Mayor McGinn testifies in Congress to stop coal trains in Pacific Northwest

WASHINGTON — Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is calling on Congress to stop coal trains from rolling through the state.

McGinn doesn’t want the coal trains rolling through any cities in the Northwest, especially not in Seattle along the waterfront.

McGinn made his case testifying before members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee Tuesday.

He updated them on the plan by coal companies, railroads and international shipping companies to build two new export facilities in Washington state.

The arguments against the coal trains are familiar. People are worried about pollution from coal dust in the air and extra traffic from the mile-long trains.

Those who support the coal export expansion plans argue shipping more than 100 million tons of coal to Asia each year helps the state and federal economy and the new export facilities would create jobs.

McGinn called on lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to do an environmental impact study.

Stop the Coal Trains

COAL CARS SPEW DUST AS THEY RUMBLE DOWN THE TRACKS 500 pounds to a ton of coal can escape from a single car.
COAL CARS SPEW DUST AS THEY RUMBLE DOWN THE TRACKS 500 pounds to a ton of coal can escape from a single car.

Everybody knows that coal trains are bad for our health, our economy, and our planet. So how do we stop them?

Cienna Madrid, Seattle Stranger

You might have heard the talk: Coal interests are pushing to make the Pacific Northwest a 24-hour conveyor belt linking coal mines in Montana and Wyoming with Asian markets clamoring for cheap, dirty power. The most urgent fight is currently taking place just north of Bellingham at Cherry Point, the site of a proposed coal-export terminal that would be the largest in North America.

Why should someone in Seattle care about a coal terminal 100 miles north of the city? Because coal combustion is the leading human-caused increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is largely responsible for global warming. Because shipping dirty coal to China while piously shutting down the last coal-fired power plant in Washington State (as the state is doing) would simultaneously mock and cheapen our forward-thinking, tree-humping pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2050. And because there is not just one but five coal terminals—five!—currently proposed in the Northwest, each of which could bring 1.5-mile-long coal trains rumbling through our region daily, blocking traffic, interfering with other business at Seattle’s port, and leaving clouds of coal dust in their wake.

State and federal agencies are currently wrapping up a three-month public comment period to determine which environmental, economic, and health impacts should be studied before issuing or denying the Cherry Point terminal’s permits. Thousands of Washington residents have flocked to seven scheduled public meetings held around the state to oppose the proposal, 10,000 have submitted comments to the state Department of Ecology, 25,000 have submitted comments to the Army Corps of Engineers, and more than 40,000 people have signed a petition that’s been sent to the state’s land commissioner.

And yet, a lot of people still don’t know about the issue, don’t understand it, or don’t have an opinion. Not having an opinion on coal is like not having an opinion on climate change. And this isn’t just an environmental issue. It’s an economic issue. It’s a health issue. It’s an issue of priorities. Here’s all you need to know before the public comment period ends on January 21.

The Largest Coal-Export Terminal on the Continent

In February 2011, international shipping- terminal firm SSA Marine applied for permits to build a $500 million coal-export terminal outside Bellingham at Cherry Point, right next to a state-protected aquatic reserve and smack on top of a Native American burial ground (more on that later). The proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal would occupy nearly 1,500 acres of land, about 100 acres of which would be converted into a large open-air coal stockyard with stunning panoramic views of the Strait of Georgia and its closest neighbor, the state aquatic reserve, home to more than 300 blue heron nests and a metric fuckton of fish.

Roughly five million tons of coal is currently transported through Washington State each year to Canadian ports. This translates to about six coal trains per day (three full, three empty). The Gateway Pacific Terminal would dwarf that, shipping out 48 million tons of coal annually, circuitously hauled from sprawling strip mines in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Montana and Wyoming. Calls to the company behind the Gateway Pacific Terminal were not returned, but the facts of its proposal are well known. Each day, 18 trains (nine full, nine empty), stretching 1.5 miles long each, would complete the journey to the Washington Coast, trundling at average speeds of 35 miles per hour through Spokane and the Columbia River Gorge, and up the coast through Longview, Tacoma, Seattle, Edmonds, Everett, Mount Vernon, and Bellingham, and back. Each train would delay traffic at railway crossings five minutes on average. (Gateway Pacific Terminal estimates delays at four minutes, while other groups have estimated seven minutes.) According to a city-commissioned traffic impact study, traffic along Seattle’s waterfront could be cumulatively delayed between one and three hours each day, significantly impacting commuter traffic, emergency vehicle response times, and freight operations at the Port of Seattle.

“It would create a wall along our waterfront,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “The data suggests there will be more frustrations, with more bikers, drivers, and pedestrians ‘shooting the gap’ to get across—which means the potential for more accidents.”

Toxic Dust, Derailments, and Spontaneous Combustion

Coal cars are typically uncovered, constantly spewing dust as they rumble down the tracks. As BNSF Railway acknowledged in a startlingly frank 2011 coal dust fact sheet, “The amount of coal dust that escapes from PRB coal trains is surprisingly large… from 500 lbs to a ton of coal can escape from a single loaded coal car.” According to BNSF, as much as 3 percent of the coal loaded into a coal car can be lost in transit: “In many areas, a thick layer of black coal dust can be observed along the railroad right of way and in between the tracks.” Aside from the health risks of inhaling coal dust, the railway explains that accumulated coal dust on tracks may cause derailments. At least 22 coal trains jumped the tracks in the United States in 2012.

