Earth Day celebration at the Qwuloolt Estuary

Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project and earth Day Celebration

Article by Monica Brown

Ecologist Walter Rung demonstrates how to plant a native tree.
Photo by Monica Brown

TULALIP, Wash. – Community members chose to celebrate Earth Day on April 20th, by helping plant native trees and shrubs in the Qwuloolt Estuary located on the South end of Marysville. The Adopt a Stream Foundation (AASF) is guiding this portion of the project by planting the native trees and shrubs which have been made possible by a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology through a $250,000 Allen Creek Grant. The main focus of the grant is  to work with and  inform nearby homeowners that live near the Allen Creek watershed about the restoration project. Walter Rung, Ecologist from the AASF says “We are going to door to door and talking to them about ways to help improve water quality in the creeks.”

A plastic shield is placed around the tree in order to help it thrive and prevent it from being cut down when the invasive species are removed from the area.
Photo by Monica Brown
A peek iside that the freshly planted tree.
Photo by Monica Brown

The expected outcome of  the restoration project is to raise the population of salmon, and migratory birds that inhabit the Qwuloolt Estuary and it’s tributaries. Planting native vegetation is one way of helping to improve water quality. CK Eidem from the AASF informs, “Today we’re putting in about 100 potted stalk and 100 live stakes; potted stalk are potted plants and live stakes are a cutting from a tree which will grow into a shrub if planted at the right time of year,”

Other environmental changes are being made such as improving natural channel formation  and eventually removing the tide gate. The tide gate is located just south of the storm water Treatment Facility and should be taken down within a year.

“We’re expecting once they remove the tide gate that there will be a lot more salmon in the creek,” said Walter Rung.

At the estuary project, informational booths and speakers informed people about how to protect the estuary and streams in the area by simple methods of not using toxic chemicals in their yards for weed control, disposing of pet droppings properly and regular maintenance their septic systems. Staff from Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Department explained the stages and reason of the restoration project and provided delicious samples of Sitka Spruce tea and Nettle Tea.

Josh Meidav and Kelly Finley hosted The Tulalip Tribes booth.
Photo by Monica Brown

This project has been made possible through a large partnership between The Tulalip Tribes, City of Marysville, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Sound Transit, Wash. Dept of Fish and Wildlife, Wash. State Recreation and Conservation Office, Natural Resources Conservation Services, Snohomish Basin Salmon Recovery Forum, Sound Salmon Solutions and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Business interests trump health concerns in fish consumption fight

Fish Consumption Rates

“Our tribal leadership’s main responsibility is simply to protect our people,” said Marc Gauthier, a representative of the Upper Columbia United Tribes, before leaving the meeting. “It comes down to that basic human desire to protect your family.”

By Robert McClure
March 30, 2013

The Washington State Department of Ecology has known since the 1990s that its water-pollution limits have meant some Washingtonians regularly consume dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals in fish from local waterways.

At least twice, Ecology has been told by its overseers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fix the problem and better protect people’s health. Ecology was close to finally doing that last year — until Boeing and other business interests launched an intense lobbying campaign aimed not just at Ecology but also at the Washington Legislature and then-Gov. Christine Gregoire. That is the picture that emerges from recent interviews as well as government documents obtained by InvestigateWest under the Washington Public Records Law.

The problem lies in Ecology’s estimate of how much fish people eat. The lower the amount, the more water pollution Ecology can legally allow. So by assuming that people eat the equivalent of just one fish meal per month, Ecology is able to set less stringent pollution limits.

Meanwhile, citing the health benefits of fish, the state Department of Health advises people to eat fish twice a week, eight times as often as the official estimate of actual consumption. The state knows that some members of Indian tribes, immigrants and other fishermen consume locally caught seafood even more often than that and are therefore at greater risk of cancer, neurological damage and other maladies.

The Boeing Co. looms large in this story. In June 2012, Boeing said if Ecology went ahead with plans to make fish safer to eat, it would “cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars and severely hamper its ability to increase production in Renton and make future expansion elsewhere in the state cost prohibitive,” according to a Gregoire aide’s reconstruction of a conversation with a Boeing executive that month.

In July 2012, Ecology announced it would not go forward with a new rule to adjust the fish-eating estimate as planned. Instead the agency launched a “stakeholder process” that would delay any new rules for at least two years. Last week that process plodded on in Spokane, where state and local government officials and others spent more than three hours discussing the many contaminants that for years have prompted official state warnings against eating Washington fish too regularly.

“All we’ve seen is delay,” said Bart Mihailovich of the Spokane Riverkeeper environmental group, one of several that have refused to participate in the new series of meetings. “Why are we going back and doing what was already done?”

At the meeting in Spokane Thursday, a representative of Indian tribes called Ecology’s conduct “a betrayal” and explained that the tribes are boycotting the current process because it is unnecessary.

“Our tribal leadership’s main responsibility is simply to protect our people,” said Marc Gauthier, a representative of the Upper Columbia United Tribes, before leaving the meeting. “It comes down to that basic human desire to protect your family.”

Ecology had at least one other false start in fixing the rules, back in the mid-1990s, an effort that petered out even before a rule change was proposed, said Melissa Gildersleeve, the Ecology manager overseeing the current stakeholder process. That followed a 1994 study by the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission that documented how the national estimate of one fish meal per month was greatly and regularly exceeded by some members of Indian tribes.

While who eats how much contaminated fish is a slippery and much-debated corner of science, few of the parties involved in the current dispute in Washington contend that the current fish-consumption rate accurately reflects the true amount eaten, especially by some groups such as members of Indian tribes, subsistence fishermen and immigrants. The figure came from a 1973-74 federal study that asked consumers to fill our “food diaries” for three days, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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