct vessel strikes,[ii] hearing loss and behavioral changes.[iii] Southern Resident Killer Whales were listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act, in part, because of concerns about potential oil spill impacts.[iv] A report from the National Marine Fisheries Service states, “Their small population size and social structure also puts them at risk for a catastrophic event, such as an oil spill, that could impact the entire population.”[v]

Ask Whatcom County to reconsider the MDNS threshold determination and:

  1. Require Phillips 66 to provide details on the marine vessel traffic associated with the manufacture of low sulfur fuel oil products.
  2. Specifically address the project’s vessel traffic’s adverse impacts to the critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.
  3. Specifically address the project’s vessel traffic’s increased oil spill risk and associated adverse impacts to Southern Residents and also the Salish Sea ecosystem and neighboring communities.
  4. Ensure that this MDNS does not result in inappropriate piecemeal development at the Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery.

Please submit your comments by 4:00 pm on Friday, August 2nd via email to Thomas Brissenden at tbrissen@whatcomcounty.us, using the subject line “File: SEP2019-00033.”

Please also call the Governor’s office at (360) 902-4111 or send an e-message. Ask the Governor to ensure that the permitting process for the Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery’s new storage tanks thoroughly addresses the project’s adverse impacts to Southern Resident orcas.

Tell Whatcom County and Governor Inslee why the protection and recovery of the Southern Residents are important to you. Thank you for taking action in support of the Southern Resident orcas!

For more information and click here to see the Friends of the San Juans comment letter.

____

[1] Veirs S, Veirs V, Wood JD. 2016. Ship noise extends to frequencies used for echolocation by endangered killer whales. PeerJ 4:e1657 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1657

[1] Ferrara, G.A., T.M. Mongillo, L.M. Barre. 2017. Reducing disturbance from vessels to Southern Resident killer whales: Assessing the effectiveness of the 2011 federal regulations in advancing recovery goals. NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-OPR-58, 76 p.

[1] Holt, M.M. 2008. Sound exposure and Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca): A review of current knowledge and data gaps. U.S. Dept. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-NWFSC-89, 59 p.

[1] Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Endangered Status for Southern Resident Killer Whales, Federal Register Vol. 70, No. 222 (November 18, 2005) 69903 – 69912

[1] National Marine Fisheries Service. Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. (National Marine Fisheries Service West Coast Region, Seattle, 2016) http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/publications/status_reviews/marine_mammals/kw-review-2016.pdf.

Photo above by Chris Teren.

read more
Friends of the San JuansAction Alert: Require Whatcom County to Address Philips 66 Project’s Impacts to the Southern Resident Orcas

Join us! Thank You Party for US Army Deepwater Derelict Net Removal Project

by Friends of the San Juans on July 21, 2019 No comments

Thursday July 25, 4:00-5:30 p.m., San Juan Island Brewing Co., 410 A St., Friday Harbor., WA

Join Friends of the San Juans in thanking 20 soldiers from the US Army’s 569th Engineering Dive Detachment who have been removing derelict fishing nets off of the west side of San Juan Island since July 7, 2019.

Thousands of marine animals — from mammals to invertebrates — die each year after becoming entangled in lost fishing gear.

There were 236 derelict nets reported in over 100 feet of saltwater mostly off the west side of San Juan Island before these soldiers came to the island. Because of the Army Deepwater Derelict Net Removal Project, this number has been significantly reduced. We want to thank these soldiers for providing their expertise to help keep our waters safe for wildlife and boaters.

Friends of the San Juans will be presenting the “Fin Award” to members of the US Army 569th Engineering Dive Detachment to honor those working to protect the Southern Resident orca whales and our marine waters.The festivities will begin at 4:30 p.m. All are welcome to share your appreciation.

This is a project between the US Army’s Deep Divers, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, and Natural Resources Consultants.

Click here to learn more for the Department of Natural Resources.

Click here to learn more from a story in the Journal of the San Juan Islands.

Photo above by Tyler LeRoy.

read more
Friends of the San JuansJoin us! Thank You Party for US Army Deepwater Derelict Net Removal Project

Vacation Rentals: A Community Conversation on Orcas

by Friends of the San Juans on July 11, 2019 No comments

Curious about the role that vacation rentals play in our local community? What about the growth of vacation rentals around the world? A small, diverse group of Orcas community members have been gathering and researching this issue for the past couple of months and they’d like to invite you into the conversation!

This community conversation will take place on Wednesday, July 17, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the public school cafeteria. Members of our Board, Janet Alderton and Toby Cooper, have played a role in shaping this event and our staff attorney, Jennifer Barcelos, will be presenting her research on the global impact of vacation rentals.

Currently there are no limits on the number of vacation rentals in San Juan County, and permits convey with the sale of a property. Unlike official commercial businesses-like bed and breakfasts, hotels, and resorts-licensing constraints are minimal for vacation rentals. The majority of vacation rental property owners (~51%) do not live in San Juan County.

Come join the public conversation about how vacation rentals impact affordable housing, the composition of our community, the costs of infrastructure, environmental quality, and our overall quality of life and learn about the measures that other communities have enacted to accommodate and limit the impacts of vacation rentals.

While there will be a few short presentations, there will also be ample time for facilitated, small group discussions about the role that vacation rentals play in our community. Click here to see the agenda.

Please come and spread the word about this important event! RSVP and share on Facebook here.

 

read more
Friends of the San JuansVacation Rentals: A Community Conversation on Orcas

Help Needed! Italian Arum Removal Project on Lopez & Beyond

by Friends of the San Juans on July 8, 2019 No comments

Friends of the San Juans has launched a habitat restoration pilot project for public and private landowners on Lopez Island to prevent the spread of Italian Arum – we need your help.

Italian Arum is a noxious weed and toxic to people and animals. Noxious weeds can degrade important wildlife habitat and natural areas and outcompete native plants. Now, more than ever, we must come together to reduce the damages caused by noxious weeds.

Friends’ “Aruminator” Project Manager and Washington State University Master Gardener, Dixie Budke says, “It is important to choose your landscaping plants carefully and check to see if the plant is invasive before you buy it. The pioneers who brought Italian Arum to the islands as an ornamental didn’t know it could take over our yards and farmland.”

The goals of this project are to:

1) eradicate and prevent the spread of Italian Arum on private property and public lands on Lopez Island;

2) protect Island homes, communities, farms, natural areas, and wildlife from the impacts of Italian Arum;

3) engage Island communities in positive, collaborative efforts that will benefit us all; and

4) educate the community about their role and responsibility in noxious weed control starting with this pilot project on Lopez Island.

This project is funded through a generous donation from Lopez Island neighbors Jim and Birte Falconer.

By taking simple steps on private property and public lands, we can help restore our islands for people and nature.

The pilot project is occurring on Lopez, but please let us know if you are interested in helping with Italian Arum removal elsewhere. If you would like more information or would like to help, please contact Dixie Budke at dixiebudke@gmail.com or 805.801.1805.

Click here for more information about Italian Arum and this project.

read more
Friends of the San JuansHelp Needed! Italian Arum Removal Project on Lopez & Beyond