Coal proponents argue that the dust can be mitigated by installing new, better coal chutes and applying “topper agents” to the coal cars. But there’s another risk when shipping PRB coal: It’s notoriously spontaneously combustible.

“Operators familiar with the unique requirements of burning PRB coal will tell you that it’s not a case of ‘if’ you will have a PRB coal fire, it’s ‘when,'” notes a 2003 article published by the coal industry group Utility FPE Group Inc. The article continues, “Although prevention is cheaper than repairing fire and explosion damage, its costs always seem difficult to justify.”

“Spontaneous combustion of coal is a well-known phenomenon, especially with PRB coal,” states an industry research paper called “PRB Coal Degradation—Causes and Cures.” “This high-moisture, highly volatile sub-bituminous coal will not only smolder and catch fire while in storage piles at power plants and coal terminals, but has been known to be delivered to a power plant with the rail car or barge partially on fire.”

It’s probably inaccurate to picture mile-long flaming coal train cars inching across the state, says the Northwest environmental research organization Sightline Institute: “The threat is likely to be more insidious—slowly smoldering coal that is perhaps emitting noxious gases into neighboring communities. Yet the severity and toxicity of these gases are largely unknown.”

Some of the worst health effects would be felt in the communities surrounding Cherry Point. The terminal’s port would be large enough to berth three cargo ships at once. Coal would be conveyed from the 100-acre coal stockyard along a 1,250-foot trestle linking ships to shore. Heavy machinery would troll the coal piles, continuously rotating them to discourage combustion, kicking up even more coal dust with each turn.

Pneumoconiosis, Bronchitis, Emphysema, and Lymphoma

Common sense and science tell us that working with coal will shorten your life span. The US Department of Labor links coal dust to pneumoconiosis, regular bronchitis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, “rapidly developing lung damage,” and premature death in exposed workers. It’s also been known to cause lymphoma and adrenal tumors in test animals.

But alarmingly, very little research has been done on the nonoccupational environmental health effects of coal dust on people. Here’s what we do know: Coal dust contains concentrations of heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium. Furthermore, rainwater runoff from coal stockpiles can leach into the soil and contaminate groundwater that people and animals drink.

“We’re concerned about increased air pollution and the effects it can have on patients,” testified Dr. Melissa Weakland at a public hearing on the Gateway Pacific Terminal held in Seattle’s convention center on December 13. Speaking on behalf of the Washington Academy of Family Physicians, Dr. Weakland also echoed concerns about delays in emergency response time, heavy metal poisoning, pulmonary problems, and cancer. “Many health specifics in this proposal are left unanswered,” Dr. Weakland said.

Growing Public Opposition

The Seattle public hearing was the last of seven held around the state. The meetings were crowded, tense, and predominantly packed with protesters—including heavy hitters like Seattle mayor Mike McGinn, a handful of Tacoma and Seattle city council members, King County executive Dow Constantine, and state representatives Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) and Reuven Carlyle (D-36). But the most moving testimony came from a 12-year-old.

“I appreciate the natural wonders of this state,” testified Rachel Howell of Queen Anne to a packed convention center ballroom. “I like salmon. I like oysters. Global warming is threatening salmon and oysters. I like to ski at Snoqualmie Pass. In my lifetime, I will not be able to ski at Snoqualmie Pass because of global warming. This is the future you’re creating for us, and this is not the future we want. It’s pretty simple, even I understand: If you make coal more available, more people will use it.”

We can’t fight global warming by exporting our carbon: It’s an issue that’s simple enough for a 12-year-old to understand. The rest of us? That remains to be seen.

Lobbying in support of the coal terminal is the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, a pro-coal group formed last July to counter all of the bad press about heron habitat, heart disease, and spontaneous combustion. The Alliance is composed of 54 organizations representing almost 400,000 employees in Washington, Oregon, and “around the country,” according to spokeswoman Lauri Hennessey. The group has downplayed health and statewide environmental concerns.

“It’s impossible to consider the cumulative impact of coal trains; it’s purely speculative,” said labor union representative and Alliance member Herb Krohn at the December 13 public meeting. “Coal is a naturally occurring mineral, the coal dust discharged is minimal, and this argument that it impacts health is specious at best.”

Hennessey would not address specific environmental or health risks raised by citizens directly, saying only: “If people have concerns, they should write those concerns in.” If the government’s environmental impact study sees fit to address those concerns, “we’ll do whatever mitigation is necessary,” she adds.

Meanwhile, the group is purported to have spent $1 million in television ads in the Northwest to transform coal trains into huggable, huffing economic engines (Hennessey would neither confirm nor deny the amount spent, only calling it “sizable”). They claim the terminal will bring in $25 million in new tax revenue once built, as well as 4,400 new jobs, most of which would be two-year construction jobs. Gateway Pacific Terminal has promised the project would create 294 to 430 permanent local jobs.

But critics say that the job numbers don’t take into account the many careers the Cherry Point coal terminal would destroy.

“Anyone who claims that this massive coal project is about jobs had better learn to subtract,” testified Pete Knutson, a 40-year career fisherman, owner of the Loki Fish Company based out of Ballard, and a commissioner on the Puget Sound Salmon Commission (WSDA). “We have 15,000 fishery jobs in Puget Sound; now our marine livelihoods are at stake. A job is not necessarily a livelihood. We’re weighing jobs based on the one-time exploitation of a fossil fuel versus livelihoods based on a sustainable resource. We have a moral obligation to reject this proposal.”

Cargo operations at the Port of Seattle would also be threatened, both from the increased traffic through Sodo and from competition for scarce rail capacity. Washington’s freight rail system is already pushing its limits—18 additional coal trains a day would drive up prices for other shippers.

Opposition to the terminals is mounting: More than three dozen cities, counties, and ports, close to 600 health professionals, 220 faith leaders, and more than 450 local businesses have either voiced concern or come out against coal export off the West Coast. Many tribal governments, including the Lummi Nation, have also organized to oppose coal export after terminal contractors were issued a cease-and-desist order in June 2011 for bulldozing sacred Lummi burial grounds without permits.

“Cherry Point is flagged as a cemetery. That’s not oral history, that’s fact,” Lummi Nation spokesman Jay Julius says. “That is our Jerusalem. That is our holy ground.”

Three dozen municipalities, including the Seattle City Council, have passed symbolic resolutions in outright opposition to the proposals or at the very least demanding that state and federal agencies execute a full, comprehensive environmental impact study (EIS) on the cumulative impacts of coal trains and exports.

“I’m here speaking on behalf of dozens and dozens of state officials who’ve all called for a comprehensive, cumulative impact analysis to this proposal,” testified Representative Carlyle at the December 13 Seattle hearing. “That means a thorough, data driven analysis of the economic externalities of this proposal—the transportation, the health, the safety impacts that our communities will face. We’re asking you to acknowledge that most communities don’t have the resources to do their own economic analysis. It’s critical that this EIS be thorough, be data driven, and recognize the profound implications on our quality of life.”

What You Can Do to Stop the Coal Trains

Interstate commerce laws prevent local authorities from outright blocking coal trains from passing through their jurisdictions, so the only way to stop the trains is to stop the terminals. But the path to blocking the Gateway Pacific Terminal and other terminal proposals in Longview, Washington, and Boardman, St. Helens, and Coos Bay, Oregon, is murky. Each terminal is being pushed by separate coal interests and each faces its own timeline and permitting process for approval. Opponents fear that if one proposal goes through, the amount of coal they plan on shipping will increase exponentially to meet market demands.

“The coal industry has already lied about the amount of coal they were planning on shipping out of Longview,” says Krista Collard, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club. “When that was discovered, they had to pull permit applications and refile.” A spokesperson for Millennium Bulk Terminals, the organization behind the Longview proposal, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In order to proceed with the coal terminals, companies must first secure development permits from local county councils, aquatic lease permits from public lands commissioner Peter Goldmark, and approval for the projects from the state Department of Ecology and federal Army Corps of Engineers. The biggest challenge, opponents say, is to orchestrate killing all five of the proposals at once—not just the terminal at Cherry Point.

“It’s not about one entity, it’s about the big picture,” explains Kimberly Larson, a spokeswoman for Climate Solutions, which is working with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups to organize Northwest opposition efforts in both Oregon and Washington. “They’re all in play at the same time, and that’s why it’s important to show the collective resistance across the region. If one goes through, it will affect all of us.” For instance, coal trains headed to Oregon would still trundle through Spokane and the Columbia River Gorge, impacting communities along the way and clogging Washington’s freight rail system. You can help Climate Solutions and the Sierra Club by writing letters opposing the terminals to Commissioner Goldmark (, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Washington State Department of Ecology (, as well as to your state, county, and city representatives.

Protesters already helped kill one coal terminal last summer, slated for Grays Harbor. “After hearing from the community, the terminal said that they wanted to ship friendlier, healthier items than coal out there,” Collard explains.

That’s the sort of victory coal train opponents hope to achieve throughout the Northwest. “We share a vision for a better future,” testified King County executive Dow Constantine at Seattle’s public hearing on the Cherry Point terminal. “Our vision doesn’t include 18 trains a day pulling those coal cars through the heart of Washington. This isn’t just a regional issue; it’s a global issue and a generational issue. In Washington, we have done away with coal-fired plants, but shipping overseas will overwhelm the gains we’ve made here at home.”

A 12-year-old couldn’t have said it any better.

Weather casts pall over summer salmon opener

Tulalip Cabela’s offers free seminars on major upcoming fisheries this weekend

Wayne Kruse, The Herald

The first major saltwater salmon fishing season of the summer opened over the weekend, and results were probably better than had been anticipated.

Coastal marine areas 1 and 2 (Ilwaco and Westport) opened for their early hatchery chinook fishery — marked kings only — and despite all handicaps managed to produce decent fishing.

Wendy Beeghley, coastal creel sampling coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Saturday’s weather was really lousy — bad enough that the Westport bar was closed for part of the day — and only marginally better on Sunday. Add to that a forecast for a smaller run of chinook to the Columbia River this year than last (although still pretty decent) and the normal day or two needed by the charter fleet to locate the fish at the start of a season, and the average of a half-chinook per rod on Sunday at Westport wasn’t half bad.

There was little effort at Ilwaco, Beeghley said, probably attributable to the weather, and an average on Sunday of about one-third fish per person.

Best fishing in the Westport area was north, Beeghley said, off Ocean Shores, and the fish ran the whole range, size-wise, from 8 to about 20 pounds.

“We expect fishing to improve in the region as the weather calms down,” Beeghley said. “The offshore troll fishery has continued to improve, indicating better numbers of fish coming down the coast.”

The selective chinook fishery in area 1 runs through June 21, and at Westport, through June 22, allowing two fin-clipped kings per day. The regular summer salmon season opens in both areas the day after the early season closure, while the early selective season off La Push and Neah Bay runs June 22-28.


It’s the peak of the season right now for shad in the Columbia River, with daily counts over Bonneville reaching 200,000 fish on Monday, and the cumulative count at 1.75 million. “That’s about double what it was last year at this time,” said state biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver.

“It’s crowded on the weekends,” Hymer added, “but fishing has been pretty good. The creel checks last week were about 10 shad per rod, river-wide, and most of those were incomplete fishing days so the average was probably higher than that.”

He said that unlike some previous years, most of the shad caught in this Washington-side fishery are being kept.

“More user groups are showing up that like to eat the fish,” he said, “and we’ve seen stringers of 100-plus fish. You do need a license, but there is no limit on shad in the Columbia.”

The sporty little 1- to 5- or 6-pound fish are bony, but considered fairly good table fare when properly prepared, and some anglers like the roe, grilled in the skein like sausages and served with scrambled eggs and toast. Others catch and release, or save a few for crab bait.

The area immediately below the Washington-side “new powerhouse” portion of Bonneville Dam is a popular, but crowded, spot, from the yellow deadline marker 600 feet below the dam, downstream. Hamilton Island, below the dam, is also a good bet. Drive east on Hwy 14 a couple of miles past the town of North Bonneville to a line of transmission towers, and take the turnoff to the right. That road leads to the Hamilton Island boat launch and there are good, public, bank fishing spots both above and below the launch. Any small point and its attendant eddy marks a good place to try for shad, which will generally be close to shore and out of the heavy current.

A heavy-trout-weight spinning rod with soft action is about right, and a reel loaded with 6- or 8-pound test line. Use a slinky or piece of pencil lead, or a one-ounce sliding sinker, and about three feet of leader. Lure can be most anything small and shiny or colorful — spoon, spinner, crappie jig, shad dart, bare size 1 or 2 hook with three yellow or red beads strung above it. A lot of bank fishing spots can be grabby, so go equipped with plenty of gear.

Cast upstream and about 30 feet out, let the lure sink until you think it’s just above the bottom, then retrieve slowly and let it swing around below you. Most popular spots are too crowded for float-and-jig fishing, Hymer said.

The shad fishery is considered a very good family experience, but youngsters should definitely be equipped with flotation jackets when anywhere near the Columbia’s often heavy currents.


Good stuff this weekend at Cabela’s Tulalip store, in the form of free seminars on major upcoming fisheries:

Fishing for Kings in Area 9, Saturday, 11 a.m., in the fishing department, Hear special tips and techniques of local experts and bring your stories to share.

Fly Fishing on High Country Lakes, Sunday, 1 p.m. in the Conference Center. The snow will be melting soon and Mike Benbow has been there, done that, on many of the Cascades’ best high country waters. He’ll walk you through the ins and outs of fly fishing the highland lakes.

Waterfowl festival

Over the past 12 years, the Oregon Waterfowl Festival Association has donated nearly $20,000 to Ducks Unlimited for improving habitat on lower Columbia River estuary wetlands. This year’s event runs June 29-30, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Columbia County Fairgrounds in St. Helens, Oregon. For information go to


Marine Area 7, the San Juan Islands, close to ling fishing at the end of the day Saturday, offering one last shot at what has been an excellent season. WDFW checks at the Washington Park launch on Sunday showed 25 anglers with 9 lings and 2 cabezon. Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said that reports have slowed around Lopez Island, but that the north end of the islands has held up well. He said that while Deception Pass and Burrows Island were hit hard in the first few weeks of the season, he thinks new fish have moved in to fill the habitat and that fishing has remained good. Dunk a herring in Deception Pass, or a white or rootbeer grub on a jighead. Around Burrows, he said, work the shallower water and rockslides with a 6- or 9-inch swimshad.

Potholes Reservoir

Arguably the best all-around fishery in Eastern Washington, Potholes Reservoir is coming on as water temps warm. Mike Meseberg at MarDon Resort said bass fishing on the face of O’Sullivan Dam offers top early-season action on smallmouth bass, using topwater lures. Or run over to the Lind Coulee Arm and toss diving plugs in crawdad pattern, or half-ounce spinner baits in chartreuse or white. Work the rocky points, Meseberg said, and you might also nail the occasional walleye.

Tribal partnership with utility keeps salmon eggs under water

Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

A rainy April and a hotter-than-normal week in May have created a challenge for the steelhead fry expected to emerge in August.

The rain, combined with heavy snowmelt after a string of 80-degree days in May, built up in the reservoir of Seattle City Light’s Skagit River Hydroelectric Project. In order to prevent an overflow that could scour out steelhead redds (nests), the utility released more water than usual, increasing the flow of the Skagit River. As a result, spawning steelhead dug redds in places at risk of being dewatered before the last fry emerge this summer, when flows are lower.

Water management in the Skagit River is guided in part by salmon spawning surveys conducted by biologists Stan Walsh of the Skagit River System Cooperative and Dave Pflug of Seattle City Light. The Skagit River System Cooperative is the natural resources extension of the Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle tribes.

Based on data gathered by Walsh and Pflug, Seattle City Light will release enough water in August to keep vulnerable steelhead eggs under water.

“We haven’t had a steelhead redd dewatered in years,” Walsh said.

Walsh and Pflug have monitored salmon and steelhead redds between Rockport and Newhalem on the Upper Skagit River since 1995. They document new redds, note the condition of existing redds, and measure the depth of the shallowest redds to make sure the river’s flow stays high enough for those eggs to survive, but not so high that the eggs are washed away.

They also share data with state fisheries co-managers to help forecast runs sizes.

“Seattle City Light has been a great partner to the tribes in water management,” Walsh said. “They’ve gone out of their way to protect fish beyond what’s required in their license agreement.”

Unlike chinook, chum, pink and coho salmon, steelhead are repeat spawners, which means Walsh and Pflug don’t encounter very many steelhead carcasses. However, this year, they have counted more steelhead redds in this stretch of the river than they have seen in the past 18 years of surveys.

Foundation proposes Salish Sea trail on inland waters

Salish-seaBy Gale Fiege, The Herald

A new nonprofit group is making strides to establish a coastal trail along the inland marine waters of Washington and British Columbia.

The Bellingham-based Salish Sea Foundation also wants those waters designated as an international marine sanctuary.

Doug Tolchin, an organizer of the foundation, said the effort is in its early stages, but the goal is firm.

“We recognize the Salish Sea as an international treasure of exceptional importance, where mountains, rivers, creeks, estuaries and islands come together in an explosion of amazing landscapes,” Tolchin said. “Its wildlife populations deserve all the protection and restoration they can get.”

Four years ago, a Western Washington University professor convinced the U.S. and Canadian governments to ascribe the name Salish Sea to the regional name for the complex 5,500-square-mile body of water that includes the Georgia Strait, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.

In Snohomish County, those bodies of water include Port Susan, Possession Sound, Tulalip Bay and Port Gardner. Salish Sea hasn’t replaced the names of the many canals, straits, bays, ports, sounds and inlets that make up the inland waters, but the term has helped naturalists and scientists describe a unified ecosystem.

The term “sea” is a good one because it’s a large body of salt water partly enclosed by land and protected from the open ocean, said Bert Webber, the retired marine biology professor who championed the Salish Sea name. The name Salish recognizes the indigenous people of the same region who are connected by various Coast Salish languages, he said.

Officials with the Tulalip Tribes and other regional American Indian tribes and First Nations in Canada supported naming the region the Salish Sea and to the effort to restore and improve its ecosystem.

Hundreds of years after the first European exploration in the region, about 8 million people now live on or near the shores of the inland sea. Their accompanying activity has taken a toll on the Salish Sea, Tolchin said.

“The biggest source of pollution here is us,” he said. “We have to get people to stop their use of detergents and chemicals that pollute the waterways, to keep pet waste out of the storm water runoff and other simple changes.”

Tolchin said there is another way people can get involved.

“We would like to see people study our Salish Sea marine sanctuary vision map, so that they can clearly understand where and what is the Salish Sea,” Tolchin said. “People also can take a look at their own watershed areas and see what they can do to keep those clean.”

The foundation’s trail map is not set in stone, but generally gives the viewer an idea about how existing trails might be linked together along the water, he said.

Salish Sea Foundation also is in the process of assembling the group’s board of directors and advisers. Suggestions are welcome at, Tolchin said.

“Our big effort will be to get the marine sanctuary designation on the ballots in Washington and British Columbia in 2014,” Tolchin said. “We want people to feel ownership in this project.”

In a statement from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in British Columbia, tribal leader Rueben George said protection of the Salish Sea as a marine sanctuary will benefit all people.

“There is no price for the sacred, whether it is the mineral, plant, animal or human. This is not just an environmental challenge; it is an issue that pertains to all of us, including our future generations and all life on Mother Earth. …,” George said. “The creation of the Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary (will be) a beautiful example of protecting and restoring the sacred.”

Tribes Disappointed By State Appeal In Culvert Case

– Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Treaty Indian tribes in western Washington are disappointed to learn that the state has filed an appeal in the culvert case ruling.

Federal District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez ruled on March 29 that the state must fix fish-blocking culverts under its roads in western Washington because they violate tribal treaty-reserved fishing rights. The court found that more than 1,500 state culverts deny salmon access to hundreds of miles of good habitat in western Washington, harming salmon at every stage in their life cycle.

“But instead of implementing the ruling as a win-win for the salmon and everyone who lives here, the state has chosen to appeal the case in a further attempt to ignore tribal treaty rights,” Frank said.

As part of his ruling, Martinez issued a permanent injunction against the state’s continued operation of fish-blocking culverts under state roads in western Washington. The injunction was necessary, he ruled, because of the slow pace of state corrections, which has led to an increase in the number of barrier culverts in the past three years. At the current pace, the state would never complete repairs, Judge Martinez said, because more culverts were becoming barriers to salmon than were being fixed.

The state and its Department of Transportation (DOT) were given 17 years to complete repairs. Other state agencies were already planning to have their blocking culverts corrected within the next three years.

Culvert repair cost estimates being provided by the state are higher than the actual repair costs presented in court, Martinez ruled. The state claims that the average cost to replace a state DOT culvert is $2.3 million. But the evidence showed the actual cost of DOT culverts built to the best fish passage standards has been about $658,000. Repairs will be funded through the state’s separate transportation budget and will not come at the expense of education or other social services.

“It’s also important to understand that state law already requires that culverts allow fish passage. The culvert case ruling directs the state to do nothing more than what is already required,” Frank said.

“For decades the state has tried to ignore tribal treaty-reserved rights, even when that means ignoring the best interests of the resource and its citizens,” Frank said. “But the federal courts have consistently upheld our treaty rights.”

Five Year Expansion Starts at Suquamish Clearwater Casino

Indian Country Today Media Network

Monday, June 3 will mark the ceremonial blessing and groundbreaking of Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort to kick-off the first phase in a five-year major expansion plan that will ultimately include a convention center,  100 new hotel rooms, a fifth  restaurant, and extensive remodeling of the Clearwater Casino. The groundbreaking will initiate construction of a six-level, 690-space parking garage, with a projected completion date of January 21, 2014.

Clearwater Casino CEO Russell Steele and General Manager Rich Purser will start the event at 9 a.m. Suquamish Tribal Council Members, Port Madison Enterprises Board Members, project architect Rice Fergus Miller and KORSMO Construction, the contracted builder and others are anticipated to attend.

“We are pleased to launch this first phase in a highly anticipated Master Plan that will draw businesses and organizations from around the Puget Sound to North Kitsap for conventions and corporate retreats,” says Steele, “and create another 180 jobs at the casino resort over the next 4 years. The casino will remain open for business as usual during construction, with guest parking moved to the existing parking garage.”

In addition to the new garage, Phase 1 will add 10,000 square feet of new meeting space and a 4,500 square foot pre-function area to the casino, additional office space, a new walkway between the resort and the casino, a fine dining restaurant, and the Longhouse Buffet will be remodeled. The projected completion date for Phase 1 is November 2014.

Phase II, set to begin in October 2014, will encompass the construction of a 100-room, five-story hotel adjoining the casino. All rooms will have water views and will be structured to accommodate a potential additional three stories in the future. Phase 11 is projected to be complete by end of March 2015.

Extensive remodeling resulting in a 5,700 square foot expansion of the casino will take place in Phase 111. A new 350-seat lounge, a specialty restaurant and a new bar in the center of the casino floor are part of an updated look that is projected to be completed by November 2016.

Phase IV, the final stage in the 5-year Master Plan, will be construction of the Convention Center. The project will add 15,000 square feet of meeting and entertainment space to the casino with moveable walls, along with 11, 500 square feet of pre-function space and 8,500 feet of support space. Completion is anticipated at a later date.

For more information on the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort expansion project, please contact Lisa Rodriguez,, 360.598.8731.


3 Washington Native Leaders, Quinault Adviser Named to Key Positions

Maia Bellon/Courtesy Washington State Department of Ecology, Leonard Forsman/Photo by Molly Neely-WalkerMaia Bellon, left, Mescalero Apache, was appointed director of the state Department of Ecology by Gov. Jay Inslee; Leonard Forsman, Suquamish Tribe chairman was appointed by President Barack Obama to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.Read more at
Maia Bellon/Courtesy Washington State Department of Ecology, Leonard Forsman/Photo by Molly Neely-Walker
Maia Bellon, left, Mescalero Apache, was appointed director of the state Department of Ecology by Gov. Jay Inslee; Leonard Forsman, Suquamish Tribe chairman was appointed by President Barack Obama to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Richard Walker, Indian Country Today Media Network

Two Native Americans in Washington state and an environmental adviser to Quinault Nation’s president were named in May to key positions influencing the arts, the environment and historical protection. Earlier, an environmental lawyer who is Mescalero Apache was named director of the state’s Department of Ecology.

Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman was appointed by President Barack Obama to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Forsman said he will continue to serve as Suquamish chairman; the advisory council meets quarterly and members are not paid.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP)is an independent federal agency that promotes “the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of our nation’s historic resources,” and advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.

According to the agency’s website, “The goal of the National Historic Preservation Act, which established the ACHP in 1966, is to have federal agencies act as responsible stewards of our nation’s resources when their actions affect historic properties. The ACHP is the only entity with the legal responsibility to encourage federal agencies to factor historic preservation into federal project requirements.”

Forsman has been chairman of the Suquamish Tribe since 2005. He earned a bachelor of arts in anthropology from the University of Washington and a master of arts in historic preservation from Goucher College.

Forsman was director of the Suquamish Museum from 1984 to 1990, and has served on the museum Board of Directors since 2010. He was a research archaeologist for Larson Anthropological/Archaeological Services in Seattle from 1992 to 2003. He has served on the Tribal Leaders Congress on Education since 2005, the Suquamish Tribal Cultural Cooperative Committee since 2006, the Washington State Historical Society board since 2007, and was vice president of the Washington Indian Gaming Association in 2010. He also served on the state Committee on Geographic Names.

Forsman said, “I want to build on the advisory council’s efforts to recognize and protect those cultural resources that are important to tribes — the cultural landscape and sacred places that have been neglected — and provide tribes more resources to protect those places to the best of our ability.”

Maia D. Bellon, Mescalero Apache, was appointed director of the state Department of Ecology by Gov. Jay Inslee. Several Olympia insiders say Bellon may be the first Native American appointed to a cabinet-level position by a governor of Washington.

Upon taking office, she helped resolve a dispute that threatened a cleanup plan for an old mill site on Port Gamble Bay, one of seven bays identified as cleanup priorities under the Puget Sound Initiative.

Ecology wants two old docks with creosoted pilings removed as part of the cleanup; the mill site owner, Pope Resources, wanted to keep the docks in place until it had approval for a new dock, which it considers critical to its plans to further develop its upland community of Port Gamble.

The final agreement puts the docks’ removal later in the cleanup timeline. Pope has no guarantee it will get a new dock, but it may be able to use removal of the old docks as mitigation when it applies for a new-dock permit; in other words, Pope could say the environmental impacts from the new dock would be offset by the removal of the old docks.

Bellon’s handling of the negotiations won praise. “In her first weeks in office, [she] brought a focused effort on reaching an equitable resolution to this complex cleanup project,” Pope president and CEO David Nunes said.

Bellon is the daughter of Richard Bellon, executive director of the Chehalis Tribe; and Rio Lara-Bellon, a writer and educator. She graduated from The Evergreen State College in 1991 and Arizona State University Law School in 1994.

In the ensuing years, she served as an environmental attorney with Ecology and the state Attorney General’s office. In 2011, she became manager of Ecology’s water resources program, responsible for management of the state’s water resources, the allocation of water, and protection of water rights, instream flows and environmental functions.

In that role, she shepherded an agreement ensuring sufficient stream flows for salmon without jeopardizing local water-use rights in the Dungeness River basin. Among its many provisions, the agreement established necessary stream flows for salmon habitat, and set up a “water bank” through which land owners can buy, sell or lease water-use credits, or water rights.

Bellon said she works to help all sides see the other’s perspective and keep everyone focused on shared goals. “I strive to serve as a bridge,” Bellon said. “When people are in the same room, when they’re engaged closely, they find they share many of the same values. That’s where we need to start.”

Tracy Rector, Seminole/Choctaw, was appointed by Seattle’s mayor and City Council to the Seattle Arts Commission.

Rector is executive director of Longhouse Media, which works to break down negative stereotypes of Native people in the media, and help Native youth develop the skills necessary to tell their own stories through digital media. She produced the award-winning film, “March Point” (2008), a coming-of-age story about three Swinomish teens who make a documentary about the impact of two oil refineries on their community.

Rector’s film work has been featured at the Cannes Film Festival, ImagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival, the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian, and on PBS’s Independent Lens. She has a master’s in education from Antioch University.

Gary Morishima, natural resources adviser to Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp, is a new member of the U.S. Geological Survey Climate Change and Natural Resources Science Committee, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Native American Policy Team. He was appointed by U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

In her announcement, Jewell said the climate change committee will work to “develop sound science that will help inform policymakers, land managers and the public in making important resource management decisions.”

Morishima said in an announcement released by the Quinault Nation, “Because Tribal communities are place-based and critically dependent on natural resources, they are among the most vulnerable to climate impacts and among the most experienced in adapting to changing conditions. Tribal perspectives need to be an integral part of the committee’s dialogue. Awareness and respect for both tribal wisdom and western science will be crucial to our collective ability to understand, confront and overcome the scientific, economic and political challenges that lie ahead.”

Morishima said of his appointment to U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Native American Policy team, “It’s a big responsibility and an exciting opportunity to strengthen working partnerships to care for the land and people.”

Morishima has an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a Ph.D. in quantitative science and environmental management from the University of Washington. He has served the Quinault Nation since 1974 in forestry, fisheries and natural resources management. He has testified before Congress on natural resource management, trust reform, and Indian policy. He is one of the founders of the Intertribal Timber Council.

“I am very proud of the many achievements and contributions Dr. Morishima has made in his 40 years of service to the Quinault Nation and to Indian country,” Quinault’s president said in the announcement. “I have full confidence that he will do an exceptional job and that his efforts will make a substantial difference in meeting the challenges being addressed by these two important committees.”



State appeals federal ruling on salmon-blocking culverts

State officials have said the ruling, part of a decades-old legal battle tied to treaties dating to the mid-1800s, could cost billions of dollars — money the state doesn’t have.

– Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson is appealing a federal ruling ordering the state to fix culverts that block salmon passages.

The state on Tuesday filed a notice of appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the March 29 U.S. District Court ruling by Judge Ricardo Martinez that set up a timeline to fix hundreds of culverts around the state.

“The state remains committed to doing more to address fish passage barriers and will continue to do so as resources permit. The implications of the case, however, stretch beyond culverts. Issues of this magnitude deserve full and thoughtful appellate review,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a statement.

State officials have said the ruling could cost billions of dollars — money the state doesn’t have.

The Martinez ruling is part of a decades-old legal battle tied to treaties dating to the mid-1800s. Tribes say the state has blocked salmon passage and contributed to the decline of fish harvests.

More than 20 tribes signed up for the legal action, including the Confederated Bands and Tribes of the Yakama Indian Nation, Tulalip Tribes, Makah Nation and Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.

Culverts are often built under roadways to allow streams to flow under them.

Martinez ordered the state to fix approximately 180 culverts on recreational lands by 2016 and more than 800 culverts under the Department of Transportation by 2030.

State agencies told lawmakers in April that the ruling would cost more than $2.4 billion. The state could meet the repair deadline imposed by Martinez, if the money is provided

Martinez said in his decision that the tribes have been harmed economically, socially, educationally and culturally because of reduced salmon harvests caused by state barriers that prevent fish passage. He compared spending on culvert correction with the overall Department of Transportation budget and said the state has the financial ability to accelerate the pace of its fixes over the next several years.

Haida-Tsimshian Boy is One of Top Bowlers in Washington State

Richard Walker, Indian Country Today Media Network

My bowling partner’s ball hugged the edge of the lane before curving into the pocket. He started game one with a spare, and followed with a strike and a spare in the next two frames.

My performance? Not so good.

Keep your eye on your mark, my partner reminded me. When I finally got a strike, he gave me a high five and was as happy as if he had gotten it.

My partner, Cosmo Castellano, is the winner of the Pepsi State Bowling Championship. He bowled a 202 high game and a 505 series to win the title in his age group May 19 at Pacific Lanes in Tacoma, Washington.

Some bowlers say he could be the next Earl Anthony, the Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer who hailed from Tacoma. Here’s the kicker: Cosmo is 7 years old.

Cosmo, Hawaiian/Filipino/Haida/Tsimshian, is the son of Zachary and Rosita Castellano of Tacoma and a member of the Argel family of Metlakatla, Alaska. Cosmo’s grand-uncle is the late Julian Argel, who served in the Office of Minority Affairs at the University of Washington, directed education and social programs for Native communities in Washington and Alaska, and helped develop curricula for Native education.

Cosmo Castellano autographed the score sheet at Tower Lanes in Tacoma April 28. (Molly Neely-Walker)
Cosmo Castellano autographed the score sheet at Tower Lanes in Tacoma April 28. (Molly Neely-Walker)

Cosmo is a leading youth bowler in Washington state. This year, he won the state Division 3 Classic Masters title; during practice, he bowled a 220, his highest non-league score. Of state Little Juniors League bowlers, he led the list of top 50 bowlers for 26 of 28 weeks of the 2012-13 season, and led in high scratch games (189), high scratch series (471), and high average (33 pins higher than the nearest competitor).

Rosita said her bowling phenom first rolled a ball down a lane at age 2. She and her husband were bowling and they heard a ball in the lane next to them. It was Cosmo.

The boy started bowling regularly at age 3. His dad, a competitive amateur bowler, started his son with a 6-pound ball his first year, and Cosmo was bowling with a 12-pounder by age 5-and-a-half. Cosmo now bowls three days a week, including six to eight hours on weekends, and competes in tournaments throughout western Washington. Cosmo has topped his dad 201-173 and 188-187.

To handle his 12-pound ball—only four pounds lighter than his dad’s—Cosmo uses a two-handed style similar to his favorite pro bowler, Jason Belmonte, 2009 PBA Rookie of the Year.

Rosita, a reading specialist at Gates High School in Tacoma, said the science of bowling engages her son’s curious mind. He likes the challenge of a spare, figuring out ball speed and amount of spin needed to pick it up. Cosmo likes the challenge of getting a knocking down a split, and once picked up a 6-7-10—easier to pick up because of the 6 pin, but a killer shot nonetheless.

Cosmo enjoys watching other bowlers on the lanes and on TV. His role models: Belmonte; Chris Barnes, the third bowler in PBA history to win Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors in a career; and Osku Palermaa of Finland, who’s bowled more than 50 perfect games.

“He’s made goals for himself,” said Rosita. “As a parent, you can’t ask for anything more for your child than for him to set goals and to self-assess [his progress].” One goal he’s set: A clean game, in which every frame has a strike or spare.

Cosmo has also learned valuable life lessons from the sport. “He had a rough spot in his early 5s,” Rosita said of Cosmo’s sportsmanship. “He’s learned to encourage other bowlers, to be collegial. He still enjoys the game even when he doesn’t bowl well.”

When he won the state championship, Cosmo’s parents asked him, “Do you know what you did? You’re the best bowler in the state,” Rosita said, “It didn’t faze him. It was nice to not see him gloat. He was more concerned about being with his friends.”

Cosmo is indeed a collegial player. When I left a hidden pin standing in a spare attempt, Cosmo said, “That was a sleeper,” and gave me five for a good try.

Cosmo applies the same discipline in school that he does on the lanes. He’s a first-grader at Brookdale Elementary School in Tacoma but participates in the third-grade reading program. He’s received several Bobcat Excellence awards (the bobcat is his school’s mascot) for attendance, courtesy and thoughtfulness. He studies Northwest Native culture through his school district’s Indian Education Program.

The money he and other youth bowlers win is placed by the league in a college tuition savings account, his mother said.

Cosmo and I closed out our third and final game with strikes in the 10th frame, and Cosmo finished in the lead by 37 pins.

I asked, and he shyly gave me his autograph. It’s not the first he’s been asked for. It likely won’t be his last